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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Happy Birthday Mountain Top Historical Society

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First, something about the Mountain Top Historical Society in their own words: “The Mountain Top Historical Society is dedicated to discovering , preserving, interpreting and sharing the unique and rich history of the Mountain Top region in Greene County, NY. The Society is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1974 and engages in activities and programs that enrich understanding and foster appreciation of the Catskill High peaks.  We encourage the study and preservation of the Mountain Top’s art, literature, history, culture, folklore, legends in a variety of ways.”

Local historian and author John M. Ham poses with his latest book. The quality of the B&W photos in this one is amazing.

Local historian and author John M. Ham poses with one of his books.

Now, the great news is that they’ve been doing this since 1974! This year the MTHS celebrates forty years of serving the northern Catskills. They’ve supported the work of historians such as John Ham, whose books are an invaluable and indispensable resource for the region’s history; sponsored the premiers of such filmmakers as Tobe Carey, whose visual documentaries are historical tours de force on such topics as the Ashokan Reservoir and the Catskill railroads; invited lecturers to share their knowledge of the history and culture of the region; provided entertainment steeped in the Catskills’ popular culture; and currently, for which I’m very grateful, are hosting my photography exhibition

"Ashokan Dreams"

“Ashokan Dreams”

“Natural and Historical Landscapes.”  This is the first time the MTHS has ever hosted a photo exhibition and I’m privileged that they’ve decided to “take a chance” on me and am especially thankful to current MTHS President Cyndi LaPierre for her faith in my work.

On Sunday August 10 the MTHS invites us all to their official celebration of their fortieth birthday.  Come and join in the fun if you can! On Route 23a in Haines Falls — you can’t miss the sign and the colorful headquarters. At 1 pm Larry Tompkins will present a lecture about beautiful, historic Windham.  From 3 pm to 4.30 pm the Rhythm and Blues Band will entertain, and there will be free ice cream and cake for everyone. And while you’re at it, please stop into the Visitor Center to enjoy my photographs–you might find a print or some fine-art cards you’ll want to take home.