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Dover Stone Church

No visit to enjoy the scenic beauty of the rolling hills and plains of the Harlem Valley of Eastern Dutchess County

would be complete without a visit to the Dover Stone Church in Dover Plains!

A Brief History of the Dover “Stone Church”

The “Stone Church” is an ancient cavern on the Stone Church Brook in Dover Plains hewn by time in the formation similar to a church’s cathedral stained glass window.  According to local legend, the site was a refuge for Pequot Sachem Sassacus and his warriors as they fled from the English Army in the 1600s.  In the 1800 and early 1900s, the Stone Church was a popular local attraction for New York City dwellers to visit and enjoy the recuperative fresh air and beauty of upstate New York.

 

When the privately-owned 58.5 acre property was offered for sale in 2002, the Town of Dover, the Dutchess Land Conservancy and the Friends of Dover Stone Church, collaborated to raise private and public funds to acquire the property. Grant and match funds from the Dutchess County Open Space and Farmland Protection Program, the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation were secured along with donations of numerous residents, businesses and area supporters to successfully complete the acquisition in 2004.

 

In 2009, neighboring property owners graciously donated a conservation easement on 50 acres adjacent to the historic right-of-way.  In 2010, they also donated 63 acres in fee along the land’s southern border to the Town to expand the open space and further protect the site’s natural beauty and ecology.

 

In 2010, improvements to the historic right-of-way entrance included restoration of the maple tree- lined land and stone and wood footbridge for passage across the Stone Church Brook. Future improvements are planned to develop nature and hiking trails for residents and visitors to further enjoy local wildlife and flora.

The Dover Stone Church Celebrated in Print, Painting and Prose

Through the years, the enigmatic beauty of the Stone Church has been captured and celebrated by famous artists and authors that included:

Asher Durand, engraver and landscape artist of the Hudson River School of Art sketched the site in 1847 (in the Luce Center Collection of the New York Historical Society Museum and Library)

Benson Lossing, a distinguished, prolific magazine editor
and historian who lived in Dover was the author of The Dover Stone Church 
and The History of Dutchess County

        

Richard Maher, a former Town Clerk, wrote
and published a requiem about the Stone Church in his
1908 book, Historic Dover



Requiem to the Stone Church

 by Richard Maher

Historic Dover (1907)

 

It has seen the Red Man fade and die like some exotic flower.

It has seen the White Man come in all the freshness of civilization;

Its melodious stream has chanted a requiem over his generations  dead and gone,

And still the ancient arch guards the wild ravine, and the never-tiring stream,

As

 it patiently hews out newer and more fanciful forms,

gives to the breeze the son of endurance

 "Men may come and men may go,

But I go on forever, ever,

I go on forever.”

 

 Old Postcards of Dover Plains frequently featured the approach to the Stone Church and cavern


During the Great Depression, Arthur Powell and
other landscape artists painted the Stone Church
site through the Works Progress Administration (WPA)
enacted by President Franklin Roosevelt
(on permanent display at the Town of Dover Town Hall).



 

“The Family Magazine” of New York (published in 1835-6) described the Stone Church as a “singular and interesting curiosity” with reports that the site drew thousands of visitors, many of whom stayed at the Stone Church Hotel (location unknown at this time).

Features of the Dover Stone Church Site

Enjoy a Safe Visit the Stone Church!


 

Historic Right-of-Way:  The entrance to Stone Church begins with a gravel driveway through private property; there is no parking allowed on or near the right-of-way.  Please download the Stone Church Brochure for information and a map with parking locations.  In 2010, the Town of Dover improved the right-of-way entrance with restoration of maple trees that lined the entrance for centuries. Granite steps and railing were installed to create passage along a man-made valley.

Cavern Entrance:  large metamorphic rocks converge to form the entrance in the shape of a church’s cathedral window.  The gothic (pointed arch) formation of the stones gave rise to the moniker, “Stone Church.”

“The Pulpit:” Inside the cavern is a rock ledge, affectionately given this name by Richard Maher, a Dover resident who wrote the 1908 book, Historic Dover.

 

Stone Church Brook:  This brook flows through the Stone church cavern and is a tributary of the Ten Mile River.  The Ten Mile River begins in the Town of North East (Millerton) and flows southeast to its outlet into the Housatonic River at Bulls Bridge in Connecticut.

 

Ponds:  After crossing the footbridge over the Stone Church Brook, there is a small meadow with three spring-fed ponds. Please supervise children at all times and especially in this area.

The Town has established the following park rules and safety tips to keep your visit safe and enjoyable.  Please observe the following at all times:

 

  • Site is open dawn to dusk, weather permitting
  • Hike at your own risk.  Rough terrain, water hazards, trail and rocks may be even and slippery.  Wear sturdy footgear.
  • Accessible to hikers only.  No motorized vehicles or bicycles allowed.
  • Watch for ticks and snakes.
  • Stay on the designated paths and marked nature trails to respect the privacy of adjacent private property owners.
  • No rock climbing allowed.
  • No swimming allowed.
  • Do not pick flowers, disturb plant life and wildlife.
  • No alcoholic beverages, firearms, camping or fires allowed in the park.
  • No garbage disposal available- carry out what you bring in.
  • Children must be supervised.
  • Call 911 in case of emergency.

 

“Take only memories… leave only footprints…”


 


 126 East Duncan Hill Road Dover Plains, New York 12522

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