We tour "the loop," of Routes 25 and 23c, that connects Haines Falls to Tannersville, via the mountaintop. Hear from Cyndi LaPierre and Dede Thorpe on historic homes and the origins of Onteora Park; famed residents like Maude Adams (Peter Pan); visiting the Mountain Top Arboretum; and a church that served as a quarantine during the 1914 influenza epidemic (history certainly does repeat itself).
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Transcribed by Jerome Kazlauskas via https://otter.ai
Brett Barry 0:03
Welcome to Kaatscast, a biweekly podcast delivering interviews, arts, culture, and history from New York's Catskill Mountains. In this episode, we'll explore a loop of the Mountain Cloves Scenic Byway between Haines Falls and Tannersville, New York. The Haines Falls Stewart's Shop is at one end of the loop and Mama's Boy Burgers is that the other. We'll hear the origins of the Historic Onteora Club, discover All Souls Church and explore Deer Mountain Inn and the Mountain Top Arboretum, Cyndi LaPierre and Didi Thorpe are our tour guides.
Cyndi LaPierre 0:39
I'm Cyndi LaPierre. I'm the president of the Mountain Top Historical Society. I've lived on the mountaintop for 48 years, and you can still walk.
Didi Thorpe 0:52
Didi Thorpe from the town of Hunter historian; I've been a historian since the end of 2012 and I've lived up here for most of my life.
Cyndi LaPierre 0:59
Didi worked for the post office in Catskill on the mountaintop. She's the one with the background. Now...
Didi Thorpe 1:06
I've had actually the best jobs in the world. I mean, I ran Devil's Tombstone Campsite in 214. I ran Hunter Mountain fire tower for nine years. On North Lake for one year, the Postal Service; I've had some good jobs. Yeah.
Cyndi LaPierre 1:20
Alright, so we're just off of route 25 what they're calling the Tannersville Bike Park. This property was all purchased by the Hunter Foundation, and then it's been repurposed. Okay. Hathaway, which is the empty building that (we're) drive past after we leave this spot was built by V. Everit Macy. He's a relative of the department store, Macy's, and his branch of the family made their money in oil, and they were bought up.
Didi Thorpe 1:57
At some point by Standard Oil. This Everit Macy...V. Everett Macy was one of the first two automobile owners, and he brought up an automobile to the park in 1906, and the park people when absolutely they did not want one of those damn machines in their park, and so it was. It was 10 years later when they approved automobiles. Okay.
Cyndi LaPierre 2:17
But he had quite the personality. I guess he was quite lively.
Didi Thorpe 2:19
And the story about the name Hathaway is that his wife had certain designs in terms of what she wanted, and either she wanted the stone wall or she wanted the house a certain way but I think if she wanted the stone wall, and he said well, you can have the stone wall or you can have a trip to Europe and she said, "Okay, we'll take the trip to Europe." So they went to Europe, and she had arranged that when they came back the stone wall was up. So she Hathaway.
Cyndi LaPierre 2:49
She has her back.
Didi Thorpe 2:50
Okay, is the...is the...is the story on that one. The house is beautiful.
Cyndi LaPierre 2:56
And it has eight to two bedrooms and eleven bathrooms.
Didi Thorpe 2:59
The other fantastic part of that houses you go in, it's all pre-blight chestnut, beautiful chestnut everywhere. It's a beautiful building. It's owned by Hunter Foundation. They sometimes have fundraisers that they run there. They've done plays with the greenroom players. It's not regularly occupied. We're on a trailhead, built by the Hunter Foundation; back into this property that goes behind Hathaway, and then down to the Arboretum. The trail system I believe was started when they redid Deer Mountain Inn and they did the trail that went up and over there and then they came over here and started doing this trail.
Brett Barry 3:41
If you're driving up from Stewart's, you can find the entrance to these trails on the left, followed on your right by a sign for the Deer Mountain Inn.
Didi Thorpe 3:49
We are in the parking lot at what is now called Deer Mountain Inn. We're on county route 25. Still in the village of Tannersville. This house was built as originally was built as part of onto our park. This was Onteora by a man named John Gary Evans. Alright, who was born in 1863 and died in 1942. He is from South Carolina came north went to Union College became a politico and at the age of 31, he became the 85th governor of South Carolina, but he married a woman from Waterbury, Connecticut named Emily Mansfield Plume, and he built her a beautiful home up here. Like everything else here it's gone through a number of different incarnations before it became this Deer Mountain Inn. When you're driving up county route 25, you will see the sign for Deer Mountain Inn...turn in, you can park up near the big house. Great restaurant, wonderful place for a special occasion. The landscaping is amazing and the trail starts right behind the house and goes up over the mountain down toward Colgate Lake or you can go the other direction and cross 25 into the section where the Tannersville Bike Park is and follow that around behind Hathaway and even into the Mountain Top Arboretum.
Brett Barry 5:21
This episode is sponsored by Mama's Boy Burgers. Every Mama's Boy burger is made from local humanely raised grass fed beef right here on the mountaintop. Stop in for a burger, fries, and a milkshake or for a cone of creamy frozen custard. Mama's Boy Burgers is located at the only traffic light in Tannersville. open daily at 11:30. Great food in the great outdoors. Mama's Boy.
Didi Thorpe 5:49
We're now at the top of the loop...county route 25 is now intersecting with county route 23C, and back in the day, when Candace Thurber Wheeler, who started Onteora Club, first came up here, this was called the crossings. It's a lovely little spot. There's this island and on that island is All Souls Church. Early on in Onteora Club, there were people that would get together on Sundays for church services, usually in somebody's house. Eventually, they got around to saying, you know, be good to have a place for worship. This church was designed by George Reed, who was an artist, but he designed a lot of buildings homes in Onteora buildings in the area. A lot of the people who were up here originally were Episcopalian, but they believed totally that any denomination should be welcome, and so they built the church with that in mind, anyone requesting a service, whatever it happened to be, they would set that up. In 1914, there was an influenza epidemic, and at that point, they even ended up inviting in a Catholic priest for masses because people had been quarantined, and they needed to set that up here. They call it All Souls Church because it literally served all souls. Candace Thurber Wheeler was an artist, artisan, who was part of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Group in New York City. She grew up in Delhi, New York, which is west of here in the country, but went to New York City and got involved with associated artists, which was Tiffany's Workshop.
Cyndi LaPierre 7:39
She was known as the mother of interior design is what she was known for.
Didi Thorpe 7:43
She was an early feminist. Her mission in life was to help get jobs for women. So she's considered an early interior designer, but she had all these women working on needle crafts and tapestries, things that they would normally have done in their homes, but doing them so that they could sell them and make their own living. In 1883, she and her brother got on a train in New York City, took the train up to Phoenicia and then hired a wagon and came up through Stony Clove. When they got to the foot of Hunter Mountain, they turned and they stopped for a snack at Roggin's Four Corners, where the one traffic light on the mountaintop now is in Tannersville, and Mrs. Roggins said, "Oh, you need to turn right here and head up to the crossings, and before you get to Widow Parker's farm, you're going to have the most beautiful view." So Francis Thurber and Candace Thurber Wheeler came up here. Candace was sitting here watching probably sitting very close to this spot. He's left around a rock and went off to see if he could find out who owned the land, and when he came back, he said, "Candace, I bought the farm." So that was the first 108 acres bought from Thomas Convery. Their first houses, which were the first ones built were Penny Royal and Lotus Land, and then they started inviting friends from New York City like minded artists who would love the views, love the fresh air, want to be out of the city. It started growing they started building what originally really were cottages. In a couple of years, they actually formed an association called Onteora Camping Cottage, and so that people that came along and wanted to put up cottages would pay a fee to the company for their cottage.
Cyndi LaPierre 9:44
Like Cyndi said it came in 1883 started but it really didn't incorporate until 1887. But it was followed by Twilight Park in Haines Falls and Elka Park. In Elka Park, we also had a Sunset Park and we had Santa Cruz Parks over the private parks, were a big part of this community for over 125 years.
Didi Thorpe 10:04
A lot of the original people who were building homes up here included people that were known in the publishing business. Mark Twain didn't have a home in Onteora, but he spent a summer there, and there are stories about him telling stories on the porch of the house that he was staying in. Maude Adams, who is known for being Peter Pan in New York City came up.
Cyndi LaPierre 10:29
She had her own home here for many, many years and what Adams did not build her home in...in money or park proper. She was a very private person and she actually lived here for many years and she passed away up here in Tannersville.
Didi Thorpe 10:41
General Custer's wife had a home up in Onteora. Mary Mapes Dodge had a house. Mary Mapes Dodge, for those of you that are too young to know, wrote "Hans Brinker/The Silver Skates." John Burroughs lived out in Delaware County, but he would come here and hang around in Onteora Park, also Twilight Park; he was known to visit the ladies wherever they happen to be.
Brett Barry 11:04
Continuing along the curve of the loop, just beyond All Souls Church and across from Onteora Park is the Mountain Top Arboretum, a natural sanctuary for visitors of all ages.
Didi Thorpe 11:16
We've now turned onto Maude Adams Road, just off of county route 23C. If you step into the west meadow and look up, there's this beautiful home that would have been called the cottage and two people who live there, Peter and Bonnie Ahrens, wanted it to look better than the hayfield that it was, and they started working on it. Peter Ahrens was a doctor, a medical doctor, and a researcher in cardiology at Rockefeller University; his scientific mind wanted to not just fix it up, but to make a science experiment. They started by clearing things by putting in some plants and then they started exploring for trees, plants, bushes, flowers, that would grow well in this area, even though they weren't native to the area. So he was looking at, you know, what other kinds of things can be grown here. Today, the arboretum is open all the time. People are welcome to stop in. There are numerous trails, including the trail that goes over to Hathaway that we already visited and then over to Deer Mountain Inn. They do...certainly welcome donations. If you have a good day here and want to do that.
Marc Wolf 12:32
My name is Marc Wolf, and I'm the executive director of Mountain Top Arboretum. We have a brand new education center, and it's a timber frame structure built from 21 native tree species to the Catskill region, all the trees were taken from our forest or from generous neighbors, and it's a spectacular, beautiful building and all the stone facing the outside, came right from where the basement sits now. So that beautiful stone facing is also literally from the site and we have 178 acres of meadows, wetlands, and remember, we're at 2,400 feet so these are mountain top wetlands and huge marshes, hemlock forest were saving ash trees and our white ash grove. We have an east meadow, west meadow woodland walk, and Spruce Glen. Some areas are more gardened. We have a pond where kids catch tadpoles. We have a spiral labyrinth, which is planted with native grass species. We have a bird cove that we've planted with native shrubs, we have a rain garden, which is spectacular; right across from the education center. I'm looking down at the bedrock. This is Devonian bedrock, and that's a great feature of the meadow too from 375 million years ago. You can see where the glaciers scraped it away 10 to 15,000 years ago, we have the oldest recorded bog in the Catskills on our property. It's really just an incredibly rich area. One of my favorite things about the arboretum is I think the Catskills can be very intimidating because there's a lot of uphill and downhill and a lot of rocks. I see us as sort of intro step for a lot of people to understand the geology and the forest history in the natural forests of the Catskills because our trails are marked and you're not doing a lot of climbing up and down because you've...you've driven to the top of the mountain top, and so it's really nice, easy hiking is a beautiful place to explore.
Brett Barry 14:41
Thanks to Cyndi LaPierre, Didi Thorpe, and Mark Wolf. Original music by Steve Castor, and to our sponsor, the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce. Providing services to businesses, community organizations, and local governments in the Central Catskills region. Follow the Central Catskills Chamber of Commerce on Facebook and sign up for a weekly email of local events at centralcatskills.com. Kaatscast is a production of Silver Hollow Audio. Please don't forget to subscribe and we'll see you again in two weeks. I'm Brett Barry. Thanks for listening.