Say the word “Rosendale” to anyone who has lived in the Hudson Valley and their first association may very well be “cement.” Rosendale was put on the map, so to speak, in the 19th century because of the natural cement industry that flourished there. Natural cement mined in Rosendale was used in the construction of many of our country’s historic structures, including the Brooklyn Bridge, Grand Central Terminal, the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty and the US Capitol.
But what is it about the rock mined in Rosendale that made it especially suited for use as a natural hydraulic cement? According to Steve Schimmrich, Geology and Earth Science professor at SUNY-Ulster, “Rosendale is one of a few places around the world where the rock has just the right components to make natural cement, where all you have to do is crush the rock, heat it and powder it.”
Schimmrich will lead a leisurely geology walk to the Widow Jane Mine at the Century House Historical Society (CHHS) at the Snyder Estate in Rosendale on Sunday, May 13 at 1 p.m., which is also the site’s opening day for the season. A Century House Board of Trustees member as well as a geologist, Schimmrich will discuss the unique and fascinating geology of the area.
The Rosendale Natural Cement District, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, actually runs from High Falls through Rosendale to Kingston, notes Schimmrich. And the history of the cement industry in the region is tied closely to the creation of the D & H Canal, he says, built with local cement and then becoming a means to transport it elsewhere. “When they were planning to build the canal, they were going to import natural cement from the Syracuse area. But when they discovered it in High Falls in the 1830s, it saved the private investors who built the canal a lot of money.” By the end of the 19th century, Schimmrich adds, Rosendale was supplying more than half of the cement used in the US.
Those on the geology walk this Sunday will also learn about the geological history of the region going back a good deal further than the 19th century. Rosendale was once covered by a shallow tropical sea, Schimmrich says, the fossils remaining today are proof of this: coral and seashell fossils formed at the bottom of a sea during the Devonian Period, 350 to 400 million years ago.
The 1 o’clock walk this Sunday is free to CHHS members and open to the public for a $5 suggested donation. The Century House Museum in the Snyder Estate will be open to visitors as well, until 4 p.m. Admission is included in the fee for the walk.
Geology Walk to Widow Jane Mine, Sunday, May 13, 1 p.m., $5, Century House Historical Society, Snyder Estate, 668 Route 213, Rosendale; (845) 658-9900, www.centuryhouse.org.