By Mara Lehmann, Open House Chairman

The annual OPEN HOUSE has always been a day of fun filled and historical learning activities that is our way of saying “Thanks” to our Mountain Top community for their continued support throughout the year.

Activities are offered, for both young and old. We always have an informative lecture and themed photo exhibition in our beautifully restored train station. Knowledgeable locals have brought to life for us, what life was like here during the “good ole days.” Who came here? How did they get here? What did everyone do? How did people dress? Many a guest speaker, being an author as well, has followed his talk with a book signing. Topics have included trains and railroads, boarding houses and hikes to unique sites to our area.

During the OPEN HOUSE the red barn on our campus has been put to good use, providing an exhibition space often filled with visual art, memorabilia and ephemera from our past history. These exhibits usually result from collaborations with community members and organization. Just recently, the red barn was filled with memorabilia from the Town of Hunter, helping to celebrate the town’s 200th Anniversary. In the past, all of the local town fire departments staged an exhibition here. Many times local artists, following in the Hudson River School Of Art tradition of painting, have been given an opportunity to show their own art work here as well. One particularly memorable show was an exhibit of our local high school students’ original paintings and poems on the theme of Waterfalls. This was a collaborative effort of the Windham Arts Alliance, our local school personnel and our society.

Our newly completed Archives is always an interesting place to spend some time and get a tour.

Music has always filled the air during our event. Live bands perform in a variety of styles: folk, country and Civil War ballads to name a few.

Often a wide variety of craft vendors are invited to set up and show their wares. Pottery, landscape and wildlife photographs, cloth handbags, wax candles, pine sachets, wooden twig tables, scented soaps and many other hand- made items can be found for sale.

Lots of children’s activities are available. At our Children’s Corner there is face painting and coloring. We have a puppet theater where the story of Rip Van Winkle is told, much to the delight of our young audience. Rip has actually been known to show up and say Hello!

More family fun comes in the form of a tractor pulled hayride around our campus grounds. Anyone hungry can easily find our food table with hot dogs, drinks and ice cream available.

There is always a grateful raffle winner!

As you can see, the Open House is a day of celebration. It brings all of us together to remind us of our history, enjoy our surroundings and have a wonderful time.

May 10-11 (Saturday-Sunday) Joint Field Meeting of the Torrey Botanical Society, the Philadelphia Botanical Club, the Olive Natural Heritage Society and the Catskill Native Plant Society

This meeting will try to commemorate the collecting trips to the Catskills in the 1740’s-50’s of John and William Bartram, two of America’s first botanists of note. Our first venue (Saturday) will be Diamond Notch in Hunter-West Kill Wilderness Area, Greene County, to visit a rare first growth Fir-Spruce Forest to see the “Balm of Gilead” (Abies balsamea) that the Bartrams collected on their journeys. Hopefully we will also sight Bartram’s serviceberry (Amelanchier bartramiana). Our second venue (Sunday) will be a hike at North-South Lake in Greene County, to follow in the footsteps of the Bartrams as they visited the lakes and Kaaterskill Falls on their 1753 trip. The spring ephemerals including: spring beauties, giant blue cohosh, hepatica, trout lilies, baneberries, Dutchman’s breeches, bloodroot, trilliums, and other ephemerals should be very much in evidence. Joel Fry, Curator of Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia, will be in attendance and giving a talk titled “Flowers on the Frontier”. The lecture will detail the Bartram’s travels in the Catskills and elsewhere and will take place at the Mountain Top Historical Society’s campus in Haines Falls, in the restored Haines Falls Train Station at 7:00PM Saturday evening.


Color postcard of the original 1950s puppet show.

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In the 1950s a tourist attraction known as Rip's Retreat occupied what is now the North-South Lake Campground's beach picnic area near North Lake. One memorable feature of the attraction was a puppet theater with a show retelling Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle. Thanks to postcards in our collection, photographs donated to the Society's archives, interviews with folks who remembered the puppet show, and the hard work of volunteers, the show has been revived and is now a popular feature at MTHS events.
GNH Lumber donated some of the materials and Platte Clove Community built the theater. Chris Cade designed the puppets, Linda Nichols directed the production and the original 12 minute recording used at Rip's Retreat, a children's record featuring Walter Huston as Rip, was used for our production. Each year since our first production, local youngsters recreate the show for the entertainment of attendees of our Open House.