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RI Archives: Rural Road Trips

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Rural Intelligence

Historic Homes, Museums & Gardens

Adams, MA
Susan B. Anthony Birthplace & Museum

Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

Montgomery Place
A 434-acre intact Hudson River Valley estate

Athens, NY

Howard Hall Farm a laboratory for restoration training

Austerlitz, NY

Old Austerlitz

Germantown, NY

Clermont an early Hudson River estate


Olana
Home of Hudson River School painter Frederic Church

Hudson, NY

The American Museum of Firefighting

Hyde Park, NY


Home of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Vanderbilt Mansion relic of the Gilded Age

Kent, CT

Sloane Stanley Museum artist’s studio and tool collection

Kinderhook, NY

U. S. President Martin Van Buren house

Lenox, MA


The Mount Edith Wharton’s estate and gardens

Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio Cubist paintings in a Modernist house

Ventfort Hall the Gilded Age Museum

New Lebanon, NY

Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon

Pittsfield, MA

Hancock Shaker Village

Arrowhead home of Herman Melville.

Rhinebeck, NY

Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome aircraft and auto museum; air shows


Wilderstein Historic Site elaborate Queen-Anne style house of the Suckleys. 

Poughkeepsie, NY

Locust Grove home of Samuel F.B. Morse

Sheffield, MA

Ashley House c. 1735 house; oldest in Berkshire County

Staatsburgh, NY

Mills Mansion house remodeled in Beaux Arts style by McKim, Mead & White

Stockbridge, MA

Chesterwood Estate & Museum home of Lincoln memorial sculptor Daniel Chester French

Mission House 1739 house with Colonial Revival garden


Naumkeag McKim, Mead & White summer cottage and gardens

Williamstown, MA

The Folly at Field Farm Modernist house and sculpture garden

It’s Open House At Hudson River Country Seats

Montgomery Place

Our feature story this week introduces our series on a house being built from blueprints to finished structure, but if you’re more into historic architecture, the Country Seats Tour sponsored by Hudson River Heritage on Saturday should be on your calendar.

The focus of this tour is historic Red Hook, and seven historic properties in the heart of the Hudson Valley will be open for visitors. Included on the tour are St. Margaret’s, built in the Italianate style in the 1850s as “St. Margaret’s Orphan Asylum”; Montgomery Place in Annandale-on-Hudson, built in 1805 by one of the prolific Livingstons and now owned by Bard College (and open to the public only for these special occasions); Green Hill in Tivoli, a 1930s Colonial Revival; the former Trinity Episcopal Church in Tivoli, converted to a private residence in the 20th century; and the 1733 Heermance Farmstead in Tivoli, an example of the largely intact 18th-century Dutch Hudson Valley stone farmhouse.

Heermance Farmstead

The tour begins at the Elmendorph Inn — the oldest building in Red Hook, dating from the mid 18th century — where visitors check in and pick up a tour itinerary and map. Organizers encourage tour takers to stop for lunch at one of the many local restaurants, bring a picnic lunch, or preorder one when you book your tour online.

Day trip, historic homes and fall: sounds like a pretty perfect day to us.




Country Seats Tour
Saturday, Oct. 1, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Tour check in 9:30 a.m. at Elmendorph Inn, 7562 North Broadway (Rte. 9), Red Hook, NY
$50 Hudson River Heritage members; $60 non-members; $20 box lunch
(854) 876-2474

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Posted by Lisa Green on 09/25/16 at 11:12 AM •Permalink

Road Trips: The Wildflower Festival At Bartholomew’s Cobble

By Amy Krzanik

April showers bring May flowers, but to a very special area of Berkshire County they bring flowers even earlier than that. At Bartholomew’s Cobble in Sheffield, Mass., a National Natural Landmark under the care of the Trustees of Reservations, the best showing of wildflowers is beginning right now.

To call attention to this unique property and its bounty of spring ephemerals, the Trustees have planned the first annual Spring Wildflower Festival, running April 16—May 6. Three guided tours a day will lead guests past white and red trilliums, spring beauty, bloodroot, toothwort, wild ginger, blue cohosh and violets. 

Brian Cruey, The Trustees’ general manager for the Southern Berkshires, says the festival is aimed at making people more aware of what’s happening right in their own backyard. “The Cobble is a national landmark because of its plants; its chemistry and the rock outcropping are really conducive to these early blooming flowers. When you think of seeing wildflowers, you usually think of open, grassy fields, and you don’t think of early April and May being the time to find them. Here, they occur in the forests and they take advantage of this time of year when temperatures start to rise but leaves haven’t yet come out to block sunlight from reaching the forest floor.”

When the season is over, the plants will lie dormant until the following year. You can find them throughout New England, but not with the density and variety in which they occur at the Cobble.

In addition to tours, the Festival will include watercolor painting classes every Thursday, spring vacation week events for kids, a search for spring peepers and vernal pools, and a closing night bonfire.

But your Festival visit should be only the first of many trips here throughout the year. The Cobble is a great place for birders; boasts one of the best open views in the county from its highest point, Hurlburt’s Hill; and runs along the Housatonic River, where the Trustees will hold guided kayaking tours beginning in June.

Spring Wildflower Festival
April 16—May 6  
Bartholomew’s Cobble, Sheffield

(413) 298-3239, Ext. 3013
Daily tours: 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.
Tours: member $5; non-member $10
See website for additional events during the festival and beyond.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 04/12/16 at 10:18 AM •Permalink

5 Reasons To Celebrate As The Columbia County Historical Society Turns 100

By Jamie Larson

Usually content preserving local history, the Columbia County Historical Society is making a little of its own as the organization turns 100 this year. The longevity is certainly a testament to the quality of the county’s rich story, told in many beautiful structures and collections, but it also speaks to the steady administrative rudder held by generations of passionate CCHS members including a new executive director, Lori Yarotsky, and curator Anna M. Thompson.

“Our centennial theme is, ‘100 Years of Collecting,’” says Thompson. “We will feature a broad survey of collecting habits over the years.” This will include showcasing various manuscripts, books and objects from the permanent collection, telling the story of the Columbia County Historical Society from its first iteration in 1916 as a women’s social club, followed by relief efforts during the First World War, and an evolved mission to collect and preserve the history and heritage of Columbia County.

In the spirit of the occasion, which will start in earnest in April and include a list of special exhibits, events and two magazines, let’s explore what the CCHS centennial celebrates through some of the elements of the collection itself:

1. The original Members Pin The CCHS collection is a symbol of our shared past and there is perhaps no more fitting and memorable image associated with that past than Henry Hudson’s Half Moon. As it is now on the society’s commemorative logo, so it was at the inception. The original “Members Pin,” worn by the group’s founding women, was created by New York designer Pirie MacDonald in 1915-1916. The reuse of the original logo imagery is a thoughtful touch that speaks to the CCHS’s attention to and reverence for detail.

2. “The House of History” The CCHS owns and stewards four properties: its museum and library building (a former Masonic temple), the Van Alen house (we’ll get there in a minute), the one-room Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse (c.1850), and one of the county’s most recognizable architectural jewels, the James Vanderpoel House at 16 Broad Street in Kinderhook. Closed for quite some time for needed restoration, the House of History reopens to the public May 21-22, with special centennial events and new exhibits. Built in 1820 by renowned architect Alexander Jackson Davis, who designed, along with many other structures, Federal Hall in Manhattan, the Yale secret society’s Skull and Bones’ spooky crypt/clubhouse, and Hudson New York’s Dr. Oliver Bronson House, which shares with the Vanderpoel House the feature of a spectacular oblate spiral staircase. The Historical Society purchased the house in 1925, showing that these folks not only support preservation but take an active role in their civic responsibility.

3. The Luykas Van Alen House Built around 1737, the Van Alen House, at 589 Route 9H in Kinderhook, is the CCHS’s oldest property. Lovingly preserved, the Dutch farmhouse is a prime architectural example of the period and the humble lifestyle of even the county’s more affluent colonial residents. With its low ceilings and period furnishings and decor, the house (open for tours in summer and fall) is truly transporting. The home, family and farm are believed to be partial inspiration for the Van Tassel family in Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Irving frequented the area to visit his friend who lived just down the street, President Martin Van Buren. This is how the one-room schoolhouse on the property, and subsequently the existing school district, came to be named after Irving’s protagonist, Ichabod Crane.

4. Wealth and agriculture on canvas The massive painting “Salting Sheep, Sherman and Lydia Dean Griswold” by James E. Johnson (c.1835-1837) hangs 7.5 by 4 feet. It highlights not just the important stature of its life-size human subjects, but also that of its life-size sheep. Created in “heroic-scale,” at the conclusion of an important agrarian period (directly prior to the Industrial Revolution), the painting depicts the act of “salting sheep,” which apparently was done on Sundays after church. Griswold owned 10 farms between Austerlitz and Chatham in this period. Depicted in the painting’s background is Hatfield Farm in Spencertown. During the 1830s, sheep raising was the principal economic activity for local farmers. Reportedly, there were 172,000 sheep in Columbia County at that time and only 40,746 people. Through this (large) window it’s easy to see the agricultural thread that runs through the history of a county where farming is still the largest industry. A number of other significant portraits and paintings are on display throughout the centennial exhibits.

5. The way we sat The centennial collection also includes beautiful pieces of furniture that make the properties feel appropriately lived in. Highlights of the collection have been newly reexamined for the centennial including this really smart pair of “New York Side Chairs.” Mahogany and ash with reproduction silk fabric and crafted between 1810-1820, the chairs are attributed to American cabinetmaker Duncan Phyfe and/or his workshop.

“Our furniture galleries will feature late 18th and early 19th century Federal and painted furniture from our collection, including a critical examination of past attributions,” says Thompson.

In an area where we are used to celebrating our history, it’s nice to get a chance to celebrate the history of those who made it possible. Here’s to the CCHS — we hope to see a lot of you this spring and summer and another 100 years to come.

For more information on events, including the annual First Columbians gala and fundraiser at the Vanderpoel House June 11 (there will be birthday cake), visit the CCHS website. 

Columbia County Historical Society
5 Albany Ave., Kinderhook NY
(518) 758-9265

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 03/28/16 at 11:23 AM •Permalink

Treat Yourself To A Champagne Evening At The Vanderbilts

If you’re the National Park Service observing an important anniversary, it’s all well and good to spruce up some trails and a nature center for the hikers that come along. But when your “property” includes a Vanderbilt mansion, the celebration needs to be a bit more glamorous, don’t you think?

Bravo , then, to the National Park Service, for allowing the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt Historical Association (RVHA), which supports the property, to plan a fundraising party in a style Frederick and Louise might have appreciated. On Friday, Dec. 11, the Vanderbilt Mansion (full title calls it “National Historic Site”) in Hyde Park, New York, opens its doors for its 75th Diamond Anniversary Champagne Reception. Guests will be handed their first sip of Champagne as they mingle in Mrs. Vanderbilt’s guest house (now the Visitors Center), then will move into the estate’s main hall, which will be all a-sparkle with “diamond” Christmas trees and other extravagant decorations. There will be more Champagne and hors d’oeuvres, and a pianist and harpist adding echoing melodies throughout the two-story room.

This is a party, not a mansion tour, but guests will get to peek into parts of the house off limits to daily visitors: the Vanderbilts’ closets.

“We’re opening some areas that have never been opened before,” says Allan Dailey, Supervisory park manager. “Guests can go into closets (rooms, really) where Mrs. Vanderbilt’s ballgowns and Mr. Vanderibilt’s formal wear were organized. It’s interesting to see how much it took to get people dressed in those days.”

Though the gowns are no longer there, some of the couple’s grooming accessories and other items will be on display — the lady’s original hair set with mirrors, combs and brushes, a traveling tea set, the mister’s cigar pincers and scissors. And his guitar pick — gold, of course. Tiffany and Cartier figure highly in these effects.

Just how did this diamond-themed soiree get past the Park Service brass? 

“We’ve never done this kind of thing before,” Dailey admits. “But we were talking with the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt Historical Association’s executive director of the board (Kathi Behnke) and president (Teresa Gasparini) about doing something special. We began to channel the Vanderbilts and their parties, and a Champagne reception felt like something they might do.”

It’s not a black tie event, but guests are encouraged to dress in the spirit of a faux-diamond studded evening. One of the oldest properties in the entire National Park system, the mansion is part of Historic Hyde Park and toasting it will help the nonprofit RVHA support the National Park Service’s preservation and programming. At the end of the evening, you’ll walk away with a pretty swanky gift bag, too.

Diamond Anniversary Champagne Reception at the Vanderbilt Mansion
Friday, Dec. 11, 6-9 p.m.
$75 (must be 21 to attend)
119 Vanderbilt Park Road
Hyde Park, NY
Reserve your tickets here.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 11/23/15 at 04:48 PM •Permalink

Gawkers, Welcome to Spencertown’s First-Ever Kitchen Tours

By Rachel Louchen

It’s generally considered that the kitchen is the heart of the home. Even bad cooks have to acknowledge that, at the very least, it’s an important room. Spencertown, NY will open the door to its gleaming stovetops, pristine countertops, cherry-paneled cabinets and fine appliances with a tour of eight kitchens on Saturday, Sept. 26.

The first-time event for Spencertown will raise funds for St. Peter’s Church to help defray costs incurred during restoration of the late 18th-century church, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The tour is a fun way to raise money for the church while also giving recognition to the residents whose style give Spencertown so much of its charm. The idea was brought to event organizer Barbara Smith by her neighbor who saw how popular and successful these events are in Los Angeles. Smith thought it would be a natural fit for her town with its variety of architecture.

The homes on view are diverse, featuring classic architecture to the most modern of-the-moment styles with an abundance of stainless steel appliances. “The kitchens selected are meant to show a range of styles,” says Smith. “There is a hearth in an early house, a Shaker-inspired kitchen, Asian-style architecture and a working catering kitchen.”

One of the kitchens was designed by Michael Krieger, a well-known New York interior decorator and Spencertown resident, and another by Jeff Fink, a local builder. A reception Friday night (also a fund raiser) will feature the kitchen of Jack Shear and Ellsworth Kelly; two people who know a thing or two about design aesthetics. Who wouldn’t want a peek into their home?

Each of the eight homes, located within the rural hamlet, is the product of the homeowner’s hard work and good eye. Now, they’re waiting for your inspection.

Friends of Historic St. Peter’s Kitchen Tour
Saturday, Sept. 26, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tickets $30, are available online, at St.Peter’s the day of the event and by calling (518) 392-9695.

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Posted by Rachel Louchen on 09/18/15 at 10:16 AM •Permalink

Looking Beyond The Obvious: Olana Gives Up Five Secrets

By Jamie Larson

Olana is one of our region’s boldest and most beloved icons. A visit to painter Frederic Church’s living masterpiece outside Hudson, New York throughout the seasons is a tradition for many of us. But while exploring the ornate mansion and taking in the view from the top is an oh-so-repeatable treat, there are a lot of wonderful things you probably still haven’t seen. If you’re planning a trip before the astonishing River Crossings exhibit exits on November 1, or want to experience the amazing convergence of sound, art and landscape that is Groundswell on September 19 (and you should), there’s even more to see. Although it’s a place we know so well, Olana still has secrets. Here are a few to consider exploring.

1. Hidden foundations: the (even older) history of Olana
Olana Secret FoundationOlana is not just a house. It’s a beautifully curated property, and exploring all of it illuminates the scope of the painter’s unparalleled vision. In 1860, Church bought the Wynson Breezy farm. The 126 acres of hilly fields, woods and peaks were transformed over the years as Church’s imagination manifested itself in brick and mortar. Off the entrance road that leads to the main house, hidden behind the old barns and current Education Center, you’ll find a window into this early history. Beautiful wildflower-lined field paths lead to the stone foundations of the original Breezy farmhouse, icehouse and old well. From the humble footing of the old farmhouse (where the Churches later housed tenant farmers), visitors can look up the hill past the barns and watch Olana grow over time in proportion with Church’s fame and ambition, first up to the comparatively humble but still magnificent Cosy cottage (designed by the architect of the Statue of Liberty’s base, Richard Morris Hunt) and then to the architectural wonder that is the main house.

2. Secret Gummers around the lake: a gateway to the carriage roads
Olana Secret GummerCrowds have been rightfully flocking to Olana this summer to witness the outstanding contemporary exhibit River Crossings, featuring works from artists like Chuck Close and Martin Puryear on display alongside Church’s own work and collection. But sadly overlooked by many are the four wonderful sculptures by renowned artist Don Gummer that line the carriage road around the lake below the house. The pieces are from Gummer’s own lakeside property (which he shares with wife, Meryl Streep), and he spent more time than any other artist placing his work at Olana to best match the location. His signature use of negative space provides openings into the beautiful wilderness of the site. The works also draw attention to another hidden gem: the lower carriage road that the Olana Partnership has painstakingly restored. It winds through the woods and up to a dead end at the top of a hill. Church had this road built so he could take in a single breathtaking view of Olana with the farm in the foreground and the big house up above. When he was constructing his road to nowhere, his mother-in-law wrote in an archived letter, “Mr. C. is building a road. He thinks it is a secret.” We suggest you make it yours, as well.

3. One really important old magazine
Olana Secret Life MagInside the May, 1966, issue of Life magazine, with a cover story about how mod culture was revolutionizing fashion, there was a story about the fight to save a beautiful historic home from the wrecking ball. The story and accompanying photo spread convinced the nation that Olana had to be preserved. The Partnership makes no bones about it — it’s possible Olana wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for that story. 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the year Olana Preservation, a group of concerned art historians, preservationists and individuals living in the Hudson Valley and New York City, joined forces to save the site. This issue of Life is a totem of their good work, for which we should all be thankful.

4. Frederic Church’s favorite little monkey skull
Olana Secret Monkey ScullIt’s clear from one look at Olana that Church had a refined yet eclectic taste. From the Middle Eastern geometry that makes up the major design themes inside and outside the castle to the stuffed peacocks and sabres that adorn the main hall, one of Olana’s greatest draws is its strangeness — which is due to the artist’s multicultural, often whimsical and sometimes bizarre personal taste. In his studio, in a cabinet of trinkets from his many travels, is a tiny monkey skull. By what means Church acquired the spooky little item is a tale requiring further research, but it’s always an interesting secret to spot while on the tour. It’s fun to imagine how the creature sat for countless hours, lidless, watching the master paint. How many of Church’s secrets has he seen?

5. From the tiptop of Church’s world: a private view and some teapots

Olana Secret Teapot View

Photo by Rich Gromek

Sadly, the best of all views at Olana is, for safety’s sake, off limits to all but staff and lucky reporters. Fortunately, Rural Intelligence can take you up into Olana’s bell tower to show you the secret view from the top of Church’s masterpiece. The deck of the bell tower is surprisingly roomy with pointed arches that frame the views in dreamlike windows. This high up, above the river, it almost feels like flying. But we’re still not at the top. A little door leads to a perilous staircase that winds up to a crow’s nest. That, then, is the highest peak. You have to get special permission from the state to climb up to it. One last little odd secret sits at this highest point of Olana, or rather four: a quartet of smallish Asian teapots sit as finials at the corners of the crow’s nest. The pots may seem to some a random addition, where a normal designer might set crosses or gargoyles or a weathervane, but for Church these seem more than fitting, as though the house were eternally having tea with its old friend and partner, the view. The current teapots are replicas but an original is tucked into a corner of the pantry closet downstairs on the tour — another of the many secrets to be found at Olana. 

Olana State Historic Site
5720 State Route 9G, Hudson, NY
(518) 828-0135
Grounds open 8 a.m. to sunset daily. Free.
For tour schedules and gallery hours, visit the information page.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 09/07/15 at 01:45 PM •Permalink

Clermont’s ‘Wordscape’ Adds Literature To The Landscape

By Amy Krzanik

From published poets and writing teachers to elementary school students, a huge range of submissions have come in for Clermont Historic Site’s newest exhibit, Wordscape. Laminated words (poems, quotes and other writings) have been placed along Clermont’s woodland paths, lilac walk and garden for guests to peruse at their leisure.

“We’ve had professional artist exhibitions in the past, and will continue to do so, but last year’s Yarn Burst was the first one that allowed the community to feel like they could interact and make their mark here,” says Conrad Hanson, executive director of Friends of Clermont. “They really feel engaged with the site when they can contribute to a larger effort. We had 40 knitters for Yarn Burst, but we have 400 writers for Wordscape.”

Some of the 400 entrants include a New York City woman who submitted a chest of drawers with writing inside of it; the Benedictine Hospital oncology unit who wrote about when they were young and submitted it as one piece; Germantown Central School who sent in colorful, single-word signs from its students; and a couple who presented an entry from their daughter who passed away.

Because of unpredictable weather, Wordscape doesn’t have a set end date. Hanson expects the exhibit to last at least four weeks, depending on the whims of Mother Nature.

The Sunday, June 7th opening reception at 4 p.m. will feature local writers reading in the mansion, the recognition of outstanding writing submissions, and a wine and cheese celebration. Young poets will rap their work and a 90-something poet-artist will read from his latest book. It’s free and there will be food trucks and beverages available for purchase.

Wordscape Opening Event
Sunday, June 7 from 4-6 p.m.
Clermont Historic Site
87 Clermont Ave., Germantown, NY  
(518) 537-6622

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 06/01/15 at 03:42 PM •Permalink

The Great Barrington Historic House Tour Invites You Inside

By Amy Krzanik

Many of us enjoy paging through House Beautiful, Architectural Digest, Dwell and other design and decorating magazines looking for inspiration and basically ogling how other people live. Luckily for us, the folks at the Great Barrington Historical Society (GBHS) share our interests. On Saturday, May 2 from 1-5 p.m., GBHS will hold its first annual Historic House Tour, where inquisitive looky-loos will be invited inside three homes in Great Barrington and two in Housatonic.

Highlights include a 1915 English Revival-style home; two Queen Annes (1890s), one of which was recently featured in Berkshire Magazine; an 1884 parsonage designed by Peabody & Stearns of Boston; and an 1879 Greek Revival constructed by the Turner family and featured in Berkshire Living Magazine.

Debbie Oppermann, director of GBHS understands that people love old houses because they are “a tangible part of our past that people can experience now.” Unlike a museum where furnishings or entire rooms oftentimes are roped off, house tours allow visitors to fully experience a past time and place. “You can touch the bannisters and look through the windows,” Oppermann says. “People have a visceral connection to things they treasure and houses are on the top of that list.”

The five well-designed, well-built and, most importantly, well-loved homes all have distinct personalities, and many have original features such as vibrant ceramic fireplace surrounds, intricate stained glass and the gas and electric chandelier pictured left that have survived the ages thanks to careful caregivers. “As the saying goes, ‘you don’t own an old house, you take care of it for the next generation,’” quotes Oppermann.

Proceeds from the tour support the work of the Historical Society and Museum, which collects and preserves artifacts that tell the stories of the people, places and events that make up Great Barrington’s history. In addition to maintaining extensive archives, the Historical Society is restoring a 1771 farmstead that houses its headquarters as well the town museum.







Great Barrington Historical Society House Tour
Saturday, May 2, 1-5 p.m.

Tickets: $25. Call GBHS at (413) 591-8702 or buy online.
A limited number of tickets can be purchased the day of the event at the GB train station or the Ramsdell Library in Housatonic.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 04/28/15 at 09:38 AM •Permalink

Kinderhook’s Spring Home & Garden Day: A Breath Of Fresh Air

Speakers and presentations, clockwise from top left: Centerpiece by Isabelle Bosquet-Morra of Fleurisa; Thomas Burak of Thomas Burak Interiors; home on historic house tour; kitchen in house tour; tabletop by Michael Devine Home; Amy Crane of Amy Crane Color.

Kinderhook, NY has its own fascinating history: a visit by Henry Hudson himself, a resident named Martin Van Buren and the site of Washington Irving’s penning of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” But now there’s a forward-looking revitalization going on in the Columbia County village, and on April 18, the Village of Kinderhook presents its first Spring Home & Garden Day to celebrate the many resources the village has to offer. The event also includes an historic house tour.

“We’ve been trying to create special events to create buzz around the village and to get people to come,” says Renee Shur, the director of the recently created Office of Economic Development. “We have some incredible businesses in the area and great retail spaces in the village center,” naming The Flammerie and the Jack Shainman Gallery, among others. “It’s the beginning of a shift going on and we want to highlight what’s here and the possibilities they offer.”

The keynote speaker is Barbara Pierson of White Flower Farm in Litchfield, who will present a session on the latest trends in container gardening. There will be programs on home organization, color for residential interiors, setting a fashionable table and solar power consultations, along with many others.

For many, the highlight is the Village of Kinderhook Historic House Tour, an opportunity to be a fly on the wall at five 18th- and 19th-century homes. Tickets are $15 per person or $25 per couple, with proceeds benefiting beautification projects throughout the Village.

“The Historic House Tour was a tradition, but there hasn’t been one in a few years,” says Shur. “People are really looking forward to that. We have such an incredible collection of historic homes from many eras.”

A map and event schedule will be available at the welcome tent on Kinderhook’s Village Square on the day of the event. Except for the Historic House Tour, all events are free.

Shur, who moved to Columbia County from Brooklyn (“there are a lot of full-timers moving here from Brooklyn… and California“), says once she put the word out, local business people responded quickly. The design professionals, especially, are eager to introduce themselves and highlight what they do.

“After this brutal winter, everyone needs something special to do,” she says. Spring in Kinderhook hits that spot.

Village of Kinderhook Spring Home & Garden Day
April 18, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/06/15 at 11:12 AM •Permalink

The Dish On Dining At Downton Abbey

Photo courtesy Francine Segan.

Anyone who’s a Downton Abbey fan(atic) can’t get enough of the series. If you count yourself among that faction (or just like history…and food), you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of the Granthams, Crawleys, Mrs. Hughes and all the rest of the Downton family (upstairs and downstairs) at Ventfort Hall in Lenox, MA. On Saturday, February 21, food historian, author and TV personality Francine Segan will bring you into that era with her talk, “The Art of Dining at Downton Abbey.” It’s part of the Tea & Talk series at Ventfort, and a lavish high tea will follow Segan’s presentation.

Segan, a Downton Abbey devotee herself, frequently lectures on the food of about 20 different eras and cuisines (she’ll be giving this particular presentation at the Smithsonian next month). With the popularity of the British TV series, her talk about Victorian dining has morphed into one about the Edwardian period; she adds to it by going into the 1920s, which ushered in a food revolution. She begins each lecture by anchoring guests to the time period, showing now-obsolete objects for cooking and dining and then focusing on the food-centric activities of the period: dinner parties, cotillions, the etiquette of the upper classes.

Photo: “Opera Lover’s Cookbook” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang), by Francine Segan.

A James Beard-nominated author of six books, Segan does her research the way the Granthams might have: by mining the treasures of libraries. In fact, for this era’s research, she found much of what she was looking for right in Lenox, just a few miles from her weekend home in Great Barrington.

“The Lenox library has rare books in a vault, including home diaries,” Segan says. “There’s nothing like holding a hand-written, leather-bound book that contains the bookkeeping records for a manor or notes on what recipes didn’t work for the mistress.”

The tea at Ventfort will include sandwiches and other savories and sweets and a “top-level tea,” says Linda Rocke, marketing coordinator. Much like what Mrs. Patmore might have prepared.

Tea & Talk: The Art of Dining at Downton Abbey with Francine Segan
Saturday, February 21, 3:30 p.m.
Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum, Lenox
$35 with advance reservation (recommended), $40 day of event
(413) 637-3206

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/07/15 at 01:39 PM •Permalink