Welcome to the MTHS website
The Mountain Top Historical Society is dedicated to discovering and preserving the unique and rich history of the Catskill High Peaks. The Society is a not-for-profit organization and maintains a Visitor and Art Trail Center and the Ulster and Delaware train depot (shown above) on our campus in Haines Falls. We are located on scenic Route 23A at the gateway to the Mountain Top and are easily accessible from Exit 20 or 21 of the New York State Thruway.
The Town of Hunter, home to MTHS, has been designated a Preserve America Community.
Review all of the events of our 2018 Hikes and Events
Our 2019 season will soon be developing. As of December some innovative ideas are being discussed and plans are starting to take shape. Check back here for details and visit our Facebook page to share your ideas.
MTHS News and links:
- Rip's Back
- KRT is Open
- Clove Road by Justine Hommel -A 2006 article by Justine Hommel.
- The Dodd House - Also by Justine an article from the archives of the Hemlock
- Around Hunter --A great Gift for a friend or yourself-- is available at the Visitor's Center Click on the link or the book cover for more information.
- Larry Tompkins -- Out Windham Way a wonderful new book from our former MTHS president.
From our Archives -
Follow the "From Our Archives" link in the "Preserve" menu on the right to see information about some of the items in our Justine Hommel Archive Room.
Included are posts on:
one of several letters from Civil War soldier William Young. Donated by Odile Dwyer.
A collection of glass plate negatives. The gift of Shirley and Gerald Dunn See details here.
2019 Hike Preview
Tentatively set for June 8th, we will take the historic Direct Path to South Mountain. The path was the main way to climb from the Catskill Mountain House to sites such as Puddingstone Hall, Druid Rocks, and the Second Ledge seen in this illustration from Van Loan's Catskill Mountain Guide and called the Lemon Squeezer by some photographers.
By 1891 a new path approximately the current state trail was established and eventually the "Direct Path" was abandoned. Check back for more details which will be announced when they are complete.
Volunteers always needed
We also ask for your support in the form of membership dollars and your donations to our upcoming capital campaign. Our annual membership drive will begin in May. Watch for the information in the mail and please respond generously.
Working together, we can continue to discover, interpret, share, and preserve the history of the Mountain Top for ourselves and our children.
Mountain Top Historical Society
2018 Hike & Event Preliminary Schedule
Check back here at our website for any last minute changes in our schedule as the hikes & events that interest you approach.
April 14 (Sat) Colgate Lake and Colgate Family Homestead. Join Moe Lemire, New York State licensed guide, for a hike to explore the old Colgate Family Homestead. Walk around Colgate Lake during this easy 3 mile round trip excursion. Meet at the MTHS parking area at 9:00 a.m. and return around 1:00 p.m. This is a fundraiser event for MTHS - $10 suggested donation.
April 22 (Sunday) Celebrate Earth Day with the MTHS. Explore Sloan Gorge and Snake Rocks, two Woodstock Land Conservancy Preserves. Hike with Catskill Geology Prof. Robert Titus in the picturesque hidden Sloan Gorge canyon (1.5 miles). Explore an interpreted trail of distinctive Catskill geological features. If there is enough time and interest, an optional hike to Snake Rocks Preserve (1.5 miles) will be coordinated by MTHS VP Adrienne Larys. Snake Rocks is an enchanting mountain top bluestone quarry with panoramic views of the Catskills. Meet at the MTHS Visitors’ Center at 8:30 a.m. for carpooling, or meet at the Sloan Gorge parking area at 9:30 a.m. (2195 Stoll Road). Parking is very limited at both Preserves and carpooling is encouraged. No dogs please at the WLC request for these hikes. Rating: Moderate — rough ground with a few steep sections and rock scrambles.
May 5 (Sat) Campus Clean-up Day 9:00 a.m. - the Mountain Top Historical Society will emerge from its annual winter hibernation into the sunlight of another exciting season of hikes, programs, and special events. A thorough cleaning needs to be done in the Visitors' Center, in the Train Station, and around the grounds. The more volunteers we have there, the quicker the chores will be completed. Looking forward to seeing you then and throughout the summer.
May 12 (Sat) Rochester Hollow Walk 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Led by New York State licensed guide Moe Lemire, Explore the old Homestead, 5.60 miles, difficulty: moderate, meet at the parking area on Matyas Road in Shandaken, this is a fundraiser event for MTHS - $10 suggested donation
May 19th (Sat) Annual Spring Fling - 'Robert Selkowitz - Presentation will be in the Ulster & Delaware Railroad Station on the MTHS campus on NYS rt. 23A in Haines Falls, NY at 7:00 p.m. Car Clubs will be contacted and invited to a Cruise-In beginning at 6:00 p.m. The presentation will include the history of the 1903 run and the birth of macadam stone road building in New York State, as well as mention of the 1908 motorcycle endurance run which came up the Mountain Top. Robert Selkowitz is an artist, his book A Painter's Path through the Catskill Mountains features a series of maps showing where the 50 pastel landscapes in the book were painted. He has been active in the Catskill Region for more than 40 years. Come on over for the first presentation of the 2018 season, our Annual Spring Fling! We are requesting a $5.00 per person donation for the talk. The money we collect goes to Building and Grounds maintenance.
May 26 (Sat) - Tory Fort. Led by Rick Brooks. In 1975, as a Bicentennial Project, MTHS worked with Ed West, Buck Farrell, and our hike leader, Rick Brooks, who led an Edward G. West Associates mapping and survey crew. We visited and West Associates then mapped the location of Tory Fort. The fort was more accurately a small holding area where Native Americans associated with Joseph Brant (seen here in a painting by Gilbert Steward in the collection of the Fenimore Art Museum) held captured Hudson Valley settlers before a long trip to the British headquarters at Fort Niagara where the settlers were turned over for profit. Meet at the Mountain Top Historical Society Visitors' Center at 9:00 am. The hike should be considered moderate to difficult with some bushwhacking. We expect to return by 3:00 pm
In a recent email Rick gives this update on the route. Leaving from Byrne Road hiking an existing woods/mill road to the intersection of Canda Creek and the Forest Preserve line then hiking the 1000-1500 feet to the Fort site. [The] hike ... would allow us to travel through interesting abandoned agricultural fields, a few different forest types, explore the former Holtz Railroad and its associated mill, and experience the Canda Creek. Our meeting place and time hasn't changed - 9:00 am at the Visitors Center Rt. 23A Haines Falls
Thanks to Rick and Patti Brooks and Bert Winne who led our successful hike to Tory Fort. Rick led the 1976 crew who surveyed the location Bert drew the original survey map. Both returned to the spot 42 years later.
June 2 (Sat) Dedication – Justine Hommel Highway – 11:00 a.m. on the lawn of the Visitors' Center - Come join the MTHS in honoring Catskill Mountain icon Justine Hommel and celebrate the dedication of the entrance to Kaaterskill Clove, Route 23A as the Justine L. Hommel Memorial Highway. With the sponsorship and great efforts of Assemblyman Peter Lopez and Senator George Amedore, the New York State Assembly and Senate passed bills that officially memorialize Justine’s contributions to New York State and Greene County history. The "Justine L. Hommel Memorial Highway" will be a constant reminder of Ms. Hommel's remarkable contributions to the mountaintop region of Greene County and her life-long dedication to enhancing and preserving the natural splendor of the Catskill Mountains landscape.
June 9 (Sat) Historic Harding Road Walk 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Led by New York State licensed guide Moe Lemire, 7.60 miles round trip, difficulty: moderate, meet at the MTHS Kaaterskill Rail Trail parking lot, this is a fundraiser event for MTHS - $10 suggested donation
June 22 (Fri) Bill Horne Presentation - The Improbable Community – 7:00 p.m. in the Ulster & Delaware Train Station. In 1939, a group of idealists inspired by the spirit of New Deal reform put their vision of American democracy into practice by creating Camp Woodland, a racially and ethnically inclusive summer camp for city kids located in the Catskill Mountains of New York. The camp’s innovative programs profoundly influenced campers for 24 summers from 1939 through 1962. Bill was a camper at Camp Woodland from 1950 through 1960. The impact of his experience at Camp Woodland was one of his primary motivations for writing The Improbable Community.
July 7 (Sat) Annual Meeting. The MTHS will hold its Annual Meeting at 10:00 a.m. at the Train Station. All members of the MTHS are invited to attend.
July 13 (Fri) Hotel Kaaterskill: an Illustrated Presentation by George Harding and Bob Gildersleeve – 7:00 pm in the Ulster & Delaware Train Station. George Harding, great-great grandson of the original owner of the Hotel Kaaterskill has generously donated approximately 50 photographs of the Hotel Kaaterskill, its grounds and out-buildings. The photos were apparently taken in preparation for the sale of the property. George and Bob have been making a careful study of the photos which include interior views of the billiard room, bowling alley, kitchen, theater, a guest room and other surprises. Included is the only photo we’ve ever seen of the wood frame hotel laundry. Further details to be announced.
July 14 (Sat) Hike to Hotel Kaaterskill Site – 9:00 am – mid afternoon. In connection with the presentation on July 13, join George Harding, Art Fries and Paul LaPierre on a two-part hike and exploration of the grounds of the Hotel Kaaterskill and its Laundry. There are still some open questions that we will try to resolve. Exactly where did the laundry building stand? How many people did it employ? What was the function of the extant stone building sometimes referred to as the Wash House? The morning session will concentrate on the Laundry area. Immediately following the morning session we will climb the carriage road to the Hotel site where we will stop to eat (bring your lunch) and explore the grounds looking to identify the sites seen in the newly acquired photographs. The hike should be considered Easy (morning) to Moderate (afternoon or full hike). Meet 9:00 am at the Mountain Top Historical Society 5132 Route 23A Haines Falls, Kaaterskill Rail Trail parking lot.
July 28 (Sat) The Justine L. Hommel 3rd Annual Memorial Lecture: Talk by Vernon Benjamin 7:00 p.m. at Twilight Park Clubhouse. Vernon is the author of "The History of the Hudson River Valley: From Wilderness to the Civil War" and "The History of the Hudson River Valley: From the Civil War to Modern Times".
Aug. 4 (Sat) Wittenberg Mountain Hike – Canceled Led by New York State licensed guide Moe Lemire. See a part of the Catskill very view get to see and search for the historic "Boy Scout Cave." This 10.3 Mile Round Trip hike will meet at Woodland Valley Parking at 9am. Bring a bagged lunch, water and wear appropriate hiking shoes for this difficult hike returning by 5pm. there will be a $10 fee to benefit the Mountain Top Historic Society.
Aug. 25 (Sat) Rip’s Country Bazaar/Open House – The MTHS campus will be filled with tents full of vendors: craftspeople, antique dealers, local food products, flea market items and more. Music for toe-tapping and hand clapping will be provided by John Quinn and the 77th Regimental Balladeers. Food for fun and food for lunch will be available for purchase. The Visitors’ Center will be open for browsing maps, books, brochures, or checking out the Archives. The Ulster & Delaware Train Station will be open for a presentation by Jonathan Palmer from the Vedder Research Library of the Greene County Historical Society. There will be kites and bubbles for kids and wannabe kids. Wildflowers and grass for running around. Rip Van Winkle may even appear! It will be a beautiful day for chatting with friends and family, learning something new about local history, listening to music from the Civil War Era, finding treasures among the offerings of over 35 vendors. The excitement begins at 9:00 a.m. and continues all day! Come on over to the Mountain Top Historical Society’s campus on Route 23A in Haines Falls and join in the fun.
Sept. 15 (Sat) 7th Annual Postcard Show & Talk - 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. @ the U&D Train Station. Talk by John Duda at 2:00 p.m. Food will be available. The MTHS will also be selling ephemera from its attic in a special sale. A $3.00 entry fee will be charged at the door.
Oct. 6 – Owl Prowl Hike -A Special Addition to the Hikefest Schedule at the MTHS, October 6, 2018
An Owl Prowl/Night Hike led by Moe Lemire. This special hike will be limited to 12 people so register early!
Meet at the U & D Train Station on the MTHS campus at 7:30 p.m. Moe will give a brief talk about night hiking: safety and wonder. Depending on the size of the group and ability of the hikers there a couple of options for viewpoints as you walk along the Kaaterskill Rail Trail. Moe will lead this opportunity to listen as the forest wakes up and surrounds you with the sounds of the night. There’s hope that you’ll hear the call of an owl (no guarantee).
What you need to bring: head lamp or flashlight with fresh batteries; sturdy shoes (boots or trail runners for the inevitable mud), water, snacks, a sense of adventure and wonder.
The trail is relatively level and round trip mileage is about 3 miles. A $10 donation is requested.
MTHS does not require membership for hike participation however, we encourage you to join as a member or make a donation to the MTHS to support our work. We do request that you register for each hike. Participants can register on our contacts page or by calling (518) 589-6657. Please leave your name, phone number, and # in your party. Schedule subject to change. The latest information is available on our web site http://www.mths.org. Notification of changes, including cancellations due to weather will be made on the web site up to the day of any given hike.'
The 2019 hiking and events schedule will be available in February--please check back.
Here is another view of the Second Ledge on South Mountain--this one a Loeffler stereograph which names the site The Lemon Squeezer. Loeffler's choice of the name caused us a great deal of confusion because it was also the name of a crevice near the top of South Mountain and differed from the name given by Van Loan in his trail description. Note Loeffler's use of a young boy in the center of the photo, perhaps to make the site look larger than it actually is.
Thanks to our business sponsors:
Brookside B&B, Bistro Brie & Bordeaux, Central Hudson Gas & Electric, Chateau Belleview, Claude W Lutz/Fromer Agency, Craig Bates Trucking & Excavating, Inc., Deer Mountain Inn, Elena Suditu Dentist, P.C, Ethel & Orville Slutzky Foundation, GNH Lumber, Inc., Gordon Hunter Mountain Realty, Haines Family Association, Haines Farm, Hotel Vienna, Hunter Chamber of Commerce, Hunter Mountain Ski Bowl, Inc., Kaaterskill Liquors, Karen’s County Kitchen, Kerns Nursery, Last Chance Antiques & Cheese Cafe, Messina's LaGriglia Ristorante, Mountain Propane, Inc., Pancho Villas Mexican Restaurant, Paraco Gas Corp/Kosco Oil, Rosehaven Inn, Scribner's Catskill Lodge, Snow Bird Ski Shop, Snowed Inn, Tannersville Antique & Artisan Center, TREC Management Company, Traphagen's Honey, The Thompson House, The Woodstock Inn on the Millstream, Williams Lumber and Home Centers, Willow Mixed Media
Thanks to our business sponsors:
Bruce Feml General Contractor, Bank of Greene County, Brookside B&B, Cave Mountain Brewing Company, C&C Excavating, Central Hudson Gas & Electric, Chateau Belleview, Claude W. Lutz of Hunter and Fromer Agency Insurance, Craig Bates Trucking & Excavating, Inc., Deer Mountain Inn, Dr. Elena Suditu, GNH Lumber, Inc., Gordon Hunter Mountain Realty, Hotel Vienna, Hunter Chamber of Commerce, Hunter Mountain, Kaaterskill Liquors, Karen’s County Kitchen, Last Chance Antiques & Cheese Cafe, Mama's Boy Pizza, Mountain Propane, Inc., Pancho Villas Mexican Restaurant, Rosehaven Inn, Snow Bird Ski Shop, Snowed Inn, Stewart's Shops, Tannersville Antique & Artisan Center, TREC Management Company, The Mountain Brook, The Thompson House, Thorpe's GMC, Inc., Traphagen’s Honey, Vanucchi Associates, Villa Vosilla, The Woodstock Inn on the Millstream, Williams Lumber and Home Centers, Willow Mixed Media,
2018 MTHS Business Sponsors
Brookside Bed & Breakfast
Central Hudson Gas & Electric
Craig Bates Trucking & Excavating, Inc.
Ethel & Orville Slutzky Foundation
GNH Lumber Inc.
Gordon Hunter Mountain Realty
Hunter Chamber of Commerce
Hunter Mountain Ski Bowl, Inc.
Karen’s County Kitchen
Last Chance Restaurant & Tavern
Mountain Propane, Inc.
Pancho Villa’s Restaurant
Paraco Gas Corp/ Kosco Oil
Scribner’s Catskill Lodge
Snow Bird Ski Shop, Inc.
Tannersville Antique & Artisan Center & Antique Annex
TREC Management Company
The Thompson House
The Woodstock Inn on the Millstream
Washington Irving Inn
Williams Lumber & Home Centers
Willow Mixed Media
2019 Hikes and Events
As of February 8 this information is not official and should not be distributed for publication.
April 13 (Sat) Hike to be announced Date tentative.
May 18 (Sat). The Gunks are calling! Explore the Peter’s Kill Area of Minnewaska State Park Preserve. Hike a variety of trails and terrains with MTHS member Anne Stedge-Outwater and MTHS VP Adrienne Larys. We will explore sections of the Bullwheel, High Peter’s Kill and Red Loop footpaths. Depending on the interests of the participants we will cover 3.5 to 6 miles. Rating: moderate due to length and some steep sections. Meet at 8:30 a.m. at the Kingston Thruway Exit Park & Ride for car pooling; or at 9:15 a.m. at the Peter’s Kill Park Office parking lot on Rt 44/55 between Rt 299 and Rt 209: Cost: $10 per car to be shared by those who carpool. Registration required by Friday, May 17, at 3:30 p.m. Sturdy footwear highly recommended. Trekking poles or walking sticks will be useful in some sections. Return to trailhead at approximately 3:30 p.m.
May 25 (Sat) Hike Hotel Kaaterskill Grounds Following the gift of close to 50 photographs of the building's interior and surrounding grounds we have been trying to put together a clear image of the hotel and its operation. We've sponsored programs and hikes and written an article for the Catskill Tri-County Historical Views concerning the Hotel. A newly discovered survey document from 1883 has so much additional information to prompt another visit to the site. The document from the map collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia includes a detailed drawing of the building, a floor plan with information about the main hotel and attached service building and a list of items related to the operation of the building such as the water supply, power source etc.
June 8 (Sat) South Mountain by the historic Direct Path. To honor the gift of an original Catskill Mountain House hiking stick donated by Kathy (Van Schaack) Boyer and Peggy (Van Schaack) Phillips, we will take a popular 19th Century path from the Mountain House site on Pine Orchard to sites on South Mountain. This now unusual route will pass through the first ledge on South Mountain (sometimes called the Lemon Squeezer) take a short detour to Druid Rocks, pass through Puddingstone Hall, and reach the state trail at Bootjack Rock. Once on the modern trail, we will see the lookout called the Sphinx, walk on to "Bowlder" Rock and offer optional excursion through Fat Man’s Delight to the Natural Bridge.
The pristine CMH walking stick joins our other walking stick from the Hotel Kaaterskill which was donated to MTHS by the Mohonk Barn Museum. The new gift is in too fine a condition to risk carrying it through the whole walk, but we will bring it to Pine Orchard for an official presentation. The hike is considered Easy to Moderate with a short bushwhack. We will provide an easier alternative route along the state trail to Bowlder Rock but missing the sites before we reach the modern trail. Meet at 9:00 am at the MTHS campus wear appropriate shoes for hiking bring lunch and water. Return mid afternoon.
June 14 talk (tentative)
June 29 Bartrum talk and walk
July 20 Quarry Hike
July 26 Peter Jung
August 3 (Sat) 10:00 a.m. Roots of the 1969 Woodstock Music & Arts Festival Walking Tour + Guardian Mountain Hike. To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the three-day festival named after the Village of Woodstock, join historian Weston Blelock to visit sites frequented and made famous by musicians of the 60’s prior to and following the famous 1969 festival: Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Van Morrison and others. Following the 90+ minute tour and a break for lunch, for those interested, there will be a hike (at 1:00 p.m.) to Guardian Mountain above the Byrdcliffe Colony, coordinated by publisher Julia Blelock and MTHS VP Adrienne Larys featuring the history of Woodstock’s first art colony. There is a $10 fee for the walking tour. All participants will receive a copy of the book, Roots of the 1969 Woodstock Festival. Walking tour: easy. Hike: moderate, about 2.5 hours -- great views of the Ashokan Reservoir Tour limited to 15 persons; advance reservations required no later than 2 p.m. on Aug 2. Carpooling to Woodstock TBA, otherwise meet at the Free Public Parking Lot on Rock City Road at 9:45 a.m.
August 24 Rip's Country Bazzar
September 14 Postcard Show
September 21 Ramble
October 11 Ice age Talk by Bob and Johanna Titus
October 12 Hike Fest
To our hikers:
The 2017 hiking schedule can be found at: http://mths.org/hikes.html or by selecting the Hikes link under the Interpret section in the side menus. As always, hikes are subject to change. Please check this site just prior to the date of any scheduled hike.
Thanks to the Kaaterskill Rail Trail Facebook Page for posting this notice.
Please everyone stay on the marked trail, do not cut across the private land to access the trail from MTHS. Please follow Trail up North Lake Road to Featherbed down to the rail trail.
The last section is in the process of being acquired by the Mountain Top Historical Society however it is still PRIVATE LAND, please respect the private land owners and their property.
The grand opening for the new final section connecting Kaaterskill Falls with the MTHS Campus will be opening on May 20th- more details to follow.
Thank you everyone for you help and cooperation in this matter.
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