The Oral History Project was started in October 2021 by Cyndi LaPierre and Alexandra Prince and builds on the work completed by Justine Hommel, a founder of the historical society, who conducted oral history interviews in the 1980's. The goals of the project are as follows:
- Conduct oral history interviews with people native to and visiting the Mountain Top, those involved in local projects, businesses, government, labor, religion, vacation, nature-based activities, arts or other areas of interest as they develop.
- Examine existing oral histories in the MTHS archives and transcribe or narrativize them for use inThe Hemlock, blog, social media, etc.
- Hold public workshops on oral history.
- Setup “Community Conversations”: Panels of locals on subjects of local history or interest.
The Twilight Inn Fire
Justine Hommel interviews George Peiffer, a survivor of the Twilight Inn Fire, which occurred on July 14, 1926. Interview recorded in 1982.
Photo Above (l to r): Claudia Lane, Regina Christman Mortland, Barbara Thompson Tolley, Marianne “Micky” Goettsche, and Roberta Christman
Our first oral history was conducted with the “Daughters of the Thompson House” in Windham, New York on October 20, 2021 at 2pm at the Thompson family home on Route 23A in Windham. The Thompson House was opened by Ira and Christina Thompson in 1886. They had five granddaughters: Roberta, Eleanor, Ruth, Barbara and Micky, each of whom lived and worked in the hotel. As an adult, Micky and her husband John ran the Thompson House alongside Micky’s parents Anita and Ferris. Roberta went on to operate Christman’s Windham House (where she still works today) and her sister Eleanor ran the Windham Arms. Ruth operated the Greenville Arms down the mountain. As Micky put it, "the hotel business wasn’t a job, it was a way of life.”
The Thompson House was sold in 2020 and is now in the process of being reinvented as Windham Wylder, a new Mountain Top resort slated to open next spring. We are working on processing the audio from this interview and look forward to sharing more details and arranging more community conversations to preserve this history for the next generation.
A second oral history was conducted on January 7, 2022 with Roberta Christman on the subject of maple sugaring. Roberta ran Christman's Windham House with her husband Stanley and oversaw their family's maple sugaring operation from 1952 to 2014. This interview was turned into an article for Winter 2022 issue of The Hemlock.
Roberta Christman filtering maple syrup in 1983. Photo from the Christman family.
During June of 2022, Joanne Ainsworth, a board member of the MTHS and longtime resident of Twilight Park, recorded a recollection by Susan Tressler for the "If These Stones Could Talk" Cemetery Tour program. Tressler discusses how her grandmother's body was exhumed in the Haines Falls Cemetery for reasons that are still not entirely clear.
Alexandra Prince has been recording oral history interviews for a new exhibit on the history of summer camps on the Mountain Top. Check back soon to listen to those.