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Historic Homes, Museums & Gardens

Wethersfield Estate Is Reborn With Renewed Purpose

By Jamie Larson

Sitting atop the highest point in Dutchess County, the Wethersfield estate and gardens in Amenia, New York are one of the most spectacular weekend destinations in the region. Thankfully, the historic home of 20th-century American aristocrat Chauncey Devereux Stillman (1907-1989) has recently emerged from the darkest period in its history and is once again an architectural and natural gem.

After nearly two decades of financial mismanagement and a $4.3-million embezzlement scheme by former board trustees Lisk and Elizabeth Wyckoff, the assets of the Homeland Foundation (the steward of the estate) dwindled from $103 million in 1998 to $31 million in 2015. The controversy was viewed by economists as a cautionary example of how intergenerational wealth can be squandered after the death of those who initially acquired it. After making the difficult decision last year to sell off millions of dollars worth of Stillman’s prized art collection, Wethersfield’s brand-new executive director, Douglas Dewey (who has significant experience in nonprofit leadership and asset management) said the estate is finally solvent again and can refocus on Wethersfield’s mission to promote ecological and agricultural protection, and provide a space for Catholic study.

“This is a new day for Wethersfield,” said Dewey. “In every garden a little rain must fall and we got our share.” 

The gardens, one traditional Italianate and the other a wilderness garden, are easy to get (metaphorically) lost in and the main house and carriage house museum are time capsules of a well-curated life. Events are held throughout the open season (this weekend offers the Aston Magna Music Festival in the carriage house June 29). Passes to the garden are $5 and self-guided audio tours are available. A guided tour of the main house, carriage house and garden is $20 for adults $15 for seniors and teens 13-18. Children ages 12 and under are free. Trails on the property are also open to the public.

With its resurrection complete, Wethersfield is also now reemphasizing its connection to the local community, Dewey said. Stillman’s traditional recreational pursuits of horse riding, carriage drives and fox hunts still draw members of the modern upper crust throughout the season, but local residents also recently flooded the estate for a successful community day. The appeal of the gardens is indisputably universal. 

“We are rebuilding and reinvesting in a desire to be active within our community,” said Dewey. “Stillman, if nothing else, was known for his hospitality.”

Stillman’s grandfather (a Rockefeller contemporary) James Stillman founded what is now Citigroup and Chauncey Stillman himself was, among other things, a director of an oil and mining enterprise, Freeport-McMoRan. Though his life was indisputably comfortable, living through the Depression and serving as a naval intelligence officer in WWII informed Stillman’s compassion, framed his intellectual pursuits, and factored into his conversion from the Episcopal faith to Catholicism. (Coincidentally Dewey made the same conversion in his own life.)

Stillman was a noted patron of the arts and an intellectual who promoted all manner of natural scientific study, seeing no conflict between science and his faith. In what may have been a point of contention with his peers, Stillman also promoted the economic idea of distributism, which promoted land ownership spread throughout the entire population but also a decentralization of political and business power. Wethersfield is home to an operational farm that practices what Stillman preached.

“By no means was he enamored with socialism or communism,” said Dewey, who added it was probably difficult to qualify the nuances of his position while living through the Cold War. “He believed in the free market but he also believed strongly in patronage. He was a forward-thinking patriot.”

Now, disrobed of its scandal, Wethersfield, and Stillman’s personal legacy on display therein, has rejoined our local landscape as a gorgeous weekend destination.

“We suffered a blow,” Dewey readily admits, “but we’ve reemerged able to provide more access. Now our visitors can come out and feel good about it. We have a new board that now includes members of the family, new management and a new outlook. This place is easy to love and Chauncey Stillman is easy to admire.”

214 Pugsley Hill Rd., Amenia, NY
(845) 373-8037
Open Friday–Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 06/25/18 at 11:10 AM •Permalink

Come To Your Senses: Music And Architecture At Edgewater

By Lisa Green

A chamber music salon in a magnificent estate sounds very 19th century, but there’s no reason it can’t be recreated in the 21st, especially considering the architecture of classical and romantic style homes prevalent in our region.

On Sunday, Sept. 17, the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust and The Richard Hampton Jenrette Foundation will combine a classical setting and chamber music at Edgewater, located on the Hudson River in Barrytown (near Tivoli), New York. “The Classical Ideal: Music and Architecture in Harmony” will include tours of the grounds, a concert and a reception. The Preservation Trust, which includes six estates from New York City to the Virgin Islands, has created this three-part concert series to highlight the themes of classicism and romanticism resonant not only in music, but also in the architecture and decorative arts of these classical homes, all owned by Jenrette, a self-proclaimed “house-aholic.”

Acting as musical director for the series is LA Philharmonic principal cellist Robert DeMaine, who will be performing with pianist Simon Adda-Reyss. For architecture buffs and decorative arts aficionados, the concert will be icing on the cake; prior to the music, guests who contribute at the Preservationist level will enjoy a rarely offered behind-the-scenes private tour of the historic estate. Then they will gather in the Octagon Room, where a Steinway grand will be brought in for the occasion.

Photos courtesy Classical American Homes Preservation Trust

Patron and Sponsor-level tickets will include a post-concert dinner at Edgewater. All proceeds from ticket sales go towards Classical American Homes’ mission to preserve, protect, and open to the public examples of classical American residential architecture, surrounding landscapes and scenic trails, as well as fine and decorative arts of the first half of the 19th century.

Since Edgewater is Jenrette’s private residence, there haven’t been many public tours. This is a rare opportunity — and a unique one — to travel back to a time when music and architecture reflected a similar aesthetic style. How better to appreciate it than at a private salon setting?

The Classical Ideal: Music and Architecture in Harmony”
Sunday, September 17, 2017
Grounds open at 2 p.m. House opens at 3:30 p.m. Concert at 4:15 p.m.
Seating is limited; reservations are required. $250-$5,000
Contact The Classical American Homes Preservation Trust at (212) 369-4460.


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Posted by Lisa Green on 09/03/17 at 12:03 PM •Permalink

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