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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Lots to Celebrate on the Mountain Top

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Counting up money for the 50/50 at MTHS

Counting up money for the 50/50 at MTHS

Sunday saw two anniversary celebrations among the arts community on the Mountain Top. In Haines Falls, the Mountain Top Historical Society threw a party for its fortieth anniversary.  Ice cream, cake, lemonade, and ice tea were offered for our enjoyment, and top-notch music from the fifties performed by the Rhythm and Blues Band ensured that it was great fun to “twist gain, like we did last summer” — or perhaps more summers ago than I care to count…. Earlier in the day, Larry Tompkins gave a presentation on historic Windham. Alas, other commitments meant I had to miss this, but MTHS President Cyndi LaPierre assured me that it was well attended.

The Rhythm and Blues Band does their thing

The Rhythm and Blues Band does their thing

The MTHS has the friendliest, most dedicated, and most knowledgeable people you can imagine. Stop into their colorful headquarters the next time you’re driving along Route 23A — you can find details on their website — and while you’re there, check out my photography exhibition “Natural and Historic Landscapes,” open through Labor Day weekend!

Enjoying the festivities at the TAAC

Enjoying the festivities at the TAAC

The other celebration was taking place in Tannersville, where the Tannersville Antique and Artisan Center was celebrating the first anniversary of being in business. The place was alive with well-wishers, and I also met some of the regulars whose work is for sale there, including photographer Francis Driscoll and local historian/author John Ham. Rick Thomas has done a superb job of bringing together gifted regional artists and collectors to a bright, friendly venue where you’re sure to find something you’ll want to buy, for yourself or for a gift.

In Hunter I stopped into the Kaaterskill Fine Arts & Crafts Gallery for a preview of a truly

A glimpse of the new show in Hunter

A glimpse of the new show in Hunter

eye-opening photography show that’s opening this weekend. Carolyn Bennett is always on the lookout for interesting artists to showcase, and this time she has managed to find three photographers whose work really pushes the envelope as to what can be done in the medium. Palenville’s Dan Burkholder I’ve been familiar with from Facebook and his website and was glad for this opportunity to see some of his fine work “in person.” While I was there I met Vincent Bilotta, also from Palenville, who was busy hanging his portion of the exhibit. The third photographer is Fawn Potash from Catskill and I look forward to being able to study her work more closely.

The opening reception for “Light Sensitive” is this Saturday August 16, 2 to 4 pm at the Kaaterskill Fine Arts & Crafts Gallery, Route 23A in Hunter. Hope to see you there!

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.

 

Cultural Happenings in Prattsville and Hunter

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It’s been nearly three years since Hurricane Irene devastated Prattsville. Driving through there on Sunday I noticed some all too obvious signs of the destruction in the form of homes that were so ruined, their owners are likely to have abandoned them never to return. The Zadock Pratt Museum, cultural gem of Prattsville, is slowly recovering from the damage it sustained, thanks to the indomitable spirit of  group of dedicated people.

The Museum was originally the Homestead of Zadock Pratt, who founded the town named after him in the 19th century. Pratt led quite an adventuresome life: New York State militiaman, soldier in the War of 1812, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, founder of what was the largest tannery of the world in its time.  He built the town of Prattsville to accommodate the huge labor force needed to operate his tannery.

The Pratt Museum was dedicated to preserving Zadock Pratt’s papers and belongings and a wealth of other material that told the story of life in this part of the Northern Catskills in the 19th century.  Then came Hurricane Irene. The Museum was inundated with flood waters, and just about everything in it went floating down the Schoharie Creek. Thanks to the diligence of Carolyn Bennett (director of the Catskill Mountain Foundation) and many other dedicated people, most of the material was recovered. But it was, of course, soaking wet, and is now in a deep freeze awaiting a day when they can afford to thaw and restore them. During my visit on Sunday, Suzie Walsh, who now manages the Museum and is incredibly knowledgeable about everything to do with Zadock Pratt, the Museum, and the history of the town, showed me the marks where the water had reached in the house. It’s a wonder there is anything left.

But they don’t give up. They are still using the premises for cultural events. This year there is an exhibit titled “The Paintings, Watercolors, and Drawings of D.F. Hasbrouck, American Impressionist (1849-1979).”  What an amazing feat of organization went into amassing this exhibit of works by Dubois Fenelon Hasbrouck–they came from all over–and how beautiful and varied they are. Pay your $5 admission fee and Suzie Walsh will give you the tour and share all she knows about this undeservedly rather obscure artist.

After leaving Prattsville I headed to the Doctorow Center for the Arts in Hunter, where, under the auspices of the Mountain Top Historical Society, a new film about the Catskills was being premiered. Titled To Be Forever Wild, the film is the brainchild of David Becker, a gifted young filmmaker from Saugerties. This was another astounding feat of organization, recruiting and managing the cast and other workers and dealing with an intimidating mass of administrative work. To Be Forever Wild is available for sale on DVD and will also be broadcast on PBS beginning in August or September. Kudos to the Mountain Top Historical Society, and especially to Drs. Bob and Johanna Titus, for sponsoring the premiere of David Becker’s fine work.

Now about my upcoming events:

Ed IMG_2513 sSaturday July 26 at 2 pm in the Golden Notebook, Tinker Street, Woodstock: I’ll be giving a talk about the making of my book The Historic Hudson Valley: A Photographic Tour. Come hear my talk, see the exhibit of my photography (it’s for sale, and books will also be for sale, which I’ll be glad to sign for you), and support this wonderful independent bookstore right here in the Catskills.

Sunday August 3 from 2 to 4 pm at the Mountain Top Historical Society, DSC0003 ed blogRoute 23a, Haines Falls: This is the opening reception for my photography exhibit, Natural and Historical Landscapes. Come and join us! All artwork, and some extras, will be for sale throughout the show, which lasts until after Labor Day. The Visitor    Center is open weekends 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons 1-4 p.m.

I hope to see you soon!

Mountain Top Historical Society, Your Hosts in Haines Falls

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Memberships and magazine subscriptions come and go–I’m sure you know the feeling as well as I do–but there’s one organization of which I’m pleased to say I’ve been a continuous member for a number of years, and that’s the Mountain Top Historical Society (MTHS). Based in Haines Falls along Route 23A (the same daunting road that takes you up (and up C DSC0102 sand up) through Kaaterskill Clove, the MTHS was founded some forty years ago with the mission of “of discovering, interpreting, sharing and preserving the artifacts and documents that tell the story of the towns and the people of the Great Northern Catskills” (from its website). The variety of events offered by its dedicated band of directors and volunteers ensures that there’s something to satisfy all interests — from historical lectures to art exhibits to hikes. The archives preserve invaluable information and artifacts related to regional history, and the quarterly publication Hemlock offers articles of historical interest as well as updates on its activities.

875 small copy sAmong the regular activities of the MTHS is its annual Open House, held on a Saturday in late August. Come along and you’re sure to enjoy entertainment, an informative lecture and possibly an art exhibit, food–and vendors.  Local farms display and sell their produce, local craftspersons their handiwork, and regional artists, including photographers, their works of art. Master photographers Francis X. Driscoll and Larry Gambon are welcome regulars. This year Anton and I will be “vending” for the first time, selling and signing our new book Historic Hudson Valley: A Photographic Tour and ourBook cover photographs. Here’s a sneak peak at a few of the images we’ll be selling.

DSC0195 - HDR adj cr sThe MTHS Open House for 2013 is Saturday August 24 from 11 am to 5 pm. Hope to see you there!

Mountain Top Historical Society Exhibit Highlights Twilight Park

Ed IMG_1414 sThe Mountain Top Historical Society (MTHS), based in Haines Falls, is simply amazing for the amount of work they do to preserve, chronicle, and educate people about the history and culture of this area of the Catskills called “the mountain top” — think Route 23A in Greene County, Hunter, Tannersville, Haines Falls, and you get the idea of the location of this fascinating region. Yesterday I journeyed to the MTHS’  beautiful 20-acre campus to view their current exhibition celebrating the 125th anniversary of Twilight Park.

Ed IMG_1419 sHow to describe Twilight Park? Discreet. Low key. If you’re driving west on 23A, keep your eyes peeled for the left-hand turn once you exit Kaaterskill Clove or you’ll miss the entrance.  Twilight Park is a summer community founded by Charles T. Wingate in 1888, at a time when such communities were growing in popularity. It didn’t take long for the new community to experience considerable growth: by July 1888 there were already six log cabins, five cottages, a clubhouse, a pharmacy, and tennis courts. Sports of all kinds have been a mainstay of Twilight Park, as have the arts. The first exhibit of the Twilight Park Artists was held in August 1947. Originally begun as an experiment exclusively for Twilight Park residents, the show is now open to all artists and is held the second weekend of August.

Ed IMG_1420 sThe MTHS exhibit celebrating the 125 years of Twilight Park is a comprehensive and varied collection of memorabilia that brings to life this Northern Catskills summer community. Sports trophies abound, as do visuals documenting the community’s ongoing interest in and involvement with the arts. There is even a tea set from the days when the Ladies Auxiliary held tea lunches to benefit the local church.

The exhibit is in the restored Ulster & Delaware Railroad Train Station on the MTHS campus. Enhancing the exhibit will be two upcoming lectures. On Friday July 12 at 8 pm, historian Bob Gildersleeve and Joanne Ainsworth, author  of We Are Creating a Community, will present “Creating a Community: Early Images of Twilight Park” in which they will introduce glass plate negatives that have been donated to the Society by Dr. Stanley Leavy. On Friday July 19 at 8 pm Nicholas Lemann will present “The Prehistory of Twilight Park,” focusing on Charles Wingate, the Twilight Club in New York City, and the historical and intellectual thinking that gave rise to Twilight Park and similar communities.

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If you’re interested in the history of an amazing community in the Northern Catskills and want a great introduction to the tireless work of the Mountain Top Historical Society and its picturesque surroundings, I can highly recommending attending one of these events. Visit the MTHS website for further information.

Book coverIN OTHER NEWS: Our book Historic Hudson Valley: A Photographic Tour is published this month! Click the image for details.