Being a total history nerd, I was pleasantly surprised to discover during the process of buying our cabin last summer that it was built on the grounds of the old Bon Air Hotel. Thanks to the generosity of local historian Dr. Joyce Conroy I was able to discover a little more about our property. All photos supplied by Dr. Conroy.
The hotel sat on top of the hill facing the Beaverkill and had a set of blue stone steps that ran down to the river. Some of those steps can still be seen on the edge of our property. Although now heavily wooded, unlike when the hotel was standing, we still have a great view of mountains on either side. As hard as it is to believe, I’m sure it was even better over a hundred years ago.
There is a cemetery beside us on the hill that was once officially the Hillside Cemetery. Sometime after the hotel burned down on May 2nd 1902 (I cannot find the newspaper clipping referencing this date so this may change, I’m pretty sure it was this though) it took on the name of the old hotel and is now known as the Bon Air Cemetery.
The hill itself provides us much sought after privacy but also a challenge during snow storms. Our winding road runs a half-mile up the hill from the main road and touches the cemetery, it has made for some interesting late night hikes after we abandoned the car below due to heavy snowfall.
You can still see some of the outline of the old hotel on our lawn. A long straight line in the grass runs barely visible to the left when we look out from the front deck. A storm recently felled a tree and its roots pulled up some earth including the remains of an old ceramic cup. I’m sure I’ll find some interesting items as I dig the foundations for an enclosed vegetable garden I have planned this spring. I’ve even thought about borrowing a metal detector but I’d probably spend my day discovering old bullets and bottle caps.
The only known postcard of the hotel was written and signed by a young girl called Lura (see below). She ends it with “Love to all from all. Will write soon”. Maybe there are others out there, somewhere, lying undiscovered in antiques stores.
The name of the hotel (Bon Air) was due to the owners hoping that it would become a place for TB sufferers, hence the ‘Good Air’, but the Town of Rockland passed legislature stating that no consumptive facilities would be allowed.
Below are the remains of the bluestone steps.
Below is a postcard showing the stairs in better times.
The old road to the hotel is still visible and loops around to join another road that once carried the bluestone from a quarry further up the hill. I’ve been told that all the local bluestone you see around the nearby towns comes from here. I’ve hiked up there a few times and discovered two old stone-walled roads and the foundations of some old housing used by the quarry workers. It is also a fine spot amongst the evergreens to stop and look down over the town of Roscoe.
It is nice to own property with some history as opposed to just some cabin in the woods, which was what we had looked at previously. Knowing that people loved and enjoyed the area long before we moved in makes it all feel like a continuation of sorts. Do I think it’s haunted? I’m Irish, everything is haunted.
The next time we visit an antique store I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for postcards from Roscoe, New York, especially ones signed Lura.