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Front Porch Fridays

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Author: Laiken Whittredge & Erynne Ansel-McCabe

The Front Porch Friday Series for Schoharie County strives to provide a fresh look at our County through the words and thoughts of participants who have agreed to sit on their “front porch” and share their stories. Our County - Schoharie County is a very special place and with this Series, our goal is to illuminate the ideas and passions that makes it so special. We wish to thank all participants of this project for their wisdom, insights, and time given. Much Appreciated!



The Iroquois Indian Museum

“When we think about museums we usually think about history and how important the past is to the present, but the Iroquois Indian Museum has a special way of focusing on the present through the artist. This gives us another way to look at cultures that are different from our own.”
Steph Shultes, Director, Iroquois Indian Museum, has been involved with the Museum since the mid-1980’s in one way or another. Her steadfast dedication to IIM is remarkable as she has seen it grow from the top floor of a building on the campus of the Old Stone Fort to the present-day state of the art Museum and 45 acres of well-marked Nature Trails. First, she was a volunteer, then Curator, then the natural next step of Director and it all seemed so flawless to those of us who watched her journey, but it takes someone special with focus and quiet determination to do all this. Someone with a deep understanding of how important it is to focus on Iroquois identity and the beauty of their on-going stories. Her favorite part of working at the Museum has been working with a small staff that becomes family. Over the years Steph has also connected with Iroquois artists and extended the “family” even further – especially with the potters who are often multi-generational. In one instance, Steph works with a family from Six Nations in Canada where the husband, wife, daughter, and granddaughter all have exhibited at the Museum. It is no wonder “stunning” is a favorite word you hear Steph speak so often as she describes the art, the Museum and of course, her cats.

Dr. Best House & Medical Museum

 “It makes me feel good to carry on and tell their story. So, I guess the whole story of the Best family is my favorite story.”
When speaking to Trish Bergan, Director about one of her favorite memories of being at the @drbestmuseum she will describe her daughter as a small child sitting in the vestibule of the House and welcoming guests. This memory and others are just a part of her connection to this beautiful old house that was once the home of Dr. Christopher Best and his son, Dr. Duncan Best.
Trish has lived in Middleburgh, NY for over 21 years and is not only the Director but is the interim Mayor. Her passion for this house and the museum began years ago when her kids where young and she brought them to the house to share her love of history.
The uniqueness of the Dr. Best House and Medical Museum is the House is not only a time capsule but a timeline… medical equipment used by two doctors - father and son - starting in the 1800’s and the shoes and hats from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s that tell the stories of women in the doctors’ busy lives.
It is important to Trish to highlight the doctors’ philanthropy and their generous nature. There are locals that remember how the doctors often accepted milk or eggs as payment to deliver a baby or set a broken bone if the family was not able to pay.
How to keep this Museum fresh for today’s audience is very important to Trish and she has succeeded in different ways. One, is to bring in after-school programs as well as an 
amateur archeology group. Paranormal activities always draw a crowd as do other special events. The timeline lives on.

Under The Nose

“I think the most wonderful thing about living here is the generous nature of the Community.” Lin Quinn of Under the Nose
After Hurricane Irene finally moved on in August of 2011, Lin and her husband Tom, looked out the window and could not believe the devastation that had occurred. Not only was the printing business she shared with her father washed into the creek – equipment and the foundation of the building – but all the topsoil as well. The once green lawn looked bare as the moon with just rocks and debris. However, out of all that destruction, Under the Nose was re-created little by little and today it stands as one of the finest attractions in Schoharie County.
But how does one come back from the point where everything is either gone or changed for the worst? Lin’s quote explains it, that, with a community of good, caring people and lots of creative energy that both she and Tom displayed in the months and years afterwards, it can be done.
Today’s visitors to Under the Nose see the lush green yard and welcoming building that seems to say “Happy things happen here” and they would never know the work and dedication it took these two remarkable people to get it to this happy place. Lin’s art has charm and imagination and Tom’s flavor creations are incredible and all for sale to the hikers, campers and other visitors that stop by on their way to one of our County’s most iconic destinations – Vromans Nose.

Bull's Head Inn

“Embracing the spirit of authenticity” Chris Guldner, Owner, Bull's Head Inn, Cobleskill
In the late 1990’s Chris’ life took an unexpected turn. The corporate world, that had suited him so well, suddenly put him on pause and Chris quickly found another passion – building and renovating restaurants. It was lucky for Schoharie County that a few years later Chris met his future wife, Mary Sagendorf. Mary, who grew up in Howes Cave, has deep love and in-depth knowledge of the history of the area and it didn’t take very long for them to start to unfold the plan to save the @Bullsheadinncobleskill.
Chris’ love of history really began after he read Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and today he finds it remarkable that Thomas Jefferson was President when the Bull’s Head was built in 1802. He also remarks how this building has been an integral part of Cobleskill from the days when the Loonenburgh Turnpike was essential to the Cobleskill railroad which ran along the property so long ago.
Renovating the historic Bull’s Head Inn gave Chris the opportunity to “peel back the layers” as the work went along. Each generation of worker left their mark that read as a story to Chris and he honored them. As the chapters were revealed, Chris studied each one and eventually brought the building back to original – or as original as possible. It was a powerful personal experience to be stewards of the building and responsible for bringing it back to life. It is clear, however, this is more that just a building, it is a place for community and celebration and thanks to Chris and Mary, will continue for many generations to come.

Landis Arboretum

“Always nice to see a big American Beech” Fred Breglia, Executive Director, Landis Arboretum
By the time Fred was five years old, he knew he loved trees more than most kids his age and even though he traveled all over the US, he knew trees were in his future. Almost 23 years later, Fred is still following his dreams but now as the Executive Director of @landisarboretum in Esperance, NY.
Following Fred’s adventures, one will see his love for family - wife Erin and two beautiful boys as well as his love for music - he plays mandolin, banjo, and guitar. And the fact that he can combine all these loves and run a successful not-for-profit such as Landis Arboretum speaks volumes about Fred and who he is. When asked, Fred will focus on his favorite feature at Landis - the Old Grove Forest which consists of 350 acres and on how Landis houses a variety of rare and exotic plants, in fact, one of the rarest plants is the Pirate Bush, which is studied by many.
It is well known that Landis Arboretum is the home of the Big Oak Tree that is featured on their logo and is a special tree, especially for Fred and Erin. They were married under the huge, sprawling, and leafy branches on a day that not many will forget. If you ask him, Fred will say he is a big tree hunter and seeker and has started a Big Tree Facebook group with over 110,00 members who share his passion for the big ones. Recently one of the largest trees was featured on a gigantic billboard in NYC’s Time Square and it filled a City block!


 “The work I do is really a partnership with the Community. Everyone should get a chance to tell their story.” Patsy Nicosia, Times-Journal
Patsy Nicosia, Editor and Jim Poole, President and Publisher of The Times Journal, have been working together since 1992 when Jim bought the paper, but she began working as a journalist many years before that in the mid 1980’s. Experience, practice, and the natural ability to capture the stories, Patsy writes with consistency and accuracy. But there is something more…something that comes across during her interviews that can only be described as her dedication to giving everyone a chance to tell their story. Patsy grew up outside of Binghamton and remembers the feeling of seeing her name in print for the first time and she has never lost that memory of how powerful it feels. Each week Patsy gives the opportunity for residents of Schoharie County to see their name in print and to reflect who we are as a Community.
Patsy is so busy and on the go all the time that when asked what her favorite memory or story is, she laughed and answered, “my favorite is whatever I am currently working on.” And then, more reflectively, Patsy thought back to Hurricane Irene in 2011 and how she relied on a stranger with a truck to drive her deep into the flooded area so she could record and photograph the destruction. Patsy knew intuitively that it had to be recorded for the Community not only for that week’s paper in 2011, but for the future generations of Schoharie County who would be amazed.

The Cave House Museum of Mining & Geology

“It was a great day for me when I was asked to be “honorary curator” to help a dedicated group of volunteers restore this historic building.” Richard Nethaway, Board Member, The Cave House Museum of Mining and Geology, Howes Cave, NY
A visit to this marvelous structure, the Cave House, is a journey through time. Display after display of fossils, minerals, and magical elements of what is known as “Earth Science” fill this partially renovated Museum. What intrigues Richard is the evolution of this building – from Lester Howe’s luxury hotel with a dining area cooled by air from the caverns, to boarding house, to a cement plant office, and then finally to near collapse when a tornado roared through in 1989. Richard watched some of this evolution from his childhood home on a hill above Howe Caverns and wondered if someday it would be like an “old English castle where the walls would remain but the rest gone to the wind.” Luckily for Schoharie County, this “Grand Old Lady” as Richard likes to call it, stands strong and ready for visitors on Blowing Rock Road, in Howes Cave, NY.
Classical music plays softly in the background as Richard regails in his love of the history of the Cave House and his hope for its future. More visitors, students and of course money for renovations. Regrettably, there are no photos of the interior of the Cave House when it was in its glory. Somewhere out there, Richard knows there is a box of photographs in someone’s attic or garage that will fill complete the story for this Grand Old Lady. Somewhere out there….