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.

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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.

Red Bird Mission Gets a Boost from Harriman Church Youth

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Not only did I treat my car to a much needed car wash today but, better yet, in the process I donated a few dollars to the Red Bird Mission, a faith-based outreach in which young people travel to Kentucky to assist poor people with getting the things that they need, such as building houses. Last year a Confirmation class from St. Anastasia’s Catholic Church in Harriman donated their time and energy to help in Appalachia; the young people I met today come from the local United Methodist Church.

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Not only do the young people give generously of their time and physical resources — they also have to raise money to be able to make the trip, and that’s what today’s car wash was in aid of.  Pastor Wendy Paige explained to me that it costs $375 per young person just to travel to Kentucky, and they must raise the money themselves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGiven the recent hard winter and the even more recent pollen storm that left local cars a muddy mess, what better fundraiser than a car wash?  They worked hard and they were thorough. And the donation they requested was free will — you gave what you wanted to give.

The group will be washing cars at the United OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMethodist Church in nearby Monroe next Saturday. If you’re in the area and need your car washed — or even if you just want to make a donation, as I noticed some people doing who didn’t need or have time for a car wash — please come on by!

The Stunning Photography of John P. O’Grady

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A really remarkable exhibit entitled “Catskill Remains” featuring the photography of John P. O’Grady has been showing at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts center in Hunter since April. It closes on Sunday May 17 and I only just had the opportunity to see it on May 10. If you’re anywhere near the area before it closes, I very strongly recommend going to have a look.

What’s good to say about Mr. O’Grady’s work? Consider this:

  • He’s a Renaissance man — an author, a historian, a man with an amazing variety of interests. This informs his work. Obviously a highly intelligent man with his own very personal starting point for his photography, he refreshingly avoids both the “trendy” and the self-conscious attempt to be superficially “original.”
  • Having said that, I must say that Mr. O’Grady’s photos are unique and original, but not gimmicky. No, never gimmicky, either in composition or in technique,
  • Speaking of technique: He doesn’t speak about it. At least, he doesn’t mention f-stops, focal lengths, shutter speeds, equipment, or postprocessing software in a recent interview for  the Catskill Mountain Region Guide, and you’ll be hard put to find anything about it on his website. http://www.tuckabold.com/  His photography is out there to inspire you, to make you think, and he doesn’t get hung up on explaining to you how he did it.
  • I found this intriguing: Many of the titles of his images both are and are not “about” the central focus of the picture. For example, the one entitled Olana. If you know just where Olana is and that it’s on the height on the opposite side of the Rip van Winkle Bridge from Catskill, you’ll see it — but he seems to defy the convention of titling a picture after some obvious feature.

All the images in this show are in black and white, in plain black frames with white matting. And very modestly priced. In this day and age when one tires of looking at consciously trendy photography, I was extremely gratified to see how well received Mr. O’Grady’s work is. How did I know that? By the number of tiny green “Sold” stickers on so many of them.

The quickly snapped photo at the head of this post shows you something of the layout. It doesn’t do justice to Mr. O’Grady’s pictures at all, so you’ll just have to go and see for yourself. You’ll be glad you did. “Catskill Remains,” Kaaterskill Fine Arts center, Route 23a, Hunter. This is by far the finest exhibit they’ve had there in a long long time.

Will the Cold Spring House Survive Another Winter?

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Every now and then my camera and I take the road up to Tannersville to document the changes in the historic Cold Spring House, a once glorious and popular vacation resort that has been abandoned to go to ruin.  If you read OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmy post of September 25, 2014 you’ll see that the two photos at the bottom of that post show the right wing of the building as it looked at that time.  On December 26 I drove up there with my son, Anton, who had never seen Cold Spring House before, and I was dismayed to see what had happened to it in that short time.  Here are my latest photographs. That right wing has come crumbling down, and the iron staircase outside the building at the top floor, well, it now looks like the iconic “Stairway to Heaven.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was nearly three weeks ago, and the Catskills have had some pretty severe weather again, including very high winds. So, these photos that I took in December may no longer tell the current story.

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Saving Cooper Lake

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Cooper Lake in Ulster County is the water supply for the City of Kingston. It also happens to be an extraordinarily beautiful spot where locals and visitors enjoy walking. Because it is a water supply, it’s off limits to such activities as swimming, boating, and fishing. This somewhat “untouched” feature adds to its appeal.

But now Cooper Lake is under threat. A water bottling company in California wants to buy some 1.75 million gallons of water a day from this Catskills treasure. That means machinery, possibly a chain link fence — whatever, a complete ruination of the lake as we now know and love it. You can read the details at http://savecooperlake.org.

Locals are up in arms. Walk through Woodstock and you’ll see signs and posters in almost all the shop windows. Meetings are held, petitions are being organized.

My own argument for saving Cooper Lake — aside from loathing any project, anywhere, that prioritizes the almighty dollar over all other considerations — doesn’t need words. A picture, as they say, is worth 1,000 words. I’ve photographed Cooper Lake more times than I can count. These are from Thanksgiving weekend.

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Still in need of a Christmas gift? Looking for something that shows off our beautiful region of the globe? Check out our book Historic Hudson Valley: A Photographic Tour.

Holiday Happenings in Woodstock

Hello! Sorry for the long absence. It was a busy autumn with trips to northern Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island to shoot foliage. Then came a business trip to San Diego. Then Thanksgiving with the snow, and next blog post I’ll share some of the photos I took there of an endangered place in the Catskills.

But for now let’s do a “show and tell” of Woodstock. I drove up there yesterday to have lunch, enjoy a play, and generally walk around enjoying the decorations. Here goes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst, I had a fabulous lunch at Joshua’s and can highly recommend this place — the food, service, and ambience. not to mention the prices! The menu has a strong international flavor, with a number of Middle Eastern dishes.

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Here’s the front portal of the historic Dutch Reformed Church, all decked out in Christmas finery.

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The Rare Bear gift shop looks warm and inviting to potential shoppers. Also, notice the historic marker to the left. Food for thought!

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Here the emphasis is on the historic marker itself rather than on the building. A call to support your local, homegrown businesses, please.

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It may be Christmas, but Woodstock will never let you forget this is Woodstock! Still, when you look at the decorations on display in this shop window, it’s kind of fitting that the birthday of the Prince of Peace is being celebrated.

Finally, about that play I mentioned. They preferred not to have pictures taken during the performance, and I respected that. But I do encourage you to go and see it for yourself, if you can make it to Woodstock this coming weekend. It’s The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge: A Holiday Comedy by Mark Brown and performed by the Bird-on-a-Cliff Theatre Company. It’s funny, it’s not without its commentary on some foibles of modern society, a delight for everyone familiar with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and very well acted by a professional cast. More performances this weekend December 19-21, appropriately enough in the court room of the Woodstock Town Hall. See http://birdonacliff.org.

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If you’re still looking for holiday gifts, or would like to treat yourself to something, please have a look at my Etsy shop for some irresistible specials. My Ashokan Items gallery has some photo prints of obvious local interest at a special sale price plus free shipping (USA only), and my Special Sale Items gallery has a selection of some of my best photos, already matted and framed, at ridiculously reduced prices, mostly left over from summer and fall shows because I need to clear some space around here. These are special prices for you faithful readers of my blog.