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 20, 2012

Oscar Wilde once stayed in Phoenicia. Figured a few folks would like to know that.

It was the summer of 1883, when Oscar Wilde came here. The celebrated 27-year-old poet and playwright was on his second trip to America, and second trip to the Catskills. The year before, the Dublin-born, London-based, spokesman for the Aesthete Movement had delivered a lecture on the Decorative Arts at the Hotel Katterskill, up on the Pine Orchard, above Haines Falls.


A Catskill Catalog: June 13, 2012

When the dam rose at Downsville, and Delaware River waters backed-up to flood the entire upper East Branch valley (more than 20-miles of prime, productive riverfront land) it seemed that every farm on the river was owned by a family descended from a soldier of the Revolutionary War.
That’s how long those folks had been there. Since the founding of the Republic. No wonder that taking still rankles among displaced survivors of a certain age.


A Catskill Catalog: June 6, 2012

The City of Kingston and the Town of Kingston border one another. Separate Ulster County municipalities, the busy city on the Rondout and the sleepy town that stretches up the Sawkill sit side-by-side.

Orange County’s City of Middletown and Delaware County’s Town of Middletown are 80 miles apart, two hours distant by car. That doesn’t seem to make sense.
The City of Middletown grew from a settlement mid-way between Newburgh on the Hudson and Port Jervis on the Delaware. Officially, the name dates from 1848 when the community was incorporated as a village.


A Catskill Catalog: May 30, 2012

Lately, I’ve been investigating Lehman. Not the Wall Street firm that famously collapsed in 2008, but the family that both created that firm and produced a New York State Governor, Senator, and Chief Judge of the State Court of Appeals. They used to have a house in Fleischmanns.

It should be noted that the Lehman family had no connection to the firm that failed. The Lehman family ceased participation in Lehman Brothers in 1969, with the death of Robert Lehman, the Governor’s cousin, the last Lehman in the firm.


A Catskill Catalog: May 23, 2012

The year 1913 marked the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the turning point of the Civil War, three days of carnage that assured the survival of the constitution and the nation.
Civil War veterans were uniformly old men, and 50 years after their service had saved the United States, they were dying off rapidly. The whole country was eager to honor them and memorialize the 625,000 Americans, north and south, who died in the Civil War.