Woodstock's Past, Captured in Art, Fills the Inn
Do you know what the Woodstock Inn is? (Aside from being a first-rate inn and a defining downtown presence, that is.) It's an art gallery, as well as a repository of Woodstock history. Pretty cool!
Let's start with what was once Frederick Billings's sleigh, meticulously restored and visually arresting.
And there's the eagle, a Woodstock landmark that long perched outside the original inn -- and remains central to its branding.
But more than anything else, it's what's on the walls that strikes you as you wander the Inn. The artwork is everywhere, it's Woodstock, and it's gorgeous. The inn's holdings include 109 paintings from more than 50 artists -- not to mention 114 Audubon prints and 11 pieces of striking Bennington Pottery.
Much of the artwork was originally collected by Laurance Rockefeller, who along with his wife Mary French Rockefeller, created the nonprofit Woodstock Foundation that owns the inn as well as the Billings Farm and Museum.
To wander the halls is to become absorbed in beauty -- and, to a striking extent, in Woodstock itself. Hallway by hallway, landing by landing, corner by corner. Consider Byron Thomas's rendition of the Mt. Tom ski area.
Thomas's work is so vibrant that it's tempting to join the lift line.
No artist has more original pieces in the collection than Arthur Wilder. This is no accident. In addition to being an accomplished turn-of-the-20th-century painter, Wilder was the longtime manager of the Inn.
Wilder's most iconic pieces capture winter scenes in town -- in part because he was trying to foster winter sports and business at the Inn. Here's the center as he rendered it, featuring the two-story hotel that fell to fire in 1867. (It replaced by the Fairbanks Block, where you'll find Bentley's now.)
You can almost feel how cold the water is as it flows beneath the covered bridge:
The settings in which Wilder's paintings are displayed can be as striking as the work itself.
The photograph of Arthur Wilder at work is from the collection of the Woodstock History Center ... which is, of course, another great repository of Woodstock's past. It opens for the season in the last week of May. Getting there!