In the Dutchess County Spotlight
"Hidden Treasures of the Hudson Valley"
If you'd like to learn about and visit sites in the Hudson Valley region that are off the beaten path, a new book by Anthony Musso titled "Hidden Treasures of the Hudson Valley" will help guide you through 55 locales that boast significant ties to local and national history, early American industry and vintage entertainment venues.It's a thoroughly enjoyable journey through the Hudson Valley, past and present!
Unlike mainstream tourist destinations such as the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home and Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, which both attract tens of thousands of visitors each year, the sites featured in Musso's book include lesser known places that include 18th century Quaker Meeting houses, early grist and cotton mills, stagecoach stops, and residences and churches that were commandeered and used by the Continental Army during the American Revolution.
Visit Quaker Hill in Pawling to tour the 1763 Oblong Meeting House, built during an era that had Dutchess County boasting the second largest Quaker population in the nation. Just down the road stop by the Akin Free Library, an ornate structure built in 1898 and housing an eclectic assortment of Quaker artifacts, a museum featuring the work of longtime Pawling resident Lowell Thomas and the renowned Olive Gunnerson Museum of Natural History.
On the campus of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie visit the Maria Mitchell Observatory, the first building constructed and utilized a full year before the college opened. Also in Poughkeepsie, are the 1869 Collingwood Opera House (now the Bardavon); the restaurant next door where the Smith Brothers cooked the first five-pound batches of cough drops; and Locust Grove, the estate of Samuel F.B. Morse and the place where the beloved poem, "Twas' the Night Before Christmas" was written.
Each chapter provides either a physical street address or exact driving directions to the respective sites, websites and/or telephone contact information when available and specific historical narratives related to each locale. Some sites, which were built for one purpose and now serve another, include the original Vassar Brewery, which is virtually untouched inside and currently serves as a pub offering lunch and dinner.
The Van Wyck Homestead in Fishkill and the Mount Gulian Historic Site in Beacon both served critical roles during the American Revolution and each site offers guided tours, stages interpretive programs and an occasional military encampment. Mount Beacon, once home to a hilltop hotel, casino and dance hall and accessed by an incline railroad offers one of the best views of the Hudson Valley; however, the hike to its peak is challenging.
Visit Chelsea, a hamlet in the Town of Wappinger where shipbuilding once thrived and the home of a prominent river captain, the 1869 St. Mark's Episcopal Church and an 1875 one-room schoolhouse still exist. And take an easy half-mile stroll through a peaceful meadow to discover Dover Stone Church, a geological formation of metaphoric rock that in 1637 was used by the Mashantucket Pequot Indian tribe to escape an attack by British troops.
Children and adults will enjoy the Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center, once the estate of the prosperous Verplanck family and today staging instruction programs on agriculture and conservation and offering 10 miles of walking trails. Be sure to visit the former estate's tenant farmhouse, which was built in stages during the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
Two chapters in the book feature sites that resulted in national scandals. The first, the Hitchcock estate in Millbrook was headquarters for Dr. Timothy Leary's drug explorations during the 1960s and features interesting tales as shared by longtime residents of the community that observed frequent celebrity visitors, endless parties and a famous 1966 raid led by then-Dutchess County Assistant District Attorney G. Gordon Liddy.
Sanita Hills Camp, just north of Holmes, still boasts remnants of a well-intended but ill-advised resort developed by the New York City Sanitation Department for its employees. Converting city subway cars into "cottages," the unauthorized use of the trains, city material and labor resulted in a huge controversy for then-New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.
In all, the 55 sites featured in "Hidden Treasures of the Hudson Valley" provide an educational and enjoyable tour of the region to some sites that are rarely if ever visited. The book is available on Musso's website at www.MussoBooks.com and sells for $15 plus postage.