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Copake embellishes walls with town’s past

The panel dedicated to the Copake Movie Theater, which opened in 1933 and fell victim to arson in June 1990.

COPAKE—The corridors of Copake Town Hall are lined with town history.

A ceremony to cut the ribbon on the long-awaited Copake Town Hall History Exhibit took place the morning of August 13.

The exhibit consists of 24 18- by 24-inch panels, with more to come, each depicting some significant facet of Copake history. Framed in wood and hung on newly-painted walls, the panels invite Town Hall visitors to stroll down the hallways and take a nearly 200-year visual journey into Copake’s past through photographs and text.

The exhibit has been more than two years in the making and is the product of an ad hoc committee: Copake Historian Howard Blue; graphic designer and artist Peter “Nick” Fritsch, and longtime former Town Clerk Vana Hotaling, who grew up in Copake and “contributed her deep knowledge of this little Town and its people,” Supervisor Jeanne Mettler said in her remarks at the ribbon cutting.

“For some of you this will all be brand new, you will be seeing things you did not know about Copake. For some of you, this will be a walk down memory lane,” the supervisor noted.

The Town Board appointed the exhibit committee back in March 2020.

In a phone interview this week, Mr. Blue told The Columbia Paper, for years he has been collecting photos and stories about Copake history (find Mr. Blue’s Copake History page on Facebook). He said he had always wanted to see these treasures displayed and the opportunity presented itself when Supervisor Mettler came up with the exhibit idea and the board put together the committee.

Mr. Blue said he provided the text, photos and other memorabilia on a particular subject to Mr. Fritsch who then put them together to create each panel.

Mr. Fritsch said by phone this week, that he used a desktop publishing program to design each panel, which he then sent digitally to a company that transferred the images onto canvas.

The panel dedicated to Stephen McIntyre, killed in World War II, and the Copake Memorial Clock. Image contributed

The stories told by the panels are about Copake people, places and events such as: The Center of the Hamlet—and Views from Times Gone By; The Copake Pharmacy: Lou and Rose Kaufman, Max Fass open a town institution; Howard McGee: remembering Copake’s typical Columbia County citizen; Copake Kids—a great place to grow up; The Catamount Ski Center; The Astors of Copake; The Copake Memorial Clock: Remembering Stephen McIntyre, A Fallen Soldier; Bash Bish Falls: Copake’s biggest natural attraction (and it’s not even in Copake!); Elinor Mettler: She Made a Difference; When Ice Was “Hot” in Copake; The Copake Movie Theater; The Day Big Chief Thunder Visited Copake; Craryville’s Carroll Rheinstrom: The Man Who Sold Superman to the World; The Copake Grange; The Many Lives of Black Grocery Bridge and Early Elementary Schools.

In the Town Hall courtroom, the exhibit also features two original works, “First Town Meeting 1824” and “Depot” lent by Mr. Fritsch, and enlarged postcards depicting Copake landscapes contributed by Robert Callahan. Paintings by William Clark Vreeland and Donna Louise Vreeland, on loan from Thomas Vreeland, are on display in the Rheinstrom Conference Room.

In addition to Supervisor Mettler and Town Board members Councilman Jeffrey Judd, Councilwoman Terry Sullivan, Councilmen Richard Wolf and Stosh Gansowski, among those on hand for the exhibit’s grand opening were: Senator Daphne Jordan (R-43rd); former Supervisor Angelo Valentino; Lesley Doyel president of the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society; Patricia Placona president of the Roeliff Jansen Community Library; Roberta Roll president of the Copake Grange, who also proof-read the panels; Keith Thomas president of the Roe Jan Young at Hearters; Matthew Hartzog from the office of Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106th); Vice President of the Rheinstrom Hill Community Foundation, Inc. Ed Herrington, the foundation donated $5,000 for the project; (not present) Jill Sims Elster, manager of the Copake Branch of the Bank of Greene County, the bank’s foundation donated $500 towards this project.

Both Senator Jordan and Assemblymember Didi Barrett’s representative presented proclamations to recognize the history display.

Pictured at the ribbon cutting on Copake’s new history exhibit at Town Hall are (l-r): Vana Hotaling, Ed Herrington, Peter Fritsch, Howard Blue, Supervisor Jeanne Mettler, Senator Daphne Jordan, Councilman Jeffrey Judd, (rear) Councilwoman Terry Sullivan, Councilmen Richard Wolf and Stosh Gansowski. Photo by Diane Valden

Supervisor Mettler said, “I cannot adequately express the gratitude which this Town Board has for this extraordinary committee.” She additionally praised Mr. Callahan who built all of the beautiful wood pieces in the Town Hall; repainted the entire Town Hall; hung every picture, plaque, panel and the new flag and framed all of the panels. “He worked here last night deep into the night. And we owe him everything.”

The exhibit is accessible Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to noon. Large groups may also be able to view the exhibit the afternoon of Saturday, August 20 by special appointment. Contact Mr. Blue in advance at

To contact Diane Valden email

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