They Are Among Us
You expect to find castles in Europe. Here, a local author introduces us to five majestic castles right in the Valley
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Castle Rock in Garrison sits high above Route 9D. With its multiple peaked spires and gray-stone facade, it is the better known of the two structures built here by the Osborn clan, since it can be seen from the road below. The Osborns sold Castle Rock in the early 1970s, but they still own Cat Rock Castle, my destination, which is hidden from view up Osborn Drive.
I begin the ascent over a wide dirt-and-gravel road and pull into the castle’s circular driveway, where I’m met by a tall, affable man. “Hi, Scott,” he says, extending his hand, “I’m Hank Osborn. Welcome to Cat Rock.” Hank — whom I learn is actually Frederick Henry Osborn IV — leads me around the side of the castle, where I am struck by a spectacular view of the Hudson River and West Point. I practically breathe the history as I envision George Washington looking down from this vantage point and assessing his military options.
But Cat Rock itself has its own storied past. William Henry Osborn, Hank’s great-great-great-grandfather, first spotted the land that would become the Osborn estate from the window of a Highland Falls asylum, where he was recovering from malaria. The first Osborn born in the U.S., William had amassed a fortune in the whaling industry, and purchased thousands of acres in the Hudson Highlands. The estate eventually shrank to 100 acres, but the Osborns’ wealth grew through the generations. In 1919, Hank’s great-great-grandfather hired a former Princeton classmate to design and build Cat Rock Castle. After being used as a weekend home, Hank’s great-grandparents made it their permanent residence in the 1970s. Now, Hank and his family live in another house on the grounds and rent out Cat Rock for weddings and photo shoots in order to maintain the estate.
Inside the castle are 28 rooms, half of which are bedrooms. Visitors enter through a grand entrance hall, which contains a staircase leading up to the second floor and the towers. The entrance hall flows into a 700-square-foot living room, which itself leads into an outdoor area with a tent, swimming pool, and tennis court.
Interestingly, the interior is barren of décor. Along the staircase are portraits of Hank’s ancestors, and photographs of the Osborns’ various residences grace the dining room walls, but beyond that there is little. Hank’s father, Frederick Henry Osborn III, later explains that the family keeps the castle free of keepsakes so that wedding parties feel as though the space is truly theirs. In the past, however, the rooms of Cat Rock were full of splendor.
Back outside, it becomes apparent that Cat Rock — with its chiseled stone facades, square central tower, crenellated battlements, symmetrically carved arches, uplifting gardens, and delightful swimming pool — was designed to provide a lifestyle of elegant comfort that is in touch with the elements of nature. “It is our goal,” explains Hank, “to make Cat Rock as green as can be, both figuratively and literally.” Indeed, the family has been committed to environmental causes for six generations; the Osborns were instrumental in founding the Palisades Interstate Park Commission and the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, among other organizations.
Cat Rock Castle is a hidden jewel of the Hudson Valley, just waiting to be discovered.
Cat Rock is located at 200 Osborn Dr., Garrison. The castle is not open for visitors, however if you are interested in holding a wedding or other event at Cat Rock, contact Hank Osborn at 646-734-5766.
Next stop: Bannerman Castle