Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Last Thoughts on Kerhonkson

As Kerhonkson slowly dies, it occurs to me that there are a couple of different courses of action that can be taken. One is to maintain the status quo. A friend of mine commented earlier that, in her opinion, and I agree with this, the blame falls mainly on the collective populace of the town. They might be making changes but at such a glacial pace that you can’t see it from outer space. I doubt adding a menu item at the Rainbow Diner counts for much….
The trouble is that, like in a bad marriage, people become accustomed to just getting through the day and that would appear to be the case here. A collective apathy, like much of what has stricken the country, is occurring on the local level, and unless someone makes the decision to step up and change things, they will remain the same.
And what is the current status of Kerhonkson? Of course, any comments about Kerhonkson must, by necessity, include Wawarsing, a section of Accord, Napanoch and Ellenville, since they are all at least part of the Town of Wawarsing, and ultimately anything administrative has to be approved by the Town Board in Ellenville, where the Town of Wawarsing government is housed. As I visited all four of those villages recently I was dismayed to see that the once busy former Jamesway, formerly Whites, formerly Grants, formerly Ames ( I think) Plaza looks like it is a radioactive “stay out zone” with what appears to be a flea market in its place. From a lifetime of experience I know that when a place reaches flea market status the body is almost cold…and they tend to look like flea markets, cheap, trashy garbage masquerading as merchandise once you can get the mildew smell out of it. It’s not funny, but the flea market/auction subculture is a strange cycle of buying and reselling that makes no sense but keeps a certain group of people busy. Years ago I worked for a couple of summers and winters with Vic Zolinksy at Trader Vic’s Napanoch Auction Barn. His faithful followers were buying the same items over and over, selling them to each other and then having Vic sell them again at the auction. A strange, probably unique American experience that would, if it wasn’t so pathetic, be funny.
So, I digress again. Kerhonkson is in the flea market stage. Same old crap every day, same unemployment, same ugly and abandoned buildings, same drug problems, same everything. Almost ready for a new bridge that connects…what?
Reader David Witkus had a great idea to turn what is left of Main Street into a type of culinary row, refurbishing or rebuilding the remaining buildings to house cooking schools for local teens. Free tuition as long as they promise or agree to operate restaurants on the street after they have graduated. Money certainly would be problematic (Where the HELL is all that tax money going????) but it’s possible that someone with the capital would be able to seize the moment and build something memorable. Heck, they could even name the thing after themselves: Schoonmaker Row, or Kortright Korner, or any number of well to do families who have a vested interest in keeping their hometown alive.
Another reader reminded me of the fact that there is another resort, Soyuzivka, on Foordmore Road. It caters to Ukrainians, but has been a thriving and good neighbor to the area. Maybe expanding the Ukrainian theme would help the town a bit--some shops and restaurants with a touch of Ukrainian heritage, perhaps? Down here in Georgia, there is a town called Helen, which has a Bavarian theme going on, amongst beautiful scenery, no more so than Kerhonkson, and the place does extremely well with tourists, especially during Oktoberfest time. The beer and bratwurst are great. Why not adopt something similar in Kerhonkson, playing up Minnewaska as aprt of the mountainous area.
Of course all of this is speculation. Previously I had floated the idea of a grand hotel being built on the mountaintop, but someone reminded me that a large section of the mountain was declared “forever wild” by the Town of Wawarsing. I don’t know if the area above Kerhonkson is part of that but I’m sure someone will tell me.
C’mon folks…let us put our heads together and figure out how to revive this lovely place before its too late.


  1. Just saw this blog. Kerhonkson is totally dead now, even Candlelight closed. There's talks of a Walmart in the old Jamesway (Ames, etc.) plaza, but the town has been fighting it for a while now! I think it's time to move......

  2. Thanks for posting. I was back a few months ago and was dismayed at the mess, and the apathy. A lot of people just hanging on, waiting for.....what?