By ROGER HANNIGAN GILSON
The Cement Graveyard is located in East Kingston, which is a bit of a misnomer, since East Kingston is actually North of central Kingston. It’s also a bit of a misnomer to say the Cement Graveyard is ‘in’ East Kingston, since the Cement Graveyard isn’t ‘in’ anywhere but the woods. I parked on Railroad Avenue and walked the mile and a half down John Street to get there. There were houses on the sides of the road at first, but both the houses and the road petered away until I was on a dirt path in the middle of the forest.
The forest opened up into a wide, stone-carpeted field. I walked around a large mound of the stone and saw the first structure—a broad, two-story brick building.
The area around the building was strewn liberally with garbage. Spray-paint cans, multi-colored shotgun shells, dusty bottles of Aquafina, sun-fissured truck tires, bits of shattered-glass crystal, rakes, shovels, day-glo paint bottles, disused tools, car parts, threadbare couches, a refrigerator. A TurkDuckHen.
Yes, there was a hen stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey laying on the ground. I know it was precisely this because its box was right next to it, telling me so. The TurkDuckHen was still marinating in its past-prime juices inside a vacuum-sealed bag.
People often talk about how we’re destroying nature. The folly of thinking this way is it separates us from nature, as though we’re the only thing in the universe that isn’t connected to everything else. The sentence should really read, ‘People often talk about how we’re destroying ourselves.’ We’re changing nature, that’s for sure, but don’t worry…it’ll be fine. WE won’t, of course. But that’s a separate issue.
My initial reaction to the TurkDuckHen was, ‘Well, that’s a waste of food.’ THAT sentence should read ‘that’s a waste of a person’s food.’ Don’t worry, some enterprising young ant will make its way through the plastic soon.
Everything gets recycled eventually, whether it’s an ant getting a meal or a guy who loves abandoned places writing stories about them.
I decided to leave the interior of the brick building for later and headed deeper into the field. A giant quarry, hundreds of feet wide opened up on my left. Then I could see the towers sticking above the trees.
I entered the small doors at the base of the towers.
The taps at the base of the silos were still dripping with water. It looked like stalactites would soon start forming.
These silos are the skeletons of the great Hudson River Cement Works. The area made its name in the 19th century as one of the largest cement fabrication centers in North America, as seven large mining operations and associated plants spat out world-renowned product on the West bank of the Hudson. Hudson River Cement mined the lime for the cement in Rosendale, then shipped it ten miles north to East Kingston, using rail lines and the Delaware and Hudson Canal. The second component to cement—clay—was mined there, and the components were mixed and processed into the final product, which was then loaded onto boats in the Hudson. Rosendale Cement—the general term for cement from this area—built the base of the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, Federal Hall in New York City and one of the wings of the United States Capitol. The industry fell into decline in the early 1900s, and, like most of the industry north of Westchester County, remains that way.
Behind the silos, there existed the skeletons of structures. It looked like they had been stripped by multiple generations of scrappers.
And, like any good abandoned place, it had its share of graffiti.
I walked back to the original brick building. There were two guys of about twenty sitting in their Corolla with the doors open. One of them was examining something carefully in the sunlight.
“Hey,” I said disarmingly, not wanting to mess with whatever the hell they were doing out here.
“Yo,” they said back, not wanting to mess with whatever the hell I was doing.
I heard them pull away as I rounded the back of the building. There was a large hole in the brick, and I hopped in.
The floor was soft under my feet from the collapsed plaster. I leapt back out the hole onto firmer ground and passed the TurkDuckHen on my my back to the car.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story first appeared in 2014 on The Other Hudson Valley.
Roger Hannigan Gilson is a writer and newspaper reporter who has lived in the Hudson Valley since the age of twenty, which he rather likes. He enjoys hip-hop, abandoned buildings and struggling to find a way to combine these two passions. He is voting for Trump just to piss you off. Follow him on Twitter @HanniganGilson.