Where in the Hudson Valley...?
Photograph by Holley Meister
This rock cavern offers local travelers a curious sight: so carefully crafted, it seems out of place sitting along the shoulder of a major roadway. Perhaps even more curious is the fact that there are more than 100 other rock formations, mirror images of this one, sprinkled throughout this heavily populated mid-Valley county.
Their dimensions are remarkably similar: each cavern is approximately 10 feet high and 15 feet wide, with an arched wall of granite slabs. Usually topped with boulders, moss, and logs, the structures were constructed so exactingly that no adhesive was necessary.
But the pivotal information about these caverns — when were they built, by whom, and why — remains unknown.
Theories about their origins run the gamut. A pragmatic explanation: 18th-century farmers built them as root cellars to store their vegetables, meat, and dairy products. The subterranean vaults were used until the farmers began migrating to the more arable lands out west; eventually, the root cellars, along with the farmers’ stone walls and dwellings, were abandoned.
Another explanation (one that requires you to open your mind just a tad): druids built the caverns about 1,500 years ago. Ancient priests in tune with the natural world, the druids were known to have had a great appreciation for stones and their significance in nature. Some historians believe that they created the stone chambers, which closely resemble primitive Celtic tombs, for religious purposes and to serve as lunar calendars. (According to researchers, many of the neolithic-like caverns are aligned with the equinox and solstice sunrises.)
With no artifacts or journal entries documenting the caverns’ construction, little evidence exists for either hypothesis. Like their past, the chambers’ future is also unknown, as present-day land development threatens to destroy many of them; to prevent this, members of the community are working to preserve them as a compelling piece of local history. One thing is for certain: the caverns add a touch of mystery to the Valley, whether constructed by colonial farmers, ancient Celts, or — if you’re willing to let your mind wander a bit further — even aliens (another proposed explanation).
Do you know where in the Valley (route number and county) this strange stone structure stands? If so, E-mail us at email@example.com. The first reader with the correct answer wins a prize. Good luck!