A Catskill Catalog by Bill Birns

A Catskill Catalog: Jan. 13, 2010

In the Roxbury Public Library hangs a photograph of that village taken in the early years of the last century. When I first saw it, a couple years ago, I couldn’t figure it out: it looked backwards to me, or, more specifically, it looked inside out. Where was the tree-lined street? Where were the stately front porches along the main drag?


A Catskill Catalog: Jan. 6, 2009

The Catskills are the Catskills, the physical reality of mountain upon mountain, hill-hollow-hill, the rolling rise of land on our uplifted plateau. The Catskills are also our collective idea of the Catskills, our shared sense of what mountain landscape means, what mountains can offer to an increasingly urbanized, globalized human community.


A Catskill Catalog: December 30, 2009

by Bill Birns
“Off with the old year, on with the new!” So read the headline in the Catskill Mountain News 100 years ago this week, as the second decade of the 20th Century was about to begin. That exuberant line appeared below a pen and ink drawing featuring the exciting newness of the time – Old Man 1909 driving away in one of those new-fangled automobiles, and Baby 1910 arriving in an even newer-fangled bi-plane flying machine.


A Catskill Catalog: Dec. 23, 2009

Skiing came to the Catskills in the wake of the 1932 Winter Olympics, in the Adirondacks’ Lake Placid, an event, which made outdoor winter recreation a sudden sensation. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was enlisted by the New York State Conservation Department to cut trails on Catskill peaks suitable for summer hiking and winter skiing. In the mid-’30s, trails were created on Pakatakan Ridge behind Margaretville, on Hunter Mountain, Diamond Notch, and Woodland Valley.


A Catskill Catalog: Dec. 16, 2009

A photo of an old-fashioned covered bridge, snow covered, with, maybe, a wreath over its portal, and, perhaps a horse-drawn surrey or sleigh about to cross: a holiday greeting card!
No better place to take that photograph than here in the Catskills.


A Catskill Catalog: Dec. 9, 2009

The Queen of the Catskills was Stamford, New York. At least that’s what her boosters proclaimed during that Delaware County village’s “Grand Hotel Era:” roughly from the arrival of the railroad in the late 1800s until World War II.


A Catskill Catalog: Dec. 2, 2009

A walk over the Hudson River makes a great Catskill Mountain day trip.
New York’s newest state park is Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, about an hour and a quarter away. Opened October 5th, Walkway Over the Hudson is a one-and-a-quarter mile long pedestrian bridge spanning the mighty Hudson River between Highland and Poughkeepsie. It’s the longest pedestrian bridge in the world, and it’s right in our front yard.


A Catskill Catalog: Nov. 25, 2009

It takes a mill to raise a village.
Often, in the early days of America, the site of a gristmill, or a sawmill, led to the establishment of a village. Early settlers in wilderness lands established self-sufficient farms. Most work and play - most life - occurred on the farm. The mill was one of the few necessary off-farm meeting places, one of the few required off-farm commercial centers.


A Catskill Catalog: Nov. 18, 2009

Sometimes I didn’t believe myself.
The other day, I got a chance to affirm a distant memory, one that even I could begin to doubt. A couple friends and I took a ride to Max Shaul State Park up Route 30 in Fultonham. The park and campground are deserted by mid-November, but an interesting path begins just beyond the park’s softball outfield: the old Route 30 roadbed.


A Catskill Catalog: Nov. 11, 2009

Pasteurized milk got its commercial start in America right here in the Catskills.
When I was a kid, milk was always on the table. I learned to read two of my first big words from the milk carton (or were they on a bottle?) - homogenized and pasteurized.


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