Pine Hill: The little hamlet that could

This week, the Woodstock Times profiles the little hamlet of Pine Hill, which is currently mustering its few hundred residents in a community-wide effort to get listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places.

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 [Pine Hill Community Center director James] 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.”

Central to the effort is the unassuming building that serves as the heart and soul of Pine Hill's Main Street: the Pine Hill Community Center. For a "third place" in a town of barely more than two hundred people, it's something of a miracle: a lively neighborhood hangout all year round, with a full roster of programs and classes for folks of all ages, and where big events tend to draw a full house. (We made an appearance on Catskill Cabaradio last month, the monthly radio variety show broadcast from Pine Hill, and the place was stuffed to the gills with people laughing along and eating potluck supper and having a grand old time.) Writer Paul Smart calls the Community Center "just the sort of place for which most of us moved here, or stick around":

Now, over a decade into its role as one of he region’s top examples of how places can be brought together again, the Pine Hill Community Center is not only leading its home community into new programs and activities, but also centering the central Catskills with a wide range of programming, from an Internet radio station and monthly live-broadcast Cabaradio events to afternoon classes, community get-togethers, counseling and therapy sessions and an ongoing crafts store and hangout space where young and old kibitz and exchange information on a daily basis.