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: April 28, 2010

The prototype of the smart, tough upstate operator has to be Robert Livingston, a Scots immigrant who arrived in New York Harbor in 1674, 20 years old and eager to make a New-World fortune. This hardworking immigrant, in a few short decades, made the greatest fortune, and sired the grandest family, in New York Province.


A Catskill Catalog: April 21, 2010

Once there was a town called Eminence.


A Catskill Catalog: April 14, 2010

How can a brook be dry? Isn’t a brook, by its very nature, wet. A drive up Dry Brook in the August heat of a dry summer day will reveal long stretches of baked gravel in the streambed, but, still, there is water in the brook – it’s just, temporally, a narrow brook. So how come we call that stream Dry Brook?


A Catskill Catalog: April 7, 2010

The first produce of the Catskills to achieve commercial value were seeds of the balsam fir. That’s right, evergreen seeds. Seems that landscape gardening was all the rage in 18th-century England.


A Catskill Catalog: March 31, 2010

When I was a kid, I had a record – vinyl, 33 and a third, long-playing – called “Great Moments in History,” or something like that. (I also had a complete set of small plastic statuettes of the 34 Presidents of the United States, but that’s another story.)