Desolation at Deveaux Woods

Deveaux Woods State Park is quite possibly the most peculiar of the New York State Parks location in the city of Niagara Falls. Although it is, as Buffalo Museum of Science Research Associate P.M. Eckel said in 1986, “the oldest, most unaltered woodland along the entire American Gorge,” it wasn’t made a State Park until 2001.

The history of Deveaux Woods as we would look at it begins roughly in 1855 with the DeVeaux College for Orphans and Destitute Children. This was a boys school for orphans ages 8-12, and ran as a sort of military academy. The school evolved over time, expanding to several buildings. There is a great write-up on its history over at the old Wake Up Niagara blog, as well as personal reflections of being an alumni on the Big Daddy Dave blog.

If you’re looking for a condensed version, the school closed in 1972. This led to a series of ownership changes. Niagara University used it as additional dormitories briefly, then it passed through various local, county and state hands until the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation bought it in 2001.

If you’re looking for remnants of the original Deveaux College, there’s almost nothing left. The last surviving big structure is Schoellkopf Hall.

Schoellkopf Hall. Deveaux Woods State Park. Niagara Falls, NY

The hall, which may or may not be haunted, is certainly an eerie sight to behold. Old plywood boards up every window of the 1927 stone building. A Fallout Shelter sign sits above its northeast entrance. A tag number of 3140 is bolted to its southeast door. It felt at home with the overcast weather that surrounded it when I went for a visit.

Now, Deveaux Woods is also, well, a woodland. Sitting behind Schoellkopf hall are some of the oldest trees in Niagara.

Coyote and Tick warning sign.

If Schoellkopf was errie in overcast weather, the woodland was scary. Warning signs for ticks and coyotes mark its entrance, along with jagged trees and underbrush.

The busted logs on either side of the path seems to hiss. Whether this was due to a very light rain or some insect I’m not sure. I don’t entirely want to know.

Fallen tree frames Schoellkopf Hall in the distance. Deveaux Woods State Park.

It truly was like stepping into a different time and place. With no sounds of tourists or vehicles due to the restrictions for COVID quarantine, you could hear everything. Every twig and leave crunch. Every rabbit scurrying along. This is not a manicured nature. This is raw, unadulterated nature.

On the other end of the park lay a different sense of desolation. The baseball fields, usually filled with kids by now, sit completely empty.

Empty baseball field at Deveaux Woods State Park. Niagara Falls, NY

This is not a 1927 building. This is not an ancient wood. This is a usually busy place. It really does show how recent world events have affected everyday life.

Now, there’s one other hidden spot within Deveaux Woods State Park that is rarely talked about. In fact, very little has ever been said of it. It sits as a lone marker of a time long gone. Tomorrow we will take a look at this spot and ask ourselves: who is Eliza Keig?

-Sheepie ❤

3 thoughts on “Desolation at Deveaux Woods

  1. Mindy says:

    Just ran across this today, and I really appreciate your fine writing and many details. Thought I’d share some more info that might be helpful. I lived in Schoellkopf Hall (second floor) on the Deveaux Campus when I was at Niagara University in 1980. It was indeed spooky with odd sounds in the night, but I never actually saw a ghost. Others say they did, a crying woman dressed in white at the top of one of the stairwells. I tend to believe them. Everything inside the building seemed to be original and relatively untouched in 1980, so behind the blocked entrance it probably is still stuck in time. It’s unlikely such a huge old building was used again after the college left. The windows behind the plywood are the old-fashioned leaded (popular in Gothic style buildings) and very pretty. Glad they’re safely boarded up, but a shame people can’t see them. Makes the place look even spookier, if that’s possible. We used to walk through the woods to the Niagara River Gorge and even occasionally across an old wooden bridge into Canada. (Local lore says it was the same bridge that Harriet Tubman led people across to Canada on the Underground Railroad. It did look like it could be old enough, and I have read there are accounts from passengers saying the final leg of the journey was across a wooden bridge into Canada.) It was very scary to walk over 40 years ago, so I imagine it’s closed now, but maybe you can still spot it — if it hasn’t fallen into the gorge. We always walked in groups through the woods because as you pointed out, those dark woods are the stuff of nightmare fairytales. Never saw a coyote and I’m frankly glad I didn’t know they were out there at the time. Thanks to you, I now know I can visit my old campus. I’m only a couple hours away. But I won’t be going alone of course, many thanks for that tip.


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