Dundas Castle (Craig E Claire)

Dundas Castle

Dundas Castle is a rambling medievalized Castle with Gothic and Elizabethan stylistic features. Photographs taken during its construction indicate that it incorporates an earlier frame country house, built in the late 1880s, all of which was encapsulated within the castle structure between 1910 and 1924, when it attained its current configuration. The castle includes a house, a bailey, a curtain wall and a folly resembling a barbican.' Viewed from a distance along the public road or its private approach drive, the castle appears & exhibits a lively silhouette characterized by crenellations & cylindrical turrets.

The castle  is L-shaped in plan & encloses the south & east perimeter of a flat courtyard or bailey. The north & south edges of the bailey are defined by stone retaining walls that represent the freestanding defense curtain walls used in medieval castles. The curtain wall is approximately ten to twelve feet high & constructed of native rubble field stone. The wall is largely intact. Built against the curtain wall are two small incomplete rooms in the northwest corner. It is unclear from the surviving remains whether these features were ever completed or built as intentional ruins. The bailey measures approximately 120' east to west by 100' north to south between the house & the curtain walls. It appears to have been originally planted as a lawn, but it is now overgrown with weed shrubs at its northern & western edges. The barbican folly is an enclosed run,narrow & rectangular in plan, extending south from the southeast corner of the house & terminating in a pair of two-story cylindrical turrets. The run is enclosed by two rows of small cylindrical piers suggesting bartizans, which are connected by low stone walls surmounted by iron palings. The turrets & bartizan-like piers terminate in crenellated parapets. The barbican folly is accessible from within the house through an original doorway in the dining room. The house is asymmetrical in mass & height but unified in composition through the use of consistent materials & repeated forms, including gable & conical roofs and  fenestration. The arrangement of facade elements and roof massing is informal & denotes the building's interior program. The building is subdivided into three functional components. 

The main block, the east end of the south wing, contains the main gate, entrance vestibule, hall (or sitting room), dining room, two staircases & master bedrooms. The massing of the two-and one-half story main block is the most complex. It is defined by a steeply pitched transverse gable roof, with the
shorter cross gable formed by projecting bays on the north & south elevations. The roof terminates on all four sides in short parapets & is interrupted by seven gable-roofed dormers and three chimneys. East of center on the south elevation is an arched portal flanked by two engaged cylindrical turrets with conical roofs. Adjacent to the main block is the caretaker's residence, at the west end of the south wing. The picturesque one and one half story unit was used as the year-round living quarters for a caretaker. Its plan is centered above a through arched doorway, which provides a secondary service entrance to the bailey and is marked by gabled parapets above each portal. Its transverse gable roof is penetrated by four symmetrically arranged gabled dormers and terminates at its west end in a gabled parapet. The service wing is the east wing & contains the kitchen & associated work spaces on the first floor & two chambers above. It is simpler in plan & massing and more symmetrical than the main block. The roof is a straight gable that joins the roof of the main block at the south end & terminates in a gabled parapet at the north end. It is penetrated by six symmetrically placed dormers & two chimneys. The roof has molded copper gutters but no downspouts at present. The south elevation of the main block is the main facade, indicated by the tower gate. Apart from this, the facades are non-hierarchical. The buildings and barbican are faced with naturally rounded field & stream bed stones trimmed with dressed limestone & matching cast-stone units. The natural stone units were selected for relatively uniform size & set as random rubble in recessed mortar joints, most of which appear to have been repointed with thicker joints. Stonework is plumb from grade to eaves & lacks a watertable. The gable parapets are coped with dressed limestone units. Dressed limestone & matching cast stone are also used to enframe window & door openings. All doors & most windows are lancet shaped, & many windows arengrouped in pairs & triplets. Windows in the projecting bay of the main block are rectilinear & arranged in bands in the manner of Elizabethan houses. The dormer windows are enframed within wooden lancet-shaped
openings. The building is currently vacant.

Dundas Castle is architecturally significant as an especially distinctive & unusual example of Anglo-American
estate architecture in the western Catskills region of New York. Originally named Craig-E-Clair, the castle was built by Ralph W. Dundas, a socially prominent New Yorker, in a remote area in the town of Rockland, in northern Sullivan County, and the neighboring town of Colchester, in southern Delaware County. In 1907, Dundas purchased a 964-acre parcel formerly used as a fishing retreat & began transforming an existing "Swiss" style country house into a large, rambling estate complex. Its design is believed to have been inspired by late nineteenth century interpretations of medieval European castles constructed in Scotland in the previous quarter century. The distinctive character of the castle is established by the use of plan elements & forms derived from Victorianized medieval castles and the interplay of features & materials imported & salvaged from Europe with those obtained at the site. The castle is distinguished by stone construction, an informal courtyard plan, the use of medieval features such as a curtain wall, bailey, & barbican, & decorative features such as steeply pitched gable, conical & parapeted roofs, towers & dormers, and lancet-arched windows. Actual construction appears to have begun just before World War I (~1915-17) & ceased in 1924, several years after Dundas's death in 1921.

Although not fully completed, the imposing building represents an
impressive & unusual example of the romanticized medievalism that surfaced in American culture at the turn of the twentieth century. Despite its incomplete state, Dundas Castle retains an outstanding degree of integrity of location, setting, feeling, association, design, materials and craftsmanship.

The estate is also significant for its association with the major patterns of land use in nineteenth-century
Sullivan County. The town of Rockland, within which the bulk of the property lies, was taken from the town of Neversink in 1810; however, because the area remained one of the last bastions of Native American occupation in Sullivan County as late as the 1870s, it was largely unsettled by European-Americans prior to 1890. Many of the early settlers came from Westfield, Massachusetts, & Rockland was initially called Westfield Flats. Apart from its relatively late period of settlement, the region's development was typical of the remote mountainous areas of the state.  Lumbering & tanning, the earliest industries, were succeeded by subsistence agriculture
utilizing the cleared land. After the Civil War, this marginal economic base declined with the demise of the
forest and other water-powered industries, as well as by the outward migration of agriculture to more fertile land
out west. The region's economy and land use began to change with the amval of the railroad in 1872. In the
last quarter of the nineteenth century, the region's underdeveloped character and abundance of natural features
became attractive to urban outsiders seelung seasonal recreation and retreat from American cities. This region
of northern Sullivan County became especially popular for recreational fishing and was widely known for the
numerous fishing clubs that were established within a remote, wilderness setting. Located at the northern tip of
the Catslulls resort region, this area never saw the influx of the large, middle-class resort populations that
contributed to the development of the distinctive character of the southeastern portion of the county in the first
half of the twentieth century. Dundas Castle reflects the specific history of this region, while also illustrating
the general theme of wealth in the wilderness that influenced the development of resorts in other regions of New
York, such as the Adirondacks, in this period.  The Dundas Castle property was developed into a rural retreat between 1887 and 1900. The property appears to
have been in agricultural use prior to this period; however, the chain of title is unclear. One source indicates
that it was a farm owned by a Joseph Cammer. According to this account, all of the Cammer farm (with the
exception of three acres) was purchased in 1887 by a B. L. ~ilbert.' This transfer is confirmed in a local
newspaper clipping from 1919, which identified Gilbert as a New York architect and observed: "This was
practically the first great change along the Beaverkill, the others coming in rapid succession, the Brooklyn Fly Fishers Club, of Brooklyn. buying part of the B.F.Hardenbergh farm, and later Mr. George B. Essen taking over
the Willis Butler place."8
The size of the Cammer farm is not recorded, but the Cammer parcel appears to have been subsequently
enlarged by one or more additional purchases. The 1919 article indicates that it was added to "so that today it
includes several farms." Another local history suggests that land owned by a family named Butler, with three
hundred acres subdivided into three farms and the remaining seven hundred acres in forest and leased to the
"Leighton Chemical Company" for timbering rights, was added to the property around the turn of the ~entury.~
One source credits Bradford L. Gilbert, who appears to have purchased the property around 1887, with
transforming the farm into an estate. Gilbert's flourishing architectural practice would have supported such a
venture.'' Several sources, however, credit Maurice Sternbach or Moms Sternback with the ini ti a1 development
of the property into an estate. Sternbach is described variously as an "importer from New York City" or a silk
manufacturer. According to one account, Sternbach amved in Roscoe one summer in the early 1900s and
discreetly but methodically explored the outlying areas in search of real estate before returning to New York in
September. Within a year and a half, he had purchased nearly one-thousand acres at Craig-e-Claire, and a few
months later he began to redevelop the site:
... Mr. Sternbach appeared in Roscoe and hired a goodly force of local men to tear down three three farm houses, with barns and outhouses [and]. . ..after all the farm buildings had been tom down ,
board by board, nails removed and the lumber stacked, a beautiful Swiss chalet type home was built, about a half mile distant from the Beaverlull Road.. .Large orchards of pear and apple trees were
planted and a horse barn was erected for ten or twelve of the finest riding horses ever seen in that
section. A rather large tenant house was erected . . .Photographs later taken during the construction of the castle suggest that the summer home built for Sternbach
was massed with at least one cylindrical turret, clad in dark-colored shingles and contained novelty sash.
Sternbach held the property until 1907, when he sold it to Ralph W. Dundas.

Dundas Castle
The construction history of the castle is not well documented. Photographs in an album once belonging
to James Keegan, an individual who worked on the project, indicate that the castle encapsulated part, if
not all of an earlier frame structure. The earlier building was clad in shingles; it had at least one turret of
similar dimension to the existing pair flanking the entrance, and it had leaded and novelty style sash. Notes on the photographs indicate that the roofing slate was imported from England, the rounded stones taken from the stream bed of the Beaverkill, & interior "marble" mantels & flooring (actually limestone) imported from Italy. News stories reported that the workforce assembled to build the castle was imported as well. A local paper suggested Scandinavia, and the New York Times noted that "...about 30 Finnish workmen were employed shortly before World War I to build a stone wall around the structure erected by a former owner."15 Ralph Dundas did break with local tradition by bringing in labor from the outside; however, it appears that they were not imported for this project alone. According to one account, he had difficulty finding local Catslull workers willing to work on his terms. "To solve the problem, he imported a number of workmen from his summer home, Gloucester, Mass. These men lived in a tent colony on the mountainside-their lives absolutely undisturbed by the native. The newcomers were 'foreigners,' and being such, were shunned."16 There is evidence that the construction of the castle overlapped that of the construction of Bass Rocks, the home in Gloucester. This speculation is based on a photograph of a wall and archway built of dressed, quarry-faced stone under construction that seems to have been in the Keagan album. Ralph Dundas died on 16 October 1921, before the castle was completed. Upon the death of his wife the following year, their only daughter, Muriel, who was then a juvenile, inherited the property. She did not use it during her ownership apart from an occasional visit. Between 1913 and 1922, a part of the Dundas property known as Beaverkill Lodge Farm and perhaps the entire estate was managed by B.C. Hardenberg, who appears to have been a local. Upon his resignation, the management was turned over to Mr. and Mrs. James Farley, who were from Gloucester. The Farleys occupied the caretaker's section of the castle for about twenty-five years. James Farley. who had been Dundas's chauffer, reportedly made improvements to the carriage road through the property around 1926

Prince Hall Masons

On 2 May 1949, the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the Masonic Order, a membership organization of African-American masons headquartered in Manhattan, purchased the property from Muriel Wurts-Dundas Boone for $47,5000. The purchase was made through Prince Hall Temple Associates, a corporation formed to operate the property.

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