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: June 3, 2009

In 1847, William Stoddard established the Andes Collegiate Institute, an academy. In them-there days, an eighth-grade education was the norm for rural and urban New Yorkers. In the Catskills, literally hundreds of local Common School Districts provided that elementary education to thousands of local students.


A Catskill Catalog: May 27, 2009

I have been thinking a lot about culture lately. Not culture like opera and poetry and art museums – the high culture that we think of when we use the word to describe refined taste, as in “Jacqueline Onassis was a cultured woman.”
No, I’ve been thinking about culture in the way sociologists use the word: the way of life of a people.


A Catskill Catalog: May 20, 2009

On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln of Illinois was elected President of the United States. Lincoln, a one-term Congressman and former Illinois state legislator, had made a name for himself two years previous, when, as a candidate for the United States Senate, he had argued persuasively against the extension of slavery into any new territories in westward-expanding America.


A Catskill Catalog: May 13, 2009

“Dad, we’re going to Wanda’s.” I was one of many 1980s era New Kingston parents who heard that call from the kids nearly every summer day. Soon, the late Lois Squires’ big station wagon would sway out of her driveway, filled with a gaggle of children, towels and a toy or two, heading up the New Kingston Valley to the village swimming hole.


A Catskill Catalog: May 6, 2009

The 48th Poet Laureate of the United States visited the Catskills last week. Charles Simic was the guest of Ulster County Community College where he appeared in the annual Ellen Robbins Poetry Forum, an event held in April to bring “well-known and award winning poets to SUNY Ulster for intimate question and answer sessions, as well as a special evening reading of their poetry.”