Middletown residents and visitors have long had a love-hate relationship with the Catskills environment: While beautiful and generous in its abundance, its stony ground, weather extremes and flood-prone waterways can be unforgiving.
In “The Great Outdoors,” an exhibit mounted by the Historical Society of the Town of Middletown (HSM), drudgery, damage and disappointment are banished, while the playful, joyful connection between humans and nature, then as now, is on exuberant display.
The exhibit can be seen this Saturday, May 19 when HSM unveils its new headquarters at 778 Cemetery Road, Margaretville. The Open House will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. There will be light refreshments, door prizes, and the opportunity to stroll around the beautiful pond and grounds which were donated to HSM by the property’s most recent owners, the New Kingston Valley Grange.
The meeting hall was built in 1938 by the Catskill Mountain Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, a group of outdoorsmen who worked to conserve and protect water, land, fish and wildlife.
“We thought that, in honor of the Izaak Walton League, which was so active here from the 1930s through the ‘60s, that it would be appropriate for our first exhibit in our new space to focus on nature and how people in Middletown have enjoyed it,” explained HSM President Diane Galusha.
Historic and contemporary photographs and some fascinating artifacts highlight the many recreational activities that have long been pursued in this area blessed by mountain, stream and the Catskill Forest Preserve: fishing, hunting, camping, skiing and hiking of course, but also swimming, boating, biking, birding, skating and snowshoeing.
Guests at the many hotels and boarding houses in the area enjoyed lawn games and walks in the country, and even willingly participated in farm chores. Artists, including those at the Pakatakan Arts Colony in Arkville, have always been inspired to sketch and paint in the open air. Parks, playgrounds and ballfields have been the centers of their communities.
“The Great Outdoors” will feature an amazing pair of 7-foot-long wooden skis from the 1920s, a rope tow gripper and other memorabilia from the family-run Highmount Ski Center which closed in 1992. Antique fly rods and reels, photos spanning the 30-year history of the Fleischmanns Tennis Tournament, and many other items still being gathered will be on display.
Visitors at the Open House will be invited to record their favorite stories of Middletown’s Great Outdoors.
A beautiful painting of a Millbrook barn, done by the late Michael Fauerbach and donated for raffle by Ellen Fauerbach, will be displayed.
The Open House will also offer a chance to speak with HSM board members about ideas for future programs and exhibits, and to volunteer to help with events, research and preservation efforts.
HSM Board members include Diane Galusha, Carolyn Konheim, Marilyn Pitetti, Lucci Kelly, George Hendricks, Phil O’Beirne and Roger Davis.