Deer Mountain Inn was, in the mid 1900s, known as Toppesfield Manor. A folded rack card/brochure from that period is shown here. We've unfolded it and combined the front and back sides in a single image with a background color taken from the card. Right click on the image and select 'view image' to see it in a more readable size.
William Young - Mountain Top Soldier
Generations of the Young Family of Platte Clove owned land at the top of Platte Clove. Initially farmers they, like other enterprising Mountain Top Families, found that the tourist industry could be more rewarding. They opened The Grand Canyon House, built stairways, bridges, and paths into the rugged Platte Clove, and established the area as a popular resort. The collection of family documents, papers related to The Grand Canyon House, and postcards from the hotel, donated by Odile Dwyer traces the history of their efforts. A significant part of the collection is the history of William Young, who at age 27 in December of 1863, left the Mountain Top to enlist in the United States Army. He was assigned to Company E of the 15th Regiment of the New York Engineers. William served for only seven months, most of it in a hospital in Washington DC as a result of a worsening illness. Nancy Allen relates William's story in the Spring 2017 issue of the Society's newsletter The Hemlock. The purpose of this article is to show some of the items related to William's Story. The images can be seen in larger format by right clicking and selecting view image.
Thomas Nast's 'Sketches' Published 150 Years Ago.
One of the many Catskills prints from the 19th Century in our Justine Hommel Archive Room is Thomas Nast's classic 1866 print “Sketches Among the Catskill Mountains” which appeared in Harper's Weekly over a hundred fifty years ago in July 1866. Nast is considered the “Father of the American [political] Cartoon,” and for good reason. He introduced the elephant and the donkey to represent the Republican and Democratic parties, created a series of cartoons that helped bring down Boss Tweed and, in a lighter vein, created the image of Santa Claus that persists to this day.
Nast's two page spread of twenty-eight illustrations appeared in Harper's July 21, 1866 issue but was conceived in the previous September during his two-week stay at the Catskill Mountain House. Five months before his stay, our country went through one of the most significant months in our history. In April 1865, the Civil War ended with Lee's surrender at Appomattox and President Lincoln was assassinated. The mix of grief, melancholy, and relief that Nast, his family, their servant, and other late summer guests at the Mountain House felt must have pervaded the mood at the Mountain House that September. During the war, a large portion of the pages of Harper's Weekly covered it's events. In these illustrations Nast captured scenes of a recovering America, at least scenes of a recovering upper-class America relaxing and playing in the idyllic Catskill Mountains.
The Mountain House itself occupies the center of the print and is immediately surrounded by serious views of the mountains and waterfalls. A sketch of guests looking out from the Piazza at the expansive view of the Hudson Valley seems to me to have a pensive mood, reflecting the post war feelings of the guests. The other illustrations at the center of the piece accurately capture the mountain scenery.
It is in many of the smaller cartoons that border the print where Nast's humor comes through. A guest arrives with a massive trunk and later leaves passing the staff, his pockets empty—their hands outstretched for tips. Another guest tries to shake a chained bear off his leg, a mother reads her paper oblivious to her children running near the cliff, while a nanny tries to keep them under control. Budding artists are perched on every rock trying to capture their personal landscape masterpieces. A hiker is held back from the brink of a cliff by his fearful spouse, and after a long day, dreams of tumbling from a ladder to the top of yet another cliff.
The print is a masterpiece of Catskills illustration. We are fortunate that 'The Father of the American Cartoon' graced us with this view of his visit to our Catskill Mountains.
Historic Signature Quilts
Four Historic Quilts from the MTHS Archives were on display in the Summer of 2015 thanks to the cooperation of the Patchworkers and the gifts of the original donors. Each of the quilts, known as signature quilts, contain embroidered or cross-stitched signatures of Mountain Top residents from the 1800s, the early 1900s or the 1950s and '60s. Betty Verhoeven and other talented quilters of the Patchworkers have lent their expertise and skills to prepare the quilts for display -- first at their 42nd Patchworkers quilt show on August 1 and 2 at the Windham High School and again at the MTHS Local History Day on August 15 at the Society's Ulster and Delaware Train Station in Haines Falls.
The quilt dated 1849 was a gift of Wilma Kohler of Hunter. The quilt from the 1950s was a gift of Fred Wilson. Mr Wilson's post about the quilt on the 23A + Facebook page inspired the effort to prepare these quilts for public display. The occasion of the 42nd Patchworkers Quilt Show, and MTHS's Local History Day with it's emphasis on Women on the Mountain Top seem the ideal opportunities to reintroduce these quilts to the community.
Kaaterskill Walking Stick a Gift of Mohonk Museum
By Bob Gildersleeve
Years back, lamenting the passing of the large world-renowned mountain resorts that graced the Mountain Top in the 19th and early 20th Century, we realized that one large resort still operated just an hour south of us in the Shawangunk Mountains. We decided that a visit there would give a feeling of what a trip to the Mountain House or Hotel Kaaterskill might have been like in the 1800s. Since that first visit, MTHS has sponsored several luncheon hikes at the fabulous Mohonk Mountain House near New Paltz, NY. On one visit many years ago, we noticed a walking stick from the Hotel Kaaterskill displayed in the Mohonk Barn Museum. Wouldn't it be nice if we could return that souvenir of the Victorian Age to the area where it was originally purchased and used.
On an overnight visit to Mohonk with my wife in October 2014 I approached Jim Clark (on the right in the photo), the curator of the Barn Museum, and talked with him about the walking stick. He too felt that the Mountain Top Historical Society would be a more appropriate home for the staff and graciously donated it to MTHS. Our thanks to Mr. Clark and the Mohonk Mountain House for this unique gift.
If you have never visited Mohonk, you may want to take a look at the history page on their web site: mohonk.com
MTHS receives gift of important photograph collection.
March 30, 2014
Our sincere thanks to Bob Mazon (4th from left) for his generous gift of digital photos, scans of conventional photos and other items. Bob has covered news and organizational events in the area, as well as photographing the landscape and communities since the 1980s. The Society is just beginning to review and catalog the collection which will be named "The Bob Mazon Collection." As we get a sense of the extent of the items, we will describe it on the website. We believe it will prove to be a valuable resource of local history.
April 28, 2014
On April 11, 2014 Bob Mazon died. Just a few weeks before that Bob had visited the Historical Society to arrange for the generous gift of his collection. We are deeply saddened by his passing and we, along with the whole Mountaintop Community, will miss him. The Historical Society will strive to protect the items he left in our care and to see to it that they become a valued legacy to the community.
Among the Mountain Top Historical Society's Archives is a collection of photographs and other items received as a generous donation from Ms. Wilma Kohler of Hunter and Elmhurst, NY. Among the items are a bible with family records of Aaron Haines, who operated the earliest inn in Haines Falls, a copy of the rare book, An Illustrated Guide to the Catskill Mountains by Samuel E. Rusk, and over one hundred photographs taken by Rusk, his brother John W. Rusk, and other 19th and early 20th century photographers.
Samuel and John Rusk photographed local landscapes and operated a portrait studio in Haines Falls. A series of photographs depicting the construction of a portion of what is now Route 23A gives insight into road building techniques in 1907.
The excellent quality of these late 19th and early 20th century photographs allows the society to enlarge portions of the images and bring out details not noticeable at first glance.
A unique image of John Rusk (above) shows one reason for the high quality of the images – a large format camera that no doubt used large and exceptionally flat glass plate negatives. The photos have survived in pristine condition due to the exceptional care the professional photographers took in the preparation of the images and the manner in which Ms. Kohler cared for the collection.
Society members and volunteers have digitally scanned, cataloged and secured the material. The donation, now designated as the Wilma Kohler Collection, takes its place with a growing amount of material that the society preserves and will be used in Society publications and for research on Mountain Top families and history.