The story of a forgotten America.

Autumn Drives Along the Delaware

A late autumn drive in the fog and storm along Upper Delaware Scenic Byway on the edge of the Catskill Mountains of New York can take one’s breath away. From the many picturesque sights to the serpentine tarmac that embrace the towering granite crags to historical places that strike reminders of times past, the 70-mile, two-lane parkway provokes sensations of wanderlust.

The quiet journey down the highway makes you feel as if you are detached from the hustle and bustle of everyday consciousness. Still, reminders of its once livelier past mark the shoulders, including forsaken cottages tucked into equally desolate pine woods.

Further down in the village of Sparrow Bush is the equally abandoned Alexander Motel, once a welcome sight for the weary tourist. A walk up to the building through a patch of browning ferns reveals rooms that are padlocked and empty. The Alexander was listed for sale in 2013 and closed in 2014.

The beautiful journey along the byway ended at the summit of Skyline Drive in the sprawling Elk-Charles Brox Memorial Park in Port Jarvis. Developed during the Gilded Age at a time when the nation was starting to yearn for open space, the reservation was located atop Point Peter and Mount William with overlooks of the upper Delaware River valley and the hamlet below.

In 1942, Kolmar, a custom cosmetic producer founded by Lessing Kole and Dr. Frederick Marsek, acquired a former lodge within the park and turned it to a combination laboratory and factory. It vacated the complex in 1995 when it condensed operations on King Street.

Today, Kolmar’s old plant stands eerie silent, long stripped of any utility, and a blemish in an otherwise majestic park. There has been the conversation of turning the blighted property into a recycling center, but those discussions have stalled. My proposal: tear it down and rehabilitate the poisoned ground for nature.

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