Mapping Contagious Abandonment and Resilience, North of New York City

Author(s): April Beisaw

Year: 2015


The lands around New York City’s rural reservoirs contain ruins of residences, schools, churches, farms, and other businesses, displaced by watershed creation that began in the mid-nineteenth century. But even the forests around them are artifacts of the abandonment. Here, the spaces in between buildings and trash piles are the places where the region’s economy flourished before the reservoir changed everything. Treating each ruin as an individual site would ignore the interconnectedness of rural economies and the contagiousness of abandonment. However, treating these ruins as individual features within larger sites of watershed creation, their interconnectedness is prioritized. Spatial gaps between each ruin come into focus as places where economic and social activities once took place. The secondary growth forest, the dry creek beds, and the quarried cliffs are cultural features in need of interpretation. Standing and occupied structures are also integral features whose documentation allows for assessments of resilience. Together, these multiple feature types provide information on not only where but also when and why abandonment occurred across vast sites. This landscape contains 150-years of data on cultural impacts of environmental engineering that can inform future watershed projects and contribute to research on rural and urban abandonment.

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Cite this Record

Mapping Contagious Abandonment and Resilience, North of New York City. April Beisaw. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397037)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -80.815; min lat: 39.3 ; max long: -66.753; max lat: 47.398 ;