Let’s Party, But Where? Venues Guide, Part 2: Columbia Cty
The backdrop of natural beauty in the Rural Intelligence region has been luring brides and grooms to say their “I Do’s” here for years. But really, why shouldn’t any event — birthdays, anniversaries, corporate gatherings — get to enjoy the fabulous venues (and yes, frequently the views) that make a special gathering so memorable? After exploring some great locations in Northwest Connecticut, we move on to Columbia County.
Photo: Gigia Einarsdottir
By Elizabeth Hartley
Thor Icelandics, Claverack, NY
A picturesque farm in Claverack with fenced pastures and 50 or so friendly, fuzzy and very sweet Icelandic horses sure seems dreamlike, right? (It is.) The farm offers two locations for pitching an event tent: the hill, which has unobstructed 360-degree views from Albany to New Paltz, and the upper track, an actual competition track at the heart of the farm.
Capacity: 250, give or take
In-house catering: No
Indoor/outdoor: Entirely outdoor and seasonal, May through October
What makes it unique: Brides and grooms can ride in to their ceremony on horseback. Because there’s only one event per weekend, there’s less pressure to set up and break down.
Basilica Hudson, Hudson, NY
Once upon a time, Hudson, the only city in this rural county of dairy farms, had a gritty industrial heart. Built in 1880, this former forge and foundry is very close to the Hudson River and resembles a Medieval church. Basilica found new life a few decades ago as an event venue with spaces (including outdoor areas) both large enough and flexible enough to house every sort of event imaginable.
Photo: James Day, Within This Day Photography.
Main Hall At 6,000 square feet, this is the principal space for big events (as well as performances, film productions and photo shoots). An intimate wedding of 80 won’t get lost here, but the space can comfortably hold 1,200. There are first-rate restrooms, soaring ceilings (ranging from 20 to 40 feet), multiple entrances and a convenient loading dock.
North Hall Typically set up like a small theater, this striking space features the same high ceilings as the Main Hall, including tall windows and decorative brick and tile work. It’s popular for wedding ceremonies, can seat 150, and has updated heating and A/C so it’s comfortable year-round. Bonus: Separate entrances allow independent access from the rest of the building.
Back Gallery Located in the smaller of Basilica’s two buildings, this 40-foot by 40-foot space has exposed brick and white walls, an industrial heater, and museum-size loading doors. It’s ideal for art exhibitions, intimate ceremonies or performances, and other small-scale events. Two skylights in the 15-foot-high ceiling provide natural light, while ceiling lights can be adjusted as needed.
West Wing Easily accessible from the Main Hall, this space often functions as the bar during large events and its two large windows make it perfect for food service, too. It’s warmer and more intimate than the rest of Basilica, but can easily accommodate 250 standing or 100 for a sit-down dinner. The West Wing Entrance is an adjacent 700-square-foot area that can be used for receptions or coat check.
What makes it unique: Like any enormous re-purposed space, the sheer scale, high ceilings and abundant natural light at Basilica give it enormous flexibility for large events and elaborate themes. Its proximity to the Hudson River and the Amtrak station (both are a few hundred easily walkable feet away) makes it super convenient and easily accessible, too.
Oak Hill, Hudson, NY
One of a dozen or so mansions built by the Livingstons along the Hudson River and the last one still in the Livingston family, Oak Hill is also one of the newest event sites in Columbia County. The 100-acre estate has great views of the river and the Catskill Mountains. The manor house was built in the 1790s by John Livingston, son of Robert Livingston, well known as one of the region’s original land-grantees. Legend has it that John, seeking out the best views, climbed an oak tree to determine the best spot for the new home, hence the mansion’s name. The grounds are park-like and offer several places to pitch your event tent. Or use the barn, which has a capacity of 150.
Capacity: 250-300 in an event tent; 150 in the barn
In-house catering: No, but you can hire Oak Hill to produce your event.
Indoor/outdoor, seasonal: Both, May through October only
What makes it special: The views, exquisite park-like grounds and exceptional privacy.
Clermont State Historic Site, Germantown, NY
Clermont State Historic Site, a Livingston estate, was home to seven generations of this prominent family. The mansion has hosted scores of engagement parties, wedding ceremonies and receptions for the family since the 1700s, and in 1996, management opened the gates to the rest of us, making a variety of sites available on the grounds of the home that include a wooded area, expanses of open lawn or century-old gardens — all with exceptional views of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains.
Capacity: 50 to 300, depending upon the site
In-house catering: No, but experienced museum staff provide guidance
Indoor/outdoor and seasonal: Outdoors only, May through October
What makes it unique: Interestingly, rental fees are not based on the size of the guest list or the number of hours the site will be in use. (Fees range from $800 to $2,200 for wedding receptions, depending upon the location and time of day.) Site managers also don’t require you to use one of their approved caterers, but they can recommend those who have produced successful events, ensuring a smoother and more trouble-free experience.
Old Austerlitz, Austerlitz, NY
In the eastern part of Columbia County, Old Austerlitz is a charming part-restored, part-re-constructed historic village that celebrates the region’s local history. Located along both sides of Route 22, Old Austerlitz is the brainchild of life-long Austerlitz resident and antiques-dealer Bob Herron, who works with a passionate group of local history buffs to administer and expand the multi-acre site. The buildings include a picturesque church built in 1853 and a red one-room schoolhouse, both native to the site, as well as the 1794 Morey-Devereaux House and a rustic barn perfect for events, both of which were re-constructed on site in the last decade.
Capacity: The Barn: 150 for a sit-down dinner; The Church: 120 for ceremonies
In-house catering: No, but excellent kitchen facilities in Morey-Devereaux
Indoor/outdoor: Both, but seasonal
What makes it special: This charming compound (think a mini Old Sturbridge Village) offers a variety of spaces to set up your tent while maintaining open country views. One event per weekend helps ease stress. Ample parking.
Hudson Opera House (now Henry Hudson Hall), Hudson, NY
Built in 1855 as Hudson City Hall, this exemplary building is New York State’s oldest surviving theater, one of the region’s most-treasured historical buildings, and the cultural heart of Hudson. In another few weeks, after a year of restoration that includes, among other improvements, the addition of an elevator, the Opera House will reopen its upstairs theater for community and private use for the first time in more than 55 years. The space can support a variety of seating configurations.
Capacity: Performance Hall: 100 to 250 for seated dinners; up to 300 for performances. West Room: 80. Common Council Room: 60. Center Hall Gallery: 100
In-house catering: No
Indoor/outdoor, seasonal: Indoor, year-round and climate-controlled
What makes it special: A spectacular space with a grand history and thoroughly modern amenities, the Opera House supports and promotes the arts in the community, so income from special-event rentals ensures ongoing programming and the continued restoration of the building.
Southwood, Germantown, NY
If the special event of your dreams involves moving whole-hog into an historic estate for the weekend (or longer), then Southwood is the place. It offers all the comfort and elegance of country estates in the Gilded Age without the pretension or formality. One of the Livingston manors, the house is remarkably intact and beautifully maintained. You get all the privacy you need and room enough to expand (without prying eyes from an event in the next room). That includes the mansion, built in 1837, and three rental houses on the 86-acre property with views of the Hudson River and Catskill mountains. Collectively, the houses sleep 25. The bonus? Adorable farm animals and a heated pool.
Capacity: Up to 150 guests outdoors
In-house Catering: No
Indoor/outdoor, or both, and seasonal: Events allowed in tents outdoors from May to October
What makes it unique: For a destination wedding or event, there’s something to occupy everyone in your party, which is essential, and lots of lovely spaces for all the components of your event.