A History of Rosendale's Natural Cement Industry

Cementing its reputation: Modern America could not have been built without Rosendale cement


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rosendale postcardAn early Rosendale postcard

Photographs courtesy of the Century House Historical Society


The empty mines have been used for a number of endeavors — some successful, some foolhardy. Mushroom cultivation and sweet corn storage were winners, but “the trout-raising experiment was doomed almost from the start,” Grunwald says.

The rest of the community has adapted as well. “There are no more guest houses and resorts of the ‘temperance type,’ no more mules plodding along the remaining sections of the towpath of the Delaware and Hudson Canal through Rosendale,” she says. “You won’t see the workers leaving the mine exhausted at the end of the day, but you could see bats in the area that now call it their home.”

What is left is the Widow Jane Mine, the only historic cement mine open to the public on Sundays in May through September. An example of the “room and pillar” method of mining, the mine is relatively horizontal and therefore easy to access. And its mysterious, otherworldly essence plays evocative host to musicians, poets, New Age-y celebrants, and the just plain curious. “Some say the cave feels spiritual,” Grunwald says. “They come to celebrate the summer solstice, hear taiko drummers, serve as an extra in a movie shoot, or just to see the mine and perhaps pay tribute to the cement miners who left us such beauty along the way. Unintentional beauty, but certain beauty all the same.”

beach mineThe opening of the region’s Beach Mine

Upcoming events

The opening of the Wallkill Valley Railroad Trestle and rail trail on June 29 (see page 42) gives hikers the opportunity to walk by the former Williams Lake Hotel site. The bulk of the property is on land formerly held by three Ulster County cement companies: F.O. Norton Cement Company, the Lawrence Cement Company, and the Newark & Rosendale Lime & Cement Company. (They were among the companies consolidated in 1902 to form units of the Consolidated Rosendale Cement Company).

Along the trail you’ll spot cement-industry remains, including mines, kilns, foundations, chimneys, and even the Lawrence Cement Company’s office. The Century House Historical Society is working with the developers of the Williams Lake Project to help design interpretive kiosks that will be placed along this section of the rail trail.

A concert of traditional Japanese drumming, with the group Taiko Masala and its founder, master drummer Hiro Kurashima, along with koto (Japanese harp) player Sumie Kaneko and shinobue (Japanese flute) player Nobuko Miyazaki, takes place in the Widow Jane Mine on July 14 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20 at the door, and proceeds benefit the Century House Historical Society (www.centuryhouse.org).

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