Turning On, Tuning In and Dropping Out in the Hudson Valley
1903— Byrdcliffe, the first Hudson Valley art colony, opens below the south face of Overlook Mountain in Woodstock. Eccentrically dressed students scandalize locals with their nude figure models—outdoors.
1914— Artist Hervey White, disillusioned by Byrdcliffe’s structure, opens the utopian Maverick Art Colony in Hurley Pattentee Woods. It stresses socialism, intellectualism and freedom. The local newspaper publishes lurid reports of pagan rituals and nude bathing in the Sawkill.
1937— African-American folk luminary Leadbelly—recently freed from prison—performs for Maverick members in Zena.
1950— When folk singer Pete Seeger is blacklisted by HUAC for his political beliefs, he finds a home (and a living) playing music at Camp Woodland in Phonecia.
1963— Albert “The Baron of Bearsville” Grossman (a Manhattan-based entertainment manager) buys a vacation house in Bearsville, and brings like-minded pop acts to visit. These include Joan Baez, The Band, Van Morrison, Todd Rundgren, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan, who spends months living in Grossman’s house.
1965— Bob Dylan purchases Hi Lo Ha, an 11-room Arts and Crafts mansion on Camelot Road in Woodstock, for $12,000. The building was once part of the Byrdcliffe Art Colony.
1966— Pete Seeger and his wife, Toshi, found a nonprofit organization that eventually launches the sloop Clearwater in 1969. Its mission is to protect the Hudson River and surrounding wetlands from the environmental challenges posed by industry.
1967— Bob Dylan and The Band record the album Basement Tapes in a salmon-colored house at 56 Parnassus Lane, West Saugerties. They also compose music for The Band’s landmark studio album, Music from Big Pink, there.
1969— Feeling increasingly vulnerable to obsessed fans (and psychotics), Dylan moves with his wife and children to another Arts and Crafts mansion, The Walter Weyl House, situated on 100 acres off Ohayo Mountain Road in Woodstock.
1969— Promoter Michael Lang calls his epic festival “Woodstock” to capitalize on that town’s cachet, even though the actual site of Max Yasgur’s farm is 43 miles away in the Bethel hamlet of White Lake.
1979— Todd Rundgren produces Meatloaf’s chart-topping Bat out of Hell (1979) and the Patti Smith Group’s Wave (1979) in Albert Grossman’s Bearsville Studio at 293 Tinker St. Renamed Utopia Soundstage, music by Chrissie Hynde, Blues Traveler and Phil Lesh (among many others) is subsequently recorded there.
2017— Michael Lang, the original force behind 1969’s Woodstock festival, announces that Woodstock’s 50th Anniversary Concert will be held in Bethel in 2019.
This story was originally published in August of 2017.