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Travel Essentials

Amtrak Empire Service between Albany, Hudson or Rhinecliff, NY and Penn Station, NYC.

Amtrak 449 Lake Shore Limited between Pittsfield and South Station, Boston.

Bard Bus and Shuttle  On select summer weekends, Bard offers round-trip bus service from Manhattan’s Lincoln Center directly to the Fisher Center, exclusively for performance ticket holders: $30 round-trip. Reservations are required. Box dinners can be ordered in advance for $10. Bard also offers shuttle service from and to the Poughkeepsie Metro-North train station for select performances: $10 each way.

Mega-bus between Albany and Ridgewood, N.J. and Penn Station, NYC.

Metro-North Railroad between Wassaic, Dover Plains, or Poughkeepsie, NY and Harlem (125th Street)  or Grand Central Station, NYC.

Peter Pan Bus Lines  Boston/Albany route serving Albany, Great Barrington, *Lee, Lenox, *Pittsfield, Stockbridge, Williamstown, and Boston South Station and Boston Logan Airport  (*greater frequency, better fares). NYC/Williamstown route serving Williamstown, Lee, Stockbridge, Great Barrington, MA, or Canaan, CT and Port Authority Bus Terminal, NYC.

Roosevelt Ride Free Shuttle  Free round-trip shuttle service daily (summer through October) from the Poughkeepsie train station to Hyde Park, Val-Kil, the Vanderbilt Mansion, Top Cottage, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum so Metro-North train passengers can tour historic sites without a car. For reservations and tour info, call the Wallace Visitor Center: 845-229-5320.

Weather Underground
The radar is especially useful for tracking snow, sleet and thunderstorms.

Gas Prices
The price of gas at many of the stations in your zip code and those immediately surrounding it.

10 Things To Love About Rhinebeck

By Robert Burke Warren

If you’re looking for a distinctive combo of arts mecca, small-town cool and historic significance, Rhinebeck is the ticket. As we noted a few years back, for both locals and out-of-towners, this charming town is a rich resource for fun, relaxation, and edification. With easy access via train or bus, Rhinebeck offers opportunities for both weekend getaways and day trips, making it a destination point for the urban-weary and/or intrepid country folk.

1. The Beekman Arms: Time travel is possible, and quite a thrill at the oldest operating hotel in the U.S. Opened in 1766, the Beekman Arms has never closed. With its wide floor planks and massive fireplace, it offers hard-to-beat rusticity. But fear not: they have WiFi. Thankfully, the tastefully appointed modern conveniences do not distract from the 18th-century character, and visitors continue to rave. Just passing through? Step in to the downstairs tavern for an ale or a pot of tea, and emerge saying things like, “poppycock!” and “cheerio!”

2. Sinterklaas: Since 2008, this inspired, fairy tale re-enactment of the Dutch Yuletide celebration, wherein Saint Nick arrives by boat and parades through town with oddball sidekicks, has captivated young and old alike. The brainchild of New York City Halloween Parade director Jeanne Fleming, Sinterklaas includes giant puppets, floats from local businesses and organizations, music, and a little delicious spookiness to offset the run-of-the-mill holiday treacle.

3. Oblong Books & Music: While independent bookstores shut down everywhere, this family-owned-and-operated establishment made headlines in 2010 by daring to expand. Four years down the line, all is well (as reported in RI last year). Staffed by friendly and knowledgeable book lovers, including second-generation proprietor Suzanna Hermans, Oblong offers bestsellers, children’s books, nonfiction and great CDs. Tucked away from the bustle of Rhinebeck’s Montgomery Street, Oblong will restore your faith in the quiet power of the book, and the indie bookstore.

4. Upstate Films: For more than four decades, non-profit Upstate Films has offered foreign, independent and classic films, weathering seismic changes in the movie-watching culture while steadfastly providing a cultural and economic anchor to Rhinebeck. Undaunted by the rise of DVDs, they actually expanded in 2010, purchasing the former Tinker Street Cinema in Woodstock. Additionally, they host high school classes, workshops, and the Woodstock Film Festival. The two-screened venue is homey and charming, with an old timey popcorn machine, really comfy seats, and great sound.

5. Omega Institute: Since 1977, Omega has been the place for seekers. Yoga initiates, aspiring writers, musicians, couples and students of myriad disciplines come to Omega, many seeking a respite from urban stress. Workshoppers descend on the sylvan beauty of the 200-acre campus to receive instruction from hundreds of teachers, artists, healers and thinkers on the leading edge of their fields. As the arena of lifelong learning expands, Omega remains a world-renowned standard bearer, part spiritual retreat, part summer camp for grown-ups.

6. Old Rhinebeck Aerodome: Opened in 1966, the Old Rhinebeck Aerodome reminds visitors of the early days of flight, with World War I and Lindbergh-era aircraft, vehicles, related equipment, documents, memorabilia and historically significant artifacts. Originally established by veteran collector Cole Palen, the Aerodome became a nonprofit in 1993, and new generations of flight enthusiasts continue to keep it going. In addition to a well-maintained museum, from June to October, the Aerodome offers biplane rides and air shows that present the history of flight and World War I.  A great day for families, or anyone looking to be amazed that we humans managed to get airborne.

7. The Center for Performing Arts: Originally a tent, in 1998, the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck finally got a permanent structure, where they consistently bring excellent theater to Rhinebeck and its environs. The cozy barn, built to blend in with the surrounding farmlands, presents high-caliber productions that run the gamut from musical theater to Shakespeare to great American drama. The Center brings in actors from Manhattan as well as the adjoining regions, maintaining a reputation for high quality.

8. Wilderstein: This stately 19th-century home is known mostly as the longtime residence of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s cousin and close companion Margaret (Daisy) Lynch Suckley, who lived there until her death at age 99 in 1991. Now a sought-after tourist attraction, the Wilderstein home and grounds are jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Visitors enjoy views of the Hudson River on one side and the Catskills on the other, picturesque gazebos, charming outbuildings and a winding network of private roads. The building itself, a turreted Queen Anne villa, is one of the more understated of the stately homes of the region, but still quite grand.

9. Terrapin Restaurant: Housed in the handsome former Rhinebeck First Baptist Church, completed in 1825, multi-award-winning Terrapin is a farm-to-table restaurant with a stellar reputation. Chef Josh Kroner, a former instructor at the French Culinary Institute, opened his dream establishment in 1998, and was on the cutting edge of the locavore movement before it had a name. He sources from area farms for his comfort and upscale cuisine, combining French, Asian and American Southwestern flavors for dishes that’ll suit any palette or mood.

10. Rhinebeck Farmers Market: Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Rhinebeck Farmers Market is a year-round endeavor. The vendors offer local fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy and assorted other goodies, and there’s always a performance going on, usually acoustic-based acts. Frequent cooking and craft demonstrations offer opportunities to learn a little something while indulging in the various wares. What began as a small collective is now a thriving marketplace and a renowned w eekend meeting spot for locals and passers-by.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 03/31/14 at 09:20 AM • Permalink

Regional Rambles: Short And Easy Winter Hikes

By Jamie Larson

poets walk1 With the Berkshire Mountains and the Hudson River in our midst, we are fortunate to live in a region of incomparable beauty. A long, invigorating weekend hike through our forests, streams, hills and fields will leave one deeply awed by the humble grandeur of it all…

(Insert screeching brakes here.)

Reality check: Yes, it’s been really cold this winter, like polar vortex cold. The snow is deep again, and there’s a whole season of that show you’ve been meaning to watch on Netflix, and there are blankets and radiators. Nothing wrong with that snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug thing.

So let’s compromise. Let’s go hike down a great trail (for a little while), let’s climb up to a sweeping view (one not that far from the car) and enjoy the snow-capped beauty of our amazing area while it lasts (and then go get a bowl of soup and a sandwich). These great, abbreviated hikes will get your heart rate up, smite your cabin fever, deliver a moment’s peace and get you back home feeling all the better for it.

omiThe Fields Sculpture Park at Omi International Arts Center

The spring, summer and fall provide a myriad of complex canvases for the world-class artists who present their sculptures in the fields, woods and bogs of Omi. When surrounded by nature’s color, the pieces have a lot to play off of, and compete with, for attention. In wintertime, the snow creates a blank canvas for the art and greatly impacts the contrast and intensity of each sculpture.

The walk around the sculpture park is a short loop with diverging trails that are usually well enough packed down a day or two after snowfall. Omi is a great place to bring a dog for exercise in the winter.

If the walk works up your appetite, Café Omi at the visitors center is open on weekends, and offers a limited but sophisticated selection of sandwiches, snacks and warm drinks, along with a fine exhibit in the gallery room.

1405 County Route 22, Ghent, NY
Open every day 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.



tanglewoodTanglewood and Jacob’s Pillow

We’re all well accustomed by now to the joys of visiting these two world-class institutions in the summer. We go to Tanglewood for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and James Taylor and to Jacob’s Pillow to view the best the dance world has to offer. But we do so always in a crowd. Wandering these grounds, now cloaked in snow and silence, imparts a sense of personal connection and ownership that will resonate the next time you’re there with the adoring throngs.

The rolling grounds of both locations are open weekdays and weekends, except holidays, and the paths are plowed and gentle in slope. After a short stroll, head to the Lion’s Den in Stockbridge for soup, a sandwich and a warming drink.

Tanglewood, 297 West Street, Lenox, MA
Jacob’s Pillow, 358 George Carter Road, Becket, MA
Both grounds are open every day, hours subject to change.



cedar parkCedar Park Cemetery

There are few cemeteries anywhere that rival the eccentric historical handsomeness of Hudson’s Cedar Park Cemetery. From its location on a nearly comically steep hill to the worn old stones and regal mausoleums of its dead residents, the vast acreage exudes intrigue. Winter makes the grounds that much more ghostly. There are endless meandering trails and much along the way, including a spectacular westerly view from the top of the hill. Stopping to read ancient grave stones and peek through the crack in the door on a tomb may get your heart racing no matter how cold the day. Afterwards, warm your bones with the freshly baked offerings at Bonfiglio & Bread.

20 Columbia Turnpike, Hudson, NY
Open as the sun shines and closed during hours of darkness.



poet's walk2Poets’ Walk

This pastoral, meandering trail was designed in 1849 to inspire one to think about the connection between landscape and poetry, and so it does. Walking through the white hills of winter, one’s own breath seems to huff poetry and the wind in the trees whispers it back. Here, in the midst of nature’s muse, you are accompanied by the venerable poets who walked these paths before you. Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant, and Jack Kerouac looked out on these same frozen meadows. When you’re there, they’re yours alone. Bring a notebook.

When your sense of awe is satiated, go get inspired by one of the “Eat Good, Feel Good” sandwiches at Rusty’s Farm Fresh Eatery.

Look for the sign on the west side of River Road, Red Hook, NY
Open every day.

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 02/10/14 at 06:14 PM • Permalink

Valentine’s Day Specials and Celebrations

Sweet Deals on Suites

Cranwell Resort, Lenox Romance Package: This is the ultimate package to beat the winter blahs, and includes a one-night classic accommodation, a romance gift collection, $50 dining credit at any Cranwell restaurant, a complimentary bottle of Cranwell’s Private Reserve red or white wine with dinner, and full use of the spa, including heated indoor pool, whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms and fitness center. Forget Calgon, this stay will have you saying “Cranwell… take me away!”
55 Lee Road, Lenox, MA. Phone: 413-637-1364; 1-800-272-6935.

1862 Seasons on Main, Stockbridge Romantic Getaway Package: Enjoy a two-night stay with flowers, wine and treats. Or try the Relax and Renew Package: Stay for three nights, and enjoy a 50-minute massage within footsteps of the inn’s front door, or a manicure and pedicure at Seven Salon.
47 Main Street, Stockbridge, MA. Phone: 413-298-5419; 855-223-1862.

Chambery Inn, Lee Romance Package: Two-day, one-night stay in the Schoolhouse Suite. Enjoy wine, cheese and chocolates in your room upon arrival. Afterward, bring some chocolates home using a $5.00 gift card to Chocolate Springs Cafe in Lenox. This special package includes a room-delivered breakfast basket each morning. 
199 Main Street, Lee, MA. Phone: 413-243-2221; 800-537-4321.

Kemble Inn, Lenox Valentine’s Special: This deal includes overnight accommodations for one night, either February 14 or February 15, plus a half bottle of champagne, 12 long-stem roses and chocolate-covered strawberries all in your room upon arrival. You’ll also enjoy dinner for two, early check-in/late check-out, and a complimentary fireplace in King suites.
2 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA. Phone: 413-637-4113; 800-353-4113.

The Porches Inn, North Adams Art and Romance Deal: This special is available exclusively on Valentine’s Day, and includes overnight accommodations, two tickets to MASS MoCA’s “Date Night,” and a continental breakfast. See below for all that “Date Night” entails; you’d better grab this deal right away.
231 River Street, North Adams, MA. Phone: 413-664-0400.

Inn the Woods Bed & Breakfast, Hyde Park Valentine’s B&B Getaway: A three-night stay and three full breakfasts of homemade specialties await you, plus receive a rose arrangement, chocolate-covered strawberries, and a plate of local cheeses with sparkling beverage served by the fire. A $20 gift certificate to Liquorama Wine Cellars is yours, along with a $20 gift certificate to 2 Taste Food and Wine Bar, a $10 gift certificate to Giggles upscale adult novelty and garment shop, AND late check-in, late breakfasts, and late check-out if preferred. Choose either a February 13 - 15 stay or a February 14 - 16 stay.
32 Howard Boulevard Extension, Hyde Park, NY. Phone: 845-229-9331.

Interlaken Inn, Lakeville Valentine’s Day Getaway Package: On February 15, let Interlaken treat you and your loved one to a three-course dinner including a glass of house wine or a cocktail, a red rose, and a night of dancing to the Scott Heth Trio. The overnight accommodations also include breakfast, but feel free to add to your rendezvous with the Inn’s long list of “over-the-top” add-ons, like a private cooking classes, rose petal turn-down, and in-room manicure and pedicure.
74 Interlaken Road, Lakeville, CT. Phone: 1-800-222-2909.

The Manor House, Norfolk Book one night at the regular price and add a second night for half price. That’s plenty of time to take a romantic horse-drawn carriage or sleigh ride, snack on a gourmet picnic basket lunch, and then head back for an in-room massage.
69 Maple Avenue, Norfolk, CT. Phone: 860-542-5690.

The Litchfield Inn, Litchfield Couples Getaway: A deluxe king room, chocolate-covered strawberries, and an in-room couples massage are waiting for you in Connecticut.
432 Bantam Road, Litchfield, CT. Phone: 860-567-4503.




A Table For Two

Miranda Vineyard, Goshen, CT Chocolate Lover’s Valentine’s Day Tasting Dinner: Enjoy six decadent chocolate-infused courses paired with award-winning wines. 6 p.m.
42 Ives Rd, Goshen, CT. Phone: 860-491-9906.

The Secret Table, Washington, CT Be My Valentine Dinner: Celebrate V-Day on February 15, at Litchfield County’s only communal dining experience. A New England Colonial farmhouse welcomes you with a roaring fire and champagne. Then settle in for a five-course meal paired with wines. And you’ll leave with a gift of handmade truffles. For reservations, email: lisa@secrettable.net. 
115 River Road, Washington, CT. Phone: 860-868-7599.

Vico Restaurant, Hudson Romantic Valentine’s Weekend Menu: From Friday, February 14 through Monday, February 17, stop by Vico for a special menu served a la carte or prix fixe. There’s even a special dessert made for the occasion.
136 Warren Street, Hudson, NY. Phone: 518-828-6529.

The Enchanted Cafe, Red Hook Valentine’s Day Psychic Dinner: Psychic medium Johnny Angel offers a unique way to spend this day of love. Along with an exotic menu of Indian fare and a special dessert, you can look forward to Johnny’s personal message just for you. 6 p.m.
7484 S. Broadway, Red Hook, NY. Phone: 845-518-1915.

Terrapin Restaurant, Rhinebeck Valentine’s Day Prix Fixe Dinner: Choose from a two-course or three-course menu, with your choice of entree. See website for dining times and luscious meal choices.
6426 Montgomery Street, Rhinebeck, NY. Phone: 845-876-3330.

The Rhinecliff Hotel, Rhinecliff Two nights of special candlelit dinners (plus an a la carte menu) on February 14 and 15 lead into a Lovers’ Brunch with live music on Sunday, February 16. See website for menus and live music lineup.
4 Grinnell Street, Rhinecliff, NY. Phone: 845-876-0590.

Le Chambord Inn, Hopewell Junction Valentine’s Day Dinner Dance: Don your best duds and head out for a cocktail party and buffet dinner that includes five hours of open bar. 7 p.m. - Midnight.
2737 Route 52, Hopewell Junction, NY. Phone: 845-221-1941.

Charlotte’s Restaurant, Millbrook Valentine’s Dinner: Romantic fireside dining with a specially prepared a la carte menu, plus blues, jazz and love songs performed by Michael Brown on keyboard. 
4258 Route 44, Millbrook, NY. Phone: 845-677-5888.

Blantyre, Lenox Romantic Four-course Dinner: Celebrate Valentine’s Day with canapés and champagne, romantic piano music, a bouquet of roses, and an evening horse and sleigh ride. For those staying overnight, enjoy a half bottle of champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, and a fruit and cheese tray.
16 Blantyre Road, Lenox, MA. Phone: 413-637-3556.




A New Kind of Rendezvous

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox Private Lives Valentine’s Brunch: Treat your Valentine — and yourself — to a romantic brunch on February 16, followed by a matinee performance of Private Lives. It’s the perfect way to wrap up your Valentine’s weekend. 11 a.m.
70 Kemble Street, Lenox, MA. Phone: 413-637-1199.

MASS MoCA, North Adams Date Night at the Museum: Have dinner for two by candlelight on February 14 as you stroll through the galleries, participate in activities, and craft handmade gifts for your partner. Drop off the kids at Kidspace for their own special Valentine dinner and art activities. 6-9 p.m.
87 Marshall Street, North Adams, MA. Phone: 413-662-2111, Ext. 1.

Locust Grove Historic Estate, Poughkeepsie Spend Valentine’s Day night in good company at the “Show Your Love” Ball. Hosted by Big Gay Hudson Valley, the dance is a party for the LGBTQ community and their friends and allies, both single and partnered. Upon arrival guests will receive a glass of sparkling wine, and the night will feature a four-course meal and open bar, plus dessert stations. Live entertainment will be provided by Ophelia Nightly, followed by DJ dancing into the night… well, until 11 p.m. 7-11 p.m.
2683 South Road, Poughkeepsie, NY.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 02/02/14 at 08:09 PM • Permalink

Jumpfest Weekend Leaps Into New Activities

By Sarah Ellen Rindsberg

Photo by Kathleen Doyle.

Get your hand and foot warmers out; now you’re all set to join the thousands of spectators at the annual Jumpfest Weekend at the Satre Hill Ski Jumps in Salisbury on February 7-9. The weekend has been a highlight of winter in northwest Connecticut for decades, and this year offers an expanded lineup of activities that begin the preceding week. Not all of them call for extra layers, though, and some of the new indoor events even include something warm to drink.

The idea was to increase the scope of the events and to build momentum in the days leading up to the big weekend. It began with discussions among several local residents and merchants. “The thinking was that the three days are pretty full so if we wanted to do new events, we needed to start the week before,” says Willie Hallihan, one of the 20 directors of the Salisbury Winter Sports Association and the man in charge of marketing for the events.

One new feature in coordination with Jumpfest is the addition of several winter-themed art shows and openings. At Trinity Church in Lime Rock, a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception will mark the opening of its juried show. Over at the Academy Building, the invitational show Higher.Faster.Farther. catches the action at the jumps in photos shot by Jumpfest volunteers.

Work by several local artists in various media, including fiber, sculpture, prints and paintings, will be on display in The White Show at the White Gallery in Lakeville. Refreshments will be served at the gallery and ten percent of all proceeds will be donated to the Salisbury Winter Sports Association (SWSA).

For those with a culinary bent, there will be numerous tastings for the first time in Jumpfest history. At the Interlaken Inn in Lakeville, Executive Chef Brandon Scimeca will lead a cooking demonstration, and Hillrock Estate Distillery Bourbon of Ancram will be offering samples of its aged bourbon whiskey. Both the Falls Village Inn and the Interlaken Inn will be offering package deals which include event tickets. At Sunset Meadow Vineyards in Goshen, a tasting will be held over the entire Jumpfest weekend, and Jumpfest ticket holders will receive free souvenir SMV wineglasses.

The Human Dog Sled Race. Photo by David Newman.

There’s still a way for the non-skiing but sports minded enthusiasts to get involved. The ever-popular Human Dog Sled Races return, with more teams than ever expected to take the place of canines as they pull their cargo.

In addition to the traditional Snow Ball on Saturday night, revelers will gather pre-Jumpfest for the first Winter Warmer fundraiser, at the Salisbury home of Curtis and Susan Rand. The benefit grew out of the organizers’ desire to have a “fun party at the depths of winter.” Tickets for the party, catered by Country Bistro of Salisbury, are available on the website for $30.

Ice sculpture from last year’s festival.  Photo by Jonathan Doster.

This year’s ice-carving event will be a demonstration rather than a competition, and held in the square adjacent to LaBonne’s grocery store. Visitors can observe professional carvers as they craft their spectacular ice sculptures. “They know how to ‘weld’ ice,” Hallihan attests. “They’re beautiful but fleeting,” he adds, noting that the sculptures will be on display as long as Mother Nature permits.

And don’t forget the main events: Friday night jumping under the lights, the Saturday SWSA Invitational, and Sunday’s U.S. Eastern Ski Jumping Championships, where future Olympians start honing their medal mettle.

Friday, January 31
Trinity Church, Lime Rock, art exhibit opening with wine and hors d’oeuvres reception, 5 - 7 p.m.

Saturday, February 1
Academy Building, Salisbury, art opening with cider and cookie reception, 4 - 6 p.m.
Winter Warmer, at the home of Susan and Curtis Rand, Salisbury, $30 per person

Friday, February 7
Human Dogsled Races in the evening, at the conclusion of the target jumping, admission $15
Sunset Meadow Vineyards, tasting hours 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
The White Gallery in Lakeville, art opening and refreshments, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Saturday, February 8
Ice Carving Demonstration at LaBonne’s Square, Salisbury 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Sunset Meadow Vineyards, tasting hours 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
The White Gallery in Lakeville, art opening and refreshments, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Hillrock Bourbon Tasting and Chef Demonstration, Interlaken Inn, Lakeville, 4 - 6 p.m.
SWSA Snow Ball Dance Lakeville Hose Co. Annex, Lakeville, CT, 8 p.m. - midnight, admission $15

Sunday, February 9
Sunset Meadow Vineyards, tasting hours 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

For more information, go to www.jumpfest.org

 

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/27/14 at 08:07 PM • Permalink

Holiday Celebrations and Shopping

Holiday spirit is highly infectious, but one trip to any mall will guarantee immunity well past New Year’s Eve. Our small town holiday festivals, on the other hand, are veritable petri dishes of the stuff. Attend any or several of the many scattered throughout our region and you may find holly spontaneously sprouting in your heart.     

BERKSHIRE COUNTY

Now - December 31
Home for the Holidays at Ventfort Hall
The Lenox mansion, built in 1893, is decorated for the holidays and offers fun for both children and adults through to New Year’s Eve, including a dramatic reading of The Curious Abduction of Mona Lisa, Cinderella marionette shows with puppeteer Carl Sprague, and Christmas tea with an Edwardian lady.

Friday, December 13 - Sunday, December 15
Crispina’s Holiday Shindy
Participants gather from near and far to sell truly notable handmade items ranging from decorative and utilitarian craft, to specialty food and body products. Everything is made by the sellers. Live minstrel-style music and healthful, delicious food for on-site lunching round out the experience staged in the former RC church turned artspace located at 40 Melville St., right in the heart of Pittsfield’s UpStreet Cultural District.

Saturday, December 14
Festival of Trees Family Day
Bring the family to the Berkshire Museum and enjoy the sounds, sights, and tastes of the holiday season with a full day of fun. View the decorated trees, encounter amazing animals with Richard Roth of Creature Teachers, decorate cookies, and enjoy the voices of the Blafield Children’s Chorus and Berkshire Singers performing holiday favorites.



gilded ageCOLUMBIA COUNTY

Now - December 31
Staatsburgh Gilded Age Christmas
No need to say “bah humbug” at Staatsburgh State Historic Site, with a full month of lavish holiday decorations and special programs. A Gilded Age Christmas features the popular Holiday Whodunit, where children are invited to solve a “history mystery” which includes a search for the miniature houses of Mistletoe Mouse tucked into various rooms in the mansion, and a chance to win a special prize. The gift shop also will be open, with an array of jewelry, books, scarves, keepsakes, and gifts.

Saturday, December 14 & Sunday, December 15, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
EX-MAS Winter Market
Hudson River Exchange brings you a market filled with gifts made and collected by regional artisans and vendors. Enjoy live music and snacks while shopping the 30+ vendors inside a heated tent—lounge on hay bales, sip on hot cider, maybe even hula-hoop—at 704 Columbia Street (7th Street Park, one block from Warren Street).

Saturday, December 14 & Sunday, December 15
Clermont State Historic Site
Come see Clermont all dressed up for the holidays, with a weekend of family-themed events. The historic site hosts children’s stories underneath the Christmas tree, an open house, a holiday party, and candlelight tours.

Saturday, December 14 @ 5 p.m.
Valatie Winterwalk
This celebration promises something for everyone; shop at the stores, sample the food, and enjoy entertainment such as caroling and hay rides. The big highlight of the evening is the parade down Main Street featuring local celebrities and, of course, Santa.

Saturday, December 21, 3 - 5 p.m.
Kwanzaa Umoja Celebration
Hudson Opera House hosts a celebration with crafts for children and performances featuring dancers from their workshops with Anthony Molina and Kuumba Dance & Drum programs. A candle lighting ceremony and the sharing of the Nguzo Saba (the seven principles of Kwanzaa) by community members will be followed by “Karamu” supper and the giving of Zawadi (gifts for children).


DUTCHESS COUNTY

Now - December 29
Wilderstein Historic Site
Florists and designers have transformed the riverfront mansion into a magical holiday wonderland. Come see the result for yourself by taking a Holiday House Tour (tours run every weekend), or enjoy fine tea, finger sandwiches, and homemade cakes and cookies at a Yuletide Tea on December 14.

bowls workshopSaturday, December 14, 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.
WORK:SHOP—a Curated Holiday Artisan Sale
Wickham Solid Wood Studio in Beacon hosts a sale featuring high-quality small goods produced by 15 Hudson Valley-based businesses. This is a great chance to acquire affordable pieces from some extraordinary makers. Goods include art prints, stoneware, jewelry, ceramics, wood pieces, glassware, and other fine handiwork.

Saturday, December 14, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
FDR Presidential Library and Museum
Free admission to the museum in Hyde Park, where there will be holiday decorations, refreshments, and special activities all day, including the annual Children’s Reading Festival beginning at Noon in the Henry A. Wallace Center. Children’s book authors, including Hudson Valley author and illustrator Iza Trapani, will read from and sign copies of their books. In addition, there will be free photos with Santa from 1-3 p.m., and children can make holiday cards for sailors on the USS FRANKLIN AND ELEANOR ROOSEVELT beginning at Noon.


LITCHFIELD COUNTY

Friday, December 13, 6 p.m.
Holiday in the Depot
Washington Depot’s town-wide celebration features a tree-lighting ceremony, caroling, wagon rides, and other fun. This is a great time to buy local, as businesses will be open late and offering sales, specials, and giveaways. Be sure to stop in at The Hickory Stick Bookshop and visit with author Wendell Minor, and the National Iron Bank for cookie decorating and hot chocolate.

Saturday, December 14, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Torrington Makers Market
The Market is a curated retail show featuring the freshest artisans from CT, NY, MA, and RI who will proffer their handmade toys, jewelry, fine art, quilts, clothing, repurposed antiques, and more (a purse from The Love, Mich Collection shown above). This event takes place inside several different spaces along Main Street and Water Street in downtown Torrington.

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 12/10/13 at 10:57 AM • Permalink

Catching The Holiday Spirit: Celebrations and Shopping

Holiday spirit is highly infectious, but one trip to any mall will guarantee immunity well past New Year’s Eve. Our small town holiday festivals, on the other hand, are veritable petri dishes of the stuff. Attend any or several of the many scattered throughout our region this weekend through next, and you may find holly spontaneously sprouting in your heart.     

BERKSHIRE COUNTY

Rural Intelligence Road Trips
©Norman Rockwell Museum
 
Friday, December 6 - Sunday, December 8
Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas
Dreaming of an idyllic New England Christmas? The Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce offers one that’s straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Literally. Every year the organizers have gone to great pains to create a tableau vivant of Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting, Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas (above)—same decorations, same vintage cars, the only difference in the recreation is that the Red Lion Inn is all lit up; when Rockwell did his study, it was closed for the winter.

BBG holidayFriday, December 6 - Sunday, December 8
Berkshire Botanical Garden Holiday Marketplace
The Marketplace kicks off on December 6 with a cocktail party from 5-8 p.m., then continues through the weekend. Each year, the BBG’s exhibit hall turns into a twinkling market featuring a legendary Gallery of Wreaths and other seasonal decorations, all available for purchase.

Saturday, December 7, 3 - 7:30 p.m.
Great Barrington Holiday Stroll
Welcome in the holiday season with the 5th annual Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce’s Holiday Stroll, the chamber’s largest community event, often attracting more than 3,000 attendees. This year features 50 food and product vendors, crafts, music, caroling, face painting, live window displays, a character parade, Light the Night Tree Walk, Letters to Santa, hayrides, and gifts to the kids from Santa Claus.

Saturday, December 7, 3 - 6 p.m.
Williamstown Holiday Walk
Enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday season as Williamstown decks the halls for the 30th year. Don’t miss the adorable “reindog” parade, visit with Santa, enjoy the tastes of the Holiday bake-off, attend a free screening of The Nightmare Before Christmas at Images Cinema, and much, much more.

alchemySaturday & Sunday, December 7 & 8, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Alchemy Initiative’s 5th Annual Handmade Holiday Festival
This homegrown Pittsfield “to-do” features artisan-made gifts, such as toys, ornaments, silk-screened apparel, kitchen utensils, jewelry, pottery, hand-printed calendars, leather bags, and accessories. There also will be all sorts of delicious holiday foods either to eat there or take home, including cookies and sweets, plus trees, wreaths, gift wrapping done on premises, live music, mulled cider and wine, and hearty finger fare. Did we forget anything?

Saturday, December 7, 12-6 p.m. & Sunday, December 8, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Café Chic: Pop-Up Boutique for Ladies
The boutique, at Berkshire Functional Fitness (325 Stockbridge Rd., Great Barrington), is a benefit for the Berkshire Humane Society and Purradise, and will sell pre-owned and new classy clothing and accessories at affordable prices. Designers include Diane Von Furstenberg, Jimmy Choo, Chanel, Tahari and Tory Burch, among others. Early Bird Shopping ($10 fee) is December 7 from 10 a.m. - noon.

Friday, December 13 - Sunday, December 15
Crispina’s Holiday Shindy
Participants gather from near and far to sell truly notable handmade items ranging from decorative and utilitarian craft, to specialty food and body products. Everything is made by the sellers. Live minstrel-style music and healthful, delicious food for on-site lunching round out the experience staged in the former RC church turned artspace located at 40 Melville St., right in the heart of Pittsfield’s UpStreet Cultural District.


gilded ageCOLUMBIA COUNTY

Now - December 31
Staatsburgh Gilded Age Christmas
No need to say “bah humbug” at Staatsburgh State Historic Site, with a full month of lavish holiday decorations and special programs. A Gilded Age Christmas features the popular Holiday Whodunit, where children are invited to solve a “history mystery” which includes a search for the miniature houses of Mistletoe Mouse tucked into various rooms in the mansion, and a chance to win a special prize. The gift shop also will be open, with an array of jewelry, books, scarves, keepsakes, and gifts.

December 6 - 8
28th Annual Gallery of Wreaths
Vanderpoel House hosts this yearly Columbia County Historical Society fundraiser and silent auction. The wreaths, both live and artificial, classic and unusual, are decorated and donated by community members and groups. An opening reception will be held Friday, face painting for children will be part of the festivities on Saturday, and Santa arrives on Sunday.

winter walkSaturday, December 7, 5 - 8 p.m.
Hudson’s Winter Walk
The words “cheerful” and “hip” seldom figure in the same sentence, much less one that’s about the holidays. Yet, somehow, Hudson’s Winter Walk is both. Yes, there is a Santa parade, street musicians, fireworks, and people in costume, but the heart of the matter lies in the shops and galleries, which, on a cold winter night, turn into warm and welcoming havens. All those beautiful storefronts with all those lovely things in them barely need a wreath on the door to look Dickensian. And their proprietors require no false bonhomie—“showmanship” is not something these seasoned retailers drag out of the attic once a year and dust off. It’s what they do every day.
 
Saturday, December 7 & Sunday, December 8; and Saturday, December 14 & Sunday, December 15
Clermont State Historic Site
Come see Clermont all dressed up for the holidays, with two weekends of family-themed events. The historic site hosts children’s stories underneath the Christmas tree. The following weekend brings even more holiday joy for families, with an open house, a holiday party, and candlelight tours.

Saturday, December 7, 12 - 4 p.m.
The Winter Celebration at Lindenwald
Enjoy a day of special tours at President Martin Van Buren’s mansion, decorated for the season by the Garden Club of Kinderhook. Tours take place every half hour, and reservations are required.
 
Sunday, December 8, 12 - 5:30 p.m.
Winter Walk in the Wilderness
The historic Hamlet of Copake Falls features a holiday bazaar, Camphill Village Ensemble festival concert, a local artists exhibition, super sales, stocking gifts, cookies, and Santa Claus!

Saturday, December 14 @ 5 p.m.
Valatie Winterwalk
This celebration promises something for everyone; shop at the stores, sample the food, and enjoy entertainment such as caroling and hay rides. The big highlight of the evening is the parade down Main Street featuring local celebrities and, of course, Santa.

Saturday, December 21, 3 - 5 p.m.
Kwanzaa Umoja Celebration
Hudson Opera House hosts a celebration with crafts for children and performances featuring dancers from their workshops with Anthony Molina and Kuumba Dance & Drum programs. A candle lighting ceremony and the sharing of the Nguzo Saba (the seven principles of Kwanzaa) by community members will be followed by “Karamu” supper and the giving of Zawadi (gifts for children).


DUTCHESS COUNTY

Now - December 29
Wilderstein Historic Site
Florists and designers have transformed the riverfront mansion into a magical holiday wonderland. Come see the result for yourself by taking a Holiday House Tour (tours run every weekend), or enjoy fine tea, finger sandwiches, and homemade cakes and cookies at a Yuletide Tea on December 14.

sinterklaas santaSaturday, December 7, 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sinterklaas
The Dutch-based, Rhinebeck-embellished holiday features a day-long, town-wide celebration of performance and open houses with live music, dancing, theater, puppet shows, and storytelling followed, at dusk, by a starlight parade. Plus food and drink and a late-night party for adults.

Saturday, December 7 & Sunday, December 8, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Annual Monastery Christmas Craft Fair
Our Lady of the Resurrection Monastery’s yearly fair in Lagrangeville features hand-crafted creches, organic artisanal vinegars, tapenades, sauces, and soups, along with watercolor paintings by local artists, books, Christmas cards, and more.

bowls workshopSaturday, December 14, 10 a.m. - 9 p.m.
WORK:SHOP—a Curated Holiday Artisan Sale
Wickham Solid Wood Studio in Beacon hosts a sale featuring high-quality small goods produced by 15 Hudson Valley-based businesses. This is a great chance to acquire affordable pieces from some extraordinary makers. Goods include art prints, stoneware, jewelry, ceramics, wood pieces, glassware, and other fine handiwork.


LITCHFIELD COUNTY

Saturday, December 7, 3 - 6 p.m.
New Preston Winter Stroll
The entire walkable Village of New Preston comes alive for the holidays with festive lights, creative window displays, drinks and treats, and live music from The Social Gents Club. The fifth annual Winter Stroll also gives you the jump on holiday shopping with antiques, clothing, home design, and book stores all in one location.

makers festivalSaturday, December 7, 10:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Holiday Historic House Tour
The Falls Village-Canaan Historical Society sponsors a tour of five decorated historic buildings, including Bunny Williams and John Rosselli’s beautifully restored 1840 barn, The Samuel Robbins House, and others. Kickoff is at 10:30 a.m. at P.D. Walsh’s Country Store on Main Street. Self-guided tours begin at 11 a.m.

Friday, December 13, 6 p.m.
Holiday in the Depot
Washington Depot’s town-wide celebration features a tree-lighting ceremony, caroling, wagon rides, and other fun. This is a great time to buy local, as businesses will be open late and offering sales, specials, and giveaways. Be sure to stop in at The Hickory Stick Bookshop and visit with author Wendell Minor, and the National Iron Bank for cookie decorating and hot chocolate.

Saturday, December 14, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Torrington Makers Market
The Market is a curated retail show featuring the freshest artisans from CT, NY, MA, and RI who will proffer their handmade toys (Fairweather Friends plushies pictured above), jewelry, fine art, quilts, clothing, repurposed antiques, and more. This event takes place inside several different spaces along Main Street and Water Street in downtown Torrington.

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Posted by Rachel Louchen on 12/03/13 at 01:54 PM • Permalink

Autumn Walks With A Purpose: Heritage Walks Weekends

By Shawn Hartley Hancock

becketWhat could be better than a leisurely walk on a crisp autumn day? Not much. Unless it’s dozens of walks, each with a different flavor and distinct point of view, led by an expert. That’s what Housatonic Heritage has planned for its impressive 12th annual Heritage Walks Weekends, which kick off this Saturday and Sunday, September 21 and 22. The walks weekend will be repeated on October 5 and 6 (when there’s likely to be more colorful foliage).

The walks, impressive for their number (60 in all) and their diversity, are free guided tours held throughout Berkshire and Litchfield Counties at historic estate gardens, in notable town districts, along nature and hiking trails, and even at industrial-site ruins, all sponsored by Housatonic Heritage, a local nonprofit with a goal to preserve and celebrate the region’s heritage. (It’s also the nonprofit officially designated by the National Park Service to administer the region as a National Heritage Area.) 

“The communities along the Housatonic River have a shared history of pioneering industries, including iron, paper, and electrical generation,” says Housatonic Heritage Executive Director Dan Bolognani. “They’ve also welcomed writers and artists, and are committed to preserving the scenic landscape and natural resources that comprise this special area,” he says.

This weekend in particular, Housatonic Heritage presents the walks in collaboration with The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF), a national group dedicated to increasing the public’s awareness and understanding of its cultural landscapes, especially those they may pass every day, as part of “What’s Out There Weekend in The Berkshires.” 

golfIf this is all sounding like a spoonful of medicine masquerading as recreation, never fear. TCLF brings golf into the mix (and what is golf if not, as Winston Churchill described, “a good walk spoiled?”),  making tee times available at the Berkshire Hills Country Club, the Country Club of Pittsfield, Cranwell, Greenock Country Club, Stockbridge Golf Club, and Wahconah Country Club. TCLF is also the chief host of a party at Shakespeare & Company on Friday, Sept. 20, to kick off the weekend of walks, beginning with a backstage tour at 5 p.m. 

pumpkinsThe walks themselves, which start on Saturday morning, are designed to appeal to the widest possible audience. “Nature lovers, history enthusiasts, and even those with different levels of physical ability can enjoy them,” Bolognani says. “Some of the walks are hikes, which are pretty strenuous, while others are wheelchair accessible.” To that end, many aren’t actually walks at all. All “events,” whether it’s a canoe trip, mountain hike, or bike ride, are what Bolognani calls, “Gee Whiz Qualified,” meaning folks come away impressed, energized, and educated about an aspect of their community they didn’t know about before.   

“We have historians, educators, authors, environmentalists, and other experts as guides for the walks,” Bolognani says, which include interpretive visits to significant sites along the African American Heritage Trail, as well as an amble through a Native American village in Washington, CT, to the site of a former Algonkian village and discussion of the Pootatuck people.

Participants can join Michael White in a bee-hunt at the Bidwell House Museum to learn how farmers in centuries past searched for and captured honey bees, or bike 14 miles (about 2 hours) with guide Dan McGuiness along the Housatonic River from Falls Village to West Cornwall and back. (Don’t worry, it’s mostly flat and the roads are lightly traveled). 

hancockThe less outdoorsy can take “backstage” tours of The Colonial Theatre and Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Chesterwood in Stockbridge, and Tanglewood. History buffs can explore the historic hamlets of Cornwall Village, Stockbridge, West Stockbridge, and Lee in tours that illuminate little-known aspects of their pasts. (Hancock Shaker Village at right.) Local historian Bernard Drew will guide visitors to the dark side of Monument Mountain in a 2-1/2-hour hike, while naturalists can learn about the return of the American Chestnut tree through a preserve in Falls Village or join Mass DCR expert Alec Gillman as he puts Bascom Lodge and Mount Greylock into historical context. 

According to Rachel Fletcher, a conservationist whose commitment to cleaning up the Housatonic River goes back decades, “We are in a unique position to show the public how central the river is to our community.” Fletcher will lead sessions at Great Barrington’s two Riverwalk parks on Saturday. “It’s the only reclaimed landscape among all the walks,” she says, “and allows us to tell two different and distinct stories.” 

housatonicAlong the upstream area, inventor and entrepreneur William Stanley developed alternating current, forever imprinting the river as significant as an industrial site. Downstream, the W.E.B. Du Bois Park, just a few feet from the abolitionist’s birthplace, reminds visitors of the region’s cultural diversity. According to Fletcher, Du Bois “writes about being ‘born by a golden river’ and was a fierce and longtime river advocate who urged its care and clean-up throughout his lifetime, well into the 1930s.”

mary flynnDu Bois would be happy to know that, in fact, the river was the object of a voluntary effort that removed 400 tons of debris from its shores and its bed over the last 25 years. Today, the half-mile trail through downtown Great Barrington respects nature and reveals the river’s beauty. Other walks that explore the Housatonic will be held at the mile-long Mary Flynn Trail in Stockbridge, and the three-mile-long Old Mill Trail in Dalton. 

The Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, the local management entity that has partnered with the National Park Service to help educate the public about the Heritage Area, runs from Kent, CT to Lanesborough, MA, and encompasses 29 towns and cities through the hilly terrain of western Massachusetts and northwestern Connecticut.

Many of the walks require pre-registration. For more information, a schedule and description, visit www.heritage-hikes.org.

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Posted by Scott Baldinger on 09/16/13 at 10:09 AM • Permalink

Lime Rock Limelight: Litchfield’s Historic Race Car Parade

lime
By Penny Stirling Michels

“Start your engines!” A colorful caravan of privately owned and lovingly maintained vintage race cars takes to the back roads of Litchfield County, Thursday, August 29, for Lime Rock’s Historic Festival, a humming herald to the beginning of Labor Day Weekend.  The line-up begins at 4 p.m. at Lime Rock Park, where an estimated 150 top racing and sports cars from Great Britain, Italy, Germany, and the US will rumble to life and then strut their stuff along a fifteen-mile parade route through the Litchfield Hills, ending in a Street Festival on the green in Falls Village.

Parade fanciers from Lime Rock Park and the Falls Village Inn are encouraging residents and visitors to set up lawn chairs and picnic blankets along the route, while business owners have agreed to make their sidewalks inviting for the audience. The Street Festival at the parade’s end in Falls Village gives everyone the opportunity to meet the drivers and see the cars up close.  There will be a splendid array of food vendors to keep folks munching while the fabulous Wanda Houston sings her heart out as only Wanda can to the music of the HBH Trio.

topThis is only the third Annual Vintage Race Car Parade in local history. It began as brainchild of Skip Barber, owner and CEO of Lime Rock Park. Barber takes enormous delight in the annual Historic Festival Weekend celebrated at the track every Labor Day weekend since 1983. He particularly enjoys the reactions from fans that have grown up with these iconic cars in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s.

In 2011, Barber turned to his friend and fellow race car aficionado, Don Breslauer, and suggested they launch a Thursday kick-off for the Historic Weekend with a parade through Lime Rock’s surrounding towns. He was particularly keen for the parade to include a grand tour of the main circle at Noble Horizons. If those early race car fans could no longer travel to the cars, then the cars would travel to those early fans.

carThe first year’s parade focused primarily on vintage British models, many of them stylish MG racers, from the 1920’s onward. In 2012, the variety and number of cars participating grew to over 100 and the number of enthusiastic fans along the parade route swelled. The folks at Noble Horizons held lawn parties to greet the arrival of these snazzy dames of the vintage racing world.

Don Breslauer has managed all the behind the scenes details necessary to make the parade work since its inception. He is a Design Engineer who has been working with race cars since 1962. He owns and runs a vintage auto restoration shop in Salisbury, CT. His own magnificent Triumph TR3 is a source of great pride, but he won’t be driving it in the parade. Breslauer drives the Pace Car and leads the parade so he can double check to see that every inch of the route has been properly prepared for the occasion.

race “Not often can you find vintage car owners driving unregistered restorations, as well as vintage and historic racing cars, on roads like these. Some of these cars aren’t ‘road worthy,’ and special arrangements must be made all along the parade route. This is a tightly coordinated event,” Breslauer explained. “It requires any number of motor vehicle permits, as well as agreements from the constables, police, and fire departments in the participating towns. Traffic must be stopped at the main intersections for about 20 minutes in order for the parade to advance as one group.”

A whole generation of fans who grew up with the pioneers of the racing world comes to Lime Rock Park every year at this time. Lime Rock’s history mirrors the history of sports car racing itself. In its 55-year existence, almost all of the sport’s great drivers have raced here: Andretti, Moss, Gurney, Posey, Rodriguez, Hobbs, Hill, Donohue, Ward, Fitch… the list is astonishing.

Any modern-day car buff can, for free, take his or her beloved model to this very same track to participate in the Annual Vintage Race Car Parade. To qualify, cars must date from 1965 or before and exhibit top-quality restoration and maintenance. They needn’t be racing models and, in fact, many drivers bring their vintage sports cars. Participants begin to line up on the track at Lime Rock Park on Thursday afternoon, August 29, at 3:15 p.m. Participation, as well as simply watching along the circuitous parade route, is free.


Lime Rock’s Historic Festival: Third Annual Vintage Race Car Parade
The route is as follows: Cars leave Lime Rock Park on Rt. 112 West towards the Hotchkiss School. They turn right onto Rt. 41 North at the 4-way stop. They turn right again onto Rt. 41N/44E at the flashing light in Lakeville. They drive through Salisbury to left on Cobble Road to Noble Horizons. They turn right out of Noble and left onto Rt. 41 South, through Salisbury westbound to left onto Salmon Kill Road to Rt. 112, then left onto Rt. 7 North, and left again on Rt. 126 to Falls Village Center.

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Posted by Scott Baldinger on 08/19/13 at 10:39 AM • Permalink

Hudson’s Oliver Bronson House: History in Brackets

plumb
By Shawn Hartley Hancock

Among the Hudson Valley’s many historic homes is one that’s still a well-kept secret, mostly because of its location on the grounds of the Hudson Correctional Facility, an impediment that adds an obstacle for visitors sensitive to strip searches. (We’re kidding about the strip search, but prisons and historic mansions make unlikely bedfellows.) 

The Plumb-Bronson House (also known as The Oliver Bronson House) is a rare example of Alexander Jackson Davis’s Picturesque Bracketed style of architecture, which became the national standard in the 1840s and 1850s. Sitting high above the river on the outskirts of Hudson, and now at an optimistic stage in its long restoration, the Oliver Bronson House will be open to the public for guided tours this weekend and next.

bronsonInitially built as an elegant Federal-style residence by Hudson merchant Samuel Plumb more than 200 years ago, the Bronson house is even more special because of changes to its structure and the surrounding 250-acre landscape in two renovations, one in 1839 and another in 1849, by Davis for new owner Dr. Oliver Bronson. Davis transformed the house into one of the best and earliest surviving examples of the “Hudson River Bracketed” style. Davis and A.J. Downing are regarded up and down the Hudson Valley as leaders in the Picturesque style of American architecture.  (Image at right courtesy of Michael Fredericks.)

The home’s charming details include egg and dart verge board, elaborate trellis work, and, of course, those romantic ornamental brackets. Inside, the distinctive three-story elliptical staircase is an obvious scene-stealer, but the house is full of interesting detail. The 1849 addition doubled its size and included an octagonal gallery with “an enfilade of rooms that bring in lots of light,” according to Peter Watson, Jr., a historic preservationist and keeper of the blog Dr. Oliver Bronson House Day Book, which chronicles the restoration. “It’s a monster of a house,” he says. “Everyone relates to it in different ways — some respond to the sense of decay — you know, works of man undone by nature. Others are interested in the architectural detail.”  Scenes for the motion picture “The Bourne Legacy” were filmed at the house and it has been the backdrop for catalog and other photo shoots. (The photo below is from one of those shoots, for the home furnishings and women’s clothing company Anthropologie.)

chairsAfter life as a gracious country residence, the property was bought by the state for use as a prison, with the house serving as a residence for the prison’s superintendent. The New York State Training School for Girls, a euphemism for a girls’ reformatory, operated there from 1904 until it closed in 1976, and can boast one famous “guest,” the 16-year-old Ella Fitzgerald, who was incarcerated in the 1930s before her singing career took off.  After the reformatory closed, the house sat empty and derelict until the preservation group Historic Hudson took it over in 1997, got it named a National Historic Landmark in 2003, and jumped in whole-hog to faithfully advocate for its stewardship, stabilization, and restoration, after a long battle to win a long-term lease for the property from the state in 2008.

Historic Hudson’s Chair, Tim Dunleavy, says the current push to raise $100,000 is especially important as it will match a recent $300,000 grant from the Capital Region Economic Development Council and bring the restoration within range of completion.

old bronsonBoth this weekend, June 1 and 2, and next, June 8 and 9,  from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the house will be open through The New York State Path Through History initiative, which connects the public with historical attractions throughout the state. The final weekend includes “If these walls could talk…” an exhibit presented in conjunction with the Prison Public Memory Project that will explore life inside the former reformatory. Guided tours will be held at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

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Posted by Scott Baldinger on 05/28/13 at 11:08 AM • Permalink

Trade Secrets: The Ultimate Destination for Plants and Antiques

By Dan Shaw
One of the unspoken fears in our neck of the woods is that our area will eventually become like the Hamptons, with the helicopters of hedge-fund managers hovering over our hills and women toting their tomatoes from the farmers’ market in Hermès bags. Of course, residents of the Rural Intelligence region have been worrying about Hamptonization for decades. (Are you old enough to remember the New York magazine cover story “Forget the Hamptons—Now It’s Country Chic” in 1981? Or the “Hail, Columbia!” story in September 1986, when New York announced that “Columbia County, which was an economically stagnant backwater just three years prior, had become one the hottest second-home real-estate markets in the United States”?)

It’s counterintuitive, but Trade Secrets—the glamorous rare plant and garden antiques sale this year on May 18 in Sharon, CT—has reassured us for the past 13 years that as stylish and trendy as our region may have become, it is definitely, and defiantly, not the Hamptons. While Trade Secrets has the elegance of an old money Southampton garden party, it has the heart and soul of a New England church supper. Entirely run by volunteers—no professional organizer collects a fee to stage this gardenpalooza—Trade Secrets is a major fundraiser for the worthiest of causes, Women’s Support Services (WSS), a non-profit organization that offers free and confidential services to victims of domestic violence in northwest Connecticut, as well as nearby Massachusetts and New York State.

The event has haute/humble roots. It began on the front lawn of Bunny Williams’s home in Falls Village, which is nearby the railroad tracks so that the china in her 19th century Greek Revival house vibrates when the freight train passes by twice a day. Her then chief gardener, Naomi Blumenthal, who was a WSS volunteer, suggested that they sell the overflow from the greenhouse as a fundraiser. Bunny and Naomi asked a few favorite antique dealers and nurseries if they’d like to set up booths, too, and Trade Secrets was born and became an instant institution. (Now, there is a waiting list to become a vendor and there are only five new ones this year: Anthropek, Peace Tree Farms, Peony’s Envy, Rare Find Nursery, and Windy Hill Farm.)

Eventually, the Trade Secrets sale became too big for Williams’s property in Falls Village, and is now held at Elaine LaRoche’s vast Lion Rock Farm in Sharon with its corn fields, manicured gardens, and panoramic views of the Taconic Range. A second day of garden tours was added, and they are more evidence that we live in the unHamptons because the owners are hands-on gardeners (with hired help to be sure) who have a deep connection to their land and understanding of the physical and emotional challenges required to nurture a garden in our fickle zone. This year’s tour features three homes in Sharon. There’s Lee Link‘s unpretentious but luxurious garden that includes a custom greenhouse on one end and a sybaritic lap pool on the other; Garrett and Ann Goodbody’s Mudge Manor with its breathtaking views of Mudge Pond, a pair of wisteria-draped pergolas, and a pool surrounded by perennial borders; Plum Creek Farm, Lea Davies and Larry Powers’ home that features rock and woodland gardens, ponds, and formal foundation plantings that they’ve been cultivating for 30 years. And, as always, there is Bunny Williams‘s beloved spread in Falls Village with its Adirondack pool pavilion, orchard, parterre, and cutting gardens.

If you’re a competitive shopper, it’s wise to get the $100 early buyer’s ticket (8 a.m. - 10 a.m.) so you get first crack at the antiques and plants that catch the eyes of uber-gardeners like Anne Bass, Margaret Roach (near left), Carolyne Roehm, and Martha Stewart (far left). But all the vendors who return year after year come prepared with a wide variety of merchandise, so whether you simply want some annuals for a planter, a rare fern for your shade garden or a topiary for your porch, you will find plenty to choose from. And no matter whether you live in Berkshire, Columbia, Dutchess, or Litchfield counties, Trade Secrets always feels like a homecoming.

Trade Secrets at Lion Rock Farm - May 18
Early Buying: 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. —  Admission:  $100
Regular Buying 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. —  Admission:  $35

Trade Secrets Garden Tours - May 19
Admission: $60 in advance or $70 day of tour. Tickets can be purchased at any of the gardens or at Lion Rock Farm during the Trade Secrets sale.

Nearby restaurants for lunch:
Country Bistro, Salisbury
Falls Village Inn, Falls Village
Harney Tea Salon, Millerton
Oakhurst Diner, Millerton
Toymakers Cafe, Falls Village
Woodland, Lakeville

Related posts:
The Sun Shined for Trade Secrets’ 10th Anniversary, May 15, 2010
Trade Secrets: The Ultimate Outdoor Shopping Party, May 16, 2009
Trade Secrets: Martha Stewart Makes the Scene, May 17, 2008

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Posted by Dan Shaw on 05/04/13 at 01:30 PM • Permalink