That surprised even its author, veteran entertainment journalist and writer Stephen Silverman.
Left: Stephen Silverman. Photo via the Catskill Mountain Foundation.
Telling the story of the Catskills required five years of research and 450 pages. It’s the longest book Silverman had ever written.
“This is 150,000 words,” Silverman said. “You’re talking to somebody who is used to writing 200 words for People Magazine.”
By heft alone, it’s a coffee-table book—a big, glossy hardcover brick stuffed with four centuries of Catskills lore.
It's lavishly illustrated and intended for a mainstream audience that is once again rediscovering the region. (As the book shows, the Catskills have been discovered and re-discovered roughly every 50 years since the 17th century.)
There’s the well-known history, like the story of how Jennie Grossinger created a world-famous Jewish resort out of her family’s Sullivan County boardinghouse. There are quick biographical sketches of the lives of must-mention 19th-century celebrities Jay Gould and John Burroughs. And there’s a snappy account of how Washington Irving wrote the legend of Rip Van Winkle.
But the best parts mine a rich vein of more obscure Catskills stories.
Promenading tourists find a gangster stabbed to death and strapped to a slot machine floating in Sullivan County’s Swan Lake in 1937.
Father Divine, the charismatic leader of the integrated Universal Peace Mission Movement, brings thousands of followers Ulster County in the 1930s.
Mark Carr, an enterprising farmer, invents the idea of commercial Christmas tree sales in America.
At Casa Susanna, a 1950s retreat in Jewett, a small colony of cross-dressers learn how to apply makeup and walk properly in a pair of pumps.
“Illegal liquor. Religious cults. Gangsters. Left-wing children being raised on communist work songs," Silverman said. "You had restricted hotels that had signs that read, “No dogs and no Jews,” and then you had Jews. Murders took place. Religious salvation took place. There was the bluestone mining and leather tanning. It was a lively place.”
Halloween is this Saturday, Oct. 31, and the Catskills are celebrating with costume bashes, trick-or-treat events, zombies, witches and more. Here’s our five county guide to the best spooky events of the weekend.
In Andes, the annual Harvest Moon Ball is a Halloween tradition featuring a potluck, costume-contest and kid-friendly dance party that takes over the back room of the Andes Hotel every year. Saturday, Oct. 31 at 7 p.m.
O’Neill’s Shire Pub in Delhi is hosting its Spook-Tacular Halloween Party on Saturday, Oct. 31, from 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. They’ll have DJ Pat hosting a costume contest with prizes for scariest, sexiest, best Couple, and funniest costumes. Read more
Above: Dennis Crowley, a founder of Foursquare, speaks at the Catskills Conf on Saturday, Oct. 24. Photo by Julia Reischel.
Luminaries in the tech world, including the founder of Foursquare and the managing director of Etsy, wore sweatshirts and flannel in the Catskills over the weekend to talk startups and coding while learning about blacksmithing, foraging, square dancing and butchery.
About 100 coders and techies, many from New York City, gathered around campfires and slept in bunkhouses during Catskills Conf, a new three-day conference held at the Ashokan Center in the Ulster County hamlet of Olivebridge on the weekend of Oct. 23 through 25.
The talks were aimed at a global tech community of makers and coders. Some were inspiring: Crowley, the Foursquare founder, talked candidly about failure--and how to survive it--during his talk on Saturday, Oct. 24. Read more
Riding on a motorcycle in a leather jacket through the peak of the Catskills fall colors, Gov. Andrew Cuomo led a procession of bikers around the Ashokan Reservoir to a private luncheon at the Catskill Interpretive Center in the Ulster County hamlet of Mount Tremper on Friday, Oct. 23.
Earlier today, Cuomo announced that he was launching a $5 million I LOVE NY marketing plan for the Catskills region, a 2016 "Catskills Challenge" and a "Ride the Catskills" tourism website.
The new website, which contains motorcycling and biking itineraries for Catskills visitors, is a sub-section of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation's website. Read more
This is it: The peak of fall. Columbus Day Weekend is the biggest weekend of the year in the Catskills, the time when the leaves peak in glorious colors and the fullness of harvest sets in. Come out and paint a pumpkin, crunch a crisp apple and savor the last live outdoor music of 2015. Here’s our guide to what’s up where from Friday, Oct. 9 to Monday, Oct. 12.
It’ll be a farm-fresh feast at Sunday’s Octoberfest Pig Roastat Heather Ridge Farm in Preston Hollow. If you’ve never tasted an Ossabaw Island heritage breed pig, you have no idea what roast pork can taste like; they’ll be roasting a whole one and serving it up with authentic German-style sides like spaetzli and sweet and sour red cabbage. Plus, you can meet a newborn alpaca. Sunday, October 11, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Above: A child's-eye view of the Catskills, taken on Aug. 17, 2013 at Hunter Mountain by Andrea Byrne.
The annual Lark in the Park kicks off this weekend on Saturday, Oct. 3 and runs for a week through Columbus Day on Monday, Oct. 12. This annual celebration originated in 2004 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Catskill Park, and is an opportunity to immerse yourself in all things Catskills.
Above: Flooding on Wittenberg Road in Woodstock around noon on Wednesday, Sept. 30. Photo by Benjamin Fenton.
Over six inches of rain have fallen in the past day in the high peaks region of the Catskills, causing minor flooding in streams in Greene and Ulster counties on Wednesday, Sept. 30.
Schools in the Greene County town of Catskill closed early today, and flooding closed roads in Saugerties and in other locations in Ulster County, including Wittenberg Road in the town of Woodstock near Shultis Farm Road (see above). The Esopus Creek in Mount Marion crested at 21 feet around 1 p.m., a foot below the level where it begins flooding homes, according to measurements from its stream gauge.
Minor flooding occurred in many locations throughout the Greene County town of Hunter, which got the most rainfall--about six inches--today, according to John Farrell, the town of Hunter's highway superintendent.
Above: A map of inches of rain that fell in the Catskills in the past 24 hours, from the National Weather Service. The most rain--more than six inches--fell in Greene County.
"We had a couple very localized flooding incidents due to debris in the streambeds all over the mountaintop," Farrell said. "A lot of the tributaries. We got a lot of rain up there."
Hunter's highway team managed to clear debris fast enough to avoid closing any roads in the town, Farrell said. The flooding peaked in the town around 11 a.m.
Rainfall in other locations around the region was less severe, and other locations in the Catskills that are normally prone to flooding have escaped problems so far. Read more
It took Catskills fiddler Jay Ungar less than an hour to write "Ashokan Farewell," a haunting fiddle tune that has become an iconic folk song covered by legions of fans and memorably used by Ken Burns on the soundtrack of his documentary "The Civil War."
In a story published on Friday, Sept. 25, the Atlantic magazine interviewed Ungar about the origin of the tune, which he wrote in 1982 to commemorate the end of a summer arts camp called Ashokan that he was running with his wife and partner, Molly Mason. (Ungar and Mason still run dance and fiddle camps at the Ashokan Center, in Olivebridge, today.) Read more
The contest is now closed. Look for the print 2016 Catskills Food Guide next year for the winners! - Ed.
It's harvest season, and in the Catskills, the veggies are gorgeous. So are the cows, barns and the farmers themselves. (Just ask Real Simple Magazine, which just ran a photo spread of six women farmers from the region.)