Savona’s Trattoria will host a fundraiser for Lost Rondout: A Story of Urban Removal, the new film by Stephen Blauweiss and Lynn Woods about the 1960s urban renewal program that destroyed much of Kingston’s downtown, on Tuesday, June 16 at 7:30 p.m. The benefit screening will be held in Savona’s private dining room, in an 1880s building, complete with original storefront windows and tin ceilings, that’s located across from the street from the cleared area. The buildings that were demolished on the other side of the Broadway were much like this one.
There will be free food, provided courtesy of Savona’s, a cash bar and a silent auction. Items to be auctioned off include prints of Gene Dauner’s slides of the urban renewal area just before its destruction; gift certificates for two R & F Handmade Paints workshops; gift certificates from Milne’s At-Home Antiques, Olivieri’s Arts, Crafts & Coffee and other local stores; a Photoshop instructional session; and a night at the popular Rondout bed-and-breakfast, Church des Artistes.
The hourlong film will be screened at 8:30 p.m. Though still a work-in-progress, new material has been added. The film will be completed by this fall.
Tickets cost $20. Blauweiss and Woods are seeking to raise $7,000 to cover their out-of-pocket expenses, which include the original soundtrack, sound mixing and digitizing archival footage. At their first fundraiser, held on May 12, they raised nearly $2,500. “We are extremely grateful to all the individuals and businesses who have supported us,” said Woods, noting that Savona’s is donating both the food and the space. The Kingston Wine Company, Grounded and Church des Artistes have also donated to the film.
The trailer for the film, which was unveiled at the May 12 fundraiser, was posted on Facebook the night of June 1 and as of the night of June 5, had attracted more than 3,200 views, with more than 125 shares. “The response has been incredible,” said Blauweiss. “The trailer has spurred dozens of comments and reactions ranging from tears to disbelief.”
The film is based on nearly 1,000 slides taken by Gene Dauner – then a young man in his 20s delivering flowers for his father’s florist business – of the area just prior to and during the demolition. Images by other photographers, as well as family photographs, are also incorporated. The filmmakers have interviewed nearly 40 people, including people whose childhood homes were destroyed, historians, planning experts and an architectural historian.
More than 400 buildings were torn down, constituting most of downtown, and what was left was boarded up and abandoned until artists, pioneer investors and businesspeople began to invest in the area in the late 1970s and 1980s. Today the Rondout has recovered, but the area still struggles with the legacy of urban renewal.