George Washington slept here
Actually, it was Max Yasgur and “here” is in Bethel, NY, where Yasgur lived, worked, and raised a family with his wife Miriam before, and after, a little music festival called Woodstock. Hundreds of articles have been written about the man, the myth and the legend that surrounds Yasgur and the legacy he left behind, but as the 50th anniversary of the 1969 three-day-long concert that influenced a generation approaches, even more interest in Yasgur has sprung up.
“Yes, of course, it’s a tribute to Mr. Yasgur,” said Jeryl Abramson, who has lived on the property since her husband Roy Howard purchased it in 1988, and who is turning the farmhouse into a bed and breakfast in time for the anniversary. “There has always been a lot of interest in the Yasgurs and the land, of course. This is nothing that I pursued,” she added, referring to inheriting the property, the house, and the legacy, “but it was bestowed on me and I consider it an honor. This project—restoring the farmhouse and making it available to the public—is as much of a tribute to Roy and his contributions to the community, as it is to the Yasgurs, for whom I have the utmost respect.”
It’s an unassuming house in the grand scheme of things, but it’s not really about the house. When finished, Abramson will have put in a lot of effort. “We basically took it down to the studs,” she said, while touring me through the place last week. “By the time we’re ready for guests, we will have re-done, re-finished, re-wired and well, you get the idea,” she laughed, while pointing out a few of the architectural details and beautiful views from various rooms on both floors.
“It is my understanding that Mr. Yasgur spent a good deal of time in this room,” Abramson said of the den on the lower level, situated with a good view of the farm, where he could keep an eye on things, even after he had taken ill.
Standing in the large kitchen, which overlooks the old barn, Abramson said, “From what I’ve heard, Mrs. Yasgur was an incredible cook, and this room was her domain. I swear,” Abramson said thoughtfully, “you can feel her presence in this room, right?”
In fact, Roy and Jeryl had the opportunity to visit with Miriam “Mimmie” Yasgur after she had left Sullivan County and taken up residence in Florida. “I even reached out to her niece Carrie Kornitsky, who has been kind enough to share some family photos, which will be featured here in the house, once it has been opened as a B&B in 2019, just in time for the anniversary.” Jeryl says she asked Kornitsky about Mrs. Yasgur’s favorite colors and fabrics. “Everyone thinks about Max, when the name Yasgur comes up,” she said, “but make no mistake, this was Mrs. Yasgur’s house.”
It’s exactly that kind of experience that visitors will be able to expect, once the open house has taken place. “No, I can’t take reservations yet,” Jeryl said with a smile. “We’re not there yet, but close. Very close.” Even though there are still ladders in the house, the bulk of the work has taken place, and Jeryl is already hanging some art on the walls. Painter Glenn Gerson stopped by while Jeryl and I were discussing the progress of the B&B, and I was able to ask him a few questions.
“I call the process Duo-Tone,” he said of the portraits now hanging in Max Yasgur’s old living room. “That’s Ten Years After’s Alvin Lee,” he said of one, “and of course, that’s Joan Baez. Oh! And Pete Townsend, too,” he said. “They all played Woodstock.”
“There was so much interest in the house, I felt like I owed it to the Yasgurs, my husband, and to the public, honestly,” Abramson said of restoring the house and opening it to the public.
“It’s been an effort, but I took it from condemnable, to rentable, to livable. In fact,” she said while trying out the new couch, “I might actually live here over the winter, with Zack [her son]—and Mrs. Yasgur, of course!”
For more information on the upcoming bed and breakfast, the new permanent campground, Yasgur Road Productions and their plans for the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, like them on Facebook and follow the story right here in The River Reporter.