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Widow Jane Mine

Maybe if you're from one of the great western states with their huge mining operations and vast caverns and passageways where once solid rock stood a small mine isn't going to impress. But we aren't and boy did our jaw drop when we carefully walked into the gloomy dark of the Widow Jane Mine. There's no elevator dropping away beneath you, there's no rail system with charming little tracks and cute little cars, all there is is a great hole.

As you approach the Widow Jane Mine all you see are a couple of large holes punched into the face of a tall cliff, holes at ground level. Walking up to them you suddenly realize they are actually vast, great gaping cavities with a looming darkness beyond. Standing in one of these entrances you suddenly feel small, tiny in comparison and before you is a immense darkness stretching into the distance. Descend a ramp and you find yourself in a expansive cavern, huge pillars of stone supporting the ceiling, and the room going back and yet further back into darkness.

It's an awe inspiring space on many levels. First and most obvious is its sheer scale, the dimensions of this excavation is immense. Water drips from somewhere filling a pool as the floor slopes downward. Light filters in from the openings trying to cut into the darkness, and failing. The second and more powerful sensation is less tangible, the effort, the sheer physical effort undertaken by nameless and uncounted people to hack the resources of the mine from the grip of the mountain. When this mine was dug technology was simpler and less sophisticated. This mine was dug with picks and shovels and black powder. This mine is the life effort of people, the sweat and pain of real men struggling against the rock.

Created to claim the vast lime resources to feed a booming cement industry made large by the D&H Canal running just yards away, the Widow Jane Mine now lies quietly behind a shady glen with mossy banks and dappled sunlight. You almost stumble across it down a grassy path, turn a corner and before you a short distance away are the entrances. Artifacts of the once vital economic engine of the Valley, the cement industry, lie beneath an enveloping blanket of vines and thickets of limbs all around you, peering from the shade. Remnants of the old kilns tower from behind a curtain of leaves and old hand trucks and implements lie beneath a layer of leaves. You are invited to explore the mine and grounds on your own at your pace not being interrupted by a streaming narrative. Or you can request a guide go with you and inform you of the site. It's a quiet and almost tranquil experience giving you the time to approach the mine, and recover from its impact.

Located on the grounds of the Century House, the Widow Jane Mine and associated small museum are one of any number of struggling historic sites in the Hudson Valley, little visited and a little off the beaten path. Even if you are looking for it, because of the configuration of roads and quick turns you can entirely miss it, we did twice. But it is absolutely worth taking the time to find it and experience its power and presence. Odd in a way to say that a void has a presence, but it does, it absolutely does.

Specifics on visiting the Widow Jane Mine were correct at time of publication. We would suggest that you confirm dates and times prior to your visit.
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