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(Houses close promptly at
Showing several of Americas Oldest Private Homes
Stone House Day
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.
Old Hurleyas it is locally knownconcentrates twenty-five venerable colonial era residences in a small areaten 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 hamlets oldest homes, commandeered as a guard house. The cellars walls, over three feet thick, and its dungeon-like roomsstill dank and dismalmade ideal cells for prisoners.
After the attack on Kingston, American General George Clinton (later to become vice-president and New Yorks 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 Yorks 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 1600s, is a striking English style manor house built in the early 1800s 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
Youll 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, youll 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 1700s house across from the Van Deusen house,
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, FDRs 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 doges palace. Kingston also offers its Historic Trolley-styled bus ride around the 360-year-old city.
Theres lots to see and do, says
To order discount tickets,
go to www.StoneHouseDay.org
No reservations are needed.
For further information, contact:
The date is always
Although Stone House Day is arranged by the church,
it has become a community project with several organizations and many neighbors volunteering their help.
Since Stone House Day has been attracting visitors from near and far
(there are always a few from foreign countries)