The deadly fire of August 10, 1900

Photo from the Collections of the Vedder Research LibrarySmoke rises from a forest fire in Kaaterskill Clove on August 10, 1900.

In lieu of lengthy essays on other topics, this week I’m featuring an image which is a stark contrast to the cold weather that settled across the county over the weekend.

This interesting snapshot shows smoke rising from the deadly forest fire of August 10, 1900 that ravaged the upper part of Kaaterskill Clove and would have progressed farther were it not for the intercession of volunteer firefighters. Frank Layman, one of those who went out to fight the blaze, perished on a rocky slope above the Clove when smoke and flames overtook him. A memorial accessible today only by a hiking trail marks the spot where he fell and commemorates his sacrifice.

The large building in the foreground of the shot is the Haines Falls House with its unmistakable Mansard Roof and Cupola. The photo was marked as having been taken from “The Kenmore” but the person who captioned the original image probably meant the “Kenwood,” which was the neighboring resort to the Haines Falls House. The book “100 Years On Resort Ridge” by John Ham notes that the Haines Falls House would also fall victim to fire only eleven years after this photo was taken.

This year of course also marks the 50th anniversary of the remarkable cold snap of 1971. On one of the many local history Facebook pages I follow one of the members shared a rather hilarious recollection. A lifelong resident of Jewett noted the temperature up in the East Kill Valley during that cold snap reaching a rock-bottom -38°F. His father’s car had an old vinyl seat cover which became so stiff that when he sat down on it to try starting the vehicle the seat cover exploded. Needless to say it was a little too chilly to get the engine to turn over. You won’t hear me complaining about this weather anytime soon.

Questions and comments can be directed to Jonathan Palmer by email at

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