In the late 1960s, most of the historic downtown Rondout district of Kingston, New York, was demolished in a federally funded urban renewal project, displacing thousands of people. This new 69-minute documentary film was completed in October 2016 and was produced and directed by Stephen Blauweiss and Lynn Woods.
To purchase a DVD of Lost Rondout: A Story of Urban Removal (individual version or with audio/visual rights), click here.
2017 Special Citation, Ulster County Executive's Arts Awards
Winner of Excellence in Historic Preservation Award, Friends of Historic Kingston, Nov. 2015
Featured on Channel 5's “Good Day Good New York.”
“The reckless idiocy of 20th-century urban renewal is beautifully documented in Lost Rondout, an elegy for a wonderful Hudson River town that was all but erased from the map... ”
—James Howard Kunstler, author of The Geography of Nowhere
“Lost Rondout should be required watching in all university-level urban planning programs... ”
—Barry Lewis, architectural historian, Cooper Union and PBS Television
“Lost Rondout is an engaging story of the demise of a special neighborhood... but it also has broad lessons for anyone who cares about community. ”
—Jack Abernethy, CEO, Fox Television Stations
“ This documentary is drenched in the nostalgia of a bygone era; recommended for institutions connected to New York or the Hudson Valley or that have strong architectural collections. ”
“Your documentary film is top-rate, very professional and a strong art form. ”
—Barry Benepe, author, Early Architecture of Ulster County and founder of New York City Greenmarkets
Urban renewal left lasting scars, but many Americans are unaware of how their city came to be pocked and fragmented by parking lots, expressways, Brutalist buildings, and crime-plagued high-rise public housing projects. Lost Rondout: A Story of Urban Removal chronicles how a federally funded 1960s urban renewal project devastated the waterfront district of Kingston, New York, a microcosm of the urban disruption that occurred all over America. Nearly 500 buildings were destroyed and thousands of people were displaced, many of them African Americans who had difficulty finding new housing.
As a young man delivering flowers for his father's floral business, Gene Dauner took nearly 1,000 slides of the area just prior and during the destruction, vividly capturing the vanished streetscape of historic 19th century buildings, then defined as "blight." Utilizing Dauner's slides as well as images by other photographers, archival footage, and family photographs, producers and directors Stephen Blauweiss and Lynn Woods re-create the lost city in this 69-minute documentary, which was completed in October 2016.
Interviews with former residents bring the destroyed neighborhood back to life — its bars, clothing stores, and bakeries — and describe the difficulties of being relocated; some African Americans were unable to find housing outside the area. Commentary by historians, urban planners, and city officials reveal the federal policies that encouraged suburbanization and worked against people of color in urban areas.
The film chronicles the area's decades-long recovery from total abandonment to the flourishing waterfront neighborhood of restaurants, antique shops, and cultural attractions it is today, even as the city still struggles with urban renewal's problematic legacy. Today, as people strive to re-create the walkable, retail-rich communities that once characterized the nation's downtowns, the story of Lost Rondout is instructive, showing how a neighborhood survived despite the misguided top-down planning efforts that nearly destroyed it and the on-going challenges posed by gentrification.
Produced and directed by Stephen Blauweiss and Lynn Woods
Original score by Kingston-based composer and musician Peter Wetzler, featuring trombonist Roswell Rudd, the late electronic music composer and musician Pauline Oliveros, and other distinguished musicians
Narrated by Gilles Malkine
Running time: 69 minutes
To purchase the DVD, click on the link on the home page. Also available in area gift and craft shops, museum stores, and bookstores.
A native of Manhattan and Hudson Valley resident since 1999, Stephen Blauweiss is an independent filmmaker, historian, graphic designer and author.
Blauweiss produces work on a wide variety of subjects, from art and education and history to social and environmental issues. He also produces theatrical events and museum-quality exhibitions on local history, architecture, and the arts.
He has produced over 100 short films, 3 features, and several music videos. Twenty of his short films have aired on PBS and been screened in museums and festivals across the U.S., Europe and Canada, including the New York State Museum, MASS MoCA and the Albany Institute of History & Art. Blauweiss was awarded funds from the National Endowment of the Arts in 2018.
Blauweiss published his first book The Life & Death of the Kingston Post Office: A Story of an American Community Through the Eyes of an Architectural Gem, with Karen Berelowitz in 2018. They are currently working on a new book, Historic Kingston: Looking Back, Moving Forward, planned for publication in 2021. www.blauweissmedia.com
Lynn Woods is a journalist and painter who moved to the Rondout district nearly 20 years ago and has been fascinated by the torn-down city ever since.
Following a career as a business travel reporter, with articles published in Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, American Demographics, the Wall Street Journal, and other national publications, she has written extensively for Ulster Publishing and Chronogram, covering the arts, environment, and urban revitalization in the mid Hudson Valley. She is co-author of Adirondack Style: Great Camps and Rustic Lodges, Universe Books, a division of Rizzoli International, published in 2011. Woods holds a degree in art history from Barnard College.
She is also a painter captivated by the Kingston streetscape and waterfront and is currently researching urban renewal in Newburgh, N.Y.
Peter Wetzler is an award-winning composer-musician-music director who has been scoring for film, theatre and television with a uniquely diverse musical background. A classically trained pianist who was guest soloist with symphonies at an early age, Peter played in gamelan and avante garde ensembles while writing music for post- modern choreographers such as Bill T Jones, David Dorfman and Susan Marshall.
His scores for film and television range from animation and films featured at MOMA and PBS's "Great Performances" to National Geographic's permanent multimedia installation in Washington, DC. While an avid electronic music pioneer, Peter recently returned to acoustic piano solo music with his two CDs Falling Awake and Green.
Wetzler studied conducting and composition at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, and received undergraduate degrees from Yale and Princeton University. He has taught at Princeton, New York University, Juilliard, Connecticut College, School for Visual Arts, and The Center for Creative Imaging.
Here are some of the photos that Gene Dauner took before and during the demolition of sections of the Rondout.