The ‘Owl’s Nest’

The Grand Hotel, Highmount, NY (Photo: Detroit Publishing Co. via Library of Congress)

The house sits in (or near) the footprint of a gargantuan former hotel that was aptly titled “The Grand Hotel.” The hotel opened in 1881 and closed in 1964*. The story is actually pretty fascinating (to me anyway), and the Middletown Historical Society has published a whitepaper-style¬†outline of its history over here.

The reason for mentioning The Grand Hotel in this post is because of the “Owl’s Nest” nickname attributed to the area in which the house is located. An unsubstantiated (to my knowledge) rumor that I heard, is that when the hotel was demolished, it was intentionally burnt to the ground. Among the ruinous aftermath, was a giant chandelier that resembled an owl’s head. It makes for an awesome story, but I have not yet been able uncover any evidence to support it. A somewhat less glamorous (for non-ornithologists) alternative theory about the origin of the nickname is based on the area’s abundant owl population. Since the MHS account reports that all of the fixtures were removed from the hotel before it was demolished (and does not specify how the demolition was accomplished, by fire or otherwise), I tend to give more credence to the latter theory.

As luck would have it, Britt and I were able to spot owls on various occasions during our first several weeks at the house. When moved in, the hardwood trees were still bare from winter. Even though the owls blend in quite well, we could occasionally see them swooping across the yard, or from tree to tree. On a few occasions, I had the camera close-by and was able to get a couple of shots. Here are a few of my faves:

One of our owl neighbors paying a visit to the tree in our front yard. (Photo: Jake)

(Photo: Jake)

(Photo: Jake)

Now that the trees are full of leaves it is much more difficult to see wildlife in the woods. However, we still hear the owls talking to each other on almost a nightly basis.

*Wikipedia says the hotel closed in 1966, but the MHS account seems more credible.

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