Explore the Hudson Valley

Experience The Hudson Valley

Heirloom Treasures

  |   October 25, 2019  |  Comment

The Hudson Valley is full of wonders that would excite any history enthusiast. Historic sites left behind by early inhabitants of this land, from crumbling castle ruins to astonishing artistic and architectural feats, are ripe for exploration. The region’s rich history is captured and preserved at every turn.

The Kiersted House, home to the Saugerties Historical Society, recently restored an 18th-century Dutch Barn. About 16 years ago, the owner of a property in Mount Marion was planning on tearing down the barn. However, after acquiring funds from Senator John Bonacic, the historical society was allowed to carefully disassemble the barn and reconstruct it at the Kiersted House. The barn was pieced back together like a real-life jigsaw puzzle and is now greatly admired and used for art exhibits and weddings.

Rosendale’s Widow Jane Mine has something of a strange history. In 1825, Andrew J. Snyder discovered limestone suitable for cement, and for the next 145 years, cement from the Widow Jane Mine would play a major role in the construction projects of the greater New York area, from the D&H Canal to the pedestal of Lady Liberty. Somewhere along the way, however, Widow Jane took on additional uses. First, it was a mushroom farm operated by a man dubbed the “King of Mushrooms.” Then, as the Cold War progressed, the mine changed yet again to become part top secret government document storage center and part luxury Cold War-era bomb shelter.

John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in his efforts to develop the town of Pocantico Hills, built the Union Church in 1921. At first glance, no one would suspect that this unassuming country church would house works of art by European masters. However, the Rockefeller family commissioned Henri Matisse to design the stunning stained-glass Rose Window in the church after the death of Rockefeller’s wife in 1948. Years later, when Rockefeller passed away, his children employed the artist Marc Chagall to design the Good Samaritan window. Visiting the Union Church and seeing the light spill through its beautiful windows makes for a breathtaking experience.

The world-renowned Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome is known to most aviation and history buffs. This living museum contains a collection that is truly rare—several of the planes are the last of their kind, and others are the world’s sole reproductions. On weekends May 1 through October 3, two distinct air shows delight all ages. Every Saturday, the History of Flight displays aircraft from the early 1900s up to WWI, as well as ribbon cuts, aerobatics, and mock bomb drops. Sunday air shows include fireworks and pyrotechnics, dogfight simulations, and WWI replica aircraft. Aside from pure entertainment, the Aerodrome’s museum, air shows, and biplane rides help people revel in vintage aviation.

Motorcyclepedia, located in Newburgh, is the largest educational motorcycle museum in the world. With a collection of over 600 motorcycles, they boast the world’s most complete Indian timeline among other rare bikes. In 2015, the owners of Motorcyclepedia Museum purchased the historic Labor Temple and renovated the place to create an annex exhibition space. The Velocipede Museum, an annex to Motorcyclepedia, opened in June of 2018 and is dedicated to 19th-century forerunners of the bicycle. Perch atop the vintage Penny Farthing, browse the tri- and quadcycles, and learn about the evolution of the bicycle. The front of the building serves as a space for kids’ workshops, teaching basic bicycle skills like tire changing and chain adjustment.

The Woodstock Artists Cemetery was never intended to be the final resting place for so many imaginative souls. Rather, it was originally designed for wealthier residents to be separated from commoners in the Woodstock cemetery across the street. Now, it serves as a burial ground for some of the most creative minds in the area, with famous names on amazing headstones. Luminaries include painters Milton Avery and Philip Guston, as well as bluegrass great John Herald. Living artists frequent the cemetery, hoping to find some inspiration amidst the graves of some of the greats.

The looming walls of a peculiar castle jut out from the Hudson River just south of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. The structure, Bannerman Castle, sits on an island 500 yards off the coast, with a history as varied and esoteric as the architecture it hosts. One of the richest people in New York City, Francis Bannerman was among the largest purveyors of military goods in the world. After acquiring the island, he built warehouses for various storage arsenals that held ammunition, shells, and gunpowder. The island has also been the home to pirates and bootleggers. The remains of Bannerman’s Castle are just a fraction of the architecture that once inhabited the island, but in recent years, Bannerman’s advocates have reinvented the idiosyncratic site as a hub for local art, music, and theater, with performances all summer.

The word paradise comes from the Greek for walled garden. Indeed, paradise is precisely what the Blithewood Garden at Bard College is—in all senses of the word. A traditional walled Italianate garden designed by Francis L. V. Hoppin at the turn of the 20th century, the garden is perched 130 feet above the Hudson River, with breathtaking vistas of the water and the Catskill Mountains beyond. Known for its copper-roofed gazebo flanked by two wisteria-covered pergolas, Blithewood Garden is a stunning destination to admire the Beaux-Arts style, including paths on geometric axes, symmetrical design, a central water feature, and statuary.

Pictured above: Velocipede Museum in Newburgh. Photo by John Garay.

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