We went to Woodstock several years ago and stayed for a few days over Easter. We had a nice time exploring and eating in some of the restaurants. More recently my wife went to a spa there and while I waited for her I took a look around, initially at the Byrdcliffe Arts Colony and afterwards in the town itself.

I don’t quite know what to make of Woodstock. It’s a pleasant enough town with something of a buzz about it. When we were there recently it was full of people. There are a lot of quaint, brightly colored buildings and it’s pleasant to browse around the shops and eat in the restaurants. But it all feels a bit false, as if the town capitalizes on the reputation of the Woodstock Festival, which unfortunately didn’t take place in Woodstock at all, but rather in Bethel, almost 60 miles away. The brightly colored buildings, the preponderance of businesses specializing in yoga, meditation, Tibetan artifacts etc. add to this impression, not to mention all the aging hippies with their long, now grey, beards; psychedelic colored garb and beads. I suppose it’s as good a place as any to explore the picturesque Catskill mountains in which Woodstock is situated.

One of the many “On this site once stood…” signs. There seems to be little of historic significance still standing. I liked the message though.

The Old Forge House. A plaque nearby reads:

The Old Forge House. Few historic buildings in Woodstock boast such a variety of purpose and have been subject to so many changes. Originally the site of Grist Mill and Farm deeded to Isaac Davis by Chancellor Robert R. Livinstone of Clermont in 1789; it later became a Saw Mill. Later around the end of the Civil War the Village Smithy was built and operated by John Wigram Davis, then it was enlarged as a barn for wagons and carriages. Hym Bouee then stored his hearse and caskets here for his undertaking business. Later, owner Peter Longendyke operated a boarding house, and it was here that State Police sargent Cunningham, long the mainstay of law and order in Woodstock, maintained his headquarters.

In 1935 owner Lamonte Simpkins remoddeled it as “The Art Shop”. Upstairs Mr. Simpkins sold cloths, shoes and drygoods, while downstairs the art shop and Tannery Brook Garden Flourished. The summer house and garden were popular with teenagers of the time, with John O’Brien behind the soda fountain. Later the Art Student League occupied the second floor, followed by the American Legion.

Later yet, the building became the offices of the Woodstock Insurance Company and the Woodstock Press, at which time a cement block structure was added to the rear, to house, the printing presses. The upstairs during this period was an art gallery where many well known Woodstock artists exhibited.

Originally known as the “Tannery Brook House” it was christened the Old Forge House by J.G. Van Rym in honor of its original use, and is dedicated as a landmark to the arts, crafts and history of Woodstock.

Crocuses. When this was taken (March 29) there was still snow on the ground and at first I thought they were false. I bent down to check and, sure enough, they were real!

Woodstock Town Hall. The building to the rear on the left is the Police Station.


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