A Thanksgiving Walk for Woodstock’s History

The original Deanies…the trolley that Deanie Elwyn purchased for $700 in 1934, eventually buried between Wok n’ Roll and Not Fade Away, formerly Joyous Lake.

A town with the panache, background and popularity of Woodstock owes itself a good archival space to store and study documents related to its history. The Historical Society of Woodstock, founded in 1929, has a remarkable collection that burgeons as old family photographs, letters, and other items pour in. Archival materials were to be moved recently from the former firehouse (undergoing renovation) to the rustic Eames House Museum on Comeau Drive, but they don’t fit into the second floor storage space, and anything kept there is subject to potential damage by insects, animals and fire.

A grant has been secured from the New York State Council on the Arts to start planning a climate controlled, fire-proof archival space. One idea, HSW President Deborah Heppner said, is to make the addition look like a barn attached to the original Museum. The project is in the conceptual stage. Preparations are being made to hire an architect to create a preliminary rendition and a formal fundraising plan. (Any building is subject to environmental review and must meet the standards of the Comeau Land Conservancy Easement.)


Meanwhile, inquiries about Woodstock history from researchers around the world, according Heppner, highlight a need for improvement in archival facilities. “We’ve responded to requests from the Smithsonian and sent information across the country. There’s a great demand for information about Woodstock,” she said.


Fundraising walk

A fundraising drive to bring the project to fruition was launched this Thanksgiving morning with a “history walk” around the village led by local author Janine Mower. A blue sky, mild temperature and a clear view of Overlook enhanced the experience as a small group of community residents explored a route mapped out by former town supervisor John Mower, a fifth generation Woodstocker. We met at Mower’s field at Maple Lane and Deanies’ Alley, where the Mower family grew vegetables in days of yore, walked up Mill Hill Road to Rock City Road and circled back along Tinker Street to Tannery Brook. John pointed out the home of his great-great grandfather on Tinker Street, now the Lily’s shop, and shared some “secret paths” from his youth. We all chimed in with the names of many incarnations of stores and “anchor” buildings (those that have survived over the years and provide points of orientation in old photographs).

The Landau restaurant, for instance, was a stable before it became a tavern with successive owners who called it The Irvington and The Pub. The Colony building, now a music and poetry venue, was a rest stop for weary travelers and carriage horses going up the mountain to Meads boarding house (replaced by the KTD Monastery) and the Overlook Mountain House (ruins). The History Walk was the second year that the Mowers, joined by their grown children and grandchildren, have shared their Thanksgiving morning with the town. Janine envisions a winter program of informal lectures and discussions in community resident’s homes.


New acquisitions

Historical Society archivist Joanne Margolis works with volunteers to organize the collections. New acquisitions include a quilt created by the Krack and Ricks families during the 1800s as a wedding present for Christina Krack who married Nathaniel Nash, whose family had a farm on Witch Tree Road and Route 375 in 1875. It was given to the Historical Society by Ann Smiley, a descendant of the Krack family

“We recently received a 1795 deed to the Cooper property in Lake Hill,” Margolis said, “and Toni Weidenbacher donated a collection of her father Holley Cantine’s woodcuts from his illustrated magazine, The Retort and also from his ‘Prison Etiquette Book.’” Artists in the Historical Society collection include Wilna Hervey, Jo Cantine, Rolph Scarlett, Robert Angeloch, Julio De Diego and many more. The list of genealogies is growing, along with a cabinet full of art gallery notes and clippings about various individuals.

The next HSW event will be the opening December 7 (4 p.m.-8 p.m.) of the Holiday Exhibit and Sale, which this year features the Petershams, authors of children’s books whose life and work together is the subject of a biography by Lawrence Webster.

For more information about HSW and to contribute to the fundraising effort, please visit the website www.historicalsocietyofwoodstock.org.