Cornish Estate Ruins

Abandoned New York: Discover the Hidden Past Behind the Cornish Estate Ruins

Nestled off the beaten path from a popular Hudson Valley hiking destination lies a once forgotten piece of New York history, the Cornish Estate ruins, which is now undergoing a new preservation effort

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What to Know

  • New preservation is shedding light on Hudson Valley's mysterious Cornish Estate ruins, located in Cold Spring, N.Y.
  • After receiving over $20,000 grant, 67-year-old Peekskill resident Thom Johnson, along with Hudson Highlands State Park, is spearheading the Northgate Project.
  • The site has since become a popular hiking attraction for tri-state residents.

Nestled off the beaten path from a popular Hudson Valley hiking destination lies a once-forgotten piece of New York history: the Cornish Estate ruins. The site is undergoing new preservation efforts after receiving a grant to help uncover the mystery behind this once- prestigious mansion.

At first encounter, it's hard not to be mesmerized by this enchanted sight with its jagged stone, stacked fireplaces and overgrown charm. For decades, urban adventurers stumbled upon this eerie site, not knowing the full story behind the rubble.

One of those travelers is 67-year-old Thom Johnson, a retired Peekskill resident who spends his time working at the Hudson Highlands State Park in Cold Spring, N.Y.

Johnson has been spearheading the Northgate Project, interpreting this crumbling wreckage. After receiving a grant for over $20,000 from Parks and Trails New York, Johnson and the team at Hudson Highlands State Park have been busy posting proper informational signage across the property.

Before joining the state park, Johnson was no stranger to the ruins. Originally searching for the Bannerman state arsenal, he first observed the untouched area fifty years ago as a teenager.

"I was in high school, into railroads, and a friend of mine had shown me photos of Bannerman Island's arsenal, so I went up to visit. On the way back, we saw a road with no gate attached and just drove up. That's when we discovered the ruins," said Johnson to NBC New York.

Photos: Abandoned New York: Discover the Hidden Past Behind the Cornish Estate Ruins

At the time, almost no photos were collected or information known about the deserted estate, even to Cold Spring residents.

Since then, Johnson's fascination continued for digging up the history behind this dramatic brick structure, which he considers sculpture. During his time teaching art and photography at the Irvington High School, he even inspired student Robert Yasinsac to co-author a book published in 2006 titled, Hudson Valley Ruins: Forgotten Landmarks of an American Landscape.

This book gained the attention of descendants of Sigmund Stern and Edward Cornish, both previous owners of the estate. Distant family members later came in contact with Johnson, sharing photographs and stories about the property, which launched the Northgate Project.

The Cornish Estate and subsistence farms were first developed in 1910 by Chicago diamond merchant Sigmund Stern, who utilized 650 acres of land, according to Johnson. Stern was on the board of Surprise Lake Camp, the nation’s longest-running Jewish sleepaway camp.

Photos: Abandoned New York: Discover the Hidden Past Behind the Cornish Estate Ruins

In 1916, the land was offered for lease after Stern's wife passed away. New York businessman Edward Cornish and wife Selina took over the property the following year and ran a dairy farm. In the late 1930s, the Cornish couple passed away within two weeks of each other. The property was given to a nephew who did not maintain the estate, and in 1958 a fire destroyed the majority of the mansion.

In the late 1960s, the Cornish Estate officially became part of Hudson Highlands State Park.

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