Palenville is in the southwest part of the Town of Catskill, located at the junction of Routes 23A and 32A. It lies at the foot of Kaaterskill Clove, nestled against the base of the Catskill Mountains. Kaaterskill Creek runs through the town, and is spanned by a locally famous swinging footbridge. The creek provides a number of swimming holes in the summer months, and the Long Path runs through the town.
Palenville was an important center of the Hudson River school of the 19th century. Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, and other notable painters stayed and worked in Palenville during the height of the movement. The famous painting Kindred Spirits depicts Cole and William Cullen Bryant near Kaaterskill Falls, just uphill from the town. The famous Catskill Mountain House was also located just outside Palenville. Palenville is the fictional home of Rip van Winkle.
Palenville historically is considered the 'First Art Colony in America' (as noted by Dr. Roland Van Zandt, author of The Catskill Mountain House). It is located at the base of the Catskill Mountains at the entrance of the Kaaterskill Clove. There you will find countless waterfalls and many of the motifs of the most famous of 19th century American artists. In fact, it was called the Village of Falling Waters.
With the coming of the twentieth century, the large boarding houses of the mountain top started to close their shutters, yet, Palenville and the surroundings remained a summer wonderland for the horde of city dwellers who peppered the bluestone lining the creeks, escaping the summer's heat and the city stench. Palenville was one of the Catskill's vacation meccas hosting nearly two dozen small and medium sized boarding houses and as many if not more hotels at that turn of the centuries. Palenville, the Kaaterskill Creek and the Kaaterskill Clove remains a popular subject for painters as well but times change and with the popularity of its vacation traffic, changes in taste, technology and all that progress brings the painters had long moved on by the time of the great wars. The artistic history of the hamlet had faded away by mid-century the same as the sounds of laughter and frolic filling its lanes faded each September when the shutters closed and all but a few 'locals' huddled-in for winter in the shadow of the mountain.
It was not until late in the 20th century that the history would be remembered and in a synchronistic moment an art gallery opened on Main Street Palenville and The Pine Orchard Summer Festival rekindled the creative campfire at this magical little hamlet.
Opening its doors in 1980 and hosting its first national juried show in 1981 the privately owned and funded Terrance Gallery exhibited more than 1200 artists from all over the country, in a call to revisit the historic gathering place of the 19th century painters. The Pine Orchard located on along the Manorville road through fund raising and grants refurbished a chapel into a theater and hosted Opera, players, musicians,writers and artists. And also Shakespeare and the Circus arts where presented there by the Bond Street Theater group.
The Woodbine Inn, one of the last original boarding houses and Taverns dating from 1850s, reflects the area's colorful past and changing history. At various times a speakeasy, a jazz club, a punk venue and now renovated as an Inn and Arts Center, the Woodbine has been host to jazz and musical performances from the 1940s through present day, featuring such diverse talents as Louis Armstrong's keyboard player Shorty Jackson, NRBQ, David Sancious, the Felice Brothers and Murali Coryell. It is rumored that the notorious prohibition gangsters Dutch Schultz and Legs Diamond were regular patrons of the The Woodbine Inn. The Woodbine has been fully renovated as Whole Inn Rental & B&B accommodation with a strong emphasis on the arts. A unique venue for weddings, anniversaries, special events and occasional high profile, invite-only performances. The Vintage Bar is no longer open to the public but is fully operational and enjoyed by private parties at the Inn. In the endeavor to keep creativity alive in Palenville, the Ballroom space provides weekly yoga, belly dance and dance fitness classes to the community, and the Woodbine's state-of-the-art kitchen has been used as a location for food pilot film shoots for local restaurants and chefs, as well as hosting occasional cooking classes for small groups. We like to think we are furthering the spirit of Palenville, class by class, and by encouraging like-minded creatives back into the area.
The Terrance Gallery and the Pine Orchard festivals have long since close their doors but the Palenville Library, the Woodbine Inn, and many new, old, full and part-time businesses and residences keep the candle alite. Painters again are coming to Palenville to enjoy its plethora of motifs and one day perhaps these newer canvases will join those from the 19th century that don the walls of museums throughout the world today.
Other noted artists who frequented Palenville and the Clove were: Winslow Homer, Asher B. Durand, Thomas Addison Richards, John Frederick Kensett and Sanford R. Gifford. Landscape painters of the 20th century, to name a few, included: Albert Handel, Barry Hopkins, Athena Billias, Michelle Moran and Patti Ferrara. George H. Hall, who was a 'genre' painter, took up residence in Palenville towards the end of the 19th century; and Terrance J. DePietro, an abstract painter, who was early on influenced by the Hudson River School, maintained residence and a studio from the later part of the 20th century into the 21st.(He brought artists from Quebec, Canada, i.e. Nicole Lemelin and Remi LaRoche to find inspiration beneath the "shadow of the mountain".)