Before the Deluge II: Tinker Street — From the Green to the Espresso

Tinker Street in the late 1950s

Tinker Street. What’s in a name? Well, that might be a good place to start before looking more closely at the Tinker Street that existed over a half-century ago. More than likely, the actual answer to the origin of the street’s name lies mainly in fact — though fiction might also play a role. There once was an actual tinker shop on what is now Tinker Street. Located where Apothecary is now, next to the entrance to the Comeau Property, the shop’s owner was one, John Brandow. While Brandow’s skills as a tinker were without dispute, his character, it seems, would have easily failed any customer service test offered today. Described in his day as a “necessary evil” due to a gruff and sharp manner, Brandow’s large black beard led to a comment by one contemporary that “he had some whiskers, but they didn’t look as if they liked him.”

The mythical part of the street’s name comes from a man named Jim Twaddell, known, in earlier years, as Woodstock’s “teller of tall tales.” According to Twaddell, a traveling tinker passing through Woodstock one day encountered the deep springtime mud that was Woodstock’s main road. Slowly the horse, wagon and the tinker himself began to sink. With his cries for help unanswered, the tinker was lost beneath the very road we now travel. Twaddell would further claim that, “when conditions are right,” you can still hear the jingling of tinware echoing from below.

Tinker Street before blacktop

Whichever origin of the street’s name you wish to embrace, the fact of the matter is that Tinker Street has indeed long been central to much of our town’s history. And, at the core of life on Tinker Street has been the Village Green. (For newcomers to our fair town, the Village Green was actually green at one time.) 

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While we are well aware that the Green is, each December 24, the site where Woodstockers gather to welcome the arrival of Santa Claus, it hasn’t always been home to such peaceful and joyous gatherings. In the sixties, much to the consternation of decidedly conservative townspeople, the Village Green became a natural gathering point for young people arriving in town searching for whatever they were searching for. As the number of young people disembarking from the bus each evening continued to grow, warning bells began to sound throughout establishment Woodstock. The local paper at the time, the Ulster County Townsman, warned that “unsavory types were beginning to descend upon the town,” while one longtime Woodstocker, in addressing to the Town Board, demanded that the “unsavory types” be “deloused and have their heads shaved to clean them up.” Eventually, the town began to clamp down. Those who took to camping on both public and private property were arrested. Big Deep was closed (nude swimmers) and benches were removed from the Village Green to discourage loitering. And, in one of the more aggressive actions of the sixties, a group of folk singers, ordered off the Green by police, hesitated, giving those officers present cause to move in and forcefully remove them. The resulting melee ended with accusations of police brutality lodged against a local constable. 

Things, of course, were much more peaceful behind the Green where the Reformed Church now stands. Originally constructed in 1805, the original church was torn down in 1844 and reconstructed on its present site. As you stand facing the church, the building to the left later became the parsonage for the church, having moved from where Candlestock is today. To the right of the church, owned today by Larry Lawrence, is the Village Green Bed and Breakfast. The mansard roof structure built in 1847 by Edgar Snyder, offered a number of apartments in the sixties and seventies. This writer, living on the second floor in 1974, was entertained on the night Richard Nixon resigned by an impromptu party on the Green featuring music, firecrackers and a good deal of not-so-sober cheering well into the evening.   

The Krack House, corner of Rock City Road.

Turning to the right and facing Old Forge Rd. where, today, we find the Garden Café, is the building originally known as the Krack House (Yes, true. Not because of any 19th century illicit activity, but because it was built as an inn by Colonel Krack in 1875). The store on the corner/Rock City Rd. side of the building housed the Bread Alone of its day, Kirshbaum’s Woodstock Bakery (also owned at one time by the Leonard Scholl and, later the DiNapolis). The entryway to the bakery was, notably, the backdrop for the Elliott Landy photo of Bob Dylan and son Jesse standing alongside Dean Schambach, and David Boyle. The photograph hangs today — where else? — but on a wall in Bread Alone.

Further down the row, Ross (Pagliaro) the shoemaker held forth in the space that would later house Magic Markie’s Woodstock head shop. While the opening of a store in the center of town dedicated to selling pipes, roach clips and incense sent a shudder through Woodstock’s conservative majority, for many Woodstock youth of the day it became a second home.

Crossing Tinker Street from the Green, we head to where Shindig is today. Woodstockers of longstanding residence will recall, first, Anne’s Delicatessen. Originally owned by the Dordicks, ownership would later pass to Pan Copeland. Copeland would secure her place in town history as the owner of the field just over the Saugerties line where the Woodstock Sound Outs took place and a vision of what might be began to take form. Later, Ted Sclaris would take up proprietorship of the deli and operate under the sign of the Corner Cupboard. 

Going back in years a little further, to the right of the Corner Cupboard, the Woodstock Post Office once operated. Remodeled later, the front of the building originally presented multiple columns to entering patrons. Later, when the post office moved further up the road, the Roger Jones Shop would occupy the vacated space. Offering both clothing and unique gifts, Jones would later take to the classroom as a teacher at Onteora. Today, a reminder of what once was can be found above the current real estate office in the form of the original teardrop window that continues to look out over Tinker Street.

Next door, to the right, was once the home of Cousins Home Appliance Store. Operated by Karl Cousins, Cousins was representative of the many Woodstock business owners of his day, deeply involved with the community through 25 years of service to the fire department, a board member of the Woodstock Cemetery, and a member and director of the Reformed Church. 

Equally involved in his community was Fred Strassberg, who, in 1960, purchased the News Shop from Sydney Greenberg and Paul Fenster. The News Shop (now a part of Jean Turmo’s) had been at the center of Tinker Street life since 1924. Featuring a luncheonette and, as the site still is, home to the bus stop, the News Shop, much like Dots and Dueys, was a part of the daily routine for many Woodstockers. During his tenure at the News Shop, Strassberg befriended a number of Woodstock’s youth and served as a mentor to many.

 

Post Office was across from Green.

Crossing the alleyway, to where Oriole9 is today, Woodstockers equally moved in an out another town institution, Mowers Market. Mowers began when Fred Mower and his twin brother Bill took over operations following the death of F.B. Happy in 1931. Mowers, for many, was Woodstock’s local supermarket on a mom and pop scale. And, even when the A&P and Grand Union arrived on Mill Hill Rd. in the sixties, longtime customers remained faithful as ownership passed from Fred Mower to Louis Feinberg around 1960 and to Ann and Perk Gentillin in 1972. It was under their ownership that the building was renovated to include the additional shops that are there today (Jaritia’s and Fruition). 

Immediately next door, yet another Woodstock legend could be found under the sign of Carey’s Delicatessen. The store’s original namesake, Leon Carey, like Cousins, was a Woodstock businessman whose name is well documented in town annals. Carey served as the town’s postmaster for fifteen years, town clerk during World War II, was a charter member of the Woodstock Fire Department, served as president of the PTA and as a member of the library’s Board of Trustees. Ownership of the delicatessen would eventually pass to Zane Zimmerman. Not only were the roast beef sandwiches at Zane’s larger than life, but Zane himself, as well as his red Cadillac convertible, still lives large in Woodstock memory. That said, for stories about evenings at the deli under Zane, please consult a longtime Woodstocker who can tell a good story — and appropriate for mixed company.

Directly across the street, celebrating its one-hundredth anniversary this year, is the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum. Founded by artists John F. Carlson, Frank Swift Chase, Andrew Dasburg, Carl Eric Lindin, and Henry Lee Mc Fee, the Association rose on the site that was once home to Rose’s General Merchandise store. In its day, Rose’s was at the center of Woodstock life, serving as the post office, the place to go to for town news and the place where a coach, which had picked up visitors from New York at the train station in West Hurley, would deposit the town’s first wave of tourists.

The building to the right of WAAM (now Lily’s) has seen a number of different incarnations, including: the Knife and Fork Restaurant (owned by Harold Scism, husband to Flo of Deanie’s fame.), the 5 & 10 Cent Store, the Woodstock General Store, Misty’s, and, later, Chez Grandmere.

To the left of WAAM is the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild. The structure, at one time, was home to a very wealthy Orson Vandervoort, once owner of the tannery that operated in the middle of town. (Vandervoort is said to have paid more taxes during the Civil War era than any other Woodstocker.) In 1939, the Woodstock Guild of Craftsman began operations at the site offering, through the years, local crafts for sale and a variety of arts and crafts classes. In 1976, Peter Whitehead, son of Byrdcliffe founder, Ralph Whitehead, bequeathed Byrdcliffe to the Guild and, today, the organization continues in its mission as a center for ”excellence in the arts and crafts.”

Crossing back across the street, we come to a series of stores running towards Tannery Brook Road. Included within the businesses that once occupied storefronts along that stretch were: The Little Shop (ladies clothing), Dr. Vlock’s dentist office, Joe the Barber (Joe Relia), Horner’s jewelry store, a liquor store, and a toy and gift shop. Remembered by most Woodstockers of longstanding, however, is Joe Forno’s Colonial Pharmacy (where the Golden Notebook is today). Joe Forno represented the type of pharmacist we wish we had today. Even when a child took ill in the middle of the night, the light would go on in the pharmacy a short while later as a prescription was readied. Even while operating his pharmacy, which also included a much-beloved soda fountain (egg creams!), Forno also involved himself heavily in the community. In addition to serving two terms as town justice, Joe Forno served on the town’s recreation committee, was president of the Woodstock Little League, received the PTA’s Jenkins Award and, equally important, sponsored, along with wife Barbara, Woodstock’s annual Easter Egg Hunt from 1947 to 1994.

Wandering down to where Joshua’s has held forth since 1972, the building at the corner of Tinker and Tannery Brook knew multiple restaurants before Joshua Schachter’s menu convinced Woodstockers that we loved middle-eastern food. They included, as best as this writer can determine (and remember), Fischer’s Restaurant, Galina’s, The Eatery and Little New England.

Crossing Tannery Brook Rd., we pass, today, Timbuktu. Originally, Larry Elwyn’s barbershop, Schuyler Shultz would later offer insurance to Woodstockers who passed through his door.

The Espresso porch at night,1959. Far right, Sonia Malkine is noted as the waitress.

Making our way over the bridge and the aroma-free Tannery Brook (not so much before sewers came to town), we come to yet another Woodstock building steeped in history. The building that now houses the Center for Photography at Woodstock began life as a barn until Clarence Bolton and Louise Cashdollar came along. Artists in their own right, the two, with little more than an idea, converted the barn and opened the Nook, a café and soda fountain of sorts that became a popular spot for local artists to socialize. That popularity continued when Frank Drake, in 1959, took over the building and renamed it the Espresso Café. Lasting fame would be cast upon the Espresso under the ownership of Bernard and Mary Lou Paturel when an upstairs tenant by the name of Bob Dylan moved in. But Dylan wasn’t the sole importance of the Espresso over the years. Whether operated by the Paturels or, later, Victor and Dagmar Balsamo or Marty Cohen, the Espresso was a place where remarkable music (Tom Paxton, Dave Van Ronk, Jerry Moore, Happy Traum, Tim Hardin, Jack Elliot, Sonia Malkine, Joan Baez, Billy Faier — who also booked acts — and so many more) would ring out over the years — much as it did from the Joyous Lake, the Sled Hill Café, the Elephant and other venues around town. Indeed, even through its final incarnation as the Tinker St. Café, there was no better place to watch the parade that was Woodstock go by than to be seated on the front porch of the café. 

Tinker Man 1937

Stopping here (we’ll continue up Tinker and look at the side roads as well in a future article), I am reminded that, between Mill Hill Road and Tinker Street, how self-sufficient Woodstock once was. With what the town had to offer, there was little need to drive to Kingston or — much later — to order from Amazon. Local needs were met locally. From supermarkets to banks, from everyday clothing to insurance, from car repairs to the arts and entertainment, from family run stores to health needs, Woodstock worked — and it worked hard — to take care of itself. More importantly, as it does today, Woodstock relied on the quality of the families and individuals willing to step up when needed, to challenge when required and, as every era of Woodstock history has demonstrated, to accept change despite whatever uncertainties lay on the horizon. We, mostly, did alright.

(Author’s Note: While it is impossible to include everything and everyone who traveled Tinker Street some 50 years ago, I have endeavored to piece together the history of Tinker Street as best as possible. Should the reader wish to add something relating to the 1950s and 1960s — or correct an error — please e-mail me at woodstockhistory@hvc.rr.com. With great appreciation to Chuck Howland whose efforts continue to contribute to this series. Thanks also to Janine Mower, Jean White and the Historical Society of Woodstock’s JoAnne Margolis, Archivist.)

Richard Heppner has served as Woodstock Town Historian since 2001. His newest book, Woodstock’s Infamous Murder Trial; Early Racial Justice in Upstate New York will be published this coming winter.

Photos provided by the Historical Society of Woodstock.

Read part I: Woodstock’s Mill Hill Road – Before the Deluge.

There are 9 comments

  1. Tad Richards

    Here’s a story about the Village Green that’s never been told. It was the late 50s, after the McCarthy era, before the 60s protest era. I was a teenager. A couple of friends who were students at the Art Students League Summer School, now the Woodstock School of Art, noticed that the American flag that flew from the flagpole on the green was not taken in at night. They decided that this was improper treatment of the flag, and something should be done to call attention to it. So one night we sneaked onto the Village Green, took the flag down, and raised a Communist flag, red with a hammer and sickle, above it, with the Stars and Stripes at half mast.
    Well, we started a mini-Red scare. And the FBI was in town. But we were never caught. And no one ever suspected us. Until now. I hope the statute of limitations has expired

  2. paul h greenberg

    Sir, as a son of Sidney Greenberg ( News Shop ) I well remember the decade of the Fifties. They were were wonderful times; especially during the summers when the City people came. The names of the famous were legendary. As kids we drove (literally ) the constables crazy; especially Clancey the cop. Thank you for the memories.

  3. Mysteriam

    ‘Tinker’ is considered an offensive term for Irish or Scottish Travellers – and the story of the tinker sinking into the muddy road sounds very much like the kind of thing prejudiced people would like to see happen to most Travellers back then, and today. if Tinker St. is, in fact, named after a metal-worker (or their shop being the major landmark on the road), I would be curious about the town’s original colonizers, and their ties to the Traveller community.

  4. Marcy Sheiner

    Joe Forno was indeed the kind of pharmacist we wish we had today. When he once ran out of seizure meds that had only recently been prescribed for my son, he got in his car and went out to find some. He promised never to run out again, and for the rest of the time we lived in Woodstock, he didn’t. (And I can’t resist mentioning dear Dr. Berg, who appeared in my living room within minutes of my phone call the first time my son had a seizure.)

    Last year I visited Woodstock for the first time in 12 years. A friend and I stood in front of the Photography Center, remembering our younger selves at tables on that patio, which is now completely wasted.

  5. JR

    Mysteriam – Oh good grief. This is a fine article that has enough organic “political” to suit most anyone, and you’re politicizing it? Good grief. Wasn’t the article interesting and informative. Weren’t the photographs excellent? Yes.

  6. Checko Miller

    Thank you- so enjoyed trip down memory lane to hear more about Woodstock prior to my 1963 arrival.

    RE: News Shop, Fred Strassberg was the son of Frank and Charlotte Strassberg who would have either “purchased” the building or rented it (likely from Houst family?). I was one of the kids who enjoyed many times with Fred in the shop and appreciated your words about him.

    RE: Joshua’s, I believe around 1963 it was Bill’s Lunchonette?

    RE: Espresso Cafe, I believe when Bernard and Marylou took over that the name switched to “Cafe Espresso.”

    The history behind the gallery next to the Guild? and Old Forge building (if i recall name) across from The Nook (originally)?

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