Butter Hill (Storm King)


Present day Storm King mountain was originally named Boterberg, or Butter Hill by the Dutch settlers of the valley. During the 1800’s, as the Highlands gained a reputation as a trendy resort, some of its artists and writers advocated the renaming of its landmarks to evoke the romantic and artistic air present in their works. Fanny Kemble made this comment in her journal in 1832;

Even the heathen Dutch, among us the very antipodes of all poetry, have found names such as Donder Berg for the hills, whilst the Americans christen them Butter Hill, the Crow’s Nest, and such like. Perhaps some hundred years hence…America will have poets.

The renaming of Butter Hill was brought about by an editorial in the Home Journal submitted by Nathaniel Parker Willis. Willis suggested the more evocative and mysterious Storm King to describe the mountain’s unusual property as a predictor of foul weather:

The tallest mountain, with its feet in the Hudson at the Highland Gap, is officially the Storm King—being looked to, by the whole country around, as the most sure foreteller of a storm. When the white cloud-beard descends upon his breast in the morning (as if with a nod forward of his majestic head), there is sure to be a rain- storm before night. Standing aloft among the other mountains of the chain, this sign is peculiar to him. He seems the monarch and this seems his stately ordering of a change in the weather. Should not STORM-KING, then, be his proper title?

When Con Edison, the power company which supplies electricity to New York City, proposed building a pumped storage power plant in one side of Storm King Mountain in 1963, it united conservationists throughout the Hudson Valley in opposition to the plan. Scenic Hudson was formed out of this opposition and a long drawn out legal battle ensued with Con Edison on one side and Scenic Hudson and the Fisherman’s Association on the other. In 1980 a settlement was finally reached in favor of Scenic Hudson. The power plant was never built and Con Edison had to take measures to reduce the adverse affects of its power plants on the fish population in the river.

Painting of Storm King by Thomas Cole