Welcome to the MTHS website
The Mountain Top Historical Society is dedicated to discovering and preserving the unique and rich history of the Catskill High Peaks. The Society is a not-for-profit organization and maintains a Visitor and Art Trail Center and the Ulster and Delaware train depot (shown above) on our campus in Haines Falls. We are located on scenic Route 23A at the gateway to the Mountain Top and are easily accessible from Exit 20 or 21 of the New York State Thruway.
The Town of Hunter, home to MTHS, has been designated a Preserve America Community.
As the COVID-19 Crisis continues to affect all of us we hope you are all doing well. The updates and warnings have been changing from day to day here is an update:
- The Mountain Top Historical Society's Visitors' Center remains closed.
- Kaaterskill Falls and the trails leading to it have been closed by NY DEC. The Kaaterskill Rail Trail (KRT) is also closed in response since it is effectively a dead end.
- All MTHS events and programs have had to be canceled for this year.
- The parking areas at MTHS that are closed are so marked. Please honor the closures.
Read the current issue of our newsletter, The Hemlock.
We regret that this seasons events have had to be canceled.
MTHS News and links:
- The Hotel Kaaterskill 1883 Fire Safety Survey and floor plan is the spark for a Spring2020 program and a hike.
- Kaaterskill Rail Trail
- Clove Road by Justine Hommel -A 2006 article by Justine Hommel.
- The Dodd House - Also by Justine an article from the archives of the Hemlock
- Around Hunter --A great Gift for a friend or yourself-- is available at the Visitor's Center Click on the link or the book cover for more information.
- Larry Tompkins -- Out Windham Way a wonderful book from our former MTHS president.
From our Archives -
Follow the "From Our Archives" link in the "Preserve" menu on the right to see information about some of the items in our Justine Hommel Archive Room.
Included are posts on:
one of several letters from Civil War soldier William Young. Donated by Odile Dwyer.
A collection of glass plate negatives. The gift of Shirley and Gerald Dunn See details here.
2020 Hike & Event Schedule
We regret that this seasons events have had to be canceled.
April 26 Canceled Tea and Talk, “Temperance and Prohibition in the Catskills” with Sylvia Hasenkopf, a Hudson Valley Historian and research specialist, Diane Galusha, President of the Historical Society of the Town of Middletown, and Johanna Titus, Mountain Top Historical Society Board Member. This three-part presentation includes “Temperance at Twilight” – the story of two of the most prominent women in the Temperance Movement, “Leggs Diamond, Robin Hood of the Catskills” – follows Mr. Diamond in the Capital Region, and “Cat-Stills” - Prohibition vignettes and elder stories of the greater Catskills. Then enjoy Stefania Jozic’s wonderful tea buffet. Door Prizes. $ 25 per person. RSVP by Thurs. 4/23 by calling (518) 589-6657 leave a message with name, phone number & how many in your party, or leave same info by email at www.mths.org contacts page. This program will be held at the Washington Irving Inn, Route 23A, Tannersville. Seating limited.
May 2 Canceled (Sat.) 2:00 p.m. Talk – “Hotel Kaaterskill – A Vivid Look Back” – A joint presentation of the Greene County Historical Society and the Mountain Top Historical Society, by Jonathan Palmer, GCHS and Bob Gildersleeve, MTHS.
May 3 Canceled - Since this hike was meant to complement the May 2nd talk we will wait until the talk can be rescheduled. Hike – Hotel Kaaterskill grounds. We will walk along the historic roads developed in the 1880’s for the Hotel Kaaterskill to the grounds of the Hotel and trace out the location of the Hotel, its Annex, stables, and other buildings. Thanks to the stewardship of New York State much of the foundation of these structures remain to allow us to visualize this famous hotel. Meet at the Mountain Top Historical Society, Route 23A, Haines Falls. This is a moderate hike of about 4 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 400 ft. Planned return at 3:00 pm. Bring lunch and water. Sturdy shoes and long pants are recommended.
May 15 (Fri.) 7:00 p.m. Talk – N.Y. Celebrity, award winning Radio Broadcaster and Author, Chuck D’Imperio, will discuss his latest book Open House: 35 Historic Homes in Upstate NY. Chuck has written numerous books and articles about all things N.Y. Whether it’s the food or the homes, the people or their graves, Chuck never fails to inform, amuse and delight. Refreshments.
$ 5 donation suggested.
May 16 (Sat.) 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. (also June 13, 27) First session postponed until June 13 Program – Catskill Nature and Landscape Photography. Join local photographers Francis Driscoll and Elaine Warfield for some landscape, nature, wildlife, and architecture photography in our beautiful Catskill Mountains. Relatively easy walking distances. Any skill level, phones and cameras welcome. 3 dates are planned but you decide how many sessions you’ll attend. We’re planning some beautiful, out of the way spots, plus creeks, waterfalls, vistas, and maybe even some wildlife. Meet each date at the MTHS Train Station. If you choose to print any of your images, we’ll display them at a special showing during the MTHS Open House on August 22, 2020. Please use the registration instructions below, and indicate that you are interested in the Photography workshop and which date or dates. Bring lunch and drinks. Sunrise / Sunset option available depending on interest. For questions call Elaine: (518) 965-8601, or Francis: (518) 821-1339 $ 10 donation suggested.
May 17 (Sun.) 1:00 p.m. Hike – Mountain Top Arboretum. See Spring Unfolding in the Mountains. Explore the hiking trails at the Mountain Top Arboretum and the Deer Mountain Inn with Nancy Allen. Listen for the sound of peepers and observe the blossoming of spring ephemerals. Round trip about 4 miles. Easy trails with some steeper inclines. Meet Nancy at the Arboretum parking area at 1 p.m. come prepared for muddy conditions (boots that keep the feet dry) and with bug spray. Bring water and snacks. Well-behaved dogs on leash welcome. The exact route will be determined by the conditions on the day of the hike. Hard rain cancels. Registration instructions below.
June 5 (Fri.) 7:00 p.m. Talk – “Forestry in the 21st Century” Ryan Trapani, director of Catskill Forest Assoc. will discuss forest land-use history in the Catskill Mountains as well as its present condition and how it’s being managed. He will also discuss how to improve “forest quality” and make things more “fruitful” for both humans and wildlife. Ryan is an author of many articles in local publications, and host of “From the Forest” radio show on WIOX 91.3 FM. He was formally associated with the NY DEC, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Frost Valley YMCA, Ryan is a Veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. Program at MTHS Train Station. Refreshments. $ 5 donation suggested.
June 6 (Sat.) 10 a.m. Hike – National Trails Day on the Kaaterskill Rail Trail led by Michelle Yost and Pete Sentermen. Pete will discuss the history of the railroads at the Mountain Top, and Michelle will transition into the modern day trail and its future. The KRT was first a footpath connecting the Catskill Mountain House and other hotels to Haines Falls. By the 1880’s the old footpath had made way for a rail corridor which, at its peak, saw two competing passenger rail lines following parallel tracks toward the Catskill escarpment. Thousands of vacationers arrived each summer via the newly- constructed rail lines to see the picturesque scenery and stay at the many boarding houses, hotels, and resorts such as the Laurel House. Hike will extend to the viewing platform over Kaaterskill Falls. Easy, 3 ½ miles, wear sturdy shoes and bring water. Meet at U&D Train Station at 10 am. Registration instructions below.
June 13 (Sat.) 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. – Catskill Nature and Landscape Photography, session 2 (see May 16th above for description)
June 19 (Fri.) 7:00 p.m. Talk – “The Devil Received One Vote”. Join Jonathan Palmer, Archivist from the Vedder Research Library of the Greene County Historical Society, as he presents his talk on the history of local media in the Jacksonian Period. Focusing on the history of the two major newspapers printed at the county seat in Catskill, this talk offers a window into the hyper-politicized and partisan culture that defined all strata of the government during the second half of the Antebellum Period. The lecture will serve to help local history buffs and the general public alike contextualize our community and the role it played during this extremely important era in American History, Program at the U & D Train Station, MTHS Campus. Refreshments. $ 5 donation suggested.
June 27 (Sat.) 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. – Catskill Nature and Landscape Photography, session 3 (see May 16th above for description)
July 11 (Sat.) 10:00 a.m. MTHS will hold its Annual Meeting at the Train Station. All are welcome.
July 18 (Sat.) 10:00 a.m. Hike- In the Footsteps of Sanford Robinson Gifford. Join geologist Robert Titus for a journey back into the Ice Age, whose landscapes were the subjects of the artists of the Hudson River School. This hike will locate spots along the Blue Trail where Sanford Robinson Gifford sketched and we’ll examine evidence of glacial activity at each location. Moderate, four miles. Bring water and lunch. Return by 3 p.m. Meet at Laurel House Road parking lot. Registration instructions below. Dogs welcome if owners comply with Park rules.
July 25 (Sat.) 7:00 p.m. Talk / Performance - The Justine Hommel Memorial Lecture, with Joseph Capobianco as Charles L. Beach, Proprietor of the Catskill Mountain House Hotel with Mrs. Diane Capobianco as Mrs. Mary Beach. A lifelong resident of Catskill and a lover of local history will transport you, excite, and inspire you to go back and imagine the glory days of the Catskill Mountain House. Program presented at the Twilight Park Clubhouse, Haines Falls. Refreshments. $ 5 donation suggested.
August 2 (Sun.) 2:00 p.m. Talk – Gary Lelonek, M.D. will discuss his book, The Jewish History of Tannersville, New York, A Village in the Catskills. Dr. Lelonek grew up in Fair Lawn, N.J., spending his summers in Tannersville even until 2018, lately accompanied by his wife and three children. He is a practicing psychiatrist with affiliations in the Bronx and on Long island. Kosher refreshments follow. $ 5 donation suggested.
August 22 (Sat.) 10:00 a.m. Annual Open House – The MTHS campus will be busy with things to do for all ages. The Visitors’ Center will be open for browsing maps, books, brochures, or checking out the Archives. Learn something new about local history. Come on over to the Mountain Top Historical Society’s campus on Route 23A in Haines Falls and join in the fun. Check our website as more details become available.
August 29th (Sat.) 10:00 a.m. Hike - Ceremonial Stone Landscapes (CSL). Join NYS DEC outdoor guide Glenn Kreisberg from Overlook Mountain Center in Woodstock, NY, for a hike to visit a Manitou Hassennech (spirit stones) site in Spruceton Valley. These landscapes consist of dry stacked stone cairns, stone rows, effigies and alignments, all possible expressions of an ancient, sophisticated Native American belief system linking the world above with the world below. Moderate, two miles, wear proper footwear and clothing for a late summer hike and appropriate for the weather. Consider sunscreen and bug repellant. Bring lunch or a snack and water. Meet at MTHS Visitor Center. Car Pool to trail head. Call (845) 417- 8384 for more info.
Sept. 19 (Sat.) 10:00 a.m. – 12 noon. Talk and Walk – The Mountain Top Arboretum and the Mountain Top Historical Society present a two-day event with Dr. Michael Kudish, expert in forest history. Dr. Kudish will discuss “Burn Index: A New Way of Looking at the Catskill Land Use History”. The program will begin with a lecture at the Arboretum’s Education Center, followed by a walk into Spruce Glen as an example of non-burn forest composition. One mile, easy. See below for continuation of program. Suggested Donation $5 for MTA and MTHS members, $ 15 for non-members.
Sept. 20 (Sun.) 9:00 a.m. Hike – Dr. Michael Kudish will lead a hike on the escarpment trail at North/South Lake to a Pitch Pine stand as an example of burned forest composition. Meet at Mountain Top Historical Society’s parking area. ~ 1 mile, moderate – some elevation change. Bring water and snack. No Dogs.
Sept. 26 (Sat.) 10:00 a.m. - 3 p.m. 9th Annual Postcard Show & Talk – at the U&D Train Station. MTHS campus. Food will be available. The MTHS will also be selling ephemera from its attic in a special sale. A $3 entry fee will be charged at the door.
Oct. 10 (Sat.) 9 a.m. – 7th Annual Hikefest – Join us for a fun day, as part of the larger Catskills “Lark in the Park”. Hikes/Walks in the morning to several destinations followed by lunch and entertainment. Stay tuned to our website and Facebook page for more information. $ 8 per person for lunch.
MTHS does not require membership for hike participation however, we encourage you to join as a member or make a donation to the MTHS to support our programs. We do request that you register for each hike or program as indicated.
Instructions for registration - Participants can register on the contacts page of our website www.mths.org or by calling (518) 589-6657. Please leave your name, phone number, # in your party, and day of hike or program. Schedule subject to change. The latest information is available on our web site http://www.mths.org. Notification of changes, including cancellations due to weather will be made on the web site up to the day of any given hike.
Do You Think That's Thunder?
The Society’s Puppet theater has hosted the story of Rip Van Winkle since it was built for us by the Platte Clove Community in 2007. Modeled after the Punch and Judy style theater used at Rip’s Retreat in the 1950’s it has been standing outside our train station summer and winter for twelve years and was showing serious signs of wear and decay. By this summer it had become unusable.
That has changed. Board member Dick Haines, took the initiative to oversee it’s restoration. Board Member George Haines replaced all of the decaying wood with weather resistant materials and Dick called on the Platte Clove Community to repaint it.
According to Dick:
Our puppet theater hasn't looked this good since the day it was put there. Our thanks to Reseph, his daughter and his sister, Leon and two of his children. They did a great job. My thanks to Joann who stopped by to give them a well deserved pat on the back.
Now, thanks to all involved we can expect to see and hear the Rip Van Winkle story each summer for many more summers at our summer events.
Do you think that’s thunder?
2020 Hikes and Events Are in the works.
We hope to explore:
- Prohibition in the Catskills
- The Catskill Forest - with two different talks by well known experts
- Walk in the footsteps of Sanford Robinson Gifford to find where he set his easel.
- Tannersville's Jewish History
- Other events - Catskill Ramble, Lark in the Park, Hikefest and other hikes and walks.
In the meantime the 2019 schedule below will give you an idea of our activities.
2019 Hikes and Events
April 14th (Sun) :Hike Mountain Top Arboretum. Spring has sprung! Meet MTHS hike leader, Nancy Allen, at the Mountain Top Arboretum at 1:00 p.m. for a spring walk through the flora waking up to a new season. The easy walk will be around trip of about 3 ½ miles going from the Arboretum to the trails on the Hathaway property and back via the marsh. The exact route will be determined by the conditions on the day of the hike. Choose footwear that will keep your feet dry.
5/12/2019 Update: Fourteen enthusiastic hikers spent the morning and early afternoon of a picture-perfect day sharing, discovering and interpreting new details about the structure and operation of the Hotel Kaaterskill. It couldn't have been done without the NYS Dept. of Conservation's stewardship of the land, the Free Library of Philadelphia's preservation and sharing of the 1883 survey of the property, and George M. Harding's gift of his collection of unique photos of the hotel. Thanks to all.
June 8 (Sat) South Mountain by the historic Direct Path. To honor the gift of an original Catskill Mountain House hiking stick donated by Kathy (Van Schaack) Boyer and Peggy (Van Schaack) Phillips, we will take a popular 19th Century path from the Mountain House site on Pine Orchard to sites on South Mountain. This now unusual route will pass through the first ledge on South Mountain (sometimes called the Lemon Squeezer) take a short detour to Druid Rocks, pass through Puddingstone Hall, and reach the state trail at Bootjack Rock. Once on the modern trail, we will see the lookout called the Sphinx, walk on to "Bowlder" Rock and offer optional excursion through Fat Man’s Delight to the Natural Bridge.
The pristine CMH walking stick joins our other walking stick from the Hotel Kaaterskill which was donated to MTHS by the Mohonk Barn Museum. The new gift is in too fine a condition to risk carrying it through the whole walk, but we will bring it to Pine Orchard for an official presentation. The hike is considered Easy to Moderate with a short bushwhack. We will provide an easier alternative route along the state trail to Bowlder Rock but missing the sites before we reach the modern trail. Meet at 9:00 am at the MTHS campus wear appropriate shoes for hiking bring lunch and water. Return mid afternoon.
Some additional notes on this hike:
We're calling this hike easy to moderate but, because the first part is on an unmarked path through rarely trodden woods, it will involve a few short but steep hills and a few waist-high ledges that may require a hand up for inexperienced hikers. We may get a bit dirty and I recommend wearing sturdy clothing including long pants as well as appropriate shoes. We will take the trail at a comfortable pace for all hikers and will stop to see sites that have been enjoyed by vacationing hikers for more than 195 years. This will be fun and I encourage most hikers not to miss an opportunity to see how 19th century vacationers explored the grounds of the Catskill Mountain House.
July 7,(Sunday) 2019 at 4 PM – 8 PM Join us for an evening soiree with Kim Hawkey and Band to celebrate the rich history of the Catskills. The event will take place at the historic Haines Falls Train Depot. Look forward to refreshments and hors d'oeuvres in the train station and a performance by Kim Hawkey with music from and inspired by the Catskills.
Proceeds from the "Song of the Catskills will benefit the Mountain Top Historic Society and go towards the maintenance and repair of the train station.
Kim Hawkey is an accomplished musician whose music harkens back to times past and is the perfect artist to help celebrate and support the work of the Mountain Top Historic Society.
July 13 (Sat) 10:00 a.m. MTHS will hold its Annual Meeting at the Train Station. Members of the MTHS are invited to attend.
Note: We will not be descending into Platte Clove. Most of the hike is along the trail toward Overlook Mountain and visiting the quarry at Codfish Point with a possible bushwhack to a quarry on Plattekill Mountain.
July 26 (Fri) 7:00 p.m. The Justine L. Hommel Memorial Lecture – Talk about Hudson River School Artist Sanford Robinson Gifford by Peter Jung at Twilight Park Clubhouse. For the past 27 years Peter Jung has owned a gallery at #512 Warren St. in Hudson, NY featuring traditional American paintings. During that time he has handled many examples of the Hudson River school of art (1825- 1875), a style of painting that is an important part of our national heritage. Jung has served on the Board of Directors at the Olana Partnership, the Hudson Opera House, the Hudson Planning Commission, and the Friends of Hudson. In recent years he has restored the family gravesite of the great artist Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880), who is at rest in the Hudson City Cemetery. The slideshow features 70 images, and will be followed by a question-and-answer conversation.
- Hike # 1: Rip Van Winkle Hike – Join geologist Bob Titus in a moderate, 2 mile hike to Sunset Rock above North Lake. Along the way he will point out Devonian stratigraphy and Ice Age history while telling the tale of Rip Van Winkle, stopping at sites that closely match those described by Washington Irving. Meet at KRT Parking Lot at 9 am to car pool to North Lake
- Hike # 2: Historic Survey of North-South Lake – The area of North-South Lake has been home to various business, railroad, and recreational sites. Pete Senterman and Paul LaPierre will lead this easy 2 mile journey with possible side trip to the Catskill Mountain House Site. Meet at KRT Parking Lot at 9 am to car pool to North Lake.
- Hiike # 3: Elka Park Colosseum: Join Nancy Allen on this easy to moderate 3 ½ mile hike through the historic community of Elka Park along a dirt road to the Park’s Colosseum (reservoir). Meet at the KRT Parking Lot at 9 am to car pool to Elka Park.
- Hike # 4: Sphinx Rock and the Sofa on Prospect Mountain – Bob Gildersleeve will lead this approximately 2.5 mile easy to moderate hike starting from MTHS’ s U&D train station partially following along the Kaaterskill Rail Trail and using old woods roads and a short bushwhack to the ledge above Molly Smith’s parking area. Here we will look down on the location of Sphinx Rock. Nearby is a natural bench once called the sofa, and a unique view taking in Kaaterskill Clove, Kaaterskill Falls, and across the clove, Kaaterskill High Peak and Round Top. A natural ramp can take us to the ledge on which the Sphinx rests for a close-up view. If hikers wish, we may also have time to visit the platform at Kaaterskill Falls and be back for the BBQ at 1:00. Meet at the MTHS’s U&D Train Station at 9 am.
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