Interpreting the Cold Spring Hotel

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From grand resort to beloved ruin — that, in essence, is the story of the Cold Spring Resort Hotel in Tannersville, once one of the many popular vacation spots that dotted the Mountain Top and now — well, those of us who, like me, have been following its gradual deterioration over the past few years, wonder each time we drive down that road, is it still there? or has it finally fallen victim to a combination of meteorological and human (as in wrecking ball) conditions? It was slated for demolition already in February 2015 and yet what’s left of it still stands.

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I’ve been using my cameras to document its decline for about four years now, and for those of you who aren’t familiar with this building, I’m posting a couple of my pictures. But even more remarkable is a group of artists who have been making paintings of the Cold Spring Hotel during this period. Beyond the significance of their art as such is the question of whether something beautiful can be made of something that in its essence is not beautiful — in this case decay, ruin. Personally I have no patience with those who maintain a literalist view that to create beauty you must start with a beautiful subject. If anything, Robert Glenn Ketchum’s photographs documenting environmental degradation in the Hudson Valley offer an eloquent denial of that fallacy.

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And if you want a further, creative denial of that fallacy, a little exhibit at the Catskill Mountain Foundation’s gallery in Hunter will convince you that beauty can be found in decay, in ruin. Treat yourself to a visit with paintings by Karen F. Rhodes and Sheila Trautman. As a sample I’m posting photos I took — not the most ideal likenesses because it was unavoidable to keep the lights in the room from reflecting into the frames. But they will give you an idea of what’s in store for you.

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The Lace Mill an Important Facility for Artistic Kingston

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Kingston’s Stockade and Rondout Districts are familiar to history buffs, but scattered throughout Ulster’s County Town are individual buildings of historic significance. One of these is the Lace Mill, whose existence I learned of when I was recently invited to the opening of a photography show being held there.

Built around 1902–1903 and originally housing United States Lace Curtain Mills, this example of industrial architecture is located in Midtown Kingston, close (very close indeed, as you discover when you drive up Cornell Street, where it is located) to the railroad and thus convenient for the shipping of products to markets outside the area. This was economically important to Kingston as an industrial center, since the decline of the Delaware & Hudson Canal, on which so much commercial traffic had depended.  Later, in the 1940s and by that time a subsidiary of the Scranton Lace Company, the business employed between 250 and 300 people. It ceased operations in 1951, however, and was used as a warehouse for some years after that.

img_0697-ed-sBy 2013 the warehouse and thus the building itself was virtually abandoned. At this point the Rural Ulster Preservation Company (RUPCO) stepped in and purchased it with a view to reconstructing and renovating it to provide a variety of facilities for artists: living and studio space as well as venues for exhibitions. This has been a noteworthy step considering Kingston’s growing reputation as a nationally important center for the arts.

Now known as The Lace Mill, this historic building joins many other mills throughout the Northeast—I have personally seen several in southern New Hampshire as well as in Rhode Island—that have been renovated and repurposed and are now enjoying a new existence, usually as living accommodation.

img_0699-ed-sWhat I found especially interesting was the space on (and under) the ground floor that still housed some of the original machinery from the mill. Several visitors who had come to view one or more of the exhibitions taking place also made a point of photographing the machinery. Here you see two of my photos along with one of the building’s exterior (where you can see the sign proclaiming “United States Lace Curtain Mills”). It’s gratifying to see concerted local efforts succeed in saving a historically significant building from being abandoned and eventually torn down, and instead giving it a chance for new life by linking the past with the present. Thank you, RUPCO.

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Are you looking for some new home decor to brighten your living space? Please take a look at my recent photographs of another local landmark — the Saugerties Lighthouse, in painterly (artistic) and historic sepia versions.

See You Next Year, Saugerties Farm Market!

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If you were hoping to treat yourself to some of the goodies for sale at the Saugerties Farm Market, you’ll have to wait until next year. This staple of the warmer months of the year wrapped up its 2016 today and, true to the season, had a variety of Halloween-themed products and events for the kids.

The Saugerties Farm Market is held each Saturday at the field next to the Kiersted House on Saturdays from 10 am to 2 pm between May and October. (The historic, pre-Revolutionary Kiersted House is now home to the Saugerties Historical Society.) Here are some photos from the final market of this year.

Boscobel Welcomes the Hudson River School

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They’re here! Thanks to a generous donation by the Newington-Cropsey Foundation, the 19th-century Hudson River painters are taking up residence at Boscobel House and Gardens in Garrison in the form of a permanent art installation consisting of cast-bronze busts mounted on pedestals. Each bust features a sculptured portrait of one of the artists and, on the back, an informative plaque about that artist.

The Hudson River School Artists Garden, as the project is called, is a work in progress. Thus far Phase 1 is in place with the first four busts, appropriately, of the four best-known artists of the Hudson River School:  Thomas Cole (1801-1848), the founder of the Hudson River School;  Asher B. Durand (1796-1886), who influenced American art through his editorship of the important journal The Crayon as well as through his own paintings; Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), Cole’s pupil, whose magnificent estate, Olana, perches on the heights above the Hudson on the east side of the river, from which he was able to look across to Cole’s house in Catskill; and Jasper Cropsey (1823-1900), a gifted architect as well as painter, who, during his European tour, famously sent back to the States a request for some autumn leaves in order to prove that the fall foliage really is that colorful.

Creator of the installation is sculptor Greg Wyatt, a Hudson Valley native with an international reputation for his work.

When the project is completed, Cole, Durand, Church, and Cropsey (you can tell that they began with the most prominent artists) will be joined by six more, for a total of ten.

In the above photo you can see how the project thus far completed looks in situ. Below are photos of the individual busts. Do you have a favorite? Let me know in the Comments. My personal favorite is Durand; I like the way Greg Wyatt has captured the strength of his personality.

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Special Offer for my blog readers: Three of my photographs printed on canvas are on sale at my Etsy shop at the special price of $35.00 each and Free Shipping. Two of the photographs show Catskills scenes. Each is 8 x 10. This offer expires on December 31. Click here to visit the site and view these special images.

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Thomas Cole

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Asher B. Durand

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Frederic Church

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Jasper Cropsey

 

Kingston Offers Fine Introduction to Artist Jervis McEntee

Jervis McEntee (1828-1891) was one of the second generation of Hudson River School artists. Born in Rondout (Kingston), he painted many scenes of Kingston itself (which serve as interesting records of how the town was developing) and of the surrounding countryside, areas that will be especially familiar to anyone who knows present-day Ulster County between Routes 28 and just north of Route 212. In particular, it was a painting entitled Mink Hollow that sparked my interest in wanting to see the exhibit currently on display at The Friends of Historic Kingston (FOHK) Gallery on Wall Street, Kingston (just opposite the historic Dutch Church).

A portion of the exhibit space devoted to McEntee

A portion of the exhibit space devoted to McEntee

Although McEntee traveled farther afield, particularly to areas of New England that were starting to increase in popularity among vacationers as well as artists, most of the paintings in the FOHK exhibit depict the general area of Kingston and the Catskills. Not all the paintings, however, are titled with their exact spots, which raised two questions of personal interest to me: (1) Do any of the paintings with, e.g., the word pond in the title in fact depict Cooper Lake?  (2) Did McEntee paint any scenes from the Esopus Valley villages that were later flooded to make way for the Ashokan Reservoir?

The exhibit space provides ample information about McEntee’s life, including photographs, so that the FOHK have arranged a most admirable introduction to this Hudson River School artist who is not one of the best known (he did apprentice briefly with Frederic E. Church), though he did do an excellent job of depicting scenes in this particular area of the Catskills and their foothills.

I have only one quibble — a minor,personal quibble from someone who dearly loves that area of the world: The exhibit ends

These tombstones are in the yard of the historic Old Dutch Church, across the street from the FOHK Gallery.

These tombstones are in the yard of the historic Old Dutch Church, across the street from the FOHK Gallery.

with McEntee’s painting The Doge’s Palace (Venice), and I couldn’t help wonder what was the motivation behind including it. Stylistically it jars with the other work and (to this paranoid observer, anyhow) it almost seemed an apology that the artist had painted so many scenes of woods and streams in this (then) somewhat obscure area of the New World.

Kudos are due to the Black Dome Press for publishing a superb exhibition catalog, Jervis McEntee: Kingston’s Artist of the Hudson River School. The catalog contains not only beautiful reproductions of all the paintings and other visual material in the exhibit, but also two excellent essays by Lowell Thing and William B. Rhoads, respectively, for those who want to deepen their knowledge still further.

Just up the street, Uptown Coffee is a great place to enjoy a snack or lunch after you've seen the exhibit.

Just up the street, Uptown Coffee is a great place to enjoy a snack or lunch after you’ve seen the exhibit.

The FOHK exhibit of McEntee’s work runs through October 31, 2015. For anyone who still can’t get enough of McEntee’s work, a still larger retrospective will run at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art in nearby New Paltz from August 26 to December 13, 2015. So if you want to have your own McEntee festival, you can plan to see both exhibits on the same day (the Kingston venue is open on Fridays and Saturdays); they’re separated by just one exit on the Thruway. I’m hoping the Dorsky retrospective will include some of McEntee’s paintings of the New England coast.

Want a Catskill Treat? Go “Out Windham Way”

Last weekend I treated myself to a trip to Haines Falls — specifically, to the campus of the Mountain Top Historical Society, where I could enjoy a much-needed walk and take some photographs and then enjoy a presentation in the renovated historic train station that serves as the MTHS headquarters.

Out Windham Way coverThe presentation by Larry Tompkins was in itself worth the entire trip to the mountain top from the Lower Hudson Valley. Larry recently published a book entitled Out Windham Way, and his talk — illustrated by slides from the book — brought to life the history and people of the Northern Catskills community of Windham and the surrounding communities, such as Hensonville, Ashland, and Prattsville.

In her Foreword, Lori Anander, editor of the Windham Journal, observes that history is most often thought of as events such as “world wars, economic upheavals, royal successions, and political transformations” — and then she insightfully points out that “sometimes history can be as simple as a postcard.” That perfectly sums up the purpose and the methodology of Out Windham Way, for in his book Larry Tompkins, a lifelong Windham resident, bases his history on the dizzyingly extensive collection of photographs, other visual material, and oral recollections he has amassed from generations of families who have called this part of the Mountain Top home for countless decades. Larry is just that kind of person — the kind whom these people entrusted with their personal memories and their visual memorabilia, which he has turned into this informative and entertaining history.

Larry Tompkins is an engaging speaker and writer. I usually dislike such cliches as “page-turner,” but that was my experience in reading Out Windham Way. Also, in this day and age when so many authors are going in for self-publishing, it’s a feather in his cap that Larry chose instead to submit his manuscript to the prestigious regional publisher Black Dome Press and have it accepted and published by Black Dome’s editor and proprietor, Steve Hoare. The result is a book that’s a verbal and visual delight, both for the quality of the reproductions of this very old historical material and for the attractive layout.

Larry had his book for sale at his talk, but I imagine it’s also available at local shops both along Route 23 and Route 23a — and of course, Route 296! It can also be purchased directly from the publisher and on amazon.com.

And now here are a couple of the photographs I took that day at the MTHS campus.

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This is on the path that leads from the MTHS Visitor Center to the Headquarters where the events are held.

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These two are from the cemetery where the Haines family members are buried. Note the name “Haines” on the obelisk.

Emerging Young Artist Steve Dolan Debuts Hunter Exhibition

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Steve Dolan is a worthy successor to the Hudson River Painters — so much so that this New Hampshire native, when he first visited the Mountain Top area of the Catskills, was so taken with it that he decided to move to Hunter and pursue his passion for painting the spectacular (his word) scenery he found there. Now his long hours of creativity have come to fruition in a new exhibit at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts Gallery, Main Street, Hunter. Entitled “Atmospheres of Hunter and Beyond,” Steve’s exhibit features a generous selection of his paintings mostly from the region around Hunter but also a few from the White Mountains of his native New Hampshire.

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You can read an interview with Steve on the Catskill Mountain Foundation’s website and learn more about his background and what inspires him as an artist. The Hudson River Painters are clearly an influence — I thought particularly of Thomas Cole and especially some of his more “fantastic” (my word) paintings.  But let me not waste time trying to describe Steve’s extraordinary work — I took a couple of quick photos when I stopped in last week just after the show had been hung, and I hope they will OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAgive you some idea of his approach to his art, but most of all, I urge you to go and see his show. It’s at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts Gallery between now and July 5, with an opening reception this Saturday May 30 from 2 to 4 pm and an art talk on June 20 from 1 to 2 pm.

Click here to read the details, including the interview with Steve and information about opening times. “Atmospheres of Hunter and Beyond” — don’t miss it.