Historic-Site Hopping: New York’s First Heritage Weekend
2009 has been a big year for the Hudson River Valley. The Quadricentennial of Henry Hudson’s discovery of his namesake river has launched a thousand ships and a history feeding frenzy. Now that we’re all in the mood, what better time to introduce a lovely custom that has been popular for years in England and France? The English call it Heritage Weekend Open Days, and it is the time when many of the museums and historic sites that normally charge admission are open for free. The French use it as a way of prodding prodding Parisiennes out of town and into Le France Profunde, “deep” France, for Les Journees du Patrimoine, explorations of sites of historic moment, and of the stores of significant art and architecture tucked here-and-there throughout the countryside..
New York State’s first Heritage Weekend premiers this Saturday and Sunday, September 12 and 13. Visitors will be welcomed for free, or at a reduced rate, to many museums, battlefields, historical societies and heritage areas, and to historically and architecturally significiant buildings, some of which are seldom open to the public. The program stretches from New York City through the Champlain Valley, and there are wonderful things to see throughout, but the part that most engages us is right here in the Hudson River Valley. Among the more than 100 participating sites are the Hyde Park properties of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt (above), as well as the Vanderbilt Mansion; Hudson’s Firefighting Museum; the Frances Lehman-Loeb Art Center on Vassar’s campus; Olana, the Frederic Church estate in Greenport (top photo shows the view); and Clermont, the storied Livingston Estate on the river. Also open will be the Preservation League of New York’s “Seven to Save,” which include the splendid and seldom-open-to-the-public Plumb-Bronson House, a c. 1812 Federal-style residence that is buried incongruously within the grounds of what is now a correctional facility on Route 9 in Hudson.
Even Amtrak has gotten into the Quadricentennial spirit. For car-less New York City residents who wish to explore greener pastures, the means of getting “up here,” as we say, is being eased by a special offer. Type in code V122 when making reservations and get 20% off. (At some historic sites, such as Hyde Park, special transport from the train station can be arranged.)