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.