10 Things To Love About Clinton
By Merida Welles
Formally settled in 1786, the picturesque Town of Clinton in Dutchess County offers stunning pastoral scenery, a profusion of winding country roads (many unpaved), and a number of architectural gems, no fewer than four on the National Register of Historic Places. The town (not to be confused with Clinton, Oneida County, the site of Hamilton College), is now comprised of seven historic hamlets just east of Rhinebeck and Hyde Park. It was named not for an ex-President’s family but after George Clinton, New York governor during the Revolutionary War. Clinton Corners, Clinton Hollow, Frost Mills, Schultzville, Hibernia and Bulls Head were all built up around thriving mills well before 1800. Pleasant Plains appears to have grown up around a handsome Presbyterian church, a local historical landmark. Having enjoyed our Clinton farmhouse for over 30 years now, I can recommend the following local highlights.
1. Clinton Town Hall Campus
A good place to start is right around the Clinton Town Hall where the Masonic Hall and the Spooky Hollow Schoolhouse will delight architecture and history buffs. The Hall is an historic two-story wooden-frame building built in 1865 in the Italianate style with a central hexagonal cupola. The Clinton Library offers a quiet retreat and welcome Wi-Fi access while birdwatchers can enjoy the Clinton Nature Trail just outsidey. Try spotting hawks, flycatchers and cedar waxwings as you wander past groves of hickory and elm down to Little Wappinger Creek, one of my favorite local waterways.
2. Clinton Rec Park
Clinton residents can get a permission sticker from the Town Hall to swim at the delightful recreation center, more formally known as the Frances J. Mark Memorial Park, just 4 miles south of the Town Hall. Besides being a cooling watering hole and beach on steaming summer days, it also offers kids a welcome playground and ball fields. Indeed, my sons passed many a joyful afternoon here.
3. Meadlowland Farm
Lovers of organic fare should not miss Meadowland Farm, where grazing alpacas, sheep and donkeys lend a bucolic note of country charm. An original Dutchess County homestead dating from 1790, Meadowland is said to have been continuously run by a single family, and may have served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The farm operates on the honor system: choose your grass-fed lamb and free range pork from the large glass-front freezer and the organic fruits and vegetables nearby, weigh them up and leave your cash in the box provided. Welcome to country life!
4. Jeanie Bean & Family
“Who has a bloody piano in a deli?” laughs Jeanie Bean, the effervescent English proprietress of an eponymous Clinton Corners icon with a black piano next to a life-sized papier mache cow. Ostensibly a country store, Jeanie Bean’s is the whimsical centerpiece of Clinton Corners. Jeanie and her husband David, who met while filming West Side Story decades ago in LA, resonate with energy and anecdotes. Their daughter Jennifer now runs the store, offering delicatessen delights and British-themed gifts in a room decorated with oil paintings, well-worn sofas and personal photos, under a vintage tin ceiling. “In an era of fast food, we cherish places of character and personality,” commented Gully Stamford, a retired theater executive enjoying breakfast here one Monday. Don’t miss “The Book Booth,” just outside and located in a classic red British telephone booth.
5. Harker House Wines and Spirits
Just across the street from Bean’s is the newly opened Harker House, run by Hal Harker Newell and his wife Tara. Harker House currently offers 150 global wines as well as a supply of New York produced spirits (7 vodkas, 8 bourbons, 9 whiskeys). Cider and cassis are also available. “We try to focus on affordable and boutique producers,“ says Hal, a former environmental engineer, standing with a geologic map of the United States behind him.
6. Creek Meeting House
Just a thousand feet down the road from Harker House is a handsome two-story fieldstone building, built between 1777 and 1782. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Creek House is owned by The Clinton Historical Society, which retains archives of local country information, offers exhibits on summer weekends and monthly Friday night programs during the year. President Cynthia Koch, a historian and teacher, recommends visiting the Society’s Facebook page for further details and also welcomes volunteer archivists. This former Quaker meeting house is set opposite the Quaker Church and next to the historic Friends’ Cemetery, both also on the National Registry for Historic Places. Stroll among the mossy tombstones for a sense of historical perspective.
7. Clinton Vineyards and Wine Trail
Right about now, Hillary Clinton could probably use a bottle of 2012 “Victory White,” a seyval blanc sent to her in 2013 from the Clinton Vineyards to encourage her to run for President. Clearly, the gesture was effective! Founded 40 years ago by Phyllis Feder and her late husband Ben, Clinton Vineyards offers visitors an array of award-winning locally grown vintages, particularly champagnes and dessert wines. “A perfect place to bring a blanket and a picnic and lounge for hours,” commented a recent guest.
8. Schultzville General Store and Cafe
Taken over in April by two Wells brothers, this country store and cafe currently serves breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch. Kameron, a former naturopathic doctor, and Kyle, an interior designer turned cook, are quick to point out that theirs is still a “work in progress” but they take pride in two signature dishes: “Cranberry Raisin French Toast Dusted with Roasted Pistachios and Cardamom Butter” and their “Schultzville Reuben” with its “cheese skirt.” Says Kyle, “Customers just love it!” Don’t forget to sign the guest book.
Open Tuesday – Sunday from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, Rhinebeck, NY, eOmega.org
9. Omega Institute for Holistic Studies
Those seeking spiritual enlightenment might be drawn to the Omega Institute. A non-profit educational retreat on a sprawling 200-acre campus, the institute offers workshops, professional trainings and conferences to more than 25,000 people a year. Its mission is to “provide hope and healing for individuals and society through innovative educational experiences that awaken the best in the human spirit.” Celebrated speakers from Al Gore and Christopher Reeve to Eckhart Tolle, Maya Angelou and Jane Goodall have presented here. At its award-winning glass-walled building, Eco Machine, visitors and students can learn about the center’s innovative Sustainable Living programs.
10. Hummingbird Ranch Country Store
Just over the Clinton Town border is a jewel of a shop tucked away next to the Salt Point Deli. Hummingbird Ranch focuses on homemade and locally produced goods. In this pint-sized boutique, founders Rich and Debbie Focht have established a beckoning array of local honeys, beeswax candles, jewelry, homemade candy, jigsaw puzzles, organic teas and even, on weekends, fresh-cut flowers. My personal favorite, which I devour by the spoonful, is Gourmet Honey & Pollen Blackberry Cashew Butter. Make sure to stop at the deli next door to see Sam (co-owner, Samir Patel) for one of his first-rate subs.