Thursday, March 7, 2013

Where Was "Fountain Head"?

Earlier this week, Gossips published an article from the Hudson Evening Register for October 25, 1910, about the Knickerbocker Cement Company laying a railroad to the port. Describing the location of the Knickerbocker plant, the article mentioned "Fountain Head," and a reader wanted to know where and what Fountain Head was. Gossips research has still not determined its exact location. What is known, however, is that Fountain Head was in the vicinity of the Columbia Turnpike toll house, and the Knickerbocker Cement plant was a quarter of a mile east of Fountain Head.

Franklin Ellis mentions the "Fountain" or "Fountains" twice in his History of Columbia County, published in 1878. He describes the place itself.
The "Fountain," east of the city limits, is the place of the springs alluded to by ancient writers two centuries ago or more. Here is located the old Hollenbeck hotel, a very ancient tavern-stand. (page 364)
He also describes the hotel that was located near the "Fountain."
The present Hollenbeck tavern, near the "Fountains" on the Columbia turnpike, is a very old place. The tavern was kept nearly or quite a hundred years ago by James Bedell. (page 362)
It appears that the Hollenbeck tavern was also known, or at sometime became known, as the Fountain Head Hotel. In the decades around the turn of the last century, the Fountain Head Hotel seems to have been the center of civic life in Greenport. The Greenport Town Board met there. Judges heard court cases there. Political parties held their caucuses there. In 1910, forty horses were auctioned at the Fountain Head Hotel, and in 1913, a mammoth hog named Belle was publicly slaughtered there.

The water that came forth out of the ground at Fountain Head seems to have had something of the same appeal to tourists as the waters at Saratoga Springs. On August 14, 1911, the Hudson Evening Register reported that James Adams of New York City, a guest at the hotel, being fond of the water that flows at Fountain Head and daily indulging himself in the cool, clear fluid, "slipped upon the rocks where the water runs and took a bad fall, sustaining a number of bruises."


  1. The Fountain Head is just east of the Greenport Rescue Squad entrance on Route 23B.

    The written history of this precise area goes back, at least, to Jasper Dankers in 1680, when he wrote the following entries in his journal on May 1 and May 2, 1680.

    May 1, 1680: “. . . We set sail in the evening, and came to Claver Rack, sixteen miles further down, where we also took in some grain in the evening.”

    May 2, 1680: We were here laden full of grain, which had to be brought in four miles from the country. The boors who brought it in wagons asked us to ride out with them to their places, which we did. We rode along a high ridge of blue rock on the right hand, the top of which was grown over. This stone is suitable for burning lime, as the people of the Hysopus, from the same kind, burn the best. Large, clear fountains flow out of these cliffs of hills, the first real fountains and only ones which we have met with in this country. We arrived at the places which consist of fine farms; the tillable land is like that of Schoonechtendeel, low, flat, and on the side of a creek, very delightful and pleasant to look upon, especially at the present time, when they were all green with the wheat coming up. The woodland also is very good for tillable land, and it was one of the locations which pleased me most, with its agreeable fountains. . . ”

  2. If driving out 23B just past Newman road then on the right hand side up the bank there is a black 40' tall water tank and small building. I believe that is the location just before you approach the county garage/DPW. There is a big aquifer in north Claverack where Greenport draws there water, even an artesian well where water spouts up out of the ground not far from my moms house. Plenty of water around for sure.


  3. Great comments!

    Love the local knowledge.

    Thanks gents.