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Regional Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, November 16, 2006

Howe’s Cavern changing hands"

By Tyler Schuling

HOWE’S CAVE — Howe’s Caverns, New York’s second largest tourist attraction, may be changing hands.

"I can’t tell you who’s buying it because I don’t know, but what I can tell you is that originally my wife, Susan, and I brought an unsolicited offer to the board of directors," John Sagendorf, Howe’s Caverns’s general manager, told The Enterprise Nov. 4.

Geologists believe that the cave, which lies 156 feet below ground, began forming several million years ago. Within the cave, lies a lake — Lake Venus.

The tourist attraction was formed in 1927 and opened to the public on Memorial Day weekend, 1929, by a group of shareholders.

Today, the Schoharie County attraction is owned by 200 to 250 shareholders, Sagendorf said.

In its peak season, Sagendorf said, Howe’s Caverns employs between 180 and 200 people. Its sale, he said, would not change that.

With nearly 15 million visitors over the past 75 years, it is the second-busiest tourist attraction in the state, behind Niagara Falls. Consisting of multiple parcels, Howe’s Caverns is assessed at about $3.55 million, according to the Schoharie County Real Property Tax Office.

"Our objective is to maintain it as it is," Sagendorf said. "It’s an important business to the state, the nation, and the local community."

Sagendorf added that Howe’s Caverns is also a major employer.

"Not only does it have economic importance. We’re also a major employer for high schoolers. A lot of them get their start at Howe’s Caverns," he said.

The caverns, he said, have not undergone many changes over the years.

"Below ground, the changes have been minimal. Most of the changes have occurred above ground with facilities and programming," he said. The attraction, he said, has a tea room, a larger restaurant, and a hotel.

"Over time, programming has changed. Now, people not only want to have an entertaining experience; they want to walk away from it knowing more," he said.

The Cavern’s neighbor is Cobleskill Stone Products Inc., a state Department of Transportation-approved quarry, which performs contractual work for the DOT and municipalities.

Asked if the caverns proximity to the mining quarry is a threat the attraction, Sagendorf responded, "I don’t think so in any way. They’re interested in the cave’s economical value to the community as well as its geological value. We view them as a friendly neighbor."

Bob Addis, President of the Northeast Cave Conservatory, also told The Enterprise that the quarry has been a good neighbor.

"There’s been harmony between the two," Addis said.

In the 1900’s, limestone was discovered, and the quarrying business took off. However, in 1976, the quarrying enterprise proved to be uneconomical, Addis said.

An area resident since 1949, Addis said that he has seen 4 or 5 different limestone companies operating in the nearby quarry.

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