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Town of Hunter Tidbits: Honoring a longtime caretaker of the mountaintop’s history

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    Justine Hommel and her husband Hillard.
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    The new station.
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    These would be the images of Main Street Haines Falls before the new station went up. There were cars, horse and wagons, motorcycles and horses all trying to find their way on Main Street.
May 16, 2018 11:40 am Updated: May 16, 2018 11:57 am

 

June 2 is the day that our community, along with all of Greene County, will honor a very special woman, Justine Legg Hommel.

This is the day the Kaaterskill Clove Road will be named the Justine Legg Hommel highway in honor of her years of dedication to the preservation of the clove road.

This week’s article is from a 1996 Mountain Top Historical Society’s newsletter, The Hemlock, and was written by Justine Legg Hommel.

Hommel was a longtime friend and caretaker of the mountaintop’s history. Her dedication covered 30 years as the town of Hunter Historian and a charter member (and long-time President) of the Mountain Top Historical Society.

THE HEMLOCK — 1996

“Historical Society buys Rail Road Station” by Justine L. Hommel, president.

“It’s almost like finding that special gift under the tree for the Mountain Top Historical Society. After years of planning and searching for a home, the society has purchased the building that was once the Haines Falls Ulster & Delaware Railroad Station.

The signing, which took place December 7, 1995, was greeted with much public enthusiasm as an important step toward preserving an historic building.

Although statics concerning the building of that station are somewhat obscure, its construction seems to have begun in 1913. Gault, the author of ‘Dear Old Greene County,’ published in 1915, reports:

‘One of the improvements (of Haines Falls) is the handsome depot of the U & D in the rear of the Loxhurst.’

Its opening is confirmed in a Windham Journal article in 1914.

The first U & D station (shed size) was located at the top of the hill in the village, west of the post office. The arrival of several trains each day during the summer attracted hordes into the hamlet of Haines Falls in the 1890s and early 1900s.

With the arrival of the automobile, the location of the station presented a problem since the road was blocked for a period of time each time the train came in. The solution to the problem came with the decision to build a new station about quarter of a mile to the east.

A parcel of land which was a part of the property owned by C.A. Martin, became available. Clearly, Mr. Martin recognized the advantage of having the new station located just beyond his own hotel, the Loxhurst.

The new station was listed as having an assessed valuation of $3,240, while the original depot had been valued at $1,200 and disappeared from the assessment roll after 1920.

In 1932, the Ulster and Delaware became the Catskill Mountain Branch of the New York Central. This section was abandoned in 1940 and shortly thereafter the tracks were pulled.

Henry Myer, son-in-law of Christopher Martin, became the owner of the Haines Falls Station. When his son Marwood returned from service in World War II, it was converted into a residence.

“The Mountain Top Historical Society began in a very casual way with the coming together of a group of people interested in local history. In 1973, an application for formal recognition as an historical society was filed and the society was off and running!

During the years since then, the society has continuously sponsored programs and lectures focusing on areas of local history and related interests. A second objective has been sponsoring hikes throughout the Catskills, once again emphasizing the history and legends of the mountains.

An early member and director was Edward G. West. His knowledge of the mountains was extraordinary, and he contributed greatly to the direction and growth of the organization. When a gift of $25,000 was received from the West estate, it was set aside as a nucleus of a building fund.

Other gifts and revenues have been added to it over the years, thus making the purchase of the Haines Falls Railroad station possible.

We feel certain Ed West would have been very happy with our decision.

When reached by telephone, Mrs. Myer expressed her great pleasure in knowing her former home, the Haines Falls U & D station, will be properly preserved.”

Any questions or concerns about this article, please contact: townofhunterhistorian@yahoo.com, or call 518-589-4130.

It is a pleasure submitting this article by Justine, and an honor to share with the readers the story of Justine’s experience on the formation of the Mountain Top Historical Society. Her years of hard work and dedication climaxed with the purchase of the Ulster & Delaware Train Station, now the home of the MTHS.

Justine Hommel’s presidency of the historical society left huge shoes to fill. Justine (I’m sure) is smiling down on Cyndi LaPierre for all the long hours and dedication she puts in to keep the society going strong.

Until next week, take care, and be kind. You never know how your act of kindness may change someone’s life. — Dede Terns/Thorpe