The remains of the former Coykendall Lodge are located on the shores of Alder Lake in the upper Beaverkill Valley in the town of Hardenbergh in Ulster County, New York. The lodge sits within the Balsam Lake Mountain Wild Forest and overlooks Alder Lake, with Mill Brook Ridge to the east, Cradle Rock Ridge to the south and several unnamed hills to the north. The lodge was situated on a bluff overlooking a rolling meadow that led down to the lake.
The Coykendall Lodge was constructed in 1899 as the summer residence of prominent businessman Samuel Decker Coykendall (1837-1913). Coykendall was an important member of the Kingston, New York community, having a hand in a wide variety of businesses including railroads, canal operations, the trolley system, the cement industry, the brick industry, bluestone, a hotel, a water company, dry goods, banks, a newspaper and the Cornell Steamboat Company. The lodge was used by Coykendall and his guests as a retreat for fishing, hunting and entertaining. The lodge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as “architecturally significant as an important regional example of “Great Camp” inspired architecture in the Catskill Region of New York State.”
Coykendall Lodge was designed by Downing Vaux (1856-1926), son of prominent landscape architect Calvert Vaux (1824-1895). Although he is most frequently mentioned only in context of being Calvert Vaux’s son, Downing Vaux also became a prominent landscape architect in his own right. He attended Columbia School of Mines for one year, studied and worked for three years in his father’s firm of Vaux & Radford and then worked for one year with the engineering firm of McClay & Davies. He afterwards rejoined his father’s firm in the mid-1880s, before eventually going into private practice. In addition to Coykendall Lodge, Downing also designed Coykendall’s Kingston Point Park, which served as an amusement park for local residents and for passengers of the Hudson Day liners. From 1893 to 1911 Vaux lectured on landscape architecture at the engineering school at New York University. Downing was a member of the Society for the Preservation of Scenic and Historic Places and Objects, the Architectural League of New York and the National Arts Club. Downing was one of the eleven founding members of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1899.
Alder Lake, where Coykendall Lodge is located, “was originally a very small pond, and since its surrounding land was not suitable for farming it was not developed until 1859. In 1889 Julius (June) Smith constructed a dam just upstream, transforming the pond into the fifty-five acre Alder Lake, stocked with native brook taken from the Beaverkill. The first trout hatchery established in the Beaverkill valley was constructed on Alder Lake in 1890.” (Coykendall Lodge, National Register of Historic Places.) Today, the 1.6-mile Alder Lake Loop Trail circles the lake.
In 1891 Coykendall helped found the Alder Lake Club, a private fishing club established “for the purpose of purchasing, acquiring, holding and improving real estate in the vicinity of Alder Lake in the town of Hardenburgh, Ulster County, and erecting and maintaining thereon a club house, cottages, and other buildings and fish ponds, and apportioning and distributing such real estate among the stockholders of the club.” (“The Alder Lake Club.” New Paltz Times. August 19, 1891.) The first directors of the club included Coykendall, John McEntee, Abram Hasbrouck, Dr. George C. Smith, Dr. Robert Loughram, Dr. J. D. Wurts, Dr. Henry VanHovenberg, John N. Cordts and George N. Hutton.
“The Ulster & Delaware Railroad provided transportation from Kingston to its station in Arkville, from which [Alder Lake Club] members rode stagecoaches to the clubhouse. Fishing in Alder Lake was very good, its stock of fish constantly replenished with fish from the Beaverkill, as well as from the river’s original private hatchery located there.
By the beginning of fishing season in 1899 Coykendall had purchased the shares of the other club members and controlled the entire lake. He planned to build a stylish estate and fishing preserve, and on a knoll overlooking the lake he constructed “a stately mansion of grand proportions.” He employed over one hundred men over the course of its construction, all materials being hauled from Livingston Manor, some sixteen miles distant. Construction was completed by June 1900, and the large three-story building became the scene of many fishing excursions and parties. The style of the lodge reflected the Victorian influence, and combined elegance in design with the rustic simplicity and feeling of comfort that had come to characterize the Catskill Mountain Resorts. Reflecting the influence as well of the local Ulster County historic stone houses, the lodge was rooted to the ground on a base of rough local stone, and its spacious porch, providing views across the lake, was also constructed in local stone. Also on the property was the original Alder Lake fish hatchery, which Coykendall maintained and kept in operation to preserve and perpetuate the excellent fishing conditions.
Coykendall purchased hundreds of acres of forested land around the lake, and constructed an access road over Cross Mountain from Arena. This provided safe and comfortable access to the lodge via stagecoach, which attracted many guests and fellow fly-fishing enthusiasts. Unfortunately, it also attracted poachers to the Lake, and Coykendall worked diligently to protect the natural resources of the lake and its trout as long as he owned his house.
Coykendall’s stewardship of the lake and the region lasted until 1945 when the estate once again became a trout-fishing club. The membership of the new Alder Lake Club came from Liberty, in Sullivan County. They maintained the lodge and the lake for fifteen years before they sold their holdings to the Nassau County Council of Boy Scouts, who used the lake and surrounding forest as a summer retreat. In 1980 Alder Lake and surrounding lands were acquired by New York State and added to the forever-wild Catskill Forest Preserve.” (Coykendall Lodge, National Register of Historic Places.)
After the lodge’s acquisition by New York State, it quickly fell into a state of disrepair. Given the “forever wild” policy applied to lands within the Catskills Park, the Department of Environmental Conservation took no steps to save the building. Over time, looters took anything of value, including the copper pipes and plumbing, and vandals destroyed windows, walls, etc., while bats infested the structure and natural elements took their toll.
There were various efforts over the years by the Alder Lake Restoration Society, a local preservation group, to save Coykendall Lodge. The society was organized in 1998 after the state of New York announced that the lodge would be torn down. However, despite best efforts the lodge was torn down by the state circa 2008. Only the stone foundations and cobblestone walls remain.