Local History

Echoes of the Past Resonate in Copake’s Bicentennial Exhibition at the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society

By Published On: June 20th, 2024

This July and August, Copake continues to celebrate its 200th birthday. In many cases, this year’s celebratory events mirror those that took place in Copake’s past. This will be one of the themes explored in the 2024 Summer Exhibition at the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society. The exhibition, Mementos, Maps & Milestones: Copake at 200, opens on Saturday, July 6th.

Mementos, Maps and Milestones: Copake at 200 – exhibition lockup

As it happens, this year, the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society, founded in 1974, also celebrated a major birthday by turning 5o on February 26th, 2024. Having now reached the half century mark, the Society has been given the golden opportunity to install a special bicentennial exhibition, which showcases documents, historic maps, photographs and sundry items relating to the large and small history of Copake’s five hamlets: Copake, Copake Falls, Copake Lake, Craryville and West Copake.

Postcard images of the Five Hamlets of Copake from the RJHS Collection

There’s No Place Like Home

Playwright Eugene O’Neill once said, “There is no present or future – only the past happening over and over again.” Below, as if to validate the O’Neill’s sentiments, we take you on a pictorial journey through some echoes from the past as Copake, “The Home Town,” enters its third century.

In going through a plethora of memorabilia in preparation for the summer exhibit, we’ve discovered that Copake has long considered itself the ideal of small-town life set in an Arcadian paradise. Why would anyone live anywhere else?  A postcard dating from the early 20th century presents the answer by using the image of a world globe coupled with the bold statement, “I’m Going Back to Copake. It’s the only Town for Me!”

“I’m Going Back to Copake” Postcard, circa 1920s, RJHS Collection

And long before the town’s motto was distilled down to “The Land of Rural Charm,” a folding brochure of the late 1920s, produced by the Copake Chamber of Commerce, proudly proclaims Copake “the town where people ‘live to live.’ Its beautiful farms, schools, churches and hotels, its cozy homes and shaded streets, its many lakes, brooks and mountain nooks, all contribute to its picturesqueness and charm.” Even today, the Copake area continues its agrarian tradition, and offers miles and miles of lush green landscape, mountains and rolling hills.

Copake Chamber of Commerce Brochure, circa late 1920s, RJHS Collection

Contemporary Copake Road Sign, Land of Rural Charm

What’s Old is New

On July 4th, 1976, America celebrated its 200th birthday. In concert with the nearby towns of Ancram and Hillsdale, Copake celebrated the nation’s bicentennial in 1976 with both July and August events: the Roe Jan Fair on July 4th, and a Yankee Doodle Day on August 15th. In 2024, Copake will also celebrate its own bicentennial with events in July and in August as outlined below.

Bicentennial Plate, 1976, RJHS Collection

Roe Jan Fair Poster, 1976, and Copake 2024 Bicentennial Events Schedule, RJHS Collection


On Saturday, July 13th, the 2024 Copake Bicentennial Committee also echoes earlier sentiments by inviting all current and past residents to the Come Home to Copake Picnic at the Town Park (11am to 8pm).

Yankee Doodle Day Dollar and Picnic at Empire Farm, 1976, RJHS Collection

Beneath a photograph of the 1976 Yankee Doodle Day Picnic, the 2024 Bicentennial Events Schedule (widely available) goes on to say that this special day-long community picnic will feature live music, an art exhibit, a vintage car show, and attractions to amuse children, including a hot-dog-eating contest and sack races. A dessert-baking context will be judged by Nancy Fuller of Copake and the Food Network show Farmhouse Rules.

While participants are invited to bring a picnic lunch and/or dinner, food will also be available for sale. The Copake Fire Company will be doing a chicken BBQ with pre-sale tickets only, that can be purchased by calling (518) 755-8833. The day’s music will start off with longtime resident Dick Stabler at noon, followed by the Ghent Band at 2pm, and Night Train will take the stage starting at 6pm. All the music will take place in the Town Park’s brand new bicentennial band shell.

The picnic will be an opportunity to renew old friendships and to make new ones. It will also be a time to share memories, and during the day, there will be a story-core center where folks can talk about what Copake means to them. The recordings will be edited and preserved for posterity at the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society.

August Events in Brief: There will be more to look forward to in August. On August 17th, beginning at 3pm, an old-fashioned Parade, featuring floats and marching bands, will wend its way through the town of Copake. That night, the culminating bicentennial event will be held at Catamount starting at 5pm. There will be chairlift rides, food, live music and a spectacular fireworks display!

Enduring Legacy

An enduring result of celebrating the nation’s 200th birthday, was the formation of the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society on February 26th, 1974. On the Society’s 10th anniversary (1984), Harold Faber, NY Times journalist and then RJHS president reminisced, “The suggestion of forming an historical society was received with an enthusiastic response from many members of the bicentennial committee. It was agreed that once established, the historical society would represent the towns of Ancram, Copake, Gallatin, Hillsdale, and Taghkanic. The new society applied for and was granted a charter by the State Board of Regents in Albany.”

RJHS LOGO with Five Towns

A Cornucopia of Copake: Highlights of the Summer Exhibition

The RJHS Summer exhibition features a virtual cornucopia of material from our collection, and on loan from individuals and organizations. The items pictured below are from all of Copake’s five hamlets.

Mementos, Maps and Milestone: Copake at 200

The Roeliff Jansen Historical Society
8 Miles Road, Copake Falls, NY
Open Saturdays and Sundays from 2 – 4 PM
From Saturday, July 6 to Sunday, October 6

RJHS Collection, gift of the Knox Family. Postcards from Copake Lake, Sunset (1912) & Daylight (1925).

Tri-State Park photo and Matchbook, Copake Falls, circa late 1920/early 1930s, RJHS Collection.

Upper Left: Child’s Concealment Shoe, Craryville, circa 1851, loaned by Marybeth and Gerald Ketz. Upper Right: Redwork Quilt from West Copake Church, 1903, loaned by Mike Fallon, Copake Auction. Cast Iron Road Sign, circa 1925. RJHS Collection, gift of Jesse Head.