Sunday, June 19, 2011

Halcyon Hall Collapsing



Some months ago I blogged about the Halcyon Hall, as derelict Bennett College here in Millbrook, NY, once was called. It is a fantastical structure built at ruinous expense by a local hilltopper named Harry Davison. The hotel opened in the early 1890s, was bankrupt by 1903, and sold in 1907 to May Bennett, founder of the college.




Through a combination of bad luck and bad planning - in particular, the construction of a heavily financed new science building - the college went bankrupt in 1978. The next thirty-three years have put no one in a particularly good light. Two early prospective buyers - CBS which considered the possibility of a production center, and the Job Corp which proposed a training facility for minority kids - were discouraged either by the town board or the college trustees, or both. A dizzying string of owners and a complex series of subdivisions ensued during decades characterized more by foreclosure proceedings than anything else. The ugliest buildings on the campus - namely, a series of 4-story, flat-roofed, bunker-like, cinder block dormitories - were converted into condominiums and sold. The one really valuable building, the old Halcyon Hall itself, was allowed to rot pending the miraculous birth of one or another ill-conceived conversion plans. By 2011, the place had come to this.





Halcyon Hall has been leaking like the proverbial sieve for over a decade, but somehow it basically held together. Last week it began to collapse.




Admittedly, the place was looking pretty wobbly before it began to fall in, but this signals the real beginning of the end.




Demolition would cost millions, a tab the village can't afford and one the present owner is disinclined to spend without approval for the latest development scheme. The real casualty in all of this is the village of Millbrook, which is about to lose a much loved landmark.

17 comments:

  1. Having a country house in Columbia County, I have passed through Millbrook many times over the years and wondered what this structure was, and why it was left to decay so. Thank you for the history lesson, and explaining the unfortunate and all-too-familiar fate of this grand old structure. How ironic that the ugly cinder block structures have survived. Reggie

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  2. to a lover of large architectural monstrosities, the mere existence and demise of this fantastical place hurts the most of all. seeing all the long gone places you and OLI feature is an ache but this place is kind of the epitome of Victorian buildings taken to the extreme but i think you're right - it's finally too far gone. RIP

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  3. Michele from BostonJune 24, 2011 at 1:40 PM

    Breaks my heart...

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  4. Are there any more recent pictures of Halcyon Hall? I understand a fence is being put up. Sad to see what has been happening to this structure.

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  5. What I find most appalling is the fact that ALL of this has happened in just over 40 years. The power being shut off was the start of it all.
    This caused the pipes to burst in the winter of 98 - 99 (i believe). From my research I have read that the FDIC ended up selling this property for 19,000 dollars, and with all the money and manpower floating around in this country it is disgusting that something that was once so gorgeous and hand made, is now like this. It tells so very much about the state of our values. "F&*# it, let it fall. I cant make any money from it!" AUGG!! If anything this building should be rebuilt and turned into a National Historical Education Center, backed by donations and federal funding to help the nation education of all of the genocides that have happened in our past.

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  6. After the college went bankrupt, the power was shut off in 1978. The pipes burst then, not 1998. It would cost tens of millions to restore and fix up. It may have once been charming and nice, but the building is full of asbestos and lead based paint, and was always a fire trap. Sad, but true.

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  7. Rebecca MaldackerApril 3, 2012 at 8:03 AM

    I know I am new to this area but I got lost one day an d came across this amazing structure. I have been facinated since. I can't seem to get over the history and beauty of this building.Back where I come from we charish and restore buildings like this.We do not let them rot.We do this for our future children and their children.If the town of Millbrook loved it so much they would have done something, anything!

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  8. a fence was put up and a pitiful thing it is

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  9. This is what Slum Lords do- They let properties/building that "they" deem too "costly" to maintain, let it go to the point of no return/repair (by any means necessary, i.e. vandals, squatters, plain old neglect). Get the community to shout "nuisance/health hazzard" to the city leaders. Even though the building is historic it will be deemed beyond repair and allow to be destroyed. Usually it the land those jerks really want. I've had 1st hand expereance with those people.

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  10. Sad. Spent a lot of time there a decade ago taking pictures and wandering the property.

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  11. Looks like a tribute movie is being made for it....

    http://youtu.be/nqB-5Cijgj4

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  12. I lived in Millbrook for 18 years and now reside in New Zealand.
    I believe the time where the building could have been repaired with some type of economic value was probably over by the mid-80's if not sooner.
    The same is that no agreements could have been reached prior so that such a site could be maintained.

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  13. ive lived in the lower hudson valley for years and just heard about this building today, i wouldve loved to walk around this building30 years ago, i love these style structures. its a damn shame it came to this end

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  14. Yes very sad that the town and the hotel would never see how it once was when the hotel was built. The hotel never had it's chance when it was first built. I just say beautify I wish I could have seen the hotel in it's day.

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  15. We moved here in 1981, and found this place on our earliest drives. We were fascinated by it even then, and it was still in beautiful shape. We watched for years hoping SOMETHING would move in and re-purpose the building, just to save it. It's so sad that our historic buildings are treated as garbage to be removed so that yet another cookie-cutter development can be built. Last night, another unique abandoned mansion burned - Tioronda in Beacon, also known as Craig House. It was a mental hospital since 1915, but a private home before that. Many very famous people passed through that home & hospital, and there was a lot of history there.

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  16. I only just began researching the fate of buildings like this. I think the banks have a lot to do with the loss of icons because they are always in it for the money, and they are detrimental to heritage sites. The 1966 Historic Preservation Act would seem to forbid its demolition. Is there a way to file an injunction on tearing it down? Can we be updated?

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    Replies
    1. It's been too far gone to save for decades. It really should be torn down before some fool gets killed trying to explore it.

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