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About Big City Getaway

Looking for a simple day trip? Just a neat destination to give you an excuse to ride? We bet some days you are. That is what Big City Getaway is all about. There are great roads and interesting destinations all around. Every month we’ll give you one in Big City Getaway.

Time and the Valleys Museum

332 Main Street, Grahamsville, NY • 845-985-7700

TimeValleySignBikesMany times history will glide right past us, sometimes it is we who glide by it.

We try to be ever vigilant when it comes to new places and things to explore while riding motorcycles. Many times we will ride past something of great worth, unawares that history has just shown up in our mirrors. So, we try to make it a point to look for something new and different – even in old haunts.

Such was the case during the first day of this year’s Ramapo 500, the region’s premier road tour. We had just ridden over a pass and were scooting through Grahamsville, New York when I got a flashing glimpse of a very impressive sign – way in the back of the library’s parking lot.

Hmmm, well if somebody went to all that trouble to make such an impressive sign this might be worth seeking out. We doubled back and rode up to the Time and the Valleys Museum. We were very glad we did.

The museum is the end result of the vision of several local residents who wished to preserve the region’s past and to educate folks today of this part of the Catskills’ history.

After years of hard work, the museum moved into the·three-floor facility in June 2011 alongside the new Daniel Pierce Library. My, how nice it was to see a real library again.

TimeValleyExhibit1Since that time, the Museum has created two permanent exhibits: “Water and the Valleys” and “Tunnels, Toil and Trouble”, a museum shop with trained, dedicated volunteer staff, a Local History Research Center, and several temporary exhibits.

There are a couple of permanent exhibits here at Time and the Valleys Museum – the first floor dedicated to Water and the Valleys.

This permanent exhibition covers the history of the Rondout and Neversink Valleys from the pre-history geological periods, Native Americans, early settlers, farming, tanning, and other early industries, through the 1930s. We found the displays and little bits of information wonderful.

For instance – we have ridden through the region called Sundown dozens of times, but never knew how this particular part of the Catskills had gotten the name.

We didn’t think it had anything to do with Gordon Lightfoot, and it did not. The truth was that when Europeans first got to this region the hemlocks were so thick and deep that the mid-day sunlight could not penetrate to the forest floor. Thus the name – Sundown. We love tidbits like this!

TimeValleyArtistUpstairs there was a superb display of watercolors, from varying artists, one of whom was sitting there and happy to talk about her work - which was beautiful. When the museum asked for original art they also required a photograph to go with it, and that it had to be of a local spot or view. Very nice indeed.

But, for us, it was in the lower level that a story near to our hearts was told.

Last winter we did a two-part story on the reservoirs of New York State, the Great Syphon and how so many people, families, and towns of the Catskills were displaced to sate the need of a city a hundred miles to the south. Here they have an entire floor dedicated to this amazing story.

The exhibit is called Tunnels, Toil, and Trouble and tells the, sometimes, sad story of progress and the history of New York City’s complex water system as well as that of the TimeValleyTunneltowns taken to build the system.

From the beginning to the modern-day, this interesting and striking bit of local history is something we should all be aware of.

Hundreds of men were killed building the tunnels, boring through some thousand plus feet at the bottom of the Hudson River and the incredible complexities of people, machinery, technology and …politics that keeps the Big Apple wet even till this day.

When you see how all this was accomplished you will be amazed and far more knowledgeable the next time you ride around the Ashokan and Pepacton Reservoirs.

Located behind the Museum, the new 1930s Lost Catskill Farm tells the story of farmers who were forced to give up their land to build NYC's water system. Period buildings include a farmhouse, outhouse, milk house and workshop powered by a working waterwheel. An 1870's barn was painstakingly disassembled and reassembled on-site, and visitors can also see an original 1930's power plant.

We love finds like the Time and the Valleys Museum. Riding along the backroads of the Catskills is always a blast, but this museum is worth the trip all by itself.