New Kingston photographs of Irene Fay Oct. 1

The Historical Society of the Town of Middletown will revisit a unique time in New Kingston Valley history, one documented by photographer Irene Fay, in an illustrated talk Saturday, Oct. 1 at 3 p.m. at the New Kingston Presbyterian Church.

“World of my own: The New Kingston photographs of Irene Fay” focuses on the residents and landscapes of this Middletown hamlet where the artist lived from the 1960s through the 1980s. It was a period in which long-time locals were welcoming urban newcomers who were purchasing homes and farms as summer and weekend retreats. A number of those newcomers were, like Irene Fay and her husband Stefan, European Jews who had fled the Holocaust and World War II and who found a measure of peace in the bucolic Catskills.

Irene Fay was born in Russia, raised in Germany and escaped from Poland. She trained with eminent photographers in Switzerland and emigrated to New York City in 1948. After becoming a US citizen in 1954, Irene worked as a freelance photographer. From 1937 to 1984, she created an estimated 3,000 privately commissioned studio portraits.

In 1962, Irene and Stefan purchased a Thompson Hollow farmhouse in New Kingston where she found inspiration and many willing subjects for her camera. Irene once said, “Perhaps it is my dream to possess a perfectly arranged miniature world of my own, always at my command.”

A large collection of her New Kingston images is preserved at Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, which has provided HSM with 50 photographs to be shown at the October 1 presentation. Irene’s history and the stories of some of those she photographed, will inform the slide show.

The public is most welcome to this event. Admission is by donation.




Cauliflower Festival is Sept. 24

The 18th Cauliflower Festival will be held Saturday, Sept. 24 from 11 to 4 in Margaretville’s Village Park, sponsored by the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce.

Pure Catskills, the Catskill Forest Association and the Historical Society of Middletown will be key components of the family-friendly festival which also features many community organizations, vendors and artisans. 

Food – from barbecue and cauliflower specialties, to take-home produce – will top the festival ‘menu’.

Performing from noon to 3 will be a favorite from past festivals, blues guitarist and vocalist Mike Hermann.

In the CFA Tent of Knowledge, Dr. Michael Kudish, noted Catskills’ forest historian, will speak at 12:30 on “Sawmills, piano bars, log roads, sugar maple distribution, and first growth forest.” At 1:30, the NYS DEC’s Bryan Ellis will discuss “Forest carbon and the impacts of climate change on NY forests,” followed at 2:30 by Lindsay Baxter of Cornell University on “Lyme and other tick-borne diseases of the Northeast.”

Agricultural and community history exhibits can be found in the HSM History Tent. This year’s featured display will focus on farm-based boarding houses. At 1:30 p.m., folklorist Ginny Scheer will lead a conversation on that topic with several individuals whose families either operated or visited these once ubiquitous tourist havens. HSM will also share photos and artifacts from the cauliflower growing industry which flourished in the Catskills from the 1890s through the 1950s.

The Catskills Conquest Endurance Run for vintage automobiles will again make the Cauliflower Festival one of the stops on their route from Mt. Tremper along the Catskill Mountains Scenic Byway. The run commemorates a 1903 test of endurance among early car makers and drivers who traversed the Catskills along what is now NYS Route 28. Cars are due to arrive around 11 a.m.




Activities for children will be provided. Master Terry Bergmann, owner and fifth degree blackbelt of award-winning Pak’s Karate of Margaretville, and her students will demonstrate martial arts techniques and forms during the day.

Catskill Mountain Quilters will demonstrate the time-honored craft of hand quilting. Bloom fabric store and quilt retreat on Main Street will stage a complementary display of quilts in an invitational exhibit at Binnekill Park a short walk from the festival grounds. More shops and eateries can also be found along Main Street.


An informational van from Health Alliance/Westchester Medical Center will bring Margaretville Hospital representatives to speak with residents and visitors about services offered at the local hospital.

The Delaware County Soil & Water Conservation District will have its stream table set up to demonstrate flooding as well as stream management and mitigation scenarios.

Other area organizations scheduled to be at the festival are John Burroughs’ Woodchuck Lodge, the Catskill Watershed Corp., the Catskill Water Discovery Center, Open Eye Theater, Margaretville Rotary Club, Catskill Mountain Recreation Center, Kaatscast, Middletown Democrats and Republicans, Catskill Mountain Christian Center, Literacy Volunteers of Otsego and Delaware and Fleischmanns First.

Purchase maple syrup, spirits, farm made cheeses, honey, wine, apple products, aromatherapy products and more from Pure Catskills producers. The Catskill Community Support Association will offer packaged ice cream treats to benefit Arkville Head Start.

John Todd will bring his barbecue prowess to the festival, the popular LaRuta del Sol will supply Puerto Rican specialties, and Bella Chow will offer cauliflower with a twist (tacos, ‘wings’ and more!) under the pavilion. Of course there will be fresh cauliflower to purchase.

Businesses ranging from banks to book purveyors will set up shop, as will craftspeople making jewelry, wood furnishings and clothing. From green energy purveyors to craft distillers, rock and mineral sellers to soap makers, regional podcasts to online publications, there will be lots to learn about and to explore.

Support for the festival is provided by the Watershed Agricultural Council’s Pure Catskills program funded by the NYC DEP, US Forest Service and others; the Delaware County Tourism grant program offered by the county’s Economic Development Office; and by Westchester Medical Center Health Alliance.

Walk the historic Double Horseshoe Curve

The Historical Society of the Town of Middletown will hold another of its popular History Hikes Sunday, Oct. 2 when historians John Duda and Diane Galusha will lead a walk on the former Ulster & Delaware (U&D) Railroad tracks from Highmount to Pine Hill.

Reservations are $10 per person and are required as attendance is limited. Call 845-586-4973 to save your spot. This is not a developed rail trail and the terrain is uneven and wet in places. Appropriate footwear is a must. Heavy rain cancels.

The 3.3 mile round trip walk begins at 1 p.m. in the parking lot opposite the Highmount Post Office just off Route 28. It will traverse the famous Double Horseshow Curve and will visit the ruins of the Crystal Spring Water Company’s massive rail-side loading dock.

Participants will hear about Highmount’s heyday in the era of the elegant Grand Hotel and the estates of wealthy notables. They’ll learn how pure spring water was bottled and shipped to New York City long before the city built its own reservoirs to supply the masses. And they’ll see first-hand how surveyors, engineers and laborers designed and built the U&D up and over Pine Hill, elevation 2,000 feet. 

That climb was a special feature of the U&D, eagerly anticipated by passengers on the ride over the divide between Ulster and Delaware Counties. A 1904 railroad booklet included this description: 

“The hissing locomotives plunge boldly into the final climb. The air-line distance to the summit (from Pine Hill Station) is not over half-a-mile but there are 226 feet to climb and the track curves sharply around the arcs of a double horseshoe for three times that distance. You see the engines laboring heavily as they almost double up on the train, and the front end of the coach is visibly higher than the rear.”

Photographs of trains navigating this section, as well as images of both the Grand Hotel and Pine Hill Stations, the Crystal Spring Water Company and of some of the hotels and estates in Highmount will be shared on the hike, which is estimated to take three hours.




Family Day at Old Stone School

Family Fun Day at the Old Stone Schoolhouse in Dunraven, two miles west of Margaretville, will be held Saturday, Aug. 20 from 10 to 3. In case of heavy rain, the free event will be held Sunday.

While there is no admission fee, donations towards the upkeep of this historic site – former District #10 — are most welcome. Family Fun Day is sponsored by the Old Stone School Association and the Historical Society of the Town of Middletown (HSM).

There will be lessons with costumed teachers through the day. The 20-minute lessons, conducted in the two-century-old one-room school where grades 1 through 8 were taught the three Rs for 140 years, will include arithmetic, reading and writing.

Youngsters will use slates to practice ciphering and will stitch their own copy book to demonstrate penmanship and spelling. They may even be asked to read a poem aloud. Fun classroom games like “Button, button, who’s got the button?” will engage the students.

“Recess” will include old fashioned outdoor games like hoop rolling, catch, tag and three-legged races. Quieter activities, like butter making, cat’s cradle, checkers, marbles and dominoes will be offered beneath a tent.  Nature walks in the immediate vicinity of the school may prompt artistic activities as well.

Traditional music will be performed by Eli and Lillian Taylor.

Visitors are invited to bring a lunch and picnic on the grounds. They can ring the school bell, see what it was like to carry pails of water from the pump, and imagine going to the outhouse when nature called (it still works!).

The 1820 structure located adjacent to the former Delaware & Northern Railroad tracks, will be open all day. Exhibits will highlight its colorful history as well as the stories of some of Middletown’s other one-room schools. The Stone Schoolhouse is on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

Coloring books will be offered for sale, and raffle tickets for a basket of Catskills products will be available to purchase, proceeds benefitting the Historical Society.




The Catskills in a Basket!

This treasure trove of items made in or about the Catskills is the HSM raffle item this year.

“A Tisket, a Tasket: The Catskills in a Basket” was assembled by fundraising volunteers Jackie Purdy, Anne Sanford and Marilyn Pitetti.

The large wicker laundry basket contains more than $400 worth of locally made or sourced food products, books, home goods and more. These items will provide endless enjoyment as well as gift items for your favorite people.

You can buy tickets at our upcoming events (check our calendar), and at select community events. For information or to make other arrangements to get tickets, contact us at

The drawing will be held at the Annual Meeting October 22.

Items in the basket

Cole Hill Honey (2 jars) and beeswax candles

Union Grove Maple Spirit (750 ml)

Happy Giraffe ‘Mountains are Calling’ mugs (2)

Hubbell Farm Maple Syrup (quart)

Outsiders pretzel snacks (3 packages)

Blue Sky Farm blueberry wine

Shaver Hill Farm maple walnut topping

Gift Certificates

               Home-made pie by Barbara Moses

               $100 Locust Grove Soaps

               $10, Café Marguerite

               $15 Happy Giraffe

Cauliflower Festival canvas bag

North American Songbirds puzzle

Hand-made pottery pitcher by Ros Welchman

Tea Thyme Herb and Fruit Farm Farmers Market Minestrone Soup Mix

Halcottsville and New Kingston Cemetery Tour DVDs

Bebert’s Morrocan Condiments spice mix


               When Cauliflower was King

               Cauliflower Cookbook

               Catskill Crafts

               Murder in the Catskills

               U&DRR 1902 Catskills guide



Sincere thanks to the donors:
Pat and Randy Moore

Yaekels Liquor Store

Doris Warner

Anne Sanford

Marilyn Pitetti

Jackie Purdy

Barbara Moses

Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce

Ros Welchman

Locust Grove Soap Co.

Theater photos, memorabilia sought

The Galli-Curci Theater in downtown Margaretville turns 100 this year and organizers of an anniversary celebration are turning to the public for help in locating photographs and memorabilia.

Photographs of the theater, especially its interior; early playbills, invitations, ticket stubs or anything else relating to the theater are requested so that they might be scanned or photographed to add to a display planned for an open house August 27-28.  If you have something to share, please contact  or call 845-586-4689 and someone will get back to you.

The theater, built in 1922 by publisher and entrepreneur Clarke Sanford, was named for opera star Amelita Galli-Curci who sang at its opening August 25 that year. For more than half a century the brick theater on Main Street was the entertainment center of the community, hosting first silent movies then ‘talkies,’ vaudeville shows, home talent plays, traveling musical troupes, high school graduations, celebrations and observances.


The current owners of the theater – Mike Cioffi and Jonathan Glazer – have planned a centennial celebration for August 27 and 28. In addition to a reception and Saturday night concert by vocalist Gina Hanzlik, the theater will be open both days so that visitors can view an exhibit on the history of the building, Clarke Sanford and Amelita Galli-Curci. 1920s era silent movies will be screened (free popcorn!), and people may add their comments or recollections of movies or events there to a giant memory wall.