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Books About Local History Still Make Great Holiday Gifts

John Conway - Sullivan County Historian
Posted 12/4/20

Pandemic or no, another holiday season is here, and with it comes the reminder from this column that books about the history of Sullivan County and the surrounding Catskills region make great gifts. …

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Books About Local History Still Make Great Holiday Gifts

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Pandemic or no, another holiday season is here, and with it comes the reminder from this column that books about the history of Sullivan County and the surrounding Catskills region make great gifts.

There are a few new books this year and a number of older titles that deserve to be revisited for those who have yet to get their hands on one or more of them.

Of course, “In Further Retrospect,” a collection of these Retrospect columns published in February of this year, is worth mentioning again. This third collection of Retrospect columns—following “Retrospect” in 1996 and “Remembering the Sullivan County Catskills” in 2008—is the biggest and best one yet, featuring columns from a wide range of topics and covering a far reaching expanse of time.

There are two ways to purchase “In Further Retrospect.” It is available from Amazon.com, and also directly from The Delaware Company, the non-profit history group that published it as a fundraising effort. To order a signed or inscribed copy from The Delaware Company, simply mail a donation of $30 or more to The Delaware Company, P.O. Box 88, Barryville, NY 12719. If you would like the book inscribed rather than just signed, please make note of that.

Orders are typically filled almost immediately, and usually arrive within two weeks, but sometimes take longer, so if you want a copy for a holiday gift, be sure to act quickly.

Another new book this year is Liberty native Kathy Lynn Gorton Emerson's publication of her grandfather's memoirs entitled “The Life of a Plodder: Fred Gorton's 95 Years.”

Fred Gorton was born in Strongtown in Sullivan County in 1878, and beginning in 1914 he recorded notes about his daily life, writing longhand in diaries and journals, which upon his death eventually found their way to Ms. Emerson, a professional novelist. She has annotated and reproduced the diaries and journals in this new paperback book, which runs 203 pages, and includes a number of photographs.

The book is available in the print edition at Amazon and Barnes & Noble for $12.99 and as an e-book at all the usual e-book outlets for $3.99.

There are other, older titles that still make interesting and informative reading, too.

Stephen M. Silverman and Raphael D. Silver's comprehensive 2015 work, “The Catskills: Its History and How it Changed America” remains one of the most important books ever written about the region.

With its glitzy layout, multiple sidebars and beautiful illustrations, this 464 page hardcover makes a most impressive gift. Incredibly broad in its scope—it covers five counties and more than four hundred years—it tells the story of America's first vacationland in unique style.

Ross Padluck's 2013 masterpiece, “Catskill Resorts: Lost Architecture of Paradise,” published by Schiffer, is another older title that deserves a look.

Padluck accumulated a treasury of rare drawings and photographs to illustrate his book, which features chapters on Grossinger's, the Concord and the Nevele as well as shorter but no less informative sections on the Laurels, the Brown's, the Tamarack, the Homowack, the Pines, the Waldemere, the Evans, and several others.

Architecture plays a significant role in defining the different eras of tourism in Sullivan County, and that makes “Catskill Resorts: The Lost Architecture of Paradise” an invaluable tool in preserving the past for posterity. It is, in the truest sense of the phrase, a “must read” for any real aficionado of Sullivan County's history.

There are also a few interesting titles that should be available sometime after the holidays, including a fourth collection of Retrospect columns entitled, “The Upper Delaware in Retrospect,” a new book by Ulster County's A.J. Schenkman, “Patriots and Spies in Revolutionary New York,” due out in February, and a reprint of the indispensable “To The Mountains by Rail” by Manville B. Wakefield, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, happy holidays!

John Conway is the Sullivan County Historian, Email him at jconway52@hotmail.com.

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