By Noel Chrisjohn Benson
Back in the little town of Brown’s Station in the early 1900’s, one could imagine what life was like for the toll collectors. Waiting for people in stylish clothes from out of town to come up and experience the Catskills, swim in the creeks, float down the Esopus and hike the landscapes. I wonder what the toll collector would of thought, had someone told him this building would be moved over 10 miles to Woodstock in the future? And this area would be under water? Pretty crazy right? Only to become a neat little spot for people to get a drink and enjoy some cool music acts?
Well, the Station Bar and Curio happened to become exactly that. After all the supplies were unloaded off the very railroad that would doom the town, the Ashokan Reservoir began construction and the entire town was flooded. All the buildings were either moved, abandoned or dismantled, and the little building made by the Ulster and Delaware Railroad Company, was first moved to a location in Ashokan. It was moved again by Victor Basil, a Woodstock resident, who’s intention was to open a new bar in town, but he couldn’t due to permit problems. It was occupied by a few businesses, but eventually became a noticeable, neat, hang out spot for people, but wasn’t exactly a public property.
“Lily and I met when we worked for Scharff Weisberg Lighting in the city for awhile, which led into us freelancing” said Ben Rollins, co-owner of the Station Bar. “We eventually got bored of our jobs, and the more and more we thought about it, we really wanted to do something different. We would see this building sitting here when visiting family in the area, and we would always focus on it. Eventually, we realized what we wanted.” Lily added “We didn’t want to work in the city anymore and our lives made a complete turn. This was where we wanted to raise our son, it just made sense. We wanted a place in the community for people to hang out, and it seems like that’s exactly what’s been happening”.
Located at 101 Tinker St, across from the library, the Station Bar and Curio opened its doors in 2016 and is a gem that keeps the old spirit of Woodstock alive. While it’s mainly a bar, Chef Kyle Waltz fixes what they call “bar bites” which can be anything from pressed panini sandwiches, to hearty soups and salads. A big part of the community is having places for local and traveling musicians to play without a big hassle, especially in a warm, intimate atmosphere. At the outdoor and indoor areas of the Station Bar and Curio you can find musical acts almost any day of the week.
Since it’s opening in 2016 the bar has had several artists perform in the pavilion, and a DJ that spins vinyl once a week. “When we got the property, we stared for awhile. And just the whole vibe from it, just seemed to emit some energy that was fine with us, and didn’t need to be changed” said Ben and Lily. “We changed a little in the rooms, but not much, we wanted to keep as much of it as original as we could.” Inside the Station Bar people have a pool table, a juke box, and original artwork for sale from local artists. Even their tower tap is fashioned from an antique radiator. It’s ironic, since few of the adults in the area remember drinking in the once abandoned setting as teenagers, only to sit back and enjoy their drinks now in a place that is good for any generation. And to see musical acts from local and non-local musicians alike (and it’s all legal, too).
I had a chance to check out “The Flash Band” and got a word with the local performer, affectionately known simply as “Flash”, after his group twanged and thunked a funky version of “Ain’t no Sunshine” out in the pavilion. “I like this place and it’s atmosphere. I’ve played here before, its nice to see people of all ages show up and listen to us play”.
The stage area is adorned with a neat photo backdrop that makes you feel like a crowd is already in attendance. An old photo, donated by Allan Seigel, graces the back of the outdoor seating area. An original piece, that was handcrafted decades ago before Photoshop or inkjet was even close to being invented, shows a black and white image of the “Bathing Suit Exhibition” from Galveston, Texas. It almost gives the seating area a sense of a “ready crowd” that gleams back to the audience in the seating area. It is one of the many antiques that lends the building an old school charm.
Serving handcrafted beer from local breweries, as well as a selection base of local spirits, the Station Bar and Curio is open from Monday thru Thursday from 4pm - 2am, and Friday thru Sunday 12pm - 2 am They are about a five minute walk from the village green, and there is extra parking in back, near the Comeau property which leads to a neat little covered footbridge which leads to the bar.
When I was 16, I ended up moving to this town, never knowing where I belonged. Not knowing what I was to become, not knowing if I was spending too much time on the guitar, not knowing if I was wasting my life away. Or if I’d found the secret to living, just being, and treasuring every moment. Woodstock was like a fantasy world for me at the time. There were dozens of people I knew around town. We all had our neat little projects going on and often we would stop in at certain places just to hang out for a second. When the Tinker St. Cafe closed, it really upset me. The legendary cafe brought such artists as Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Richie Havens and countless others, many of whom would give a moment’s notice before gracing the stage to avoid crowding. I used to feel like I was sharing people’s magic. Every day and night I was watching how excited some visitors were, knowing they were sitting near Bob Dylan’s old apartment, drinking beer and listening to a live musician that could be at any level of talent at any time. It makes me hap-py to see such a place as the Station open. It gives me a little of that same feeling I used to get to see someone in this town, alone with a guitar on a mini stage in the spotlight. They could be playing to a hundred people, or could be playing for less than a dozen. But they were playing for themselves, and for whatever reason, being in the atmos-phere of this creative haven called Woodstock, it would often bring the best out of traveling musicians when they alone were on the stage.
It's too bad Victor Basil didn’t live to see his bar come to life. But his kids, John and Marina Basil, have had the experience of seeing it for themselves. When Ben and Lily Rollins said they wanted a place that had the “vibe of town” they got it right. It takes on a life of its own, when the guests start coming in at noon, until later on at night. People out, moon’s out, stars out, bar is inside. It adds another “hop” to town. I find myself jumping from one spot to another in the area. And at some point in the night I always arrive at the Station, where it has very common to find musicians without instruments. How can you tell? Believe me, you just know. Mr. Basil is most definitely shining down at what he started with love.