Tucked away in the woods of Cold Spring, NY stands a hauntingly beautiful collection of ruins called Northgate (or the Cornish Estate). In 1917, Edward J. Cornish and his wife Selina acquired the 650 acre estate from a Chicago diamond merchant, Sigmund Stern. Stern built the estate the decade before, but to this day no one knows who the architect was. In 1938, the couple died within two weeks of each other, with Edward dying at his desk in NYC. The estate remained under the care of Cornish’s nephew Joel until a fire destroyed the majority of the mansion in 1956.
In 1963, the Central Hudson Gas and Electric bought the property with thoughts of building a power plant on Breakneck Ridge (now another popular hiking trail and stop on the Metronorth). But by the late 1960s, Northgate luckily became part of the Hudson Highlands State Park—protecting the estate from all industrial activities and preserving it for future generations.
Today the estate is an urban adventurer’s dream and a satisfying ending to a strenuous hike.
After stumbling up the famous “Bull Hill,” you will have to hike another few miles before seeing the first part of the estate—The Dairy. Former home to Cornish’s prize-winning Jersey Cows, a good part of a large cattle barn remains intact. Alongside a small farm building and what is thought to be a garage, old pieces of farm equipment have been left to rust and rot.
As you make your way to the mansion itself, be sure to investigate the beautiful greenhouse engulfed in overgrown vines. The estate’s old pump house is also accessible.
The mansion itself is something straight out of a movie. Giant stone walls surround you as you make your way around what was once one of the premier properties of the Hudson Highlands. Over 50 years later, you can still see the ashes from the fire scattered atop the remaining tile work. Floors of fireplaces are stacked on top of each other, leaving one to imagine who slept in these rooms and looked out on the Hudson River.
One of the most eerie parts of the mansion itself is the pool. If you walk around the edge, you can still see the blue paint chipping away slowly. Leaves, twigs, and left over beer bottles fill the bottom and an indentation from the diving board remains.
Prior to a few years ago, no one knew what the estate looked like before the fire of 1958. Historians got a lucky break, however, when a member of the Stern family came across some early photographs of Northgate. These photographs show Northgate in its prime—allowing us to see beyond the lonely stone skeleton that remains today.