Bulldozed beauty: Rondout urban renewal documentary

Lost Rondout: A Story of Urban Removal is a documentary film in progress about the urban renewal program that demolished much of downtown Kingston, known as “the Rondout,” in the 1960s. (photo by Eugene Dauner)

Lost Rondout: A Story of Urban Removal is a documentary film in progress about the urban renewal program that demolished much of downtown Kingston, known as “the Rondout,” in the 1960s. (photo by Eugene Dauner)

A fundraiser for Lost Rondout: A Story of Urban Removal, a documentary film about the urban renewal program that demolished much of downtown Kingston in the 1960s, will be held on Tuesday, May 12 at 6 p.m. at the Church des Artistes at 79 Wurts Street in Kingston. The church, now a bed-and-breakfast, is one of the Rondout’s most beautiful buildings and, as the home and studio of composer and musician Peter Wetzler and artist Julie Hedrick, embodies the artistic spirit of the area. The Kingston Wine Company and restaurant and caterer Grounded, both located on lower Broadway, are donating food and drink. Tickets cost $50, and since seating is limited, RSVPs are required by calling (845) 331-2031 or e-mailing info@lostrondout.com.

Wetzler, who is composing the soundtrack for the film, will perform, accompanied by singer Eleni Reyes. Reyes will sing Jerome Kern’s “Yesterdays,” which is the film’s title song (and was made famous by Billie Holiday). The concert will be followed by a performance by Frank Marquette and Joe Baer impersonating the historic Rondout characters Thomas Cornell and Samuel Coykendall. A powerful man in Rondout in the 19th century, Cornell owned the largest tugboat towing company on the Hudson as well as steamboats, railroads and other businesses, which Coykendall, his son-in-law, took over at his death in 1890. The performance is excerpted from one of the original shows produced by Marquette’s company, Theatre on the Road.

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The event will also include a screening of a sample from the film and a presentation by filmmakers Stephen Blauweiss and Lynn Woods on the project. In order to complete the film – which they plan to do this summer – they need to raise money to cover out-of-pocket expenses such as performers’ fees and song rights, sound mixing, digitizing archival footage and promotional costs.

Once completed, the film will be submitted to film festivals. Woods (a regular contributor to Almanac Weekly) and Blauweiss have been showing the work-in-progress at local venues, including the Kingston Library and Hudson River Maritime Museum, to standing-room-only audiences. More screenings are planned this year at Savona’s Trattoria, the D & H Canal Museum and the Persen House, among others.

Based on nearly 1,000 color slides taken by Eugene Dauner and interviews with former residents, the film incorporates historic photographs as well as work by other contemporary photographers and archival footage. Woods and Blauweiss also interviewed experts on architecture, urban planning, historic preservation and local history, as well as artists and businesspeople who sparked a revival of the area in the 1970s and 1980s. “It’s been a community effort,” said Woods. “We’re so grateful for the participation and support of so many individuals.”

For more information, call Lynn Woods at (845) 331-2031 or e-mail lynn_woods@icloud.com.

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