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.

 

 

 

Regrettably, We did not win the Guest Register.

The winning bid was $36,000 and with the 25% buyers fee amounted to $45, 000.

Thanks to all who pledged. The pledges were very generous,

but the final price was higher that anyone anticipated..


Urgent: An important document - the desk register from The Catskill Mountain House dating back to 1839 (The first year that Beach operated the Hotel) is up for sale We are needed to help have a chance to bring it home. See how you can help.

 Once you've checked out the link on "How you can help" You may want to see why we think it is important: Questions

As the COVID-19 Crisis continues to affect all of us we hope you are all doing well. The updates and warnings have been changing from day to day here is an update:

  • The Mountain Top Historical Society's Visitors' Center remains closed.
  • All MTHS events and programs have had to be canceled for this year.
  • The parking areas at MTHS as of July 20 are open. Before you come check back to see the parking status. The KRT is open to the falls.
  • The Society incurs expenses in providing access and parking for the KRT. A donation box is provided for your voluntary donations.

Read the current issue of our newsletter, The Hemlock.

 MTHS News and links:

  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.

C

 

 

Dear Members and Friends
of the Mountain Top Historical Society:

I write this hoping that you, your families, friends and colleagues are well and staying safe during this time of extended social distancing and self-isolation. While we hope for an early end to this situation, it most likely will be with us for much longer than we care to imagine.

Looking ahead, the MTHS has decided to cancel our hikes and presentations in June. It breaks our heart to do this, but we want to do whatever we can to keep everyone safe and reduce the chance of spreading the contagion. We will continue to keep you updated on our plans beyond June.

Meanwhile, we are exploring ways to provide programming via video conferencing. We will announce these possibilities on our webpage, via Facebook and by future email messages. We hope you will be interested in participating in these experiences.

The Visitors’ Center is closed and will remain closed at least through May 31 and most likely through June. We depend on volunteers to greet and assist visitors and cannot put them at risk of contracting the corona virus. We have closed our parking lots until Governor Cuomo lifts the social distancing mandate and the DEC re-opens access to the Kaaterskill Falls.

To stay connected with you, we will continue to post history articles from The Hemlock on our webpage and Facebook page. We are thinking ahead to next year. The programs and hikes we have had to cancel this year we hope to reschedule in 2021.

Shortly we will be sending out our annual membership appeal. When it arrives, please take a few minutes to renew your membership or become a new member. Your support will help us maintain and build our Archives, provide alternative programming, and prepare for our future beyond the Covid-19 hiatus. We trust you want the MTHS to be a part of your lives and your community for years to come. Thank you.

Stay well. Stay safe. Help stop the spread of Covid-19.

Adrienne Larys
President

HELP BRING A PIECE OF MOUNTAIN TOP & GREENE COUNTY HISTORY HOME
AN EARLY CATSKILL MOUNTAIN HOUSE GUEST REGISTER IS GOING UP
FOR AUCTION IN JUST 10 DAYS!


It has come to the attention of the Mountain Top Historical Society that an early Guest Register of the Catskill Mountain House is going up for auction at Swann Galleries in New York City on September 24. This register, which is of considerable historical interest on its  own, is actually a preceding register to the four 19th-century Catskill Mountain House Guest Registers already safely preserved at the Vedder Research Library of the Greene County Historical Society.

To bring the guest register from the early 1840s back home, the Greene County Historical Society is leading an effort to secure a pool of funds to make it possible to submit a winning bid. If enough pledges are collected, on the 24th the Greene County Historical Society will enter a maximum bid that exceeds the projected winning bid range of $5,000 — $7,500.

The Board of the MTHS would very much like this ledger to come home to Greene County and be available to the public at the Vedder Research Library. This cannot be done without your help. We are asking our members and friends to make pledges to the GCHS in support of their winning bid. By helping the GCHS make a winning bid, we can help restore the integrity of a collection which was scattered and separated generations ago by private collectors.

You can play a big role in assuring this volume is not lost to private hands again. We are asking you to make a pledge to the Greene County Historical Society to assure they may enter a maximum bid. If this effort is successful, an invaluable piece of the documentary heritage of the Northern Catskills will come home for researchers and the public to enjoy and study.

If you share our enthusiasm to secure this important document and would like to make a pledge towards a maximum bid, please contact Jonathan Palmer, Archivist at the Historical Society’s Vedder Research Library, by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 518-731-1033.

You will need to provide your name, email, phone number, and the amount you wish to pledge. Please mention that your pledge is in recognition of the MTHS’s effort to assist the GCHS in winning the Catskill Mountain House Guest Register at auction and bring it home.

The Board of the MTHS has made a commitment to this effort. We hope you will join us and members of the Greene County Historical Society in this rare opportunity to bring an early Catskill Mountain House Guest Register back home to Greene County. If the GCHS is successful, they will provide a digital copy of the ledger for our use and Mountain Top access.

More information on the auction and the Guest Registers can be found through this link: https://catalogue.swanngalleries.com/Lots/auction-lot/-NEW-YORK--Guest-register-for-the-legendary-Catskill-Mountai?saleno=2546&lotNo=164&refNo=772718

This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity, There is no time to lose. Please be as generous as you can. Many thanks!

Adrienne Larys                     Bob Gildersleeve
President                            Chief Archivist

Puppet Theater Rescued

The Society’s Puppet theater has hosted the story of Rip Van Winkle since it was built for us by the Platte Clove Community in 2007. Modeled after the Punch and Judy style theater used at Rip’s Retreat in the 1950’s it has been standing outside our train station summer and winter for twelve years and was showing serious signs of wear and decay. By this summer it had become unusable.

That has changed. Board member Dick Haines, took the initiative to oversee it’s restoration. Board Member George Van Dyke replaced all of the decaying wood with weather resistant materials and Dick called on the Platte Clove Community to repaint it.

According to Dick:

Our puppet theater hasn't looked this good since the day it was put there. Our thanks to Reseph, his daughter and his sister, Leon and two of his children. They did a great job. My thanks to Joann who stopped by to give them a well deserved pat on the back.

Now, thanks to all involved we can expect to see and hear the Rip Van Winkle story each summer for many more summers at our summer events.

Do you think that’s thunder?

 

Thanks to our business sponsors:

2020 Business sponsors:
Brookside B&B, Bruce Feml,
Claude W. Lutz, Elena Suditu Dentist, P.C., Ethel & Orville Slutzky Family Foundation, Fred’s Photography, Gordon Hunter Mountain Realty,   Haines Falls Auto/Hunter Towing,  Highmark Builders, Kaaterskill Liquors,  Pancho Villas Mexican Restaurant, Pure Mountain Yoga, Rosehaven Inn, Highmark Builders, The Mansion House at Alfie’s, Thorpe Contracting Inc., Thorpe GMC Inc., Traphagen’s Honey, Tryon Family Foundation

 

 

 

 




 


2020 Hike & Event Schedule
We regret that this seasons events have had to be canceled.


April 26 Canceled  Tea and Talk, “Temperance and Prohibition in the Catskills” with Sylvia Hasenkopf, a Hudson Valley Historian and research specialist,  Diane Galusha, President of the Historical Society of the Town of Middletown, and Johanna Titus, Mountain Top Historical Society Board Member. This three-part presentation includes “Temperance at Twilight” – the story of two of the most prominent women in the Temperance Movement, “Leggs Diamond, Robin Hood of the Catskills” – follows Mr. Diamond in the Capital Region, and “Cat-Stills” - Prohibition vignettes and elder stories of the greater Catskills. Then enjoy Stefania Jozic’s wonderful tea buffet. Door Prizes. $ 25 per person. RSVP by Thurs. 4/23 by calling (518) 589-6657 leave a message with name, phone number & how many in your party, or leave same info by email at www.mths.org contacts page. This program will be held at the Washington Irving Inn, Route 23A, Tannersville. Seating limited.

May 2 Canceled (Sat.) 2:00 p.m. Talk – “Hotel Kaaterskill – A Vivid Look Back” – A joint presentation of the Greene County Historical Society and the Mountain Top Historical Society, by Jonathan Palmer, GCHS and Bob Gildersleeve, MTHS.

A newly discovered 1883 Floor Plan with infrastructure details in the collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia (see more details) and 1920’s interior and exterior photos donated to MTHS by George M. Harding will help us to get a better picture of the enormous wood frame hotel that dwarfed the older Catskill Mountain House just a mile away. The presentation will help prepare us for an optional hike to the Hotel Kaaterskill grounds where much of the foundation of the hotel, its annex, and out-buildings remain. The program will be held at Beattie-Powers Place, Prospect Avenue at the top of Bridge Street, Catskill, NY. To reserve seats RSVP to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

May 3 Canceled - Since this hike was meant to complement the May 2nd talk we will wait until the talk can be rescheduled.  Hike – Hotel Kaaterskill grounds.  We will walk along the historic roads developed in the 1880’s for the Hotel Kaaterskill to the grounds of the Hotel and trace out the location of the Hotel, its Annex, stables, and other buildings. Thanks to the stewardship of New York State much of the foundation of these structures remain to allow us to visualize this famous hotel. Meet at the Mountain Top Historical Society, Route 23A, Haines Falls. This is a moderate hike of about 4 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 400 ft. Planned return at 3:00 pm. Bring lunch and water. Sturdy shoes and long pants are recommended.

May 15 (Fri.) 7:00 p.m. Talk – N.Y. Celebrity, award winning Radio Broadcaster and Author, Chuck D’Imperio, will discuss his latest book Open House: 35 Historic Homes in Upstate NY. Chuck has written numerous books and articles about all things N.Y. Whether it’s the food or the homes, the people or their graves, Chuck never fails to inform, amuse and delight. Refreshments.
 $ 5 donation suggested.

May 16 (Sat.) 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. (also June 13, 27) First session postponed until June 13 Program – Catskill Nature and Landscape Photography. Join local photographers Francis Driscoll and Elaine Warfield for some landscape, nature, wildlife, and architecture photography in our beautiful Catskill Mountains. Relatively easy walking distances. Any skill level, phones and cameras welcome. 3 dates are planned but you decide how many sessions you’ll attend. We’re planning some beautiful, out of the way spots, plus creeks, waterfalls, vistas, and maybe even some wildlife. Meet each date at the MTHS Train Station.  If you choose to print any of your images, we’ll display them at a special showing during the MTHS Open House on August 22, 2020. Please use the registration instructions below, and indicate that you are interested in the Photography workshop and which date or dates. Bring lunch and drinks. Sunrise / Sunset option available depending on interest. For questions call Elaine: (518) 965-8601, or Francis: (518) 821-1339 $ 10 donation suggested.

May 17 (Sun.) 1:00 p.m.  Hike – Mountain Top Arboretum. See Spring Unfolding in the Mountains. Explore the hiking trails at the Mountain Top Arboretum and the Deer Mountain Inn with Nancy Allen. Listen for the sound of peepers and observe the blossoming of spring ephemerals. Round trip about 4 miles. Easy trails with some steeper inclines. Meet Nancy at the Arboretum parking area at 1 p.m. come prepared for muddy conditions (boots that keep the feet dry) and with bug spray. Bring water and snacks. Well-behaved dogs on leash welcome. The exact route will be determined by the conditions on the day of the hike. Hard rain cancels. Registration instructions below.

June 5 (Fri.) 7:00 p.m. Talk – “Forestry in the 21st Century” Ryan Trapani, director of Catskill Forest Assoc.  will discuss forest land-use  history in the Catskill Mountains as well as its present condition and how it’s being managed. He will also discuss how to improve “forest quality” and make things more “fruitful” for both humans and wildlife. Ryan is an author of many articles in local publications, and host of “From the Forest” radio show on WIOX 91.3 FM. He was formally associated with the NY DEC, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Frost Valley YMCA, Ryan is a Veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. Program at MTHS Train Station. Refreshments. $ 5 donation suggested.

June 6 (Sat.) 10 a.m. Hike – National Trails Day on the Kaaterskill Rail Trail led by Michelle Yost and Pete Sentermen. Pete will discuss the history of the railroads at the Mountain Top, and Michelle will transition into the modern day trail and its future. The KRT was first a footpath connecting the Catskill Mountain House and other hotels to Haines Falls. By the 1880’s the old footpath had made way for a rail corridor which, at its peak, saw two competing passenger rail lines following parallel tracks toward the Catskill escarpment. Thousands of vacationers arrived each summer via the newly- constructed rail lines to see the picturesque scenery and stay at the many boarding houses, hotels, and resorts such as the Laurel House. Hike will extend to the viewing platform over Kaaterskill Falls. Easy, 3 ½ miles, wear sturdy shoes and bring water. Meet at U&D Train Station at 10 am. Registration instructions below.

June 13 (Sat.) 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. – Catskill Nature and Landscape Photography, session 2 (see May 16th above for description)

June 19 (Fri.) 7:00 p.m. Talk – “The Devil Received One Vote”. Join Jonathan Palmer, Archivist from the Vedder Research Library of the Greene County Historical Society, as he presents his talk on the history of local media in the Jacksonian Period. Focusing on the history of the two major newspapers printed at the county seat in Catskill, this talk offers a window into the hyper-politicized and partisan culture that defined all strata of the government during the second half of the Antebellum Period. The lecture will serve to help local history buffs and the general public alike contextualize our community and the role it played during this extremely important era in American History, Program at the U & D Train Station, MTHS Campus. Refreshments. $ 5 donation suggested.

June 27 (Sat.) 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. – Catskill Nature and Landscape Photography, session 3 (see May 16th above for description)

July 11 (Sat.) 10:00 a.m. MTHS will hold its Annual Meeting at the Train Station.  All are welcome.

July 18 (Sat.) 10:00 a.m. Hike- In the Footsteps of Sanford Robinson Gifford. Join geologist Robert Titus for a journey back into the Ice Age, whose landscapes were the subjects of the artists of the Hudson River School. This hike will locate spots along the Blue Trail where Sanford Robinson Gifford sketched and we’ll examine evidence of glacial activity at each location. Moderate, four miles. Bring water and lunch. Return by 3 p.m. Meet at Laurel House Road parking lot. Registration instructions below. Dogs welcome if owners comply with Park rules.

July 25 (Sat.) 7:00 p.m. Talk / Performance - The Justine Hommel Memorial Lecture,  with Joseph Capobianco as Charles L. Beach, Proprietor of the Catskill Mountain House Hotel with Mrs. Diane Capobianco as Mrs. Mary Beach. A lifelong resident of Catskill and a lover of local history will transport you, excite, and inspire you to go back and imagine the glory days of the Catskill Mountain House. Program presented at the Twilight Park Clubhouse, Haines Falls. Refreshments. $ 5 donation suggested.

August 2 (Sun.) 2:00 p.m. Talk – Gary Lelonek, M.D. will discuss his book, The Jewish History of Tannersville, New York, A Village in the Catskills. Dr. Lelonek grew up in Fair Lawn, N.J., spending his summers in Tannersville even until 2018, lately accompanied by his wife and three children. He is a practicing psychiatrist with affiliations in the Bronx and on Long island. Kosher refreshments follow. $ 5 donation suggested.

August 22 (Sat.) 10:00 a.m. Annual Open House – The MTHS campus will be busy with things to do for all ages. The Visitors’ Center will be open for browsing maps, books, brochures, or checking out the Archives. Learn something new about local history. Come on over to the Mountain Top Historical Society’s campus on Route 23A in Haines Falls and join in the fun.  Check our website as more details become available.

August 29th (Sat.) 10:00 a.m. Hike - Ceremonial Stone Landscapes (CSL). Join NYS DEC outdoor guide Glenn Kreisberg from Overlook Mountain Center in Woodstock, NY, for a hike to visit a Manitou Hassennech (spirit stones) site in Spruceton Valley. These landscapes consist of dry stacked stone cairns, stone rows, effigies and alignments, all possible expressions of an ancient, sophisticated Native American belief system linking the world above with the world below. Moderate, two miles, wear proper footwear and clothing for a late summer hike and appropriate for the weather. Consider sunscreen and bug repellant. Bring lunch or a snack and water. Meet at MTHS Visitor Center. Car Pool to trail head.  Call (845) 417- 8384 for more info.

Sept. 19 (Sat.) 10:00 a.m. – 12 noon. Talk and Walk – The Mountain Top Arboretum and the Mountain Top Historical Society present a two-day event with Dr. Michael Kudish, expert in forest history. Dr. Kudish will discuss “Burn Index: A New Way of Looking at the Catskill Land Use History”. The program will begin with a lecture at the Arboretum’s Education Center, followed by a walk into Spruce Glen as an example of non-burn forest composition. One mile, easy. See below for continuation of program. Suggested Donation $5 for MTA and MTHS members, $ 15 for non-members.

Sept. 20 (Sun.) 9:00 a.m.  Hike – Dr. Michael Kudish will lead a hike on the escarpment trail at North/South Lake to a Pitch Pine stand as an example of burned forest composition. Meet at Mountain Top Historical Society’s parking area. ~ 1 mile, moderate – some elevation change. Bring water and snack. No Dogs.

Sept. 26 (Sat.) 10:00 a.m. - 3 p.m.  9th Annual Postcard Show & Talk – at the U&D Train Station. MTHS campus.  Food will be available.  The MTHS will also be selling ephemera from its attic in a special sale.  A $3 entry fee will be charged at the door.

Oct. 10 (Sat.) 9 a.m. – 7th Annual Hikefest – Join us for a fun day, as part of the larger Catskills “Lark in the Park”. Hikes/Walks in the morning to several destinations followed by lunch and entertainment. Stay tuned to our website and Facebook page for more information. $ 8 per person for lunch.

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 programs. We do request that you register for each hike or program as indicated.

Instructions for registration - Participants can register on the contacts page  of our website www.mths.org or by calling (518) 589-6657. Please leave your name, phone number, # in your party, and day of hike or program. 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.

Questions about MTHS's Support of the Mountain House Guest Register

  • Why is this 1840s ledger worth the potential cost of $7,500 or perhaps more?

    The Catskill Mountain House was the most significant hotel in Greene County, and one of the most significant in all of America. Its guests included many of the most notable people of its day. It was the home base for many artists of the Hudson River School, and served poets and other literary figures of the 19<sup>th</sup> century, political and business leaders and notable guests from around the world.

  • Why the Vedder -- Why not MTHS or some other Greene county organization?

    The Vedder now has four original Desk Registers from the Mountain House. They have been available for research for many years. To bring this newly available one to the Vedder will complement both the existing collection and the new acquisition.

  • Why should MTHS and other local organizations step back and aid rather than compete for the prize of this “beyond rare” ledger?

    The potential cost of the ledger is beyond the budget of most local organizations and many private collectors. In some cases, to recoup the expense of such a purchase, a volume of this type is sometimes dismantled and sold piecemeal in order to make a profit.

  • Do we stand a chance?

    We hope so in any case, we don’t think we should pass this by. If people who might consider bidding on this for a private collection see the value of it becoming part of an existing collection at an organization that will value and protect it while making it available to an interested public they might join in our effort to bring it home.Other organizations in the area may also see this as an important opportunity to bring it home and enhance their mission while joining in this local and regional goal.

  • We must act quickly!

    Bids must be completed by September 24. Please don’t delay your pledge to donate. It will only be activated if the GCHS/Vedder bid is the winning one. Nevertheless, your bid is a commitment. Pledge only if you are willing and able to provide the funds you commit to within 24 hours of notice that ours is the winning bid. Of course, you will be responsible only if ours is the winning bid.

 

The Society’s Puppet theater has hosted the story of Rip Van Winkle since it was built for us by the Platte Clove Community in 2007. Modeled after the Punch and Judy style theater used at Rip’s Retreat in the 1950’s it has been standing outside our train station summer and winter for twelve years and was showing serious signs of wear and decay. By this summer it had become unusable.

That has changed. Board member Dick Haines, took the initiative to oversee it’s restoration. Board Member George Haines replaced all of the decaying wood with weather resistant materials and Dick called on the Platte Clove Community to repaint it.

According to Dick:

Our puppet theater hasn't looked this good since the day it was put there. Our thanks to Reseph, his daughter and his sister, Leon and two of his children. They did a great job. My thanks to Joann who stopped by to give them a well deserved pat on the back.

Now, thanks to all involved we can expect to see and hear the Rip Van Winkle story each summer for many more summers at our summer events.

 Do you think that’s thunder?