Welcome back to SHUNPIKING WITH RAY. I seem to find it harder and harder to find the time to document my explorations for you, and those documentations are coming later after a journey. I thought of a good way, however, to split up my recent Road Scholar program – Discover Everything Dutch in the Hudson Valley. First I am going to tell you what I did on the way to the conference center in Warwick, New York, followed by my journey home. In my next post (hopefully soon) I will give you some of what I learned about the neglected history of the 17th century Dutch in the Hudson River Valley, and encourage you to learn about it also.
First, I highly recommend you get a copy of Russell Shorto’s book, THE ISLAND AT THE CENTRE OF THE WORLD. Recommended reading for the program I attended, it is amazing, and highly readable giving you a wonderful flavor for the Dutch presence from 1609 in the Hudson River until the British took over in 1674. You will not be disappointed, and please first read the Epilogue to learn how all this history has been compiled in spite of what has been lost. Remember too that “the victor writes the history,” thus we all have learned little from prior to British rule. But more on that in my next post.
Sunday, September 18, I crossed Vermont on Route 9. In the mountains, the leaves were changing already – reds and oranges glistening in the rain. Picking up the NY State Thruway, I exited at Kingston. My plan was to start in Hurley, NY, which I told you about in July when I came back from Scott and Betty’s at the end of the post. I was not sure if during our visit to Hurley during the program whether a visit to the museum would be included (ends up it was). I stopped in Hurley, and a festival was going on in town, and outside the museum.
On my way to my main exploration for the day, I stopped at The Bevier House – the museum of the Ulster County Historical Society. Built c1690, the house was given to the society in 1938.
The docent told the history of the house, and the changes over time. In housing their collections, the various rooms are furnished reflecting different centuries as they would have appeared. Below is the 17th century kitchen with some interesting implements with clock mechanisms for roasting. One is on the wall above the mantle on the right, and the other hanging from the mantle on the left.
My main destination for the transit to Warwick, however, was the D&H Canal Museum and Five Locks Walk in High Falls, NY. I wanted to learn more about this canal after discovering it when traveling back from Scott and Betty’s. You know I am fascinated by canals, and this was a fantastic stop. Not only did I get to see the museum, but I was there on a day when there was a guided tour of the locks – I waited and joined in with about 30 other people.
I thought it would be easiest to share these information panels from the museum (and save for my own further review and study). If you wish, you can click and open the gallery to read further.
The key historical fact you should take away from this post is that the War of 1812, cut off the US supply of soft bituminous coal from England. The coal was cheap fuel, even when brought across the Atlantic. The Wurt brothers soon proved that anthracite coal from Carbondale, Pennsylvania, was the answer, but how to get it to New York City? They built a 108 mile canal with 108 locks along rivers from Carbondale to Kingston, NY, where the coal was then transported to NYC and elsewhere. The easiest route – going east then north to go south. Even coal “shunpikes.”
The museum was nicely done, but small. The 1797 DuPuy Canal House at Lock 16 was recently purchased, and is to be restored to house the museum. I will revisit when that is done. Joining the walking tour, I learned from the director and his assistant. Here is a gallery of views from the museum and along the walking tour of the 5 lock area. High Falls was one of the many towns that emerged with the building of the canal in 1828. The last coal was transported in 1898.
It was then time to head to Warwick. WAZE routed me over the Shawangunk Mountains on back roads (WAZE knows me), and past the entrance to the Mohonk Mountain House where Cathy and I “honeymooned” in 1995. I need to get back someday for a stay. From New Paltz south I had some lovely views of the Shawangunks, and ultimately arrived at the Warwick Conference Center about 5PM – just in time – but aren’t I good at timing?
A great learning, visual, and gastronomic experience followed for the next 4 1/2 days. But, that will come in the next post on the Dutch in the Hudson Valley. By 11:30 AM on Friday the 23rd, I was back on the road with one goal in mind – Martin Van Buren’s home in Kinderhook, NY. Less than 30 miles from the Red Lion Inn, I have never been in the area at the right season, or the right day to tour the home. The 23rd was my opportunity. But also, I have become “hooked on” Washington Irving (more on that in the next post about Sunnyside and Sleepy Hollow), and Irving visited this home when owned by the Van Ness family, and later he visited and stayed with Van Buren.
Completed in 1797, Van Buren (1782-1862) purchased this home in 1839. As Scott and Betty will tell you, a game question coming up often is “which President was born, lived, and died in the same town?” Of course you guessed correctly, otherwise I would not have asked – Martin Van Buren (remember to share your winnings with us). The tower on the left is part of Van Buren’s later modifications. The home and tour was somewhat of a disappointment to me – but at least I have now been there. Restoration and furnishings are not the most impressive, and my volunteer guide was lacking. When I responded to her question, “which President was Van Buren?” I replied, “our 8th President.” To which she replied, “yes, and he was followed by Lincoln, our 9th!” NOT !!!
Located in Kinderhook, I had never been in Kinderhook before, and hope to return — it is lovely. And, also with my new interest in Washington Irving, there are connections between this village and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Here are some images of the home, and the village (remember to click to open slide show).
But, it was time to head home. Did I say I was less than 30 miles to The Red Lion Inn? You know I stopped.
And, then home, and now a week later reliving the fun. Next coming is what happened in-between going and coming. Later, as always, yours, RAY
Another fine entry, Ray. Always a pleasure to catch up with your peregrinations. Rather like the tower addition that Van Buren put on his home. Have often thought of doing the same with my
small cape… but the local folk would just accuse me of grandiosity, I dare say. But much prefer
the house wherein Burgoyne was held prisoner and entertained (aren’t those two mutually exclusive?). Anyway — always, as I said, a pleasure to see where you’ve been and what you’ve been up to.
Dear Ray, Shortly after reading your travel notes on Kingston a friend of mine and I spent a lovely autumn day strolling and exploring about The Stockade District of uptown Kingston NY. We enjoyed a delicious meal at the Hoffman Tavern following our self-guided tour. I had been to the Kingston waterfront more times than I can count for sailing events but had never sought an opportunity to see more of this lovely city. It being just an hour away from Cornwall, knowing that I would soon be moving south, and your article prompted me to be a tourist in my own backyard. Thank you. I am currently ‘saddling up’ for my move to Savannah and look forward to exploring another part of this lovely country. All the best to you~ Erin