Hobart Book Village: A Literary Retreat Hidden in the Catskills
As any true book lover knows, it isn’t enough to read a book, to turn the pages, and carry the stories and characters through the days; there’s also a need to be with books, to be surrounded by them in any way possible. So, the concept of a book village — a community of words and stories strung together in a neat row of shops — is, in my mind, a literary treasure. And stepping into Hobart Book Village feels like stumbling upon a dusty, worn, but well-loved copy of the perfect book.
When musician Don Dales came to Hobart, NY in 1999, to the abandoned main street that now houses the six bookshops that make up the village, you could practically see “tumbleweeds going down the street.” However, there were two bookshops in this middle-of-nowhere Catskills town and Dales knew, from years spent living in the hamlet of High Falls, NY, that “having a village of all the same things was a good idea.” When friends told him about the charming book village of Hay-On-Wye on the Wales/England border, the world’s largest secondhand and antiquarian book center, he thought adding more bookstores to Hobart was the right move. “I went out and bought a lot of bookcases and a lot of books and threw them on the shelves and we had a book village,” says Don.
From its humble beginnings, the Hobart Book Village is now its own eclectic community of passionate bookshop owners. Visitors can explore new and old treasures at six unique shops, from the centuries-old texts of Wm. H. Adams’ Antiquarian Bookshop to the paper ephemera spilling out of boxes at Butternut Valley Books. Bibliophiles will get lost wandering through toppling aisles of poetry, children’s literature, DIY books, mysteries, and more. There’s an annual Festival of Women Writers in September and a short story contest with only one rule: you must mention the town of Hobart at least once. And that’s the essence of exploring Hobart Book Village. It’s a secret within a sentence, a hidden gem tucked quietly inside the Catskill Mountains.
Wm. H. Adams’ Antiquarian Bookshop
When the husband-and-wife team behind Wm. H. Adams’ Antiquarian Bookshop visited Hobart for the first time, Diana Adams marveled, “If you had a bookstore on a waterfall, wouldn’t you feel like you were the luckiest person in the world?” The dream later became a reality as the pair brought in a three-bookcase collection of rare and antiquarian books to the quaint and sunny space. “To say it wasn’t planned was an understatement,” remarks Diana. Now the store is home to an impressive collection of all kinds of books: Greek, Latin, and classic texts, as well as leather bound treasures and rare finds, valuable, not only for what’s on the printed page, but for what’s inside and who might have owned the book before. “They’re works of art.”
Creative Corner Books, the newest shop on the block is a cozy and bright nook, with a focus on DIY, craft, and both vintage and new cookbooks. With a tumble of tea cups serving up rich, pink, fairytale teas, the store also displays local crafts, hosts a Wednesday afternoon knitting circle, and has a crafty calendar of crochet and art classes, offering up a space that is equal parts comfortable and community-driven.
Housing the largest collection in the village, Liberty Rock Books is often the last stop for visiting families searching for just the right book to take home. Built in 1923, the building was once a garage selling Hudson automobiles. Today, you can wander the sunlit aisles and pour over an impressive collection of jazz music, political science titles, or old westerns, then sit with your finds overlooking the west branch of the Delaware River.
Mysteries & More, as its name suggests, is a haven for readers who love to cozy up with a good mystery. The shop has designated shelves for Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, as well as more obscure crime novels and thrillers. Amidst the stacks, you may find Don Dales, founder of the village, practicing classical pieces at his well-loved piano. Don thinks Hobart is the perfect setting for a mystery or crime novel of its own. There are lakes for drowning and cliffs for falling off, he jokes.
Entering Blenheim Hill Books, you might find the store’s canine greeter Greta the shih tzu, or owners Barbara Balliet and Cheryl Clarke whose warm smiles and vast knowledge of literature make this shop so inviting for book lovers. Together, they founded Hobart’s Annual Festival of Women Writers, now in its fourth year this September. Browse an impressive collection of new and used fiction and children’s books, or pick from the overflowing shelves of poetry, history, African American literature, and more.
Walking through the maze of overstuffed stacks and shelves at Butternut Valley Books is a rare treat for book lovers who are on the hunt for that special something. With boxes of paper ephemera spilling from worn boxes, that one perfect treasure waits for just the right person to discover it. “Someone produced it, somewhere, and we should preserve it,” says owner Dennis E. Lauchman.
Of course, Hobart’s cozy row of bookshops are not the only secrets in town. With books in tow, you can walk to the Sheep’s Nest, at the end of Main Street, an English-style cottage with handcrafted items for the home, as well as jewelry, cheese, yarn, and roving from their very own Shetland sheep. A short drive down the road will take you to Second Wind Furniture and Antiques for more treasure hunting. Visitors can access 26 miles of the Catskill Scenic Rail Trail just behind the main road, open year-round, then enjoy a meal at The Dinner Plate. For music and art lovers, check out exhibitions at the Mount Utsayantha Regional Arts League (MURAL) or drive to nearby Stamford to enjoy a classical concert series at the Friends of Music. The Bull & Garland, a boutique hotel opening on the corner of Main and Cornell, will be ready to host their first guests by September 9th, just in time for the Festival of Women Writers. Their British-style pub will be the perfect locale to sit with a pint while turning the pages of your latest literary find.