Woodland Valley Historian Paul Misko: “How the Tanning Industry Changed Our Catskill Mountains”
Hiking in the Catskills since childhood, Paul Misko’s interest in the early history of the region drew him to decades of research, particularly in Woodland Valley, the site of several tanneries. Tanning leather was one of the many industries the early settlers brought from Europe. The process required the use of tannins extracted from tree bark, and in the early 1800's the trees of the Catskill forest held considerable opportunity to tan leather. Eager entrepreneurs saw a nearly endless supply of Hemlock and Oak bark in the Catskill Mountains. Soon tanneries sprung up throughout the Catskill region and mountainsides were clearcut to harvest as much bark as possible. Towns were created, and grew as workers came into the region.
The talk will include the tanning process, artifacts from “bark-peeling,” the men who built the tanneries, demand for leather, and the environmentally significant impact this industry had on the Catskill forest, the effects of which are still with us today.
Slabsides will be open for tours from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Directions: Follow the “Path through History” signs at the intersection of Route 9W and Floyd Ackert Road in West Park and turn west onto Floyd Ackert Road (at Global Palate restaurant). Continue for .8 mile, then left on Burroughs Drive for .3 mile.