Two weeks later, but I still need to share this Road Scholar program with you. This was a great learning experience for me — we just do not learn in school the extensive contribution (and lasting impact) of the Dutch in the 17th century to our country, particularly in the Hudson River Valley.
I have a difficult time remembering details, but as I tell my friends, “I am good with concepts.” May I recommend that you learn the details of this fascinating time period by reading about the places I visited, and pick up two books. First, read Russell Shorto’s THE ISLAND AT THE CENTRE OF THE WORLD. Start with the epilogue, and you will find out how this history was preserved and hidden away. This book may appear scholarly (and it is) but it well written and easily read. I have yet to read my copy of NEW NETHERLAND IN A NUTSHELL, by Firth Haring Fabend, but in glancing through this will be a detailed chronicle. I posted my trip to and from this program on September 30th. With the passage of time, I have concepts for you, with just enough detail, hopefully, to encourage you to learn more on your own.
Monday, the 18th, was a day of lectures in preparation for our travels. Dr. Janny Venema from The New Netherland Researh Center in Albany was our speaker. Working with Dr. Charles Gehring, it is the center’s work that provided the resource for much of Shorto’s writing. Then, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were packed travel days to three Dutch sites each day, and as much as 6 hours bus travel time. But, even though not a bus or “group” person, this is the best way to get so much done and seen in this time frame. And, I have found I can read and study on a bus.
Tuesday, September 20th, we started driving north from the conference center to Kingston, NY, to visit the Old Dutch Church. organized in 1659. A very rich history and interesting cemetery surrounding the church, which is located in Kingston’s historic stockade district. Buried here, George Clinton was a Brig. Gen. in the Revolution; first Governor of NY 1777-95 and 1801-4; and Vice-President of the US from 1804-1812.
Back on the bus – one of many such evolutions – and off to Coxsackie, and The Bronck Museum, built in 1663. The Hudson Valley’s Oldest Home (the original part) it has been owned by The Greene County Historical Society since 1938. We had a picnic lunch on the grounds before beginning the tour. I must also add another important point to the advantage of taking a tour such as this. The places that were opened to us usually have limited hours, resulting in my not being near them to visit when open; and, many of the things included on a trip such as this are not offered to the public.
Here are some views during the tour:
Dutch Barns were designed with usually about five H supports in the center. The side walls are further out, and do not support the roof, nor are they supported by the main frame. Designed for the processing of wheat (I learned more about this later), the cut wheat dried in the overhead and then the wheat and chaff were separated on the main floor. Opposing doorways were opened to allow a cross breeze to aid in the separation.
You know I am fascinated with 19th century hotels, inns, and tourist destinations. The Catskills and Adirondacks rivaled the White Mountains in what was available for city escapes. In one of the exhibitions here I was thrilled to see what remains of the Catskill Mountain House which opened in 1824, closing in 1941 with the beginning of the war. The state of NY took over the property, and with the “forever wild” philosophy, instead of restoration the hotel’s remains were burned January, 1963.
One of my now all-time favorite images. What is it?
And, we ended the day heading north above Albany, but on the east side of the Hudson above Troy, to The Knickerbocker Mansion in Schaghticoke – something I could not do unless there on a Sunday between 11 and 3. Again, one of the advantages of an educational tour such as this. I never would have been here at the right time, or learned so much.
Saved from destruction, in the valley of the Hoosic River, this home has been undergoing years of restoration, and is far from done. A meeting point for Native Americans, following a treaty signed on the grounds between the Indians and Colonists, The Witenagemot Oak was planted in 1676 in commemoration. Its concrete filled remains lie on the ground to the rear. Here are some views showing the interior restoration:
This plaque piqued my interest in Washington Irving, and led to my purchase of 7 books on the writer in the past 10 days.
Yesterday I began WASHINGTON IRVING: AN AMERICAN ORIGINAL by Brian Jay Jones. Well researched and written, Jones on page 108 questions whether Herman was the inspiration for the pseudonym. Does not matter — I am still “hooked on Irving.”
And then, something only done once a year for this tour — an authentic Dutch meal. And, immediately below is the ONLY WAY TO HAVE DINNER !!!
Served family style, we started with strawberry soup, and then I heaped my plate with chicken, special sweet potatoes, and more.
Back on the bus for three plus hours back to the conference center (actually I was closer to home) — but a very worthwhile day accomplishing and learning a great deal.
Wednesday, 21 September — back on the bus at 8:15 AM, and off for Hurley, NY (essentially the southern part of Kingston). You do have to visit the early Dutch Stone Homes here – we got to tour two – but otherwise, open only once a year during Stone House Day – next on July 8, 2017.
We first toured the Old Guard House (Spy House) built prior to 1685. After capture, a British spy was confined in the dungeon like cellar before being hanged across the street in an apple tree.
The 98 year old owner greeted us inside. The home is packed with wonderful treasures from around the world. His 77 year old son also toured us. Note the massive summer beam, so typical in these early homes we toured.
some additional things I saw inside, including the side wing which at one time served as the post office.
In October 1777 when the British attacked and burned Kingston, NY, then the capitol of New York, Hurley served as a refuge, and became the capitol for one month. George Washington was in Hurley and the surrounding area many times, and on his visit October 1783, at a reception in the stone tavern at the far end of the street, thanked the citizens for providing the wheat saving his troops during the winter at Valley Forge.
The other home we toured, packed with antique treasures of the 80+ year old antique dealer owners, was the 1723 Van Deusen House. This home housed the state government in October 1777.
You know I like texture and windows (and I think now subtle clotheslines). Seen behind one of the stone houses on the path to the town cemetery.
Back on the bus — next stop, Albany, and the Schuyler Mansion.
Good continued history, but starting to get “house brain-dead.” Wonderful history here, but you do not need to visit unless you are really into Colonial New York, its merchant development, and Alexander Hamilton. You see, Hamilton married Schuyler’s daughter Elizabeth here in 1780, twenty-four years before he lost his life in a duel with Aaron Burr (oh, I had fun reading about that as a result, and then the Burr Conspiracy — one thing leads to another – I get nothing done, learn lots, and keep the brain going to keep young – highly recommended by me – for me!!!).
In their mansion, the Schuylers hosted guests such as George and Martha Washington, Benjamin Franklin, the Marquis de Chastellux, James Madison, and the British General during the Battle of Saratoga, John Burgoyne, who stayed at the mansion as a “prisoner guest” in 1777.
It was then across the river to see Fort Crailo.
Built circa 1707, but with a history going back to 1663, fortunately this property was saved. But, not properly restored, it serves solely as a museum with information panels. If you do not have the time – you can skip a visit. Sorry, State of New York for my honesty. Across the street you look across the Hudson River to Albany.
Yes, back on the bus – and about 3 hours back to Warwick Conference Center, but dinner first at the Hoffman House in Kingston – a Dutch stone tavern, circa 1711. I poked around, and chatted with the owners – of course.
Thursday, September 22, the last full day on this adventure. Actually had an extra 15 minutes sleep not having to board the bus until 8:30 for Tarrytown, NY. Only scary part (besides Sleepy Hollow) was crossing the Hudson on the Tappan Zee Bridge. I remember it being built well over 50 years ago (don’t do the math), and it was proudly advertised it was built to last 50 years. Yes, falling down, I hate to cross it. A new bridge is being constructed, hopefully with a longer life expectancy. Our first stop — Sunnyside, home of Washington Irving – my new “hero.”
Thank you, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. If I recall correctly, he purchased this property in 1943 from the family, establishing Sleepy Hollow Restorations (now known as Historic Hudson Valley), which has expanded to a number of significant properties within a few miles. Did I tell you I have become hooked on Washington Irving? He purchased the small stone cottage here in 1835, and expanded it (not too much) into the Dutch looking cottage it is today – but added the tower to the right later. When the railroad came up the Hudson River’s bank, Irving was forced to sell land for the roadway, and the inlet in front of his home became “landlocked.” The funds he received, however, allowed some additional improvements to his property. Here are a few images I took here:
You will hear more about my new interest in Washington Irving this coming year. Our next stop was Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow. It is a colonial milling and trading complex owner over the years by the Dutch and then British.
We toured the complex, and the most fascinating part was the young docent who explained how wheat was processed in the Dutch Barn. I now know that wheat and hay are two different things – stop by and visit me for a 3 hour dissertation – (not a tour on the Minnow).
And, last, we visited the Old Dutch Church circa 1685, and yes, of note from Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The bus parked on The Headless Horseman Bridge, and up the hill we went.
So much history, and between visiting here, the cemetery, Sunnyside, and Kinderhook on the way home — I experienced the paths that Ichabod Crane traversed.
And, you know I like windows, so here is looking out at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (if you look closely, you can see a horse with a mysterious rider).
And, on the way back to the conference center, I again held my breath and prayed crossing the old Tappan Zee Bridge while looking at the new construction through the bus’ windows.
Friday was a lecture on Dutch music, lunch, and then departure. End of story??? No, just the beginning for you, because —
Explore the Hudson River Valley to its fullest extent from the Dutch in the 17th century to the summer resorts in the 19th, and the museums and amusements in the 21st. ENJOY
Excellent reporting, Ray! I recently completed a Road Scholar trip in England, and agree with you that bus tours offer several advantages in terms of arranged, often private tours. Yes, one surrenders some freedom, but it can be worth it. In addition to all the remarkable early history of this area, it is also home to significant art adventures…hopefully, I’ll get to pursue those some fine day.
My guess as to what the picture is – possibly a door panel? Summer beam…hmmm, seems like I just learned that term in Historic Deerfield and then your porch! And yes, here I go again questioning why the wheat for Washington’s troops in Valley Forge needed to come all the way from the Hudson Valley. That’s a long way for wheat to travel in those days. Did the British control Lancaster county and the farming areas of Pennsylvania? Oh, to be on your porch looking for the answer with you