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The Dodson Journal

A Depressing Day at Hollyhock Hollow

I knew this day was coming. Ever since I retired from Audubon International and the organization abandoned Hollyhock Hollow Sanctuary, where 1they were headquartered for the first 25 years of their existence. I have gone to the sanctuary 2-3 times a week to check on the place. Weather permitting, I walked the trails and around the existing two buildings. Most days, I was not alone because the public still loves Hollyhock Hollow. But, I never saw one person from Audubon International at the sanctuary during any of my visits.

On a regular basis, I would send messages and/or pictures that I took at the sanctuary to Board members of Audubon International expressing concern for how things were looking at the sanctuary, particularly as it related to the buildings.

037smIt all came to a head early last spring, when during one of my field trips to the sanctuary, I discovered several large dumpsters and a group of workers essentially gutting the main building. This building, by the way was called The Rienow Building in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Rienow the donors of Hollyhock Hollow and the ones who established a Trust Fund for the care and upkeep of the sanctuary.

One of the people involved in the “gutting” of the building saw my license plate (AUDUBON) and decided that I might want to have a look inside…and so I was given a tour. They told me that the building had suffered serious water damage, due to ice dams on the roof during the winter and also had several pipes that had frozen and come spring was spewing water down the walls. Evidently, according the workers, this situation had gone un-noticed for quite some time.

I must say that I was not the least bit surprised by all of this, because I had been reporting the deterioration and general abandonment topics to 2Audubon International for several months. However, it was this damage and subsequent gutting of the inside of the Rienow Building that promoted me to report the general neglect and abandonment to the New York Attorney General’s office of Charities Registration. (For the record, I must report that I did receive a telephone call from the Attorney General’s office after they received my complaint…but I have never hear from them again since that call.)

So today, August 25, 2015 during a visit to the sanctuary, I see that the Rienow Building is being demolished completely. The second story was already gone, as was most of the first floor. A large excavator was sitting in the middle of the first floor pile of rubble. A few dumpsters were scattered about, full of scrapped wood, metal and who knows what else. I note that all of the wood that I saw in the pile was in fine condition and certainly could have been salvaged. The steel “I Beam” that ran the length of the building as the main support for the second story had been seriously bent and essentially destroyed.

Aside from the depressing nature of all of this and the fact that it was named in honor of the Rienow’s, it is also depressing to think about all of the donated hours given by volunteers back in the early 1990’s who helped to rebuild what was a 4-Bay garage and 3 bedroom, upstairs apartment, and transform it into a totally new headquarters building for the organization then called The Audubon Society of New York State. We had a grand party when the building was completed and the keys were turned over to the organization. It took a lot of hard work and a significant amount of fundraising to complete the building. We actually ran out of money before the second floor was completed and only with a $25,000 contribution from the General Electric Foundation were we able to totally complete the Rienow Building. I know that was just a little over 20 years ago…but it seems like yesterday to me. But…in just 20 or so years to abandon Hollyhock Hollow and destroy the Rienow Building is unbelievable and depressing to me.HHH Demolition 8sm

Hollyhock Hollow is much more than a building however. It is a biologically awesome place, with a deep rooted history in the environmental movement. The original Rienow home was destroyed by fire in the late 1980’s. A fire in which Dr. Rienow lost his life. It was in that home were many books were written by the Rienow’s, including A Moment in the Sun, which many say was a major catalyst for the creation of the first Earth Day. The Rienow Building was rebuilt, partially with the insurance proceeds that resulted from the fire that burned down the main home. What few mementoes of the lives of the Rienow’s were on display in the Rienow Building. And, now just a short time later the Rienow Building has been destroyed by the organization who was supposed to be the caretakers of the Rienow legacy. A sad and depressing day for sure!

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