A local private family foundation has purchased a 37-acre property on Overlook Mountain in Woodstock in order to preserve the land and its stacked rock formations, alleged to be of ancient origin. A Lewis Hollow neighbor has bought a nearby 45-acre parcel and placed a “forever wild” deed restriction on the land, protecting it from development. Glenn Kreisberg, who spearheaded formation of the Overlook Mountain Center (OMC) as a vehicle for protecting both properties, is also seeking to save a 30-acre area in lower Lewis Hollow.
Kreisberg has studied and written about Overlook’s mysterious rock mounds and serpentine walls that he believes are Native American and ceremonial in origin. He hopes that purchase of the remaining 30-acre parcel will enable OMC to create an educational center at the former hunting lodge located on the property, as well as an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) limited-mobility wildernesses access area.
“It would allow people in wheelchairs or scooters to get up close and personal with nature,” explained Kreisberg. “Visitors would use a raised decked walkway to enter the woods and be surrounded by nature, above, below and all around. Very few of these ADA-compliant wildness access areas exist, and I don’t believe there are any nearby.”
OMC has already carried out several interpretive tours of the rock formations for schoolchildren, scout groups, and adults, with more programming in the works for this fall and winter. They will continue to offer archaeology workshops, as well as equinox and solstice sunset hikes. A new program in the works is a home sustainability workshop with Rob Saffer, owner of Woodstock’s first LEED-certified home, a standard in green building and design. He will lead people through his house or put together a slide show explaining measures from proper siting of a home to use of environmentally friendly materials. “It’s about building a house in harmony with the land,” he said.
Saffer is the co-founder and a board member of OMC, and he lives in Lewis Hollow, down the mountain from the rock formations. “When the leaves come down, and I look out my window, I can see some of those cairns looking over me,” said Saffer. “I feel a profound sense of responsibility and stewardship. They shouldn’t be trampled upon or knocked down. They need to be preserved, studied, and enjoyed.”
Regarding purchase of the land still on the market, Kreisberg said, “I’ve spoken to other residents, and we’re putting together a coalition of people. It’s actually two parcels of 14.8 acres each, and the lower one has access on Glasco Turnpike and Lewis Hollow Road.” One of the parcels has a stone formation that local historian Alf Evers wrote about, referring to it as the “Lewis Hollow obelisk.” Kreisberg described it as “a stone pile with a tall, thin standing stone at the center, seven or eight feet high. I don’t think it’s ancient but a recent survey marker.”
The rustic 2000-square-foot hunting lodge has been owned by Kreisberg’s relatives for over 45 years. He lives near Maverick Road, not in Lewis Hollow, but he has vivid memories of attending family events at the lodge as a child.
Kreisberg is a radio frequency engineer who has a fascination with ancient structures and is a member of the New England Antiquities Research Association, which studies and attempts to preserve sites like the one on Overlook Mountain. Some people believe that such structures, like others found in the Catskills, were built by early farmers clearing rocks from their land. Saffer disagrees, commenting, “I’ve spent a lot of time up there, and I don’t believe they were made by farmers or quarrymen. They wouldn’t have that kind of time. The artistry is so consistent, and they are so well-constructed.”
Kreisberg has brought experts to study the rock formations and try to determine their origin. Nina Versaggi of the Public Archaeology Facility at SUNY Binghamton, after visiting the site, stated that the petroforms resemble others that have been authenticated as Native American. Archeological researcher David Johnson, who dowsed the land, believes there are underground watercourses beneath the structures, comparable to patterns he found under rock formations in South America and the southwestern U.S. When Kreisberg mapped the locations of the walls and the larger rock piles, he found that their arrangement corresponded to the constellation Draco, believed to be reflected in ancient structures around the world, from Angkor Wat to the Ohio serpent mound. The source of the Overlook petraforms remains unproven.
“We’re hoping to use new technology, not necessarily digs or excavations,” said Kreisberg. “There’s radar that penetrates the ground to discover artifacts associated with the mounds. Optically stimulated luminescence is a method of determining the amount of solar light that remains in objects below the surface. It shows us the last time sunlight shone on an object.”
Meanwhile, OMC’s programming will educate the public in pursuit of what Kreisberg calls “our mission of promoting and supporting the environment, culture, and community, on and around Overlook Mountain.”
For more information on the Overlook Mountain Center, see https://www.overlookmountain.org/. Any schools or groups wishing to schedule an outing with OMC should call 845 417 8384 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.