The Historical Society of the Town of Middletown (HSM), established in 2005, finally has a home of its own, thanks to the generosity of the New Kingston Valley Grange (NKVG). The Grange has donated its clubhouse and seven acres on Cemetery Road, Margaretville, to HSM which will use it for programming, special events, exhibits and office space.
Historical Society of Middletown
NKVG Master Marian Schimmel emphasized that the Grange, which has occupied the site since 1994, is not disbanding. Its members will continue to meet at the Margaretville-New Kingston Presbyterian Church. "Although we are a little saddened at leaving our hall, we are happy to be turning it over to the HSM and wish them a long and fruitful occupancy," she commented.
For the past seven years, the Historical Society has held its programs and meetings at various sites around town, and has kept its files in Board members' homes. The move to a central location will provide the Society with an identity, and room to consolidate and grow. "This property has so much potential and we are very excited about making it a center for the community to come together to have fun and celebrate local history," remarked HSM President Diane Galusha. The one-story clubhouse has a spacious rustic interior with a local stone fireplace and a commercial kitchen. The property features a pond, expansive lawns, a small garage and a barbecue pit. Attorney Gary Rosa supplied pro bono legal services in its transfer from the Grange to HSM.
A committee has been formed to discuss how to use, develop, promote and support the facility, and to explore options for long-term housing of the Society's collection of historical materials, which is currently lodged in the Middletown Town Hall. The committee includes Gary Atkin, Sandra Bowen-Greene, Brian Ketcham, Eleanor and Chuck Mager, Steve Miller, Craig Ramsay and Ed Stewart. "The community has been very supportive of everything we have done over the past seven years," Galusha continued. "We are grateful for this generous gift by the Grange, and hope that it will inspire continued support from members, friends, neighbors and history lovers as we establish a physical center for our activities."
The Cemetery Road property was once farmland that was purchased in the 1940s by Julius and Frieda Meinstein and deeded in 1950 to Stephen Meinstein. In the mid-1960s it was sold to the Catskill Mountain Chapter of the Izaak Walton League.
The IWL, a conservation and sportsmens group which was established in Margaretville in 1927, had built a clubhouse on NYS Route 30 in 1938. (The windows had once graced Bussys Store in the village, and the hardwood flooring was taken from the former school on Church Street that was vacated in 1937 for the current Margaretville Central School.)
The widening of Route 30 in the 1960s prompted IWL to move its headquarters to the Meinstein farm site just up the hill, where the avid fishermen soon added a pond. A memorial stone to its founding president, F. Lee Keator, remains nearby.
When the chapter disbanded in the mid-1990s, it gave the building and surrounding acreage to the New Kingston Valley Grange, which had been established in 1968. The Grange made significant improvements inside and out.
For many years NKVG met monthly for pot luck meals, game nights, songfests and speakers. It held fund raising activities to benefit the Margaretville Memorial Hospital Auxiliary and needy local families, and to provide an annual scholarship to a graduating Margaretville Central School student. A group of Grangers has also made countless lap robes for nursing home residents, and stuffed toys for hospitalized children.
Both IWL and NKVG rented out the building and grounds for special affairs, and many area people remember it as the site of family parties, wedding receptions, alumni gatherings and other functions.
We hope to continue the tradition of welcoming the community to this special place, said HSMs Galusha. An open house, with a barbecue and a slide show of images of historic Margaretville, is planned for May 19.
For details on upcoming programs, and more information on the Historical Society of the Town of Middletown, visit www.mtownhistory.org.