By Brian Turk
Almost 150 years before the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Fair brought fame to our tiny town, a painter named Thomas Cole hiked the mountains surrounding Woodstock, NY in 1825 and painted an inspiring and colorful fall landscape. This was the first time the British artist laid eyes on the Catskills and Cole took his paintings back to New York City where they were put on display in a bookstore window. The New York Evening Post published its review about Cole’s series from the Hudson Valley, and the beauty of the Catskills was introduced to the world.
Cole was the first in a group of painters which would eventually become known as The Hudson River School, and the fourth highest Catskill Mountain Peak named after Cole (Thomas Cole Mountain in Windham, NY) is about 21 miles as the crow flies from the center of Woodstock. Cole eventually settled here and his home in Catskill, NY is a National Historic Landmark.
In 1902 Jane Byrd McCall and Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead, along with Bolton Brown (artist) and Hervey White (writer), founded the Byrdcliffe Arts Colony perched a mere mile from the Woodstock Village Green. Whitehead and McCall had had two failed attempts at a similar concept on the West Coast, but it was Woodstock that provided the right home for the Utopian center for the arts they envisioned for so long. Byrdcliffe attracted writers, painters, sculptors, thinkers and others who both sought after and contributed to a way of life that focused on the natural beauty around us.
Once you spend time in Woodstock, it isn’t hard to see why the Byrdcliffe founders made their dreams and countless others come true here in the hills of The Catskills. The Byrdcliffe Arts Colony is still thriving, and the 35 beautiful buildings on the 300-acre property are still filled with artists in residence and the dreams started over a century ago.
Shortly after the founding of Byrdcliffe, Hervey White purchased just over 100 acres in Hurley, NY, on the border of Woodstock. In 1916 White held the inaugural Maverick Concerts Chamber Music Festival, which is the longest continuously running Chamber Music festival in the country to this day. The New York Times published a detailed and flattering article of its experience at the first Maverick Concert, and once again, the world saw a clear picture of what was happening here in the Catskills. The Maverick Concert series has never lost the prestige or power it captured right from the start, and if you visit Woodstock during the summer, spending an evening listening to music at Maverick is nothing short of magical.
In the mid 1960s, Nobel Prize winning musician Bob Dylan and his family occupied two different homes at Byrdcliffe, and his manager Albert Grossman created a earth shattering and world-renowned music scene here in Woodstock virtually out of thin air. Once musicians like Janis Joplin, Van Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and other forebearers of the “Woodstock Generation” started coming around, Woodstock became synonymous with music on a global scale, although the most iconic association of our tiny town is with the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Fair, or simply, “The Woodstock Festival”…which actually took place about 60 miles southwest of here in Bethel, NY at Max Yasgur’s farm.
That being said, the Festival site – now known as Bethel Woods Center for The Arts – is only an hour and a half drive and is a great destination to include on your trip to the area, and a visit to the Museum at Bethel Woods helps you understand the full story of the Woodstock Festival.
Nowadays, Woodstock and the surrounding hills are still filled with writers, painters and musicians- and music and art are still at the core of Woodstock’s essence. No other small town has inspired multiple arts and music based movements in a manner quite like Woodstock. Once you visit here, it is easy to see how the landscape and lore has served a muse to so many.
The Lodge is a “rustic chic” resort located in Woodstock with a full bar, live music performance space, restaurant, pool, hotel, and expansive grounds-The Lodge is the only property of its kind in Woodstock. Extensive hotel and property renovations have begun and new buildings will be unveiled in Spring 2017, introducing modern comforts and a luxury moniker to the historically bohemian property. In the meantime The Lodge’s bar, restaurant and music performances spaces are open for business. Woodstock, NY is a magical place, and we hope you experience some of it’s magic with us here at The Lodge.
Brian Turk is a nationally-recognized music journalist. Born into a family of music lovers, audiophiles and Deadheads, Brian listened and learned in the shadow of the Catskill Mountains near Woodstock, NY. After years living in in places like New York City, Denver and New Orleans, Brian has recently returned to the Hudson Valley. Brian’s writing has been featured on Relix.com, Listen Up Denver!, Oskar Blues.com, WWOZ.ORG and Live For Live Music-as well as in OffBeat Magazine, Westword and The Marquee Magazine. The Lodge is happy to welcome him as our featured blog writer.