Points of Interest
The first New Yorker to buy property and build a grand summer house in Washington was Edward Van Ingen, a wool importer. Around 1892, Van Ingen asked Ehrick Rossiter, the renowned architect, to design a hotel on a hillside overlooking the Shepaug River as a memorial to his oldest daughter who died of Scarlet Fever. Completed in 1893, Holiday House was conceived as a vacation retreat for working class women affiliated with Saint Bartholomew’s Church in New York City. Since there were no labor laws or protection against exploitation, the Van Ingen’s wanted to provide a space for gracious and simple living for these women to enjoy life and leave their sweatshop jobs behind for a few weeks. After World War I, the family could no longer afford the upkeep of this summer getaway and closed the doors in 1918. Unable to sell or donate the building, the family chose to dismantle the house and donate the building parts and furnishings to the townspeople. All that now remains on-site is the foundation of the original building.
A seven-minute walk transports you back a century in time. Bisecting the pine-crowned hills, the gently trail provides occasional views of the equestrian riding ring before reaching what remains of Holiday House (0.36-mile one-way).
Directions: From the main parking lot (next to the horse riding ring), take the blue circle trail to what remains of the Holiday House.
The railroad tunnel was constructed from 1871 to 1872 as part of the Shepaug Valley Railroad. A crew of coal miners from Pennsylvania built the 235-foot curved tunnel by hand using picks, dynamite and nitroglycerin to blast through Steep Rock Ridge. It took them only nine months to complete, a remarkably quick project in those days. The railroad ceased operation in 1948. Today, hikers enjoy the cool, damp air within the darkness of these chiseled bedrock walls as a refreshing respite on a warm summer day.
A forty-minute jaunt travels along a popular riding trail that is evocative of an English country lane. It’s wide and nearly flat all the way. The final 100-yard straightaway is lined with towering pines, oaks, ashes and maples leading to the railroad tunnel (1.78 miles one-way).
Directions: From the main parking lot (next to the horse riding ring), take the yellow circle trail along Tunnel Road to the blue square trail to the Railroad Tunnel.
The Steep Rock summit, at an elevation of 776 feet, provides a breathtaking view overlooking the Clam Shell section of the Shepaug River Valley. Gifted to the Board of Trustees in 1925 by Steep Rock’s founder, Ehrick Rossiter, these 100-acres is the core of the Preserve and the first land owned by Steep Rock Association. Four years later, the Trustees purchased the Clam Shell to preserve the view from the summit. This view contains the same sense of grandeur it did a century ago, and is well worth the hike to the top!
A thirty-five minute hike, featuring some of the steepest trails in the Preserve, culminates in the clouds with the river, forest and farmland stretching below. This section is flat as it follows the old railroad bed along the river, then narrows and climbs steeply through the woods to the summit with its stunning views (0.97 mile one-way).
Directions: Park at the parking lot at the end of River Road and follow the green circle trail (aka old railroad bed) to the white diamond trail. Then take yellow circle trail to the Steep Rock Summit.