Dundas Castle
by Jane Sokolow

Please note:

Although the Castle is located within the district that the Friends of Beaverkill Community are dedicated to preserving both historically and culturally, Dundas Castle is on private property and due to privacy and security reasons the owners do not allow access to the Castle.

PLEASE NOTE: The Friends of Beaverkill Community have no contact information for the owners.  We do not respond to requests for contact or
further information. 

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Sitting high on a dark hillside outside of Roscoe, Dundas Castle looks like it escaped from the pages of Grimm’s fairy tales. Complete with Gothic windows, turrets, towers, steep parapeted roofs, crumbling walls, and a courtyard overgrown with shrubs and trees, the castle has been a landmark and a source of stories both real and romantic for almost 100 years.

Dundas Castle is the former estate of Ralph Wurts-Dundas. Wurts-Dundas, a grandson of William Wurts of the Delaware and Hudson Canal, was a wealthy and socially prominent New Yorker. The Dundas side of his family were wealthy, landed gentry from Scotland. They added to the holdings in America by marrying into the Philadelphia Wurts family, which had major coal holdings in northeastern Pennsylvania and had built the Delaware and Hudson Canal to carry their coal to market.

The castle is located in what locals know and some maps identify as Craig-e-C1air (also Craigie Clair). The almost thousand acres of land surrounding the castle was amassed in the late 1880s by Bradford L. Gilbert, a noted New York City architect. Gilbert built an estate known as “Beaverkill Lodge” on the property. The hamlet of Craig-e-Clair was named after an Irish fishing village and translates as “Beautiful Mountainside.” Gilbert’s wife was a native of Ireland and chose the name because the Catskill scenery reminded her of home. The property was sold in 1903 to Morris Sternbach. Wurts-Dundas purchased the land and buildings from Sternbach in 1907.

Like many wealthy men of his time he wanted a mountain hideaway for his family and friends. In 1907, he purchased 964 acres of forestland with a view of the Beaverkill near Roscoe. The land had been a fishing retreat complete with a “Swiss” style country house. Not satisfied with the existing structure, Wurts-Dundas set out to build the finest mansion possible incorporating the wooden country house. The design of the castle is thought to have been inspired by late nineteenth century interpretations of medieval European castles constructed in Scotland.

The castle had 36 rooms and legend passed down from generation to generation says that each room had steam heat and electricity long before any home in the township had them. According to Richard Barnes a student who researched the construction of the castle for his English Class, the only native product used in the construction was stone from the Beaverkill River. The roofing slate came from England, the marble for the floors, fireplace and staircases from Italy and the iron gates from France. The fireplace in the reception room was valued at over $5000 in 1910. Gold leaf was used to cover it.

Construction on the castle was begun in the early years of the First World War, and ceased in 1924, three years after Wurts-Dundas’ death in 1921. Never fully completed, the building represents an impressive example of the romanticized medievalism that emerged in American culture at the turn of the twentieth century. Although they visited during the construction period, neither Wurts-Dundas and his wife, Josephine – nor anyone else since – has lived in the castle.

When he died in 1921, Wurts-Dundas, who had dropped the hyphenated surname in favor of Dundas, left a fortune of more than forty million dollars. Legend says that Josephine Wurts-Dundas died in a sanitarium not long after Wurts-Dundas died. The castle, property and fortune passed on to their daughter Murial. Murial married James R. Herbert Boone of Baltimore in 1930, but never returned to the Catskills to complete the family fortress.

Buildings on the property include the castle, tall ornate iron gates with stone piers, a one-lane stone bridge on the service road, several “service” buildings along Berry Brook Road and a farm complex in the southwest corner.

In 1949, the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the Masonic Order, a membership organization of African-American Masons headquartered in Manhattan purchased the property from Murial Wurts-Dundas Boone for $47,500. The initial plan for the property was to establish a Masonic home for the aged and indigent. This never happened and for many years the property was used as a rural vacation retreat.

The Masons converted the barn at the farm complex into a recreation center and remodeled the old farmhouse for an administration center. The castle was used in the 1950s as a hunting and fishing resort. By 1964, the masons had built a swimming pool, dining pavilion and several new buildings and established Camp Eureka, a summer camp for inner-city youth. Camp Eureka is the property’s primary use today.

In July of 2005, the Masons and the Open Space Institute, Inc. (OSI) announced a cooperative agreement to protect 929 acres of the Camp Eureka/Dundas Castle property.

Through the Open Space Conservancy, OSI acquired a conservation easement from Prince Hall Temple Associates, Inc, a non-profit corporate affiliate of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge in the Beaverkill-Delaware region of the western Catskills.

The conservation easement limits future development of the property and prohibits residential subdivision. It will also establish new programs for Camp Eureka which for close to 50 years Prince Hall has operated to serve youth from inner cities throughout the state, such as Buffalo, Rochester, Albany and, of course, New York City.

This historic agreement between the Masons and the Open Space Institute not only preserves the property and the castle, it insures that generations of inner city youth will continue to enjoy Catskill summers and learn about the environment. Perhaps most important, the agreement preserves and perpetuates the stories and legends of the great mysterious castle on the hillside.

 

Note:

Although the Castle is located within the district that the Friends of Beaverkill Community are dedicated to preserving both historically and culturally, Dundas Castle is on private property and due to privacy and security reasons the owners do not allow access to the Castle.

PLEASE NOTE: The Friends of Beaverkill Community have no contact information for the owners.  We do not respond to requests for contact or further information. 

 

 

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