Cultural center to build in historic area

Published in the Aug. 20, 2014, issue of the Irish Echo

The Delaware and Hudson Canal Company’s HQ

in Rondout (click on image for larger view).

By Peter McDermott


“It’s on almost hallowed ground,” so said writer Ed McCann. “The laborers walked up the hill there to get their wages.”

He was referring to the well-advanced plans to build the Irish Cultural Center Hudson Valley at 32 Abeel St., in the historic Rondout section of Kingston, N.Y.

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The Irish story in the Hudson Valley goes back a full two centuries and few places were as evocative of the experience as the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company’s headquarters.

Only the foundation exists today, but next door the ICCHV will build its 15,000 square-foot space, its website says, “to serve as a testament to the contributions and sacrifices made by the Irish and Irish-Americans in helping to build New York State as well as to the success they achieved and the obstacles they overcame; To provide a warm and welcoming meeting place for all who want to share in this great Irish-American experience.”

McCann was asked to get involved and he did because he was impressed with ICCHV president Robert Carey’s vision that it can be a “mini-university of all things Irish.”

Said McCann: “It’s not going to a hall, something stodgy, a boys’ drinking club.

“It’s going to be a living, dynamic center, not a museum. It will be a rehearsal space; it will have music, and cooking classes,” he said. “For me, as a writer, it’s exciting that they’re creating a physical space where writers and artists can showcase their work.

“I hope it will be flexible enough not to rule out anything, like broadcasting or web casting or filmmaking,” McCann added.

He said that he hoped that the center could aspire to having a writer-in-residence program that would attract nationally known authors like Alice McDermott and Colum McCann.

When he moved to the Mid-Hudson Valley as a college student, McCann, who is from Broad Channel in Queens, New York City, said, “I knew that I had come home.”

He was told then that the region stretched from the “Tappan Zee to Albany.”

Paul Tully of the ICCHV said that the area had no cultural center. “You have to go north to Albany or south to New York City,” he said.

“There are so many areas in the arts that we felt the needs weren’t being met,” Tully added.

The project that originated with the Sullivan County AOH has paid off the property it bought three years ago, as well another across the street that will serve as a car park.

The website adds: “This site is a critical location for the Irish in the Hudson Valley. It was once dubbed ‘Little Dublin’ because our ancestors tirelessly labored there while building the country’s canals as well as communities based on faith and family.”

As for tracing those ancestors, “There will be access to genealogical research and documents. And a collection of critical documents and items reflecting the lives of the Irish-Americans will be developed.”

It adds: “The 15,000-square foot facility will be a well-rounded place to celebrate all aspects of Irish culture.

“Literature, song, poetry, dance, language, drama and story-telling will be embraced, examined and taught and the region’s active AOH Pipe and Drum Band and Honor Guard will finally have a place to call home.”

The Irish Cultural Center Hudson Valley will host a welcoming reception on Saturday, Aug. 30, for Ireland’s ambassador to the United States. It will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the SteelHouse Restaurant, 100 Rondout Landing, Kingston, N.Y. Anderson will also attend the Hooley on the Hudson in Kingston the same weekend.

Tully said: “We’re very happy that Ambassador Anderson is honoring us with her visit and that she’s showing her support for the Irish Cultural Center Hudson Valley.”

For more information contact Tully at info@icchv.org.