The Trolley Street Art Project in Lloyd

Pictured are president of the Town of Lloyd Historic Preservation Society Charles P. Glasner and vice president Vivian Wadlin with a trolley created by local artists Cami and George Fischer. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

Lloyd is celebrating its historic heritage by hosting the Trolley Street Art Project. Thirteen artist-decorated model trolleys have been installed in the hamlet of Highland, mostly on Main Street and Vineyard Avenue. At the end of the summer, the trolleys will be auctioned off. A quarter of the proceeds will go to the artists, with the remainder benefitting the restoration of the 1760 Deyo house in Highland; new headquarters for the Town of Lloyd Historical Preservation Society (Tolhps).

Organization vice-president, Vivian Wadlin, says the street art exhibit was chosen to help fundraising because it aligns with the group’s mission. Tolhps exists to preserve the historic artifacts of the area and to share information about Lloyd’s historic heritage. “Street art brings new people to towns,” she says, “and helps residents appreciate a perhaps underappreciated aspect of their town’s history.”

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A number of Hudson Valley towns do summer public art installations every year. “Cat’n Around Catskill” has put model felines on its streets for the past dozen years, and Saugerties has annual displays with themes that have ranged in focus from its iconic 1869 lighthouse to this year’s installation of sailboats. Esopus has an annual tugboat exhibit honoring its heritage, and in past years, Woodstock did guitars. Kingston paid tribute to the Forsyth Nature Center’s peacocks. 

In Highland, the model trolleys honor an important part of that area’s history: the trolley line that, according to Wadlin, brought major economic and social changes to the region. The main trolley ran between Highland Landing and the Wallkill River in New Paltz. In operation from 1897 to 1925, it was successful because there was little competition from buses or cars, and the roads were poor or nonexistent. 

With the Mid-Hudson Bridge not completed until 1930, another trolley, pulled by a small locomotive across the Poughkeepsie railroad bridge (now Walkway Over the Hudson) brought passengers from the other side of the river to the main trolley in Highland, where they could transfer and continue their trip. 

A number of the passengers were tourists. After disembarking from steamboats at Highland Landing, they took the trolley to boarding houses along its route or continued on to New Paltz, the stepping-off spot for Shawangunk Mountain resorts. 

Other riders were locals who used the trolley as a way to get to work or for an evening out. Wadlin says that people frequently took the trolley from Poughkeepsie to Highland, then on to The Casino in New Paltz (now P&G’s). At one point, special late-night trolleys were added to accommodate the number of people using the service.

Milk was even delivered via the trolley, as was mail: two or three times a day, according to Wadlin.

The Trolley Street Art Project is organized in much the same way as the public art projects in other towns. Local businesses, groups or individuals sponsor trolleys and choose artists to create designs.
Local woodworker and sculptor Jim Fawcett, whose studio is on the trolley’s original path, was commissioned to design the model trolleys. Fawcett is known for his whimsical wood works and his annual Kingston Artist Soapbox Derby entries.

The Niekamp Tool Company in Kingston created a mold from Fawcett’s design. Fabrication was done by Usheco of Kingston, the same company that created models for other town street art projects. The model trolleys are made of vacuum-molded plastic reinforced with a wooden internal structure. They measure two feet long and just over a foot high. 

The project was open to professional and amateur artists. Premier Auto Body shop in Highland painted each trolley’s base color (chosen by the artist), and then applied a protective clear coat once the artwork was completed.

Most of the trolley designs are realistic, showcasing people seen through trolley windows. The model trolley titled “Pooch Coach,” sponsored by P&G’s, has canine riders. Trolley designer Jim Fawcett also served as artist for one, creating “Story Express,” sponsored by Highland Public Library trustee Fran Brooks and Peter Brooks. The fanciful book-themed trolley is mounted in front of the new Highland Library on Elting Place. 

A date to auction off the model trolleys has not yet been set. For information about The Trolley Street Art Project and the monthly lecture series sponsored by Tolhps on the first Monday of most months in the theater building at Vineyard Commons, visit http://www.tolhps.org/trolley-project.html. 

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