Anie Stanley is a familiar figure around Narrowsburg, NY. You’ve probably seen her driving by in her bright red pi
ckup, loaded up with tools and wearing one of her many jaunty caps or stringing up lights on Main Street during the holiday season, creating the enchanting aura of Christmas past. Wherever she goes, a trace of nostalgia lingers, as her wholly original aesthetic tends to reference an earlier time.
Stanley was born near Oneonta into a family with deep roots in the Catskills. On her mother’s side, the Woolheaters were originally Germans from Strasbourg who came over in the early 1800s and settled near Margaretville. “My great-grandfather had a livery service that picked up city-dwelling New Yorkers from the train,” recalls Stanley, “and ferried them by horse and buggy to their boarding houses and summer homes.” Further north, her paternal grandfather worked as the head engineer for the Delaware & Hudson Railroad, operating the biggest roundhouse in the country. He was also a “picker” for antiques dealers, as was her father. Stanley’s nose for sniffing out wares of all kinds, a talent that has served her well, clearly has family roots.
After attending college upstate, Stanley spent several summers painting in Provincetown, MA, then earned an MFA from Hunter College. She delved into the world of avant-garde filmmaking in New York City, finding her niche in Super 8 shorts. Ultimately, she became the art director and programmer for the NY Queer Experimental Film Festival. Over the course of nearly two decades in the city, she also joined a team of artists crafting and installing the props and scenery for the legendary windows of fashion retailer Bergdorf Goodman, styled commercial photo shoots and worked for a decorative painting company.
“My great-grandfather had a livery service that picked up city-dwelling New Yorkers from the train and ferried them by horse and buggy to their boarding houses and summer homes.”
Despite the excitement and inspiration the city offered, Stanley began to miss the Catskills. She bought a ’73 Dodge Dart to make pilgrimages to her aunt and uncle’s camp in Hancock, NY, and soon acquired her own property outside Narrowsburg, perched above a narrow stretch of the 10 Mile River near where it connects to Luxton Lake. She hired a contractor to build what was intended as a weekend house but wound up leaving the city for good during the 2007 recession. “I’ve been doing the finishing work on the house ever since,” laughs Stanley. After apprenticing with a local carpenter to further hone her skills, she launched Woolheater’s Wares to take on contracting, sourcing, designing and styling projects. “I was inspired to work on older houses, with the idea of restoring their original character,” she says. “I wanted to do something historical that connected me to my family’s history in the area.”
A sixth sense for sourcing antiques seems to run in Stanley’s blood. “I’ll be driving down the road and pass a barn or an old shed and I just have to stop because I know something’s in there.” She knocks on doors or leaves notes on cars and often comes away with a vintage refrigerator, a stack of weathered barn wood or some old windows that eventually wind up in clients’ homes. By catering to people who want to preserve the worn wallpaper and wainscoting in their 19th-century cottages, she is able to restore some of the Catskills’ former glory.
At her own house, Stanley has teamed with friends to create a queer-friendly art retreat known as Smokey Belles. “It’s a haven for artists to reconnect with nature,” she says, “to escape the bubble of the city.” Writers including Darcy Steinke and Douglas Martin have worked on novels there and a range of performance artists and filmmakers have taken advantage of the opportunity to recharge in the fresh air. Stanley recently acquired a timber-frame cabin up the road, and the little compound is available for rent, B&B-style, to people looking for a rustic country experience circa 1940.
“I may not qualify as a true local, but I have local interests at heart.”
In Narrowsburg, Stanley has now hung a shingle at Maison Bergogne, the Bridge Street antiques store owned by her partner Juliette Hermant. The two frequently collaborate on sourcing and interiors projects, such as an 1800s boarding house turned private residence, the recently completed Ba & Me restaurant in Honesdale, PA, and the vintage lighting at Clouet, a restaurant in Brooklyn. “In this town, it seems you’re only considered local if you were born here,” she says, “so I guess that’s why I think of myself as a Catskills native.” Nevertheless, she is deeply immersed in the community, sitting on boards for the Luxton Lake Property Owners Association, the Tusten Heritage Community Garden, the Narrowsburg Beautification Group, the Tusten Local Development Corp., the Merchants of Main Street and the Honey Bee Festival. Much of what she accomplishes helps bridge the gap between locals and the New York City expats and weekenders. “I created my own little community with artists and friends coming up from the city but getting more involved with the town has really enriched my life,” she says. “I may not qualify as a true local, but I have local interests at heart.”