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: Sept. 2, 2009

It must be that vacations became a part of the American scene in the prosperous years after the Civil War, or at least the idea of grand vacations seems to have been invented then. The American economy was growing in great leaps of railroad building, and the railroad corporations saw both market opportunity and investment security in the construction of grand hotels conveniently located at the end of their rail lines.


A Catskill Catalog: August 12, 2009

Everywhere I go in the Catskills, I pick up brochures, pamphlets, and those shiny rack-cards that seem to be everywhere promoting tourism in our mountains. I picked up a bunch just the other day, on a jeep-ride tour of nearby mountain attractions: new construction, old houses, some ruins, the Hunter bookstore, with lunch at Brio’s.


A Catskill Catalog: August 5, 2009

Here’s how a bit of the local mountain economy worked in 1937.
On July 26 of that year, a cauliflower auction block was opened in Margaretville on the Grange League Federation (G.L.F.) grounds. Cauliflower was once a major cash crop on the northern and eastern slopes of the Catskills where the two branches of the Delaware River originate.
The G.L.F. was created in 1920 through a combination of three farmers’ organizations: the New York State Grange, the Dairymen’s League, and the State Farm Bureau. The G.L.F. had a Margaretville operation just west of Bridge Street on land that is now paved over.


A Catskill Catalog: July 29, 2009

Somewhere in upstate New York, the word camp changes meaning. As a college freshman from the metropolitan area, I was confused by an upstate classmate who spoke of a family camp in the woods, a rustic retreat used to get away from it all. What he called a camp, I called a cottage. To me, camp meant something entirely different.


A Catskill Catalog: July 22, 2009

By Bill Birns
At the high point of Delhi’s Woodland Cemetery, a memorial obelisk to Osman Steele rises. Along the stone wall of the Halcott Cemetery, a blue sign indicates the burial place of Warren Scudder. Steele was the county lawman killed in the line of duty, on August 7, 1845, while conducting a forced sale to raise rent due on Moses Earle’s Dingle Hill farm. Scudder was the leader of the men who shot him.