The Cantine Dam Falls is a beautiful, albeit man-made, waterfall located in downtown Saugerties. The dam was originally erected in 1825 by Henry Barclay and was known as the Barclay Dam. In 1857 the dam was carried away by flooding, which also caused extensive damage to several mills and thus forced 700 people out of work for several months. The dam was quickly rebuilt, with wood, and in 1929 was replaced with a more modern, concrete dam.
The 25-foot-high, incredibly wide waterfall spans the entire Esopus Creek, just downstream from the Route 9W bridge that crosses the creek. The falls take its name from the Martin Cantine Company, a paper manufacturer, whose water powered mill operated there from 1888 until its closing in 1975. The mill was later destroyed by fire in 1978. Today, the property is home to the Diamond Mills Hotel, a luxurious boutique hotel, restaurant and conference center.
Martin Cantine, namesake of the waterfall, was born in Saugerties on January 22, 1866, the son of Peter Cantine and Sarah Starin Cantine. Cantine was a descendent of one of the Huguenot patentees that settled in Ulster County. “His father, the Hon. Peter Cantine, served with distinction in many public positions and was one of the leading lawyers at the Ulster county bar; and his brother, the Hon. Charles Cantine, was one of the county's better known judges.
Mr. Cantine received his early education in the Saugerties Academy and the 17th Street Grammar School in New York city. At the age of 18 he secured employment with J. B. Sheffield and Son, paper manufacturers, where he remained for about five years, serving in positions of office boy, general utilities man about the mill, as traveling salesman upon the road and as superintendent of the purchasing department, thus acquiring a general knowledge of the paper business.
In 1888 he purchased the plant The Alston Adams Company of Albany and engaged in the manufacture of paper. He organized the firm of Martin Cantine and Company on January 1, 1889, began operations in Saugerties. Under his efficient management the business steadily increased and in 1890 the company was incorporated with a capital stock of $30,000. Mr. Cantine was chosen president, a position which he held at the time of his death. In 1893 a building was purchased and greatly improved by the addition of greater space and $20,000 worth of new machinery. In 1893 Mr. Cantine also purchased the first right to the magnificent water power of the John G. Myers estate, giving him the first right the entire creek.
With the passing years the business continued to grow and develop until at the present time it is one of the outstanding industries of the county and one of the most widely known. He later organized the Tissue Company of Saugerties of which he was also president.
Politically an ardent Republican, Mr. Cantine was at all times highly interested in the civic affairs of his home town and county. He was for several years a member of the Board of Trustees and also the Board of Education. At one time he was head of the Hook and Ladder Company of the village. He had served several times as director and for two years president of the village (1896-97). He was president of the Saugerties Board of Trade in 1900. Mr. Cantine was also one of the vice presidents of the Ulster County Historical Society.
Among the more widely known of his philanthropies, which were varied and many, were the gift of Cantine Memorial Field to the village and the donation of an elevator to the Benedictine Hospital; and his interests in charity included the Red Cross of which he was chairman during the World War and his activities on the part of the Liberty Loan drives. At the time of his death he was a member of the executive committee of the Saugerties Branch of the American Red Cross.
Mr. Cantine was also interested in the banking business. He was vice president of the First National Bank and Trust Company of Saugerties, a trustee of the Saugerties Savings Bank, and a director of the National Ulster County Bank of Kingston. He was also president of the Saugerties Cooperative Savings and Loan Association.”
Martin Cantine died of pneumonia at Kingston City Hospital on March 17, 1935 at 69 years of age. He was survived by his wife, his daughter, Frances Cantine; and a son, Holley R. Cantine. Funeral services were held at the Dutch Reformed Church at Saugerties. He is buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Saugerties, New York.
“Martin Cantine Is Dead, Eminently Successful As Paper Manufacturer.” The Kingston Daily Freeman. March 18, 1935.
“Riparian Rights At Saugerties Determined; New Dam Will Be Built.” The Kingston Daily Freeman. May 6, 1929.
“Saugerties Mourns Loss of Its Foremost Citizen.” The Saugerties Telegraph. March 22, 1935.