A Catskill Catalog by Bill Birns

Bill Birns presents a weekly essay on history, geography, day-trips, arts and culture in the Catskill Mountain region.

A Catskill Catalog: Aug. 11, 2010

The long narrative poem seems out of favor today, among both general readers and academic types. Nobody much reads Henry Wadsworth Longfellow anymore. His “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” seems quaint, and “Hiawatha” patronizing. Once, these stories-in-verse gave Americans a sense of place, a cultural legacy, our own national legends.


A Catskill Catalog: Aug. 4, 2010

The American economy boomed in the years after 1865, the end of the Civil War. A brief financial panic in 1873 was followed by 20 years of sustained growth of, like, six percent a year. Railroad building and railroad buying and selling was the driving force of the economy, the west was opening, and some folks made a whole lot of money.


A Catskill Catalog: July 28, 2010

So, I get a call from Joe Ludewig of Roxbury who tells me he has some history that might interest me. Seems his house is on a mountain that’s been home to his family for three generations. Mentions a bordello once operated up there. Hooked, I went to see him.


A Catskill Catalog: July 21, 2010

The bus from Fleischmanns took four full hours to get to New York City the other morning. Seemed awfully slow, winding its way through routes 28, 212, and 32 before hitting the Thruway, then crawling through Manhattan-style congestion that starts a good distance this side of Weehawken.


A Catskill Catalog: July 14, 2010

Christian’s Drug Store, on Margaretville’s corner of Walnut and Main, was a throwback to an earlier era, even in 1971, when I first entered the place. Joe Christian’s store was part newsstand, part soda fountain, part bus station, part candy counter.