A Very Buttery Time Capsule
Sitting by itself, almost completely forgotten, on 99-101 Broadway in the small neighborhood of Rondout in Kingston, the Reher Bakery remained as a time-capsule. Untouched by a single walking soul, it belonged to the Reher family since its founding in 1908 until Hymie Reher, son of founders Frank and Ada Reher, closed it in the early 1980s. In 2002, Geoffrey Miller was walking down the neighborhood and spotted the rare architecture built in the 1800s and had a vision for it, one that today is known as the Reher Center for Immigrant History and Culture.
Originally, Miller wanted to turn it into a Jewish museum but decided against it when his vision was expanded and transformed into wanting to share immigrant stories of those who have resided along the Hudson Valley. After convincing Hymie Reher of donating the property to the Jewish Federation of Ulster County, Miller gathered a group of volunteers and opened a program to help raise money for the reparations of the structure to turn it into what he had envisioned. Once the reparations were completed, the center grew in the heart of the community. It was not until 2018 that the center got its first official staff to help on preserving and telling the story of the Reher family and those who knew the bakery. Furthermore, not only is their story being told, but also the stories of those who moved to Kingston and made a living out of whatever was made available to them regardless of their different cultural backgrounds.
When the bakery used to be open, the community had people from Ireland, Germany, Poland, Italy, and other countries, becoming a single body and embracing their differences through the jobs each one of them had. Today, the Reher Center for Immigrant History and Culture serves as a medium to show their stories to those who may not be well acquainted with how Kingston was formed and developed over the years. The center does this by using primary sources left behind by the families (pictures, documents, and other artifacts like the “Sunday List”), especially those by the Reher family, as well as remnants found in the location, discovered during a state-mandatory excavation (where they found everyday utensils) or given to the center by families of the community.
Sarah Litvin, interpretive planner and the center’s director, and archivist Samantha Gomez-Ferrer are there to help the center with the inventory, cataloging, preserving, researching and digitizing of the collections of its collections while also taking testimonies from those who are still around regarding their assimilation into the Kingstonian culture when they first arrived in the region. Sarah, Samantha, the staff, the community, and those interested in preserving and presenting the history of Kingston have incredibly and beautifully worked over the years. They have launched various programs (tours, exhibitions, educational programs, and other major activities like the Kingston Multicultural Festival) to make the history of this place known by people outside of locality. The fact that the site is a very well-known bakery in the community adds more to the sense of unity the center strives to portray while collecting and telling the stories of immigrants from different backgrounds.
If you would like to know more about the Reher Center for Immigrant History and Culture, make sure to visit their official website: