Tucked away in a pastoral mid-Valley woodland, this unusual geological formation provides a natural sanctuary that many people claim resembles a place of worship. Pieces of metamorphic rock merge to form a Gothic-style archway; inside stands a boulder resembling an old-fashioned lectern, which was dubbed “the Pulpit” by author Richard Maher back in 1908.
The site is significant not just for its geology, but also for its history. The earliest reference to it appears in 1675. Legend has it that, during King Philip’s War, the Indian leader, Sassacus, eluded capture and certain death at the hands of the English army by hiding in this secluded grotto. Travelers began visiting this natural wonder during the 1800s, and — fueled by paintings and references from local artists and authors — it retained its popularity into the next century. In 1847, well-known Hudson River School artist Asher B. Durand drew a sketch of this arch; local historian and author Benson Lossing publicized the site in two of his popular books published around the turn of the 20th century. This spot received more attention during the Great Depression when the Works Project Administration commissioned several artists to paint it.
Up until 2002, the 58.5 acres that contain this site were privately owned. Once the lot was put up for sale, however, the town, a local citizens group, and the Dutchess Land Conservancy joined together to purchase and preserve the property. Currently, this singular geological marvel is part of a public park, available for everyone to visit and enjoy.
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