The more things change

Past meets present in Callicoon

Posted 12/6/23

CALLICOON, NY — History runs deep here. It’s startling when the present edges in.

The hamlet (don’t confuse it with the Town of Callicoon; the hamlet of Callicoon is in the …

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The more things change

Past meets present in Callicoon


CALLICOON, NY — History runs deep here. It’s startling when the present edges in.

The hamlet (don’t confuse it with the Town of Callicoon; the hamlet of Callicoon is in the Town of Delaware) dates back to the 18th century, at least, when Daniel Skinner’s rafting business got started. Before Skinner, of course, there were many people. The Lenape hunted these lands first. 

Before them? Animals and trees. Water. You could, I’m sure, go back to when the Appalachians were as tall as the Rockies are now, or back to the dinosaurs.

But let’s fast forward. The rafting industry—the cutting down of trees, lashing them together and floating them to Philly to be sold for lumber or ship masts, boomed. The area slowly settled, the economy focused on the men driving trees downriver to places elsewhere, and on the businesses that served them.

Callicoon has always been about the river, and once the trains came through, it was about the tourists too. Visitors filing off the train at the start of summer, flowing to the boarding houses or their second homes or to stay at the Western Hotel or the Olympia. The women and kids stayed on; the men went back and forth to the city on the train. Everyone went home at Labor Day.

The people who lived here ran tourist-friendly businesses and businesses for the needs of the year-round residents. And in a 21st-century phenomenon, tourist season shifted, lengthened. People moved here permanently. 

The hamlet shifted too.

For example, look at Upper Main Street. The Western dominates the town; the paint job is different and the interior has been redesigned, but it still plays host to visitors. The Olympia has been reborn as the Callicoon Brewing Company. 

The old firehouse has become Catskill Provisions; owner Claire Marin sells small-batch handcrafted honey products and owns distillery Pollinator Spirits. A far cry from the moonshine my great-grandparents bought in some undisclosed location. (You can’t see it from here, but Agway is still Agway, selling just about everything.)

The Callicoon Theater is still on Upper Main—it dates back to 1948. Your go-to resource for new movies, it’s a chance to recapture an old-time experience. Don’t skip the concession stand. 

Head down to Lower Main and note the Callicoon Real Estate building (which once was Klimchok) and Craig Burkle’s insurance business. Peck’s Market used to be a car dealership. One of the buildings next to it has become a road, but the laundromat—was that Gramma’s Treasures or the building with the cars in the basement?—still washes the clothes of both locals and visitors.

Keep walking. Matthew J. Freda Real Estate is still there. Many of the Lower Main shops have changed hands and functions over the years. There was the eatery with a bowling alley in the basement. Peppino’s, now. Buttons and Bows, the Band Box clothing store where my mom shopped, and the fish place; the last was owned by the East Ridge folks, I think. The fish shop changed and changed again and isn’t that now the much-loved Riverside Remedies?

The thrift shop, run by the brilliant organization Interfaith Outreach United, is still there. They do so much good and get so little recognition.

The Callicoon Market, the former flea market, the former A&P (right?), now home to books and home goods and wool and some fine bagels.

The bank, now the Delaware Free Branch of the Western Sullivan Public Library, it was once the Callicoon National Bank. The vaults are still there but last I saw, the doors were gone. Safety is excellent; who wants to get stuck in a vault? 

Behind Lower Main is A. Dorrer Drive, brand new, with new stores rising in old buildings, facing the park—which is also new. New-ish. Twenty years, now? 

Back across Bridge Street, you’ll find the new bank and the new post office, from around 1966, I think.  

Homes. The car wash. 

Through it all, Callicoon Creek and the Delaware River. Ebbing and flowing, constantly rewritten by floods and flood mitigation and perhaps bits of bridge falling off. The river has changed. So has the hamlet. 

But in that hamlet, we are born, grow, celebrate. We move in and move out. We have 

festivals, have fun. We argue over things little and big. We pass away. 

Memory gets hazy and the stories are lost or altered away from what actually happened. But we the people, the lives we live—we’re much the same. Only the window dressing changes.

town of callicoon, more things change, rafting industry, upper main street, western, olympia, callicoon brewing company


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