VSA Fall 2006 Study Tour of the Mid-Hudson Valley
co-sponsored with Wilderstein Preservation
Friday to Sunday, October 13 to 15, 2006
From the time Henry Hudson sailed through the region in the early 17th century looking for a passage to China the area’s history is as fascinating and old as the history of our country. Originally settled by the Dutch and the English, and a part of the great colonial manor system, the area saw action during the Revolutionary War. Onetime breadbasket of the nation, the Hudson River became one of the country’s biggest commercial thoroughfares after the establishment of the Erie Canal. The villages and towns along the banks prospered during the industrial revolution. The poetic combination of river, hills, and mountains inspired generations of writers, landscape designers and artists, greatly influencing the American Romantic movement of the nineteenth century and saw the Hudson River School become America’s first native artistic movement. Coveted for its scenic beauty, America’s great families lined the Hudson with their country retreats during the Gilded Age. The area was and still is known as “America’s Rhine”.
Study tour participants will be staying at the Delamater House Inn, in Rhinebeck, New York, a town steeped in history and charm, and center of the Great Estates region of the Hudson Valley. The centerpiece of the inn is the Delamater House, a perfect example of an A.J. Davis Carpenter Gothic Cottage. The inn is part of the Beekman Arms complex, one of America's oldest continuously operating inns. The complex is located in the heart of the village, convenient to its many shops, restaurants and other sights.
Friday, October 13thWelcoming hors d’oeuvres reception
Dinner on your own
The motor coach will drive us from the Delamater House Inn to the opening reception, leaving the hotel parking lot at 4:45 PM.
On Friday the study tour will officially begin at 5:00 PM at the Wilderstein Historic site, the co-sponsor of the tour. Wilderstein is a Queen Anne mansion designed by Arnout Cannon and decorated by joseph Burr Tiffany. The house overlooks the Hudson River on grounds landscaped by Calvert Vaux. Lived in by only three generations of the Suckley family, who were related socially or by blood to many of New York’s important families, the site is remarkable in that the house, grounds, interiors and family collections are all intact.
We will begin with a welcoming reception at Wilderstein, with house tours, cocktails, soft drinks and hors d’oeuvres on the verandah as well as opening remarks giving an overview of the area presented by Greg Sokaris, Executive Director of Wilderstein. Participants will have the opportunity to explore the seldom seen upper floors of the mansion and admire the view of the Hudson from Wilderstein’s 5-storey tower.
Following the reception the motor coach will drive us back to the hotel. There are many fine restaurants in Rhinebeck within a short walking distance of the Delamater House Inn.
Saturday, October 14th
Breakfast on your own at the hotel
Our tour guide in Hudson and Catskill will be Conrad Hanson, president of Wilderstein Preservation.
On Saturday morning, following breakfast at the Delamater House, the bus will depart promptly at 10:00 AM from the Delamater House parking lot and the tour will head north. Winding along the River Road, the group will pass the gatehouses, chapels, orchards and fields of the great estates built and lived in by families such as the Astors, Livingstons, Delanos and Delafields. Some are now institutions, but remarkably many of these estates are intact and remain in private hands today.
The first stop Saturday will be Olana, south of the city of Hudson. Olana, Frederick Church’s Moorish fantasy home, is set high on a hill overlooking a panoramic view of the Hudson, the Catskill Mountains and beyond. This Victorian fantasy sits on hundreds of landscaped acres combining Church’s vision and the famous Olmstead brothers’ expertise. Frederick Church often spoke of the home and its views as one of his greatest artistic achievements. We will tour the garden and grounds, and a box lunch picnic will be provided on the grounds (weather permitting).
Saturday afternoon will bring the group to Hudson, New York, founded by whalers from Nantucket. Hudson was once one of America’s busiest whaling ports, its location 100 miles inland from the ocean protecting it from marauding British warships. This formerly down-and-out city is experiencing a renaissance, with people restoring its trove of houses representing every major architectural style of the nineteenth century.
The group will visit the Hudson Opera House (alternative site for box lunch), a building built in 1855 as the first City Hall for Hudson. Frederic Church and Sanford Gifford showed their paintings here, and Henry Ward Beecher gave a rousing abolitionist lecture. Around 1880 this building came to be known as the Hudson Opera House. The first floor held various civic offices and the auditorium upstairs was used for everything from traveling lecture presentations and musical and theatrical events to local functions like dances, cotillions, poultry shows and graduations. According to the League of Historic American Theatres, the Hudson Opera House is one of the oldest surviving theatres in America.
After City Hall moved out in 1962 the building sat vacant for years. When it was threatened with further decay and eventual demolition, local citizens banded together to save the building. In 1992, Hudson Opera House, Inc. was formed as a not-for-profit organization dedicated to restoration of the building. Since that time the HOH has presented extensive, multi-cultural programming, and is now in the planning phase for completion of the entire restoration project. After a talk about Hudson and the Opera House by Gary Shiro, participants will have the opportunity to take a walking tour of Hudson.
After our visit to Hudson we will visit Catskill, New York, a town across the river from Hudson that has many beautiful Victorian homes, where we will visit Cedar Grove, home of Thomas Cole, ‘founder’ of the Hudson River School of Art. Following our tour we will end our day with dinner at the historic Beattie Powers House, an 1830s Greek Revival.
Sunday, October 15th
Breakfast on your own at the hotel
N.B. The Bus departs promptly at 9:15 AM from the Delamater House parking lot, so you must be checked out and ready to board the bus prior to this time.
Following breakfast on Sunday morning the tour will head south to Poughkeepsie, New York, where we will first visit Locust Grove. Overlooking the Hudson River, the 150 acre estate of Samuel F.B. Morse includes an Italianate villa designed by Alexander Jackson Davis containing extensive collections of American and European decorative and fine arts. Three miles of carriage roads wind through the landscaped grounds, romantic gardens and shady groves.
After lunch at Cosimo’s restaurant, the tour will continue to Vassar College, also in Poughkeepsie, where we will have a tour of the campus led by Dr. Monique Segarra, who is a professor there. Vassar College was chartered in 1861 by Matthew Vassar, opened 1865 as Vassar Female College, and was re-named in 1867. A leading institution of higher education for women, it pioneered in music and physical education and had the first department of euthenics, devoted to applying scientific principles to living conditions. The school became coeducational in 1969.
We will end our day with a tour of the magnificent Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, NY, which in terms of architecture, interiors, mechanical systems, road systems and landscape, is a remarkably complete example of a gilded-age country place.
After our Vanderbilt Mansion tour the coach will return to the Delamater House Inn parking lot in Rhinebeck. We will be back in Rhinebeck before 5:00 PM.
The Victorian Society in America reserves the right to alter the schedule of events or featured participants or to cancel events should it become necessary.
Our group booking this year for the Delamater Arms is slightly restricted owing to other conflicting group events, Autumn being a particularly busy time in the Rhinebeck area. The VSA group rate is only available for a limited number of rooms. Other rooms are available at different rates. Please contact Caroline at the Delamater Arms if you have any difficulties.
We apologize for this restriction, and also if you have experienced any other reservation difficulties beyond our control when our coordinator at the Delamater Arms cannot be reached.