History leads the way to the future

Pine Hill seeks historic designation

by Jonathan Heppner
January 31, 2011 08:24 AM | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Main Street, Pine Hill. Photo by Dion Ogust.
The hamlet of Pine Hill’s Community Center, working with Ulster County planning department, has begun a program entitled the Main Street Initiative that seeks to get Pine Hill listed on the National & State Registers of Historic Places and bring a spark back to the community that once was one of the most beloved tourist destinations in New York.

In its official statement, the Pine Hill Community Center said that, “Pine Hill is, indeed, a very special place. It is a small close-knit community with a lovely Main Street, a Post Office, old hotels and houses, restaurants, with babbling streams and stone arch bridges, old railroad tracks and trestles, and an interesting history and tranquil atmosphere.”

Besides the obvious recognition that being listed on the National & State Registers of Historic Places would give Pine Hill, the Community Center’s Director James Krueger said that the program could also lead to financial help for the community.

“There are a number of different goals,” said Kruger. “One of them is it opens up some financial opportunities for property owners within the district. There are tax credit programs, there could be grant money available for doing the rehab work on buildings, and another is to attract tourism and visitors to Pine Hill.”

Attracting tourism to Pine Hill at the turn of the 20th Century was a very easy feat when the Ulster and Delaware railroad connected the small mountainous village to New York City, creating a much sought out tourist destinations in the Catskills. According to Krueger, Pine Hill once had two newspapers, five churches and used to hold some 10,000 people during the summer months, compared to the approximately 200 to 250 souls that make up the community today.

However despite the economic downfall that has faced the community of Pine Hill over the years, regardless of the size, Kruger believes, a sense of community is something that is crucial its survival.

“I don’t think alone it [the Main Street Initiative] is going to be a magic solution to our problems. I mean the economic struggles in the Catskills are connected with larger economic problems nation wide…but I think that the spirit of a community working together is going to give it much more chance of success than if they don’t.” Krueger also Chairs the Central Catskill Cooperative.

“If a community comes together and starts thinking consciously about their main street and about their business district and what they can do and what they want to do, it’s going to have much more opportunity for success than if everyone is just sort of out for themselves and there is no organized effort.”

Creating synergy

In getting the program started the Community Center, using grant money, has procured the services of the historic preservation and planning consultant firm of Larson Fisher Associates (LFA) of Woodstock, to document the history of Pine Hill and put together the official application for the National Register of Historic Places. Once accepted to the National Register of Historic Places, Pine Hill would automatically be placed on the New York State Register of Historic Places.

To get the community involved, the Pine Hill Community Center hosted two open houses, January 8 and January 10, in which local residents and property owners were invited and encouraged to share any local knowledge and or information about their property.

Jill Fisher, of Larson Fisher Associates, said that although it is possible for them to do all the research on their own, “one of the things, when you have an open house like this is…you know people come in, they share stories. It just creates a synergy, it feeds on each other, and they get excited.”

Fisher also said that although there will always be a naysayer here and there, “this is probably the most excited group of people I’ve ever encountered in all my years of working historic preservation.”

Despite still being in the early stages, Fisher is optimistic about Pine Hill finding its way onto the National and State Register’s list of Historic Places and for the creation of a historic district, something she hopes to have accomplished sometime by the years end.

However Krueger is adamant in acknowledging that the program still needs to raise $4,000 more. An anonymous donation the Community Center will match $2000, dollar for dollar.

In such uncertain times, the Pine Hill Community Center and its community hope that the look towards history will help preserve their future. ++

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