When We Say Depressed Real Estate Market…

An abandoned bungalow, a mile from the photographer's home

Since one of us bought a house up here, and the other one devotes far too much time to investigating the purchase of an upstate house, it’s clear that we believe there are deals to be had in the current Upstate real estate market.

Another ex-New Yorker, Raymon Elozua, believes the same, and moved up to Mountaindale, N.Y. to live among the ghosts of buildings that he found around him. (Mountaindale, by the way, is part of that same general area covered in yesterday’s Bungalow Envy post–the Sullivan County stretch that still has plenty of functional, happily inhabited places, as well). His project is Vanishing Catskills, a pictorial map of abandoned Borscht Belt buildings within 10 miles of his home. Sadly, there are a lot of them.

He sees them as ruins, as testaments to Sullivan County’s heyday and decline, but also as interesting on a sculptural and architectural level. We see them as full of potential. We truly believe that in these tough times, folks are searching for economical getaways, and that reviving the bungalow colony is a great way to do it. We’re going to come back as developers in our next lives.

Another interesting thing about Vanishing Catskills: you can buy Elozua’s photo books directly from Apple. Definitely worth having as a coffee table book if you’re joining the ranks of Upstaters.

Category: Bungalow Colonies, Catskills, Mountaindale, Second Homes, Sullivan County

By: lisa | 20 May 2011 01:12 PM | 2 Comments

2 Responses

  1. [...] are another of other colonies and camps for sale upstate–all faring better than the places on Vanishing Catskills–and I came upon Taylored Real Estate in my search for a new property. Not a great UI on the [...]

  2. johnlorino says:

    The Porter Homestead Mountaindale
    It was 30 years ago but I remember it like it was only yesterday. That very first look and deep sigh of awe when I first turned the corner and drove down the old Porter Farm road I knew this was the place I wanted to raise my family. The farm road broke out of the canopy of shadowing maple trees into a vast field of light with a breathtaking view of the Shawangunk Mountains. It seemed like you could see forever. We moved to the old Porter homestead with its rolling fields and mountain top views shortly after that. We were the first non-Porter family to own the farm since 1803. Our four children grew up on the farm listening to the stories of Ethel and Madeline Porter, our neighbors, who both were born on the farm. Their heartwarming recollections surely enhanced our family’s awareness of history and the history of this farm. The Porter homestead itself was mentioned in some of the earliest writings on Sullivan and Ulster County history. With the Porter family being blacksmiths and on the main thoroughfare east and west between Ulster and Sullivan, the farm road passing through had plenty of traffic with visitors and historians alike stopping by to replace a “thrown shoe” or just to water the horse at the abundant spring. Our family grew up actually experiencing the history of the farm when Madeline and Ethel would take out the old box of photos and spread them out on the kitchen table. Old faded and edge-worn sepia photos depicting a valley cleared from ridge to ridge showing an open wagon on the way to parts unknown being escorted by an enthusiastic farm dog. It was all cleared then, Ethel would recall, with “Dad’s” sheep grazing the hand-cleared fields, penned in by stone walls that are still there. There were a couple of 1920 vintage postcards attesting the then significant durability of the homestead – “The Oldest House in Sullivan County” showing a rather rugged old farmhouse with a just as rugged group of family members out in front along with a few fat hens scratching at the ground for worms and the tattered laundry on the line waving in the breeze and the little outhouse in the background.
    Ethel and Madeline were in the picture too, then, as a teen and a young child. They pointed out where the self-flushing outhouse was built over the spring stream that left the house. The water got to the house for washing and refrigeration long before they had electricity. Her grandfather built a series of hollowed out “log pipes, burned through the centers with a red hot poker and stitched together with leather joints nailed in place with copper nails made here on the farm”. I found a section of this pipe when I was excavating for a pond. It is still preserved under the water. We heard the stories on how every fall they would take the horse and cow manure “wheel barrowed from the cow barn” and pack it around the hand-laid stone foundation of the house to keep the winds from blowing through the loose stones and how the steaming manure would help keep the old house warm. And in the spring Ma would pull the manure from the walls and spread it for the garden, “it was the best darn dirt”. The now long- gone elders always referred to special sections on the farm, the Wood Lot, the Upper Pasture, the Lower Pasture, in between was Strawberry Hill and up on the Top Hill was the Big Rock with a view and the perfect place to “set” and think.
    We raised our four children here among the stories of the farm and we too had sheep and chickens and hayrides and bon fires. We built a house on the hill with the best view from the broad porch and kept the homestead as “Home” for them through their college years and military service years. With our family now scattered across the globe creating their own homesteads, it is now time to pass the Porter Homestead along to the next family.
    The trees have reclaimed the other farms in the valley pictured in the old photos, but the fields on this 92 acre homestead are still open. The old farm house and blacksmith shop were razed just before we purchased the farm. The water from the spring now feeds two ponds stocked with fish and two very special old friends, two four foot long carp that can be seen on patrol, keeping the pond free of weeds and perfect for swimming or diving from the three large boulders around the edge. The ponds overlook the mountains and overflow over a 10 foot water fall and the water returns back to the stream that once flushed the outhouse for over 100 years.

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