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Mohonk Barn Museum – Victorian Era Life

Mohonk Barn Museum

Working Blacksmith Shop

A few months ago, I posted a series of photos of old-time orange crate label lithographs from California orchards, back in the days before their identifies were completely subsumed by the Sunkist cooperative brand. Those orange crate photos were all taken at the Mohonk Barn Museum in New Paltz, New York, at the Mohonk Mountain House, the last of the grand old hotels in the Catskill Mountains north of New York City.

The display of those lithographs was made possible by a major renovation of the Mohonk Barn Museum, originally erected in 1888. This barn is still one of the largest barns in the northeastern United States, and continues to house the horses that provide year round buggy and winter sleigh rides for Mountain House guests.

The barn is so big that it still has a working blacksmith shop inside, a furniture maker, and a huge collection of old horse and buggy carriages. Very cool old stuff, especially if you like seeing what the standard of technical sophistication was during the Victorian era.

Mohonk Barn Museum

Handmade metal fittings

The Mohonk Mountain House is still owned by the Smiley Family, who were instrumental in building the carriageway system of trails that run through the Gunks and Catskill Mountains and form the basis of the hiking trail system throughout the region. The outgrowth of the Victorian-era landscape architecture movement, the Catskill carriageways were designed to elicit an appreciation of the natural beauty of the region, an aesthetic which continues today with Hiking Trail Builders throughout the world.

Mohonk Barn Museum

Quarry and Trail Building Tools

It still continues to amaze me with the enthusiasm that Smiley Family pursued this vision, hiring and leading huge earthworks construction projects to build the carriageway system. At the time, these construction projects were pursued mainly during the winter months when the local farming community was idle and needed work. They felled timber by hand, blasted Gunks conglomerate, and used sleighs as transportation to move materials. Many of the tools and techniques they used are displayed at the Barn Museum.

Mohonk Mountain House Today

The Mohonk Mountain House Today

If you are ever in the Catskills or the Gunks, hiking or rock climbing on the Mohonk or Minnewaska Preserves, you should make the time to visit the Mountain House grounds and the Barn Museum. The Smiley Family still runs the place and maintains a keen appreciation for the environment, funding research, running an organic farm, and fostering the historic preservation of this special region.

Mohonk Barn Museum

Mohonk's Quaker Roots

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