To call the Widow Jane Mine “abandoned” might be technically accurate—it’s been more than 50 years since anything was mined here—but that misses the point. Since shutting down as a cement mine in 1970, the Widow Jane has had a remarkably diverse career.
Aside from being a popular hiking and biking destination, this old mine has been used as a mushroom farm, trout nursery, supplier of whisky water, performance venue, and a recording studio.
Back in the day, the mining was for natural cement—eponymously known as Rosendale cement—part of the 145-year history of cement manufacturing in New York’s Ulster County. Rosendale, a couple of hours north of Manhattan, was the center of this industry, beginning in 1825 with the discovery of huge deposits of dolomite limestone (the key ingredient in Rosendale cement).
By the end of the 19th century the Rosendale district was booming, home to more than a third of all cement plants in the country. Rosendale cement was used in the construction of some of the most iconic national monuments and landmarks, including the Brooklyn Bridge, Washington Monument, the base of the Statue of Liberty, and the wings of the U.S. Capitol.
Today the Widow Jane Mine is open to the public to explore, part of the property owned by the Century House Historical District on the grounds of the Snyder family estate, the original owners and operators of the mine. The District hosts a wide range of events and performances at the mine, including art exhibits, dance, drum circles, and the annual Subterranean Poetry Festival (28 years running!). In addition to the many live performances, musicians have also used the mine as an underground recording studio, taking advantage of the crazy-good acoustics. There is also a small museum, keeping alive the history of the site and the bygone industry, as well as a short walking trail, stocked with unique art projects.
It’s not clear how the Widow Jane Mine got its name, or who exactly the Widow Jane was. There were two “Janes” in the Snyder family, but no one has been able to confirm which one, if either, was the inspiration. It’s a mystery that only adds to the eerie atmosphere of the cool, dark spaces. Some visitors claim they’ve seen the ghost of the Widow Jane, a young woman in a long white dress wandering through the stone pillars and cavernous rooms. Next time she’s spotted, somebody should ask her who she is.
The Atlas Obscura Podcast is a short, daily celebration of all the world’s strange and wondrous places. Check out this episode about Widow Jane Mine.
Know Before You Go
Rosendale is just off I-87, about 90 miles north of New York City, between New Paltz (exit 18) and Kingston (exit 19). The Widow Jane Mine is located on the historic Snyder Estate, under the care of the Century House Historical Society. Admission to the site is by donation, or free to members, and open every day from 10AM to 6PM (summer), 10AM to 4PM (winter) . Note that the Estate will be closed when the Mine freezes over, and there are exhibits and events at other times during the season (usually Mother's Day to Labor Day), so check the website for details. The museum is open Sundays from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. during the season, or by appointment (call 845-658-9900). Admission to the museum is by donation, suggested at $5 for adults, $1 for kids, $10 for a family (and you can inquire about becoming a member).
Bring a headlamp. There are no lights in the mines.