The O-town Scene

September 29, 2011

The O-town Scene - Oneonta, NY

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Historical Hobart become a mecca for book lovers Story and photos by Simona David In early September, the Hobart International Book- port was animated with people eager to listen to the Dirtmeister's lecture about dinosaur and volcano fossils, crystals and meteorite samples. The Dirtmeis- ter, also known as Steve Tomecek, is a science writer published by the National Geographic Society and a part-time area resident. Next door, The Liberty Rock and the Adams' Anti- quarian Books also had guest speakers – local writer Margaret Kenyon signing copies of her recent book on Kortright, and Dr. Joel Schwartz from the College of Staten Island talking about George John Romanes' role in defending evolution and his lifelong friendship with Charles Darwin. This collaboration of intellectual endeavors and The Hobart International Bookstore is one of the five stores that are included in the Hobart Book Village. wealth of bookstores in such a small village is the product of the 6-year-old Hobart Book Village, whose organizers hope will become a tourist and book-lovers destination. Located in the scenic northern Catskills on the banks of the Delaware River, the little village of Hobart has a fascinating history that only adds to its intrigue. Local author Margaret Kenyon signs her book, 'Kortright Invites You,' at Liberty Rock Books. 10 O-Town Scene Sept. 29, 2011 Historical prelude Established before the Revolutionary War in the 1770s, Hobart became a permanent settlement in the early 1800s, like most of the surrounding area – Stam- ford, Harpersfield and Kortright. In fact, Delaware County was officially established by the New York state Legislature in 1797. The village of Hobart, which is now part of the town of Stamford, was incorporated in 1888. St. Peter's Episcopal Church, the oldest church in Delaware County, was built in 1794, and it functioned as a hub for the village's later development. Given the rough, mountainous terrain of the area, the village relied for a long time on a self-sustained local economy. Water-powered grist and sawmills facilitated local production of goods. And, farming, as in the rest of the Delaware County, was the mainstay of the local economy. Hobart Academy, built in 1845, was the intellectual breeding ground of famous Roxbury natives naturalist writer John Burroughs and financier Jay Gould. Adding to its impressive history is the location of the New York state Supreme Court's headquarters in the early 1900s. A book village is born Set aside its remarkable past, what makes Hobart truly special today is its metamorphosis into a book village, part of the famous local book trail, which be- gins with the Bibliobarn in South Kortright, and ends with Steinway Book Company in Delhi. The world's first book town was established in Wales in 1961, when the small town of Hay-on-Wye re- branded itself as "the town of books." Today Hay-on- Wye is a destination for bibliophiles from all over the world who come to the little Welsh settlement for sec- ondhand and antiquarian books, prints and specialist hardbacks. With more than 30 independent bookstores operating in town, a thriving local tourism industry developed based on literary interests. Replicating Hay-on-Wye's model, Hobart became in 2005 the only book village east of the Mississippi River, as local entrepreneur Don Dales proudly tells. After spending 40 years downstate, where he taught music, played piano and restored furniture, Dales returned to his home town of Hobart in 1999, first as a weekender, then as a full-time resident. He bought several different buildings in Hobart, and got together with Linda Wilson, owner of Bibliobarn in South Kor- tright. The Adams' Antiquarian Book Shop was already operating in Hobart, and Wilson and Dales thought it would be a good idea for Hobart to build on its biblio- phile potential. Dales bought entire collections of books from two bookstores running out of business in Amsterdam and Troy. He also bought tons of lumber, and custom- made shelves for his books. In 2005, he opened two bookstores right on Main Street, Liberty Rock Books and Hobart Book Market. Velga Kundzins-Tan, cur- rently president of the Greater Stamford Area Cham- ber of Commerce, opened a café within the Liberty Rock Books store, which she named "Cook the Books." "As a founding member of the Book Village, I am personally very happy to see the growth that it has Continued on Page 11

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