Have you ever wanted to learn to play the Irish bagpipes? Or had a deep and abiding desire to take up Céilí dancing? What about learning to speak Gaelic? If so, you couldn’t ask for a better resource than the Irish Cultural Center of the Hudson Valley in Kingston, which recently overcame the final hurdle toward approval of its planned headquarters in the city. John Dwyer, who is the group’s vice president, says that the idea for the center was born out of a necessity to provide something a little different from the typical Irish-American clubs that exist throughout this region.
“The official timeline began in early 2011,” Dwyer says. “There were a number of members of a local Irish organization here in town, the Ulster County Ancient Order of Hibernians, who wanted a place that would have programs celebrating, and preserving, Irish culture.”
The center aims to provide access to members of the public who want to immerse themselves in various aspects of this culture. “(Visitors will) come here for an event,” Dwyer says. “That event could be Gaelic language instruction, or dance instruction, or music instruction.”
According to Dwyer, many of the local Irish clubs become active only during those periods when big events, such as St. Patrick’s Day, take place. Dwyer says that the center wanted to be more than that and to provide a year-round resource. Once the group’s permanent facility is built, it will even include a genealogy room and a library.
Dwyer says that he and his colleagues are now deeply involved with plans to build that permanent facility, which will be dedicated to the center’s mission. That they would choose the Rondout waterfront in Kingston as its location is entirely appropriate, according to Dwyer, as this area was known as “New Dublin” back in the 19th century, having at that time one of the highest concentrations of Irish people in all of the Americas. The land the group has purchased is situated on high ground overlooking the stretch of Abeel Street in between the Wurts Street and Route 9W bridges. And, after several years of concerted effort, the center has finally received approval from the Kingston Planning Board.
“It was a long process, but we’re very excited,” Dwyer says about the approval. Dwyer expects that construction will begin shortly, and that it won’t be too much longer before visitors can enjoy everything the center as to offer, including a re-creation of a traditional Irish pub. “On any given night you’ll be able to come down, have a light meal, and there will be musicians in the corner playing an Irish music seisun.”
For more information, or to get involved yourself, please visit www.icchv.org.