SHORT HISTORY OF CRAGSMOOR
AND THE LIBRARY
The hamlet of Cragsmoor, an area of approximately six square miles, is located near Ellenville, New York on Route 52 between Ellenville and Pine Bush on the Shawangunk Ridge. The “Mountain Top,” as it was originally referred to, began with settlers and pioneers, and a farming community was established in the early 1800s. The land was gradually cleared around homesteads and the lumber was hauled down the mountain to fulfill the needs of growing communities in Walker Valley to the east and eventually the Rondout Valley to the west.
The timbering, farming and eventual clearing of the forests on the mountain gave way to scenic views and panoramic vistas. Dramatic shifts in weather, unusual flora and fauna, and extraordinary natural beauty attracted several artists who began summering here in the late 1870s. An artist colony established itself and flourished for almost seventy years.
The Library was started by the artists, their spouses and many local residents who obtained a provisional charter from New York State in 1913. The books were donated and kept in several locations until Frederick S. Dellenbaugh (explorer, author and artist) donated the land and designed the Library building. It was built from 1923 to 1925 by local craftsmen (some of whose families still live here). It has many interesting architectural features, including the massive chestnut columns that support its vaulted ceiling and balcony, which was donated by Mrs. George Innes, Jr. in honor of her husband. Frederick Dellenbaugh donated the land and designed the Library building. It was built in 1923 by local craftsmen, among them, Lawrence Keir and his brother John who were involved in the construction of at least 25 buildings in Cragsmoor primarily as stone masons. Lawrence is responsible for the floor to ceiling fire place in the library. Bert Goldsmith who accounts for 24 Cragsmoor buildings also helped build the Library.
The founders of the Cragsmoor Art Colony and their contemporaries donated many works to the Library. These gifts have created a unique collection, which is augmented by our present-day artists. More artists live and work here today than during the time of the original art colony.
The Cragsmoor Free Library received its permanent charter in 1949 as an Association Library and has continued in service to the public ever since. Because we are not a town or school library, less than half our annual operating budget comes from public funding. The rest must be privately raised. The Library is a community center and meeting place for several groups. In addition to books, books on tape, large print books, DVDs, newspapers and magazines, there are several public computers, WIFI capability and many programs during the year, both educational and fun, to appeal to both children and adults.