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Saturday, July 8th, 2017
10:00 am to 4:00 pm, rain or shine
 
(Houses close promptly at 4 pm)

Showing several of “America’s Oldest Private Homes”

Stone House Day
to show 230–330-year-old Private Homes

“Three hundred years may not be old for private homes in Europe, but in America? In the Mid-Hudson valley? In this town, many hundreds of visitors go through houses that old in six hours, once a year.”

Committee Chair Ellen Richards is talking about the annual Stone House Day event—next year Saturday, July 8th, 2017—in the tiny hamlet of Hurley, New York, where about eight owners have opened their “live-in antiques” for over 65 years. In that time, 50,000 visitors have marveled at the durable dwellings and learned how people lived before the United States was born.

“Old Hurley”—as it is locally known—concentrates twenty-five venerable colonial era residences in a small area—ten of them nestling a few steps from the quarter-mile-long tree-shaded Main Street (where even the “newest” homes are now in their stripling seventies.)

The town, a National Historic Landmark just outside of Kingston, was settled by the Dutch in 1661 and in an Indian attack two years later, 34 women and children were taken prisoner. The village was burned to the ground, but the prisoners were rescued unharmed five months later.

Most of the 200–300-year-old homes had been built before the Revolutionary War and families in those days feared the village might be burned again. In 1777 British troops had torched all the houses in Kingston, three miles away, and were approaching Hurley when they were unexpectedly called back to their ships on the Hudson River.

On that October day a British officer, convicted of spying, was being held prisoner in one of the hamlet’s oldest homes, commandeered as a guard house. The cellar’s walls, over three feet thick, and its dungeon-like rooms—still dank and dismal—made ideal cells for prisoners.

After the attack on Kingston, American General George Clinton (later to become vice-president and New York’s governor) ordered the prisoner hanged “when the troops are paraded and before they march tomorrow morning.” But apparently everyone was so busy taking care of refugees from Kingston that another day passed before he met his fate dangling from the bough of a nearby apple tree.

The “Spy House,” one of the homes open, features the massive beams common to the era; and some surviving window lights still show the ripples and bubbles of early glass. The door between the large kitchen and the living room is only 5'6" high, so most men and many women have to duck to go through it. The owners are both under five-six, but in spite of their warnings, visitors occasionally “ouch” their way to the next room. That door like the other interior doors still hangs on its original hand-forged hinges, and latches are becoming thinner after three hundred years of use.

A hundred yards up the street a 1723 house became the temporary state capitol after the evacuation of Kingston, New York’s first capital until the British burned its buildings. State officials met in Hurley for several weeks until the house became too cold and they moved across the river near Poughkeepsie.

The owners are antique dealers and their home, the VanDeusen House, features selected colonial furnishings making it a show place of living in early days. On the other hand, the Spy House displays a number of Victorian-era pieces passed down from long-ago ancestors.

All homes on the tour are different and all interesting. Patentee Manor, a two-minute bus ride away with the oldest portion dating to the late 1600’s, is a striking English style manor house built in the early 1800’s around the original structure. Numerous colonial antiques are displayed there as in the TenEyck Bouwerie, a l708 farmhouse on a working sweet corn farm, also a brief bus ride from Main Street.

Local lore has it that the Dr. TenEyck house on Main Street served as an Underground Railway stop 150 years ago for slaves escaping from the South and heading for Canada. Across the street is the 1790 Reformed Church parsonage, possibly the oldest church parsonage in the country.

Homes on the tree-shaded Main Street are all within a 150-yard radius for easy walking and have only a step or two to enter. Free buses leave every 20 minutes for three nearby homes.

You’ll be greeted by costumed guides in each home who will speak briefly about the house and its history, but you may spend as much or as little time in each home as you wish. On part of the street, closed to traffic for the day, you’ll view life of the 1777 Ulster militia in its authentic encampment, visit the Library Fair with its book and collectible sales; and enjoy the Church cafeteria lunch, handmade crafts, and other, occasionally last-minute, items.

The Hurley Museum, in a late 1700’s house across from the Van Deusen house, next year features the Continental soldier and the Revolutionary War period. It will be open as will the Ulster County Genealogical Society with rooms in the church hall where visitors often seek advice to find the names of Dutch descendants who are now scattered world-wide.

Richards admits that not everybody is interested in 1700’s architecture or furnishings. “Some just like to see people’s houses,” she agrees. “Owners welcome them, too.”

Those who can spend more than a day in the Mid-Hudson area will find numerous sight-seeing possibilities 10 minutes to an hour away: the Victorian resort at Lake Mohonk, a National Historic Landmark; the Maritime Museum and Hudson River cruises at Rondout; Hyde Park, FDR’s home; the Vanderbilt Mansion and several other estates of wealthy industrialists; Woodstock, the Catskills, and Ashokan Reservoir; West Point; the Senate House in Kingston, the first NYS capitol; Huguenot street in New Paltz; and a grandly-restored Kingston City Hall, the duplicate of an Italian doge’s palace. Kingston also offers its “Historic Trolley-styled bus” ride around the 360-year-old city.

“There’s lots to see and do,” says Richards. Hurley is four minutes from I-87 Exit 19 at Kingston on Route 209 South toward Ellenville—two hours from New York’s 42nd street; an hour from Albany or northern New Jersey, 2½ hours from Springfield, MA., and three hours from Allentown, PA. Parking is free, as are tours for children age 5 and under. House tours are $2 for children 6 through 12, $15 for Seniors, students 12–18, or full-time college, and $20 for others. Adult/Senior/Student tickets include a $2 discount coupon for the cafeteria.

To order discount tickets, go to www.StoneHouseDay.org. Regular price tickets are available on the day of the event at ticket booths on Hurley’s Main Street.

No reservations are needed.

For further information, contact:

E-mail:info@StoneHouseDay.org
Web site: www.StoneHouseDay.org

The date is always the second Saturday in July, and hours are 10 am to 4 pm.

Although Stone House Day is arranged by the church, it has become a community project with several organizations and many neighbors volunteering their help. Chair Ellen Richards looks at the day as a community service for everyone’s pleasure. “We know,” she says, “from frequent comments that the chance to see our old houses is really appreciated.”

Since Stone House Day has been attracting visitors from near and far (there are always a few from foreign countries) for over 65 years, you might want to see why.