Saving the land, preserving the cairns

(Photo by Violet Snow)

(Photo by Violet Snow)

Overlook Mountain has long been a symbol of Woodstock, standing guard over the eastern edge of the Catskills, much-painted by Woodstock artists since the early days of the Bydrcliffe arts colony, and visible from many parts of the town. Much of the mountain is state land, but parts of the lower slopes are privately owned, including two parcels at the top and bottom of Lewis Hollow Road that barely escaped a developer’s ‘dozers in the 1970s, when the property was purchased by three buyers who wanted to keep it wild.

Now that the land is again up for sale, archeology enthusiast Glenn Kreisberg and other local residents have formed a non-profit organization in order to buy the property, which they say has major historical value. On the upper parcel are cairns and petroforms that Kreisberg and some archeologists consider artifacts of Paleolithic Native Americans, while the lower parcel features the remains of a large bluestone quarry.

“This land shows us the history of Overlook Mountain and all the activities that have taken place on it since humans encountered the mountain. It has cultural significance and carries lessons of sustainability,” said Kreisberg, citing the abrupt collapse of the local bluestone industry when the growing use of Portland cement made stone sidewalks obsolete in the early 1900s. “The quarries employed a lot of people, and they just came to an end. You can see curbstones half-finished, just left there, as people stopped in middle of a job and just left.”


Though there are many skeptics, Kreisberg, who is Vice President of the New England Antiquities Research Association, has written a book and numerous articles about the stacked rock formations on the upper parcel, which include small piles, longer structures that may be burial sites, and two curving stone walls that are said to echo the shape and orientation of the constellation Draco. He said preservation of these petroforms is the highest priority of the Overlook Mountain Center (OMC), which has already put together $50,000 in donations from Lewis Hollow residents.

The entire 82-acre property is on the market for $630,000. As a non-profit, OMC can apply for a matching grant from New York State of up to $315,000. A campaign has been mounted on the crowd-sourcing website IndieGoGo to seek donations for the remaining $265,000.