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Art @ The Dump Kicks Off Cornwall’s Social Season

By Lisa Green

To those who are considering moving to the Rural Intelligence area, be advised that “town dump” is not a place to be avoided. In many towns, it’s where you meet your neighbors, get the gossip and, on occasion, pick up some one-of-a-kind artwork.

In fact, the town dump (more formally known as the transfer station) in Cornwall, Conn. is the site of “the beginning of the social season of Cornwall,” says Gail Jacobson, referring to the town’s annual Art @ The Dump event, this year happening April 21-22. It’s an art “show” sponsored by the Cornwall Association that the whole town gets behind, even those who insist “I’m not really an artist.” There are no rules or regulations. The only caveat: your work has to be made from recycled items.

In the past, people have created (and sold) a bubble wrap alligator, a Tyvek wedding dress and garden art made from metal castoffs.

“We’ve done themes like a trash-en show, a shoe re-do and recycled instruments,” Jacobson says. “One year, the historical society donated old mannequins and people made lamps out of them.” In recent years, a fair amount of entries have come from young men who are welding garden ornaments. This year’s jumpstart is “Books Reimagined,” but that’s only a suggestion.

Art @ the Dump is open to anyone from anywhere — information and entry forms are available on the website. Artists get there early on Saturday and hang or otherwise display the work and set their own prices.

Now in its 18th year, Art @ The Dump is a fundraiser for the art department of the Cornwall Consolidated School. Over the years, the event has funded digital cameras, artist-in-residence programs and supplies.

“It was my idea,” admits Jacobson, an artist herself, whose exhibit “All Over the Map” is currently on display at Souterrain Gallery. “Before I moved to Cornwall, I was president of the Ridgefield, Conn. Guild of Artists. A man called Art Green ran the dump. I thought, hmm, ‘Art, at the dump.’” When I saw that in Cornwall the dump was kind of a social scene, I thought of an art show, and the recycling officer offered to help.”

Earth Day was only six days away, so the event was put together in a hurry without standard art show rules and regulations. “We had so much fun and it worked great without any rules, so we’ve continued that way,” she says.

Cornwall’s transfer station is on Route 4, and, says Jacobson, it’s a little hard to find, so balloons and old refrigerator doors will be signs directing trash takers and art buyers to the site. The actual “show” is sited just opposite the transfer station, where a sand shed, cleaned up by the road crew, serves as a gallery.
Each year, there’s a People’s Choice award. The good news, says Jacobson, is whoever wins first prize is, well, the winner. The bad news? The winner has to make three prizes for the next year. Recycled, of course.

Art @ The Dump
Saturday, April 21, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sunday, April 22, 10 a.m. – noon
Route 4, approximately 6 miles west of Goshen, CT

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/14/18 at 02:39 PM • Permalink

ONE Fair: Steps To Sustainability Start At Basilica Hudson

It’s nearly impossible to live in or visit the Rural Intelligence region and not feel the importance of cultivating a sustainable environment. The area’s scenic beauty, the farms, the food — all of these elements contribute to the reasons why we live here. Most of us do what we can, in our own ways, to be good stewards of the environment. But we can always do more. Or do it in new ways.

On Saturday, April 7, Basilica Hudson and Virago Futures present ONE (Our New Energy) Fair, a new community event designed to connect local sustainability organizations with residents. The mission: to equip residents with affordable tools for environmentally sustainable living. ONE Fair will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is free to attend.

The location seems especially fitting: Basilica Hudson itself is a solar-powered, reclaimed 1880s industrial factory.

“There is an increased urgency to address issues around climate change and the disconnect between the way we live and the life of the planet,” says Melissa Auf der Maur, Basilica Hudson co-founder and director. “The investment and engagement of local organizations gives us hope for the future.”

The fair will follow the pattern of old home shows, minus the bad popcorn and suspect hotdogs. A broad range of local environmental organizations are participating, with representatives from Catskill Mountainkeeper, Hudson Solar, Riverkeeper, Seeding Sovereignty, New Yorkers for Clean Power, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Citizen Advocates for Sustainable Energy and others. Bread Alone, the Chatham, New York bakery, will be offering bread baked in solar-powered ovens.

ONE Fair will also screen “Seeds of Hope,” the latest film from Oceans 8 Films’ Hudson River Stories produced by Hudson Valley resident Jon Bowermaster. The writer, filmmaker and six-time National Geographic Expeditions Council grantee has produced a body of films including “Hudson River at Risk, “Restoring the Clearwater” and “City on the Water.” In “Seeds of Hope,” the documentary follows the Akwesasne Tribe of northern New York as they honor Native American seeds that are at risk of disappearing.

The fair aims to show how it’s possible for people to run their homes with renewable energy. Some of us may prefer to take baby steps toward that goal, but ONE Fair is a good way to get started on that path.

ONE Fair
Saturday, April 7, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Free admission.
Basilica Hudson
110 S. Front St., Hudson, NY

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Posted by Lisa Green on 03/24/18 at 04:32 PM • Permalink

Try Something Ewe: BGHV’s Baby Goat Weekend

By Amy Krzanik

There are many reasons why you may be interested in Big Gay Hudson Valley’s Baby Goat Weekend at Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie, New York: You never got to attend summer camp; you did attend summer camp and you loved it; you hated summer camp and you’re looking for a do-over; you want to snuggle baby animals; you’d like to own your own farm someday; you’ll do anything once.

Any reason is a good one, but you’ll need to register soon if you want a bunk at the farm’s 4-season camp, because at last count, there were only 11 spots left. From Saturday, March 10 to Sunday, March 11, BGHV’s new Upstate Gay Adventures is presenting its debut event — and it doesn’t use the term “adventure” loosely. Packed into your overnight stay is baby goat yoga, a hands-on tour and tasting of the Farm’s on-site cheese-making facility, evening entertainment from Trixie Starr and Farmer John, and a chance to interact with and care for the farm’s many animals (cows, sheep, pigs and more), and that includes bottle-feeding newborn goats.

“Baby goat weekend is designed to be an opportunity that people wouldn’t otherwise be able to have — helping to deliver the kids on a working farm,” says BGHV co-founder Stephan Hengst. “It’s the farm’s biggest kidding weekend, and they’re expecting between 50 and 100 babies to be born that weekend.”

You’ll no doubt work up an appetite at your new farmhand job, but luckily your excursion includes meals prepared by Sprout Creek’s own executive director, CIA-trained chef Mark Fredette. After a hard day’s work and a meal, you’ll want to kick back and relax with a live show by queer magician Mr. John and Hudson’s own Trixie Starr, who’ll host her own Match Game.

If you can’t make it up to Poughkeepsie for the event, Hengst says not to worry because BGHV has more adventures planned for 2018, including at least two more events at Sprout Creek. The organization is also teaming up with the National Parks Service to plan an outing at the Vanderbilt mansion this summer.

Upcoming indoor events include dramatic chanteuse Varla Jean Merman’s “Wonder Merman” show on Saturday, May 5 at the Rosendale Theatre. For the fall and winter months, BGHV has plans for an Etta James trivia show with Michael Cunio and a 5-piece band at the Rosendale, its popular Hung with Care cabaret slated for Thanksgiving weekend, and a brand-new show in December with Big Red & The Boys, a performance troupe based out of Chicago made up of five gay men and buxom red-headed singer.

BGHV, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, has long served as an aggregator of info about LGBTQ+ community happings and gay-friendly local businesses. It also produces its own unique events. As Hengst and his partner travel between Philadelphia, New York and Provincetown, they make it a point to take in shows and bring their favorite acts to the Hudson Valley.

In an area like the Hudson Valley, says Hengst, there are some gay-friendly bars, but there hasn’t been a gay bar — a central gathering point — for some time. “It’s been a challenge to find your tribe,” he says, “so we created BGHV to give people an opportunity to gather and meet one another, and that may not necessarily be at a bar or nightclub.”

It might be in a barn.

Big Gay Hudson Valley’s Upstate Gay Adventure:
Baby Goat Weekend at Sprout Creek Farm 
34 Lauer Rd., Poughkeepsie, NY
Saturday, March 10 & Sunday, March 11

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 02/26/18 at 01:52 PM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About Litchfield, Conn.

By Joseph Montebello

The bucolic town of Litchfield, Conn. brings to life one’s image of the perfect New England town. In actuality the town encompasses the boroughs of Litchfield, Bantam, Milton and Northfield, all with their own unique offerings. Litchfield is the largest village and offers an array of activities and places to eat, shop and stimulate the senses.

1. The Green The strip of businesses on West Street (and in Cobble Court) worth checking out includes fashionable boutiques for men and women, R. Derwin Clothiers, Workshop; accessories shops Oliphant and Blueprint Ct; Lawrence Jeffrey Estate Jewelers and Jeffrey Tillou Antiques. It also offers restaurants at every price point: West Street Grill, Ollie’s, DiFranco’s, The Village and @The Corner. In the summer months concerts are offered on the Green, inviting everyone to spread their blankets, eat and enjoy a variety of free music.

2. Midcentury Marvels Thanks to Rufus Stillman, a local manufacturer who revered modernist Marcel Breuer, Litchfield boasts Breuer Houses of varying sizes. All have been painstakingly restored and are immaculate in detail. In addition, Breuer designed two Litchfield public schools as well as the Bantam town hall — all worth a visit. The town also has houses built by Breuer contemporaries John M. Johansen and Eliot Noyes. Have a look at the Oliver Wolcott Library as well where Eliot Noyes masterfully designed a modern addition onto an 18th-century historic house.

3. Movie Mania The Bantam Cinema began life as The Rivoli in 1927 and is said to be Connecticut’s oldest continuously operated movie house. In 1990 it was renamed, and over the years, through various owners, the cinema has survived and now has two screens. In 2013, the Cinema completely modernized the projection and sound systems, replacing 35mm film projectors with a state-of-the-art digital system. Still reminiscent of the iconic art cinemas in New York City, it continues to show first-run movies and selected HBO documentaries.

4. Communing with Nature White Memorial Conservation Center and the Livingston Ripley Waterfowl Conservancy are but two of the popular nature resources Litchfield has to offer. LRWC houses one of the largest and most diverse collections of waterfowl in North America and maintains a flock of more than 80 species totaling 500-plus birds. LRWC is open during the spring through fall, providing visitors the chance to learn about waterfowl, wetlands and the efforts to conserve them. The White Memorial Foundation has 40 miles of trails that cover various habitats. They are open to the public and free of charge for various recreations including hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The White Memorial Boardwalk is a 1.9-mile moderately trafficked loop trail that features beautiful wildflowers and is a favorite spot for pet owners to walk their dogs or for anyone who enjoys hiking, walking, nature trips or birding.

5. Litchfield History Museum & Reeve House & Law School Located just off The Green, these two buildings house the history of Litchfield. The museum presents the evolution of a small New England town through exhibitions of clothing, household objects and paintings from the earliest European settlement to present time. Across the street is the original building in which Tapping Reeve, an American lawyer and law educator, established a legal practice in 1744 and started the first law school in America.

6. Epicurean Delights Foodies will delight in discovering the Dutch Epicure Shop and sampling the array of treats including imported cheeses and products not found anywhere else. The homemade cakes, pastries and prepared foods are irresistible. The Litchfield Candy Company has something to please everyone’s sweet tooth, including chocolate-dipped cherries, chocolate-covered pretzels and every other chocolate item you can imagine. Brightly colored confections abound, and the shop offers gift baskets. Peaches ‘n’ Cream has been serving up the most extraordinary ice cream at its small shop for more than 35 years. It’s made on the premises from natural ingredients and stuffed into yummy handmade waffle cones. 

7. Everything Arethusa Even if you don’t drink milk, you’ll want to visit Arethusa Farm and see the prize-winning cows that supply some of the most delicious milk in this part of the country, and witness the fastidious and impeccable environs in which they live. From there, stop at Arethusa Farm Dairy in Bantam and sample their delicious ice creams, yogurt and cheeses. For a quick snack or breakfast, walk across to Arethusa a Mano and treat yourself to homemade salads, and freshly made breads and bagels. End your day by having dinner at the epitome of fine dining, Arethusa al Tavolo, with offers both impeccable food and service.

8. Artisans Abound Guy Wolff and his son Ben are both renowned potters, with their own artistry and style. Both are favorites of Martha Stewart and their studios are chock full of things to admire and to purchase. No matter what you want in the way of tiles, it can be found at Bantam Tileworks. Designers Travis Messinger and Darin Ronning create amazing tiles for every use from shower walls to backsplashes and floors. They also make beautiful vases, cups and other decorative pieces.

9. In Bloom For over 60 years White Flower Farm has been offering a wide range of ornamental plant varieties. Explore the many rows of horticulture treasures and garden accessories. A well-educated staff is there to answer questions and make suggestions.

10. Small Batchers The Baker Brothers started Litchfield Distillery with a commitment to distill the finest spirits in small batches, making use of the best ingredients offered by local farmers. From the initial bourbon offerings, they now offer several vodkas as well as other spirits. Take a tour of their pristine facilities and sample some for yourself.

Rural Intelligence needs your help. Unlike other websites, we haven’t put up a paywall, but the expenses involved in publishing RI can’t be met by advertising alone. We are asking readers to step up to the plate so we can continue to cover the people, places and events that make our region so special. We need 1,000 readers to contribute or we will cease publishing at the end of March. Please become a supporter now.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/10/18 at 10:56 AM • Permalink

Handbags For Habitat Auction: Caring Is Always In Fashion

By Amy Krzanik

Two of the guiding principles of Habitat for Humanity International, which was founded on a farm outside Americus, Georgia in 1976, are community and partnership. Habitat for Humanity of Columbia County (HFHCC) are tapping into both as they gear up for the group’s first fundraising auction. On Thursday, Jan. 18 at 6 p.m., the organization will partner with Meissner’s Auction House in New Lebanon, New York for a handbag auction to benefit HFHCC’s WomenBuild New Lebanon program.

The program, in which the leadership and volunteer work is done by women, will begin rehabbing an existing structure on County Route 13 at the end of January. A construction skills course will be held this Friday, Jan. 12 for those who wish to be trained as crew leaders. Since the project is a rehab and not a new build, weather is not an issue as the site will be enclosed. If you’re interested, the project is still looking for crew leaders and other volunteers.

As for the purses, Sara McWilliams, HFHCC board member and one of three co-chairs of WomenBuild New Lebanon, says the fundraiser follows another of Habitat for Humanity’s principles — sustainability. You’ve witnessed this principle first hand if you’ve visited one of HFH’s ReStore shops, where you can find everything from gently used furniture and appliances to surplus building materials and paint. McWilliams, who participated in the first WomenBuild New Lebanon project in 2008 (this month’s will be the group’s second project), says handbag donations have come from all over the country, having been solicited by the group’s large steering committee of primarily of New Lebanon women.

“We have carefully curated, primarily name brand bags,” says McWilliams, “as well as a few quite beautiful bags that were made in Italy. Brands include Kate Spade, Coach, Valentino, Prada, Bottega and Dooney & Bourke, and we have a great assortment of primarily vintage evening bags. The selection includes a mix of style and price, but we think every bag is one someone would want.”

In the Habitat spirit, auctioneer Dolores Meissner is donating her space, her auctioneering skills and the services of her staff for the special event. Admission is $10 admission, and for that you’ll be able to enjoy wine and hors d’oeuvres, a receive a $5 coupon that can be used toward the purchase of a bag.

McWilliams says there also will be a table of $15 handbags, a sort of grab-and-go in case you’d like to support the event, but are pressed for time and can’t stay for the auction. You can purchase tickets in advance online or by calling the Columbia County Habitat office at (518) 828-0892. Tickets will also be available at the door. 

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 01/09/18 at 03:49 PM • Permalink

Snack And Snuggle At Morgan’s Cat Cafe In Red Hook

By Amy Krzanik

By now, you’re probably familiar with the concept of a cat café, but did you know that we have our very own right in the RI region?

The cat café concept was popularized in Japan in the mid-to-late 2000s, where, due to space constraints, many landlords do not allow renters to own pets. Tokyo is now home to 58 such cafes, where visitors can “rent” time with an animal while enjoying a sip or snack. The past few years have seen the idea adopted by cities throughout the world, including the U.S., where they are especially popular in California and New York.

Morgan’s Cat Café on Market Street in Red Hook is the Hudson Valley’s first cat café and the only vegetarian/vegan one in New York State. The reason for omitting meat from the menu, says director Bobbi Jo Forte is that it “seemed weird to be saving one species and serving another.”

Forte, who has a long history of rescuing and fostering animals, opened Morgan’s right next door to Living Eden, a shop she’s co-owned with Bonnie Schweppe for the past five years. Inside Living Eden, you can find products from local artists, along with items that are fair trade, eco-friendly, cruelty-free, recycled and upcycled. And, before the café opened in July 2016, you could find adoptable kittens there, too.

Forte and her daughter, Morgan, ran a cat rescue out of their home, but wanted a more formal way to offer adoptions. The plan came together due to a series of overlapping events. Forte was diagnosed with a brain tumor and became ill very quickly, and so wanted a legacy project. After she’d successfully gone through radiation, a good friend of hers passed away from cancer. Two days before she died, she told Forte she wished to honor Morgan, and left them a sum of money so that the mother and daughter could create something together. “She said, ‘Morgan is your sidekick and she’s your strength’ and that’s really true,” says Forte. “When people come into the cafe and ask for the boss, I say ‘She’s 11 years old and 4-feet 9-inches and she’s right here.’”

The café offers a menu of Asian-inspired snacks; guacamole, hummus, salads, wraps and “burgers” ranging from $4–$9; coffee, tea and smoothies from $2–$5; and cat-shaped cookies and cupcakes. You can snack while you watch the 11 cats and kittens frolic inside the glass-enclosed area. (The restaurant and play area are separated, because even cat-lovers don’t want hair in their food). A $1 fee gets you entry into the play area to meet the kitties (wash your hands and remove your shoes first). All 11 cats — the café’s limit — have been vetted and are adoptable.

Morgan’s occupies a clean, sunlit space; the snacks are yummy; and they sell humorous gift items that any cat lady would love. But there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. “It’s a wonderful place for the community to interact with the animals,” says Forte, “but it’s an unbelievable amount of work.” Tasks you don’t see include the physical hands-on rescue work, conducting adoption screenings, and, as anyone with pets knows, an enormous amount of cleaning. Several times a year, it also includes bottle-feeding a litter of kittens around the clock.

With help from volunteers, partner organizations and an advisory board, Morgan’s so far has placed around 100 cats into forever homes. “It’s a rollercoaster,” says Forte. “Some days there are waves and waves of people, and sometimes not as many so the cats just sleep all day.” I’m sure they don’t mind.

Morgan’s Cat Cafe
35 West Market St., Red Hook, NY
Wed–Sat 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Closed Monday and Tuesday
(845) 250-2272 or (845) 475-2619

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Posted by Amy Krzanik on 11/21/17 at 03:36 PM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About Pine Plains

By Jamie Larson

Pine Plains seems to emerge out of nowhere. You’re driving through the woods between Dutchess County, N.Y. and Connecticut, and all of a sudden this handsome crossroads community pops up. Though small, Pine Plains has a surprising amount of reasons to visit, from the history to the food to the family farms. While the town may seem out of the way, it’s actually on the way to a lot of places, and a fabulous destination all on its own.

1. Hammertown
What can we say about Hammertown and its incomparable owner, Joan Osofsky, that we haven’t already waxed passionately about? The furnishings and housewares that fill Hammertown’s original location in Pine Plains have, in many ways, come to define the home decor aesthetic of the RI region: rustic yet styled, relaxed yet impeccably designed. Osofsky has literally written the book on this brand of style in Love Where You Live, and posts can’t-miss blogs and recipes on the store’s website. And as for those recipes, Osofsky has a new book, fittingly titled Love Where You Eat. Hammertown is more than a store, it’s a way of life.
3201 Rt. 199, (518) 398-7075

2. The Hudson Company
Refurbished reclaimed wood from dilapidated barns and other old or worn structures has become incredibly sought-after material in the interior design industry. It’s a real diamond in the rough and nobody’s better at sanding a beautiful floorboard out of a gnarled old beam than Pine Plains’ own Hudson Company. They’ve quickly become one of the industry’s biggest players in only a few years. Their success is due to the leadership of owner Jamie Hammel and a precise, efficient and quality-first facility outside of town. We recently wrote about how the company has been growing its profile exponentially, doing work for the Whitney, the High Line and countless other well-known institutions, restaurants and shops in NYC. But they’re also applying their supreme talents to homes around our region. Their mill and showroom is open weekdays and they pride themselves on being accommodating. If you cant find exactly what you’re looking for in stock, they’ll go out and find it — in the woods, a mushroom farm or an old barn – and mill it for you.
2290 NY-199, (845) 848-3040

3. Stissing House
In 1782, just after the end of the Revolution, Captain Cornelius Elmendorph founded a new settlement 15 miles from Washington’s camp as a connecting stop between Connecticut and the Hudson River. The Stissing House was the center of life in the new settlement, hosting gatherings of all kinds including many political meetings. Washington himself came through the notable Inn as did Roosevelt and the Marquis de Lafayette. Today, a beautiful restaurant helmed by husband and wife Patricia and Michel Jean calls the Stissing House home. Its traditional French-inspired dishes fit the historic destination with a peerless pastoral elegance. The amount of history and culinary talent that stews so effortlessly at Stissing House makes it not only the jewel of Pine Plains but one of the top places to visit in all the RI region.
7801 S. Main St., (518)-398-8800

4. Dutch’s Spirits at Harvest Homestead Farms
The fact that the Dutch’s Spirits distillery is located on top of a Prohibition-era bootlegging site is reason enough to head down the dirt road just outside of town to the secluded farm. The company’s namesake and spiritual patriarch, Dutch Schultz, made his stiff moonshine in a large underground concrete bunker. The new owners, which include one of Dutch’s descendants, have built a beautiful facility on top of that bunker to carry on the tradition in the light. The large modern barn is a farmstand and a tasting room, carrying the largest selection we’ve ever seen of New York-produced spirits in a single location. They also offer tours of the historic sites on the property and hold a number of events, especially this time of year. 
98 Ryan Rd., (518)-398-1022

5. Pine Plains Platter
The Platter is the best kind of small community café. They have the staples you expect but at a really high level. The menu is diverse and there are inventive specials that keep folks coming back. The café is owned by Irene and Jack Banning who also run the nearby Black Sheep Hill Farm. The couple hired Pine Plains native Amy Benack-Baden as manager and head chef, and she’s turned the quaint storefront into a delicious, family-friendly destination.
2987 Church St., (518) 398-0500

6. Chaseholm Farm
You may recognize the name Chaseholm from the farm list at the bottom of the menus at many of the best restaurants in the region. The dairy, cheeses and meats being produced by the farm’s grass-fed organic herd are all top quality and have become a staple in locally sourced dining. The multi-generational farm is now run by the brother and sister team of Rory and Sarah Chase. The siblings have kept the farm relevant by embracing modern holistic farming practices and by, above all else, working hard and making some really excellent stuff.
115 Chase Rd., (518) 339-2071

7. Lia’s Mountain View Restaurant
The Mirto family came to New York from Sicily in the ‘60s and, after moving upstate to Pine Plains, opened a classic Italian family restaurant with a menu as big as its breathtaking view of Stissing Mountain. It’s a true family affair as Lia, her siblings and their children all take part in running the restaurant. Brother Nick, sister Maria and Lia all have different duties in the kitchen. Along with the innumerable flavorful dishes the two sisters each make a cheesecake, so you can get a slice of each and let them know whose is better. In this healthy family competition, we win.
7685 NY-82, (518) 398-7311

8. Stissing Mountain
Pine Plains’ mountain isn’t just for admiring from afar. If you’re interested in a not-too-long yet intense hike there’s a great trail off Lake Road. The effort is well worth it, as the trail has a payoff in the form of a 90-foot firetower. Thirty feet taller than your average tower, it’s quite the ascent, especially if it’s swaying on a windy day. As you can imagine, there’s a spectacular 360-view from the top that goes on for miles. If you’ve got the gumption, climbing Stissing is worth the exertion.
Trail head located at 7 Lake Rd.

9. Pine Plains Memorial Hall
In many ways, this historic theater is the heart of Pine Plains. The Memorial Hall sits in the center of town, and for generations entertained its citizens, first with plays and later with films. Then for decades it sat dormant and crumbling. But it has now become a symbol of the town’s rebirth, and an energized grass roots effort to restore the facility is well underway. This summer they celebrated a huge fundraising milestone with a ground-breaking and community day that seemed to include every resident. There’s a lot of work to be done, but the energy behind the restoration of the Hall seems unstoppable.
2946 Church St., (518) 738-3409

10. The Inn at Pine Plains
With eight uniquely appointed rooms, the Inn at Pine Plains is the place to stay when exploring Dutchess County. Elegant, clean and accommodating, the Inn even has a signature breakfast sandwich as part of its locally sourced continental breakfast. The Inn is a continuation of Pine Plains’ history, a way-stop for travelers who soon find themselves entranced by the town.
3036 Church St., (518) 771-3117

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 09/25/17 at 08:10 AM • Permalink

10 Things To Love About Washington Depot, CT

By Christine Adams Beckett

As its name suggests, The Depot was once a major hub of the Shepaug Valley Railroad when the area was bustling in Industrial Age commerce, but has now evolved into a community of sophisticated permanent and weekend residents whose mark is well observed in the town’s eateries, shops and cultural institutions. Long a favorite amongst New Yorkers yearning for more bucolic countryside with an air of chic sophistication, Washington Depot provides it all: beautiful farms, cottages, country estates with their accompanying breathtaking views and all the diversions to satisfy the most cosmopolitan tastes, as well as the simple joys that come with the changing, seasonal landscape.

1.  The Hickory Stick Bookshop is a mainstay in town, and has been for over 70 years. Regular readings by local authors dot the calendar, and once boasted William Styron and Arthur Miller on its docket. For my family, it is a destination on a rainy day, when a hike in Steep Rock is not ideal, when we can browse the handsomely displayed stacks and talk books with the staff, which collectively has 100 years of experience, according to the store’s website.

2. And speaking of Steep Rock Association, there are three trails in Washington, one of which, Hidden Valley, is within walking distance to the Depot. The Trust was established by renowned architect Ehrick Rossiter in 1889, when he discovered plans to clearcut trees in an adjacent property while breaking ground for his own country home. The Association now boasts more than 2700 acres of hiking trails with sweeping views and dramatic features, like the “clamshell,” an old quartz quarry and the retired rail bed of the Shepaug line, including its tunnel which might inspire you to come up with your own life metaphor.

3. The architecture of the Depot’s businesses and cultural institutions, not to mention the private homes that spread out farther and farther as you move out of the town center, is inspiring. From the Greek Revival Gunn Memorial Library and Bryant Memorial Hall, to the quaint stretch of storefronts spilling petunias from their window boxes, to the stately summer homes of the turn-of-the-last century, renovated mills and rolling farms, the area’s structures reflect the intangible: this is a community of people who appreciate art, literature, natural beauty and history. 

Note: For an insider’s glimpse of Ehrick Rossiter’s legacy, which remains in the area’s stately homes, there’s a book devoted to the man’s work: Rossiter: Country Houses of Washington, Connecticut.

4. The Judy Black Memorial Park and Gardens are a testament to local business people and citizens’ thoughtful repurposing of vacant buildings. Once a gas station that long sat abandoned, The Park and Gardens is now a stylish center for residents to enjoy cultural programming, a weekly farmers’ market (run by a local whose family can trace their lineage back hundreds of years), movie nights and community gatherings. Most appealing: what was once an eyesore is now a green space open to all, providing a “welcome to the Depot” for neighbors and visitors, and an enticing swath of land that my children love. Area artist Mark Mennin’s sculpted bench, which flanks the lawn, is a conversation starter as well: a long carved piece of marble that he somehow made look plush (and is)!

5. The Washington Arts Association is another long-honored cultural institution in town, offering exhibits by emerging and established artists and classes for all mediums of visual art. You can pop in anytime and see something that will inspire you, but a favorite of mine is the annual student exhibition, where my family and I can stand agape before evidence of a neighbor’s talent. At Christmastime there also is a fabulous gift fair, a relic of which still decorates my 18-year-old son’s bookcase: a hand-carved wooden toy truck cum rough-hewn piece of folk art.

6. The eateries. Whether you crave local organic fare in a casual setting that feels like glamping (Hidden Valley Eatery), long-established gourmet surrounded by kitchenware for sale that make anyone want to viens à table (The Pantry), or upscale pub fare which seems to attract the arts crowd on Tuesday nights (The GW Tavern), the Depot is your place. Marty’s Café is open seven days a week for a sandwich and a great cup of coffee if the quiet of the surrounds leaves you craving for quick social contact. If dining in is your thing, come to Judy Black Park (see #4) on Saturday morning to buy your own locally grown produce for all that you need to entertain your guests.

7. The Gunn Memorial Library is another established cultural institution in the Depot that offers all of what you’d expect: book discussions, story hours for children, a local history research room, any title you’d like to borrow. But its annual fundraising events have become ones to plan for, including the Library Luminaries event, where local talent is celebrated and toasted at small dinner parties throughout the town, preceded by a cocktail in the gorgeous stone Greek Revival building. In the fall, it’s the Design and Antiques Show, which offers booths from local dealers and all the treasures they have to offer. The venue for this event is the Washington Primary School, which turns its gymnasium into a chic exhibition hall on Columbus Day weekend — the unofficial start of leaf-peeping season — when the brilliance of the foliage will leave you in awe.

8. The Gunn Historic Museum will put the Depot into a clearer perspective for you. Yes, as is suggested by the name, the General did sleep here (and the tavern that hosted him down the road still stands as a private home), but the Depot’s history holdings are far more interesting than the expected Revolutionary New England olde pewter mug. At one time, Washington was mostly a farming community, but the power of the Shepaug later turned the industry turbine of the age: mills, ironworks, factories and quarries. After the advent of different forms of commerce, the town — with its proximity to New York City, its distinct architecture, natural beauty and unique community — reinvented itself.  See it all for yourself in the newly installed Washington History Room at the Gunn, located in a bequeathed Colonial home that was renovated this year. 

Photo: Jim Ross

9. The annual traditions. Christmas fairs and fall antique shows aside, there are more campy aspects to the Depot, like the annual Memorial Day celebration which will leave you looking for Normal Rockwell and his easel, and which you’d expect from a town that hosted and is named for the Man Himself. Think memorial wreaths tossed into the Shepaug in memory of our fallen naval veterans, readings of “In Flanders’ Fields” by a local veteran, and parades led by antique fire trucks and lined by treat-wielding children with flushed faces. 

10. Grace Mayflower Inn & Spa. For those with the most discriminating tastes, the elegant Grace Mayflower is situated on 58 picturesque acres and surrounded by an additional 3,000 acres of nature preserve just outside the Depot.

Photo: Serge Detalle

A member of the Relais & Châteaux association of the world’s most enticing hotels, the Grace Mayflower also offers a luxurious and world-renowned spa with all the expected services, as well as a few unexpected ones like meditation, sound therapy and Blue Heron Insight, helping guests “realize their strengths and motivation” thereby strengthening one’s interpersonal relationships. For locals, it’s a special venue for cocktail hour in the tap room or dinner in the elegant dining room.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 09/02/17 at 10:36 AM • Permalink

Paws Up If You Want To Dance At Jacob’s Pillow

By Lisa Green

Despite the fact that I took ballet, tap and jazz dance lessons from age toddler (solo performance at age two, thank you very much) through post-college years, I’d be too self conscious now to take one of Jacob’s Pillow’s community dance classes. But with my four-legged sidekick as my dance partner, I’d be more inclined to take part.

So I was intrigued to hear that, in celebration of National Dog Day on Saturday, Aug. 26, Jacob’s Pillow in Becket, Mass. — which always welcomes canines on its campus — is inviting dogs (along with their people) to the dance. Partnering with the Berkshire Humane Society (BHS), Jacob’s Pillow says it continues to “expand the parameters of who gets to dance.” Why not Buddy, Daisy or Champ?

Hosting the dance-with-your-dog activity is Elizabeth Johnson, the Pillow’s Dance Exchange Artist, whose job is to engage individuals and communities in dance making and creative practices. She’s also an experienced dog dancer and will lead participants and their leashed canines through a series of simple and fun movements: making patterns, practicing gestures, and showing off tricks. After a 45-minute practice session, the performers will demonstrate what they’ve learned. No experience is needed; just be a good pet parent and make sure your dog is comfortable with loud noises and being around other dogs (and they must be leashed at all times).

Canine choreography is just one aspect of the event; a host of vendors (including local pet stores, Tractor Supply Company, Annie Selke Co., Big Y and Price Chopper) will be on site, and prizes will be raffled off. While the event is free, Jacob’s Pillow encourages visitors to make a donation to the BHS or bring items off the Humane Society’s donation wish list.

Whether you have a pawtner or not, this is a day to revel in the delights of dance, dogs and Jacob’s Pillow, and to recognize the fantastic work the Berkshire Humane Society does.

Jacob’s Pillow Dog Dance
Saturday, Aug. 26.
Class begins at 11 a.m.
RSVP here.
(413) 243-9919, Ext. 165

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Posted by Lisa Green on 08/21/17 at 10:14 AM • Permalink

Historic Hudson Has 10 Million Reasons To Celebrate

By Jamie Larson

Historic Hudson already would’ve had a lot to celebrate at their upcoming Drinks on the Waterfront party at the Dunn Warehouse Site on Friday, Sept. 1, as the Hudson, New York organization brings attention to one of the city’s most visible abandoned historic structures right in the center of the Riverfront Park. But then, on Aug. 1, New York State awarded Hudson a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant to help economic development at the waterfront and the surrounding neighborhood.

“It really gives us something to celebrate,” said Alan Neumann, president of Historic Hudson, “especially for the future of the Bridge District. Which is everything below Second Street.”

The waterfront event was initially planned to fundraise for the busy organization and create more interest in the preservation of Dunn’s, which had already received a $500,000 structural stabilization grant in January.

While the former warehouse may not be the most refined historic structure in Hudson, it is one of the only remnants (along with the Basilica) of Hudson’s industrial past and its location makes it ideal for connecting new development at the waterfront to the city’s iconic historic character. According to a survey done by the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 (credit to Gossips of Rivertown for sourcing the document), the building was constructed in 1850, as the Hudson and Boston Railroad Shop.

Once used to accommodate large machinery, Dunn’s big bay doors and large open interior may soon be developed into a food hub and restaurant that can both provide affordable food to the neighborhood — currently a food desert — and an eatery for anyone visiting the park. Every project currently outlined in the proposal is just that, a proposal, and will need to go through a public approval process, but there is little doubt Dunn’s will be a big part of future development. Other proposed projects include expansion of Basilica Hudson, support for existing light industry, assistance for an incoming hotel, business incubators, improved pedestrian access to the waterfront and much more.

“Let’s imagine a beautiful and productive future for this city-owned site,” Neumann said. “We need people to come down to the waterfront and have a glass of wine and imagine the future. We need to have a historic anchor.”

The benefit is $35 and includes food from Talbott & Arding Cheese and Provisions, and wine from Hudson Wine Merchants featuring vintages from the Blue Danube Wine Company. All are central European wines that Neumann says will really surprise people. There will also be a silent auction of historic photographs of the city.

“It’s of primary importance that Historic Hudson keeps its voice strong to preserve what’s quirky and historically important,” Neumann said. “It’s what makes Hudson distinctive and we need to address that as development moves forward. This matters.”

Some Fresh Intelligence About The Grant

Reactions to the grant around town were extremely positive by and large — but Hudson has a long history of justified skepticism about development projects, and the grant application was quickly dissected. While this civic ferocity can sometimes stymie officials, it is one of the key reasons Hudson has been able to maintain so much of the historic character that makes the city a draw. Hudson Development Corporation Executive Director Sheena Salvino, who led the creation of the grant proposal, stressed that no project has been approved and $300,000 of the grant is set aside to hire a planner to shepherd the projects forward the right way. 

“The overarching goal for the narrative we submitted to get the grant was to build a bridge between past and present,” Salvino said. “We stressed the role of historic buildings and how historic sites and things like landscaping promote economic development. Our proposal was to show that we were going to accelerate job growth at every level and create an ecosystem for that growth within the district. In our application we went across the entire spectrum of what’s going on down there.”

One aspect of that spectrum is troubling to residents familiar with the 20-plus years of community opposition to plans for expanding the cement business at Hudson’s deep water port. From blocking the creation of a massive factory by St Lawrence Cement decades ago, to the current opposition to the proposed creation of a haul road by the dock’s current owner A. Colarusso & Son, the community has made its opposition to expansion of operations pretty clear. So, these residents were disheartened to find in the proposal a sentence claiming, “...City officials and neighboring business owners support the expansion of Colarusso.”

The sentence is a bruise in an otherwise shiny apple. Salvino was quick to admit that the statement was a misrepresentation of public opinion and a mistake for which she takes responsibility.

“We did not work with Colarusso. Everyone knows there is a community issue around this. From our perspective, Colarusso has a 100-year history in the city and they are an example of the type of industry currently operating at the waterfront. They invested seven million dollars in the purchase of the port and we needed to show the state examples of extensive investment. It was recommended to us by the Empire State Development office that it is a part of the waterfront so it should be included, whether it ends up in the final plan or not.

“Was that sentence the best way to put it? No, it wasn’t,” Salvino continued. “The grant writers didn’t have the background on the history of the dispute and I didn’t catch it in the editing process, and I’m sorry about that. My job is about moving things forward.”

Other skepticism of the proposal comes from the waterfront district’s large minority and low-income population. There is concern that economic development in their neighborhood means the further gentrification of a city already deeply segregated along racial and economic lines. Residents hope the final plan will address the needs of the entire community. Salvino says job creation for all is the core of the project’s mission.

In total, the grant is a major win for Hudson and officials have a rare opportunity to accelerate growth in a city already well on the upswing. Good thing there’s a party coming up where you can raise a glass to what’s historic — and what’s to come — at the waterfront.

Drinks on the Waterfront
Friday, Sept. 1, 4-7 p.m.
The Dunn Warehouse Yard at the corner of Broad St. & Water St., Hudson, NY
Tickets: $35 online, $40 at the door

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Posted by Jamie Larson on 08/14/17 at 08:38 AM • Permalink