I love this classic little Jersey food stand! Talk about character!
The one thing about Hudock’s Custard Stand is that it is a piece of New Jersey nostalgia to a time when things were just a little slower and when you visit, they still are. When people come here to dine, there is not a cellphone in site and people sit in the chairs or at the picnic tables and just talk to one another. Or admire the beautiful views of the surrounding farms. On a warm sunny day, there is nothing like a cup of ice cream or a footlong hot dog to make you forget your troubles.
Where you order food at Hudock’s
Hudock’s keeps things simple and friendly when you…
I had been sent the notice that the County of Morris, New Jersey was having a two-day Open House of many of their historical sites for touring and for special events for a program entitled “The Pathways of History: Museum and Site Tours of Morris County, NJ”.
The “Pathways to History” event takes place every May
The weekend event spread to small museums, historical homes and cemeteries all over the County with walking tours and lectures at various sites. Having never been or even heard of many of these sites, I was interested in visiting as many as I could for my blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com” which is here on WordPress.com as well.
I plotted my two days of the event and tried to organize the trip so that we could see as many sites as we could. The event asked the sites to open one of the two days as most of these sites are small and have a tough time getting volunteers. So, I tried to coordinate the sites I had wanted to visit with visiting other places along the way such as farm stands I wanted to visit and restaurants I wanted to try.
The map of historical sites that I wanted to visit
I recruited my aunt to help me take pictures of the sites and travel with me to get her opinions on each of the sites. She also wanted to get out of the house and travel with me so off we went. We started the day with a good breakfast at the Blue Cafe at 273 Valley Boulevard in Wood Ridge, NJ (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaSheStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). I like the hometown atmosphere and service of the restaurant.
The Blue Cafe at 273 Valley Boulevard in Wood Ridge, NJ
My review on DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com:
Not wanting to snack along the way, both my aunt and I had a large breakfast. She had an Egg White Omelet with bacon and tomatoes with a side of hashbrowns and toast ($8.95). I had the Pancake Platter which came with two pancakes and two scrambled eggs with a side of link sausage ($8.95). I have to say that everything came to the table promptly and was delicious. The portion sizes were very fair, and the service could not have been nicer.
We needed a good breakfast at Blue Cafe for the long journey
My pancakes were perfectly cooked and had that nice, malted taste and the scrambled eggs had a nice taste of clarified butter. The sausage had a nice spicy sage taste to it. My aunt could not finish her eggs and asked me to take some. They were delicious as well. The flavors of the bacon and the tomatoes had a nice complexity to them and the hashbrowns were well seasoned and crisp.
My pancakes and eggs that morning was delicious
With a nice breakfast behind us and a warm sunny day, we both looked forward to visiting the sites without stopping much. We travelled down Route 80 and then down Route 206, which once upon a time was one of the only highways to travel through the State of New Jersey. It took us down to Route 24 through the rolling hills of Chester, NJ and to our first stop, the Obadiah La Tourette Grist & Mill at 12 East Mill Road in Long Valley, NJ.
East Mill Road lead into a quaint little town that looked like something out of the early 1800’s with older clapboard homes and historic churches with old cemeteries surround them in a highly wooded spot. It reminded me of my trips through the Hudson River Valley.
The Obadiah La Tourette Grist & Mill at 12 East Mill Road
The Grist Mill was fascinating. The mill has been a working mill from the early 1800’s until about the late 1930’s, during the Depression when they needed to expand operations. The place had pretty much been abandoned until the 1980’s when it had been falling apart by the side of the road and concerned citizens got together to save it. It is now going through a renovation.
What the mill looked like in 1993
When I toured both the upstairs and the downstairs, upstairs was all the equipment to move the wheat and bundle it for processing and for milling. I even saw amongst the equipment the old portion size bagging attachment where the final packaging took place.
On the lower level of the mill, you could see the stream under the building and the turbine wheels of the old mill still placed in the stream and along the side of the mill. You could view from the deck the workings of the equipment and how the stream powered the mill itself. You could also see the flow of the stream and how it is now affecting the structure of the building.
It is amazing how we survived with just Mother Nature at one time
The staff takes immense pride in the building structure and how the renovation is coming along as well as its unique history. The tour guides could not have been more enthusiastic about explaining to myself, my aunt and the other visitors about the history of the mill, the way they milled the flour and the ongoing structure improvements. It was also so picturesque with the small flowing stream and woods that surrounded it.
We walked along the property back to the car and please to all readers, watch yourself on the road because for some reason everyone was speeding that morning and there is no sidewalk. Remember to walk to the back of the buildings to view the stream, the woods and all the historical homes in this little hamlet.
Our next stop was on the other side of the stream and around the corner from the mill. We visited the Union Schoolhouse & Union Church and Burial Ground at 6 Fairview Avenue in Long Valley, NJ. The Union Schoolhouse has been converted into Washington Township Historical Society building housing its collection. The Union Church burned down years earlier and was left is a stone structure that you can view inside and out. The church is surrounded by the old cemetery where prominent members of the community are buried.
The Washington Township Historical Society at 6 Fairview Avenue
The Union Schoolhouse/Washington Township Historical Society is a well-organized two-story building, that houses a collection of antique objects from the community. There was a set up a school room, selection of quilts, old dishware, antique furniture and on the first floor a complete display of the Welsh Farms Ice Cream Company and Dairy.
The second-floor school room reflects the buildings past as a schoolhouse
The original ice cream factory (no longer exists) used to be right down the road from the old schoolhouse and members of the Welsh family are buried in the cemetery. I thought that was fascinating as I never knew it had been started here.
The local Welsh family started the Welsh Farm Dairy and Ice Cream factory down the road
The Welsh Family cemetery plot
I toured through the old church with another patron and the tour guide while my aunt, who did not want to walk on the uneven ground of the cemetery got her own verbal tour with one of the members of the historical society. We got to walk through the cemetery and see the graves of the prominent families that were once members of the church. We also got to see how the staff used tombstone cleaner to make the tombstones brighter.
The Union Church and Cemetery
What was also impressive about the building was the beautiful flower garden that lined the stone wall between the schoolhouse and the cemetery. One of the local Garden Clubs must have planted and taken care of the gardens because they were so well pruned and planted. It was so colorful with an array of flowers line with blooming tulips along the path.
The old Washington Township Schoolhouse is now the museum
On the way back down Route 24, my aunt and I decided to stop for a snack. We stopped at an old favorite mine that I have been visiting since the early 1970’s, the Hacklebarney Farm Cider Mill at 104 State Park Road which is right outside Hacklebarney State Park, which I had also visited many times as a child for walks and barbecues.
The Hacklebarney Cider Mill Farm at 104 State Park Road
I love coming to Hacklebarney Farm Cider Mill at all times of the year. It is especially best in the late Spring and in the Fall months when the leaves are changing, and all the Halloween events are happening. The farm had opened their hot dog stand early on customer demand the owner explained to us as well as made sure the bakery was well-stocked for visitors on the tours.
The hot dog stand and the work buildings remind you that this is a working farm and not a tourist trap
We toured through the bakery, and I ordered a Cider doughnut ($2.95) and a Fruit Dumpling ($3.95) for dessert, and we shared a Chicken and Cheese Quesadilla ($5.95) and two Cokes for our lunch (See my reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com). It was so nice to just sit and relax and enjoy the weather.
The wonderful baked goods at the Hacklebarney Farm bakery
The Quesadilla was well made and stuffed with lots of chicken and cheese and the salsa had a nice spicy flavor to it. I love the crispiness of their Cider doughnuts with lots of cinnamon sugar on top of them. The Fruit Dumpling was filled with fresh blueberries and strawberries and had nice buttery sweetness to it. We devoured everything in record time, and I could not believe how hungry we both were that afternoon. Maybe it was all the driving or maybe it was just looking over all the rolling hills and the soft breezes from the field.
We got a chance to talk to the owner again when she came over with an old picture of the farmhouse that her great-grandparents had built and the pride that they took in all their baked goods. She told us that everything is made from scratch in their kitchen and all the fruits are hand peeled for their desserts. In the Fall, I have watched them make their apple cider on property and you can watch the steps to make the cider you will buy inside (when it is in season, make the trip out here for it. It is well worth the trip).
The Hacklebarney Farm family farmhouse
After a relaxing afternoon of relaxing, playing with their dogs and walking around the farm, we left for Downtown Chester, which is located right down Route 24 and on the other side of Route 206. We passed the old shell of a building that was once Larison’s Turkey Farm Inn which closed in 2009.
The old Larison’s Turkey Farm building is a reminder of changing times
I had eaten here a few times with my family over the years and you used to be able to get a full turkey dinner for a reasonable price. Forget trying to visit the place at Thanksgiving. The place is now falling apart, and I read online that they want to knock down this historic landmark for a strip mall.
Our next site on the listing was the Chester Historical Society or otherwise known as the Chester’s Rockefeller Center at 137 Main Street. Main Street Chester was a madhouse on Saturday as there was a food truck festival going on in the park downtown and traffic was all over the place. We must have circled the downtown three times looking for the Historical Society.
The soon to be Chester Historical Society at 137 Main Street
We finally found the empty building that was falling apart right next to the park. All that the historical society was an empty building that had been moved to the park and a kiosk that was closed off by the food truck festival. When we were able to stop and talk to the members who were there, they were closing up shop for the afternoon.
They said they were showing the plans for the renovation of the building and how they wanted to store the collection. That is what amounted to their current historical society. It was a work in progress. The little building was built in 1897 and was ordered from the Sears & Roebuck Company.
The Chester Historical Society is just beginning to be established
We quickly got out of downtown Chester and headed back up Route 206 North and took some back roads to our final destination that afternoon, the Silas Riggs Saltbox House/The Roxbury Township Historical Society at 213 Main Street in Ledgewood, NJ and the King Canal Store and the King Victorian Home at 209 and 211 Main Street right next store to the house. The sites were closing up shop for the afternoon, but they were nice enough to stay open so that we could have a long visit.
I am so happy that we could visit the sites as the people running them were so interesting and they took such good care of the sites. A few of the volunteers said that this always happens that someone comes late, and they were hoping to close on time, but they take such pride in all these sites that they did not mind staying for us.
Our first stop was the King Canal Store. The store had been sealed off after the death of Albert King by his wife, Emma. After his passing, she followed his wishes and closed the store down only opening it during the Great Depression when locals needed supplies.
After Mrs. King’s death in 1975, the store and her home, the King Homestead were bought by the Rotary Club of Roxbury, NJ and they set out to renovate and restore the site. The King Canal Store was left untouched and is a step back in time when the Morris Canal was a major form of transportation in the state. The store had been open since the Civil War and closed on the eve of the Great Depression even though the family had been seeing declining sales since the closing of the canal to traffic.
The King Canal Store is a step back in time when this was the neighborhood gathering place
Next to the King Canal Store at 211 Main Street is the King Homestead built in the Queen Ann style by Albert King for his family. The house was closed by that point, but I was able to walk the grounds and on the porch. It is a spectacular home.
The last place on the tour before we ended the first day of touring sites was the Silas Riggs Saltbox House at 213 Main Street. The home had been Emma Riggs King’s parents and it had been moved to this site when it was threatened with demolition. The home is a perfect example of the “Saltbox” architectural style.
The Silas Riggs Saltbox House/The Roxbury Historical Society at 213 Main Street
I loved touring this smart little house. Talk about well taken care of and well appointed. The home is well decorated with vintage antiques and artifacts and when you walk in the door you have this welcoming feeling. The house is so warm and cosey that volunteers have commented that people feel that they could move in here.
The front room of the Silas Riggs Saltbox House
What I enjoyed about the Silas Riggs Saltbox house is that the home was decorated in period furnishings that all worked to welcome you into the home. It was almost like the people who lived there just left for the afternoon.
What I really liked about the house was the back-room kitchen with the open hearth. Not only was it a perfect place to cook but it must have been the gathering place for the family and also heated the house. One of the volunteers told me that they had a successful “Soup Dinner” fundraiser during the holidays where they made homemade soup from scratch and homemade cornbread as well. It must be nice to eat a hearty meal in this period home during Christmas as the family once did.
The rustic kitchen at the Silas Riggs Saltbox House
After the house closed for the after, all the other sites had closed at 4:00pm as well and we made our way down Route 10 just off the old main street and then back on to Route 46 East to head home. It had been getting warmer all day and we both needed a snack before dinner. It was by coincidence that we just happened to pass the Dover Dairy Maid Ice Cream store at 240 East Route 46 and stopped for a cone.
Never having travelled down this part of Route 46 East before, I had never seen this popular place for ice cream and all of a sudden, I turned the car and needed some ice cream. There are times in life that you take a different bend in the road, and this was one of the more popular ones. Their homemade ice cream was amazing.
The Dover Dairy Maid at 240 East Route 46 is the best
While my aunt tried the Mint Chocolate ice cream, I had a yearning for something more fun and I got a bowl of Cotton Candy ice cream and at $5.45 for two large scoops, it was a reasonable trip. It is nice that a business not only does not gouge a customer but offers that personal service was reflective of when I was a kid in the 1970’s when this business opened. I felt like it was a step back in time when things were simpler. We even at our ice cream out on the benches in the back of the store. Talk about 70’s! Between here and Hacklebarney Farm I felt like a kid again.
There was no traffic on Route 46 East that evening and got home in record time. My aunt and I needed some recovery time, so I dropped her off and met her for dinner later that evening. We finished off the evening at Napoli Pizzeria at 25 Washington Street #2 in Lodi, NJ for dinner. Napoli’s food is consistently excellent, and I love their pizza. The best part is that the parking is always plentiful and never have to travel far to go.
Napoli Pizzeria at 25 Washington Street #2 is wonderful for lunch and dinner
It was a nice evening chatting over a cheese pizza ($10.95) and a glass of wine. We talked about all the sites we had visited and the ones that we could not and made plans to revisit some of the sites in the future. There was a lot more to see and do in Morris County. It was a nice way to end the first day of touring and it had been such a perfect sunny day that it was a pleasure to stop and really enjoy each site.
The historical marker at the Ayres-Knuth Farm at 25 Cooper Street
On the second day of the “Pathways’ tour, my aunt was busy, so I started early with a quick breakfast at home and was on my way back to Morris County for a second day of adventure. My first stop on the tour was the Ayres/Knuth Farm (The Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation Inc.), a former working farm just off Route 10.
The main farmhouse on the Ayres/Knuth Farm
Not only was the site open for touring but they also had a mini car show with antique cars and fire trucks owned by some of the members. Seeing some of these Model T Ford’s and Steam Engine Fire Trucks in perfect condition shows American quality motorship at its finest.
What interested me about the farm is that it had been a working farm up until the last fifty years and showed the progression that the farm took in its almost 100 years in the county. The farm itself dates back to pre-Revolutionary War days with the farm being purchase in either 1735 or maybe 1759 by Obadiah Lum. The property itself was settled and developed by Daniel Ayres, who was born in New Jersey in 1778 (The Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation).
The Ayres-Knuth Farm and the outer buildings
105 acres of land was given to him by his father-in-law, David Garrigus upon the marriage of his daughter, Hanna in 1803. His son, William took over the farm in 1856 upon the death of his father in 1856, changing the farm to add husbandry and fruit cultivation. When William retired in 1896, none of his children wanted the farm and it was sold. Changing hands many times, it was bought by Martin and Anna Knuth in 1906. The farm was taken over by two of their children and it remained in the family until the 1990’s upon both of their passings. In 1996, the Township of Denville purchased 52 acres of the original farm and it is now managed by the Ayres/Knuth Foundation Inc. (The Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation).
On this clear and sunny Sunday morning, it was fun to walk around the former working farm to see how it developed. Both families learned to modernize and add to the operation. I was able to tour the smaller tenet farmhouse (built in 1895), the barn (built in 1895 (and the various outer buildings like the chicken coops (built in 1895), outhouse (built in 1930) and the Smokehouse (built in 1825). The small well was built in 1797 and was the oldest structure left on the property.
What got my attention is that there still are tenant farmers on another tract on the property still working the land and the property is protected by grants from Morris County. So, it still is technically a working farm. A lot of care was taken to preserve the farm as is and the volunteers told me that there were plans to fix up the other buildings. The Tenant House needed a lot of work and was run down but the main Farmhouse had been renovated and was closed that day.
After having a nice conversation with many of the volunteers about the development on the farm, I was off to the next site, The Whippany Railway Museum at 1 Railroad Plaza in Whippany, NJ. I usually don’t get excited by railway museums one looking like another but the care and dedication of the volunteers of this museum is just mesmerizing. They really care about the detail and condition of every railcar and artifact that comes into possession of this museum, and it shows by the way its displayed.
The Museum was so well organized and told the story of the rail systems not just in New Jersey but their development all over the country. Unlike some rail museums that I have been to where they put dishes, lanterns and tickets all the same shelves, the Whippany Railway Museum took a lot of pride in setting up their displays more as a progression to how the railways evolved over time starting with coal, then to steam and then electric.
Not only that it was the way people traveled and how dining and then First Class tried to rival the growing Jet Age travel to keep customers. Each case line told a story. The cases show a progression in communication, ticketing, uniform, dining and equipment used on the trains. Take time to look over the information supplied in the cases as well. They also have a nice gift shop inside the museum.
It was the hour-long walking tour that really blew me away. This volunteer named Mike walked around the museum asking people if they would like to take a tour at noon and then for the next hour and a half, we toured all the train cars.
Each of the train cars were at different stages of renovation and some were fully restored. Mike explained to our small tour group that different members of the museum had special skills, and everyone had a hand in restoring the cars. The volunteers all dressed like period conductors and would be stationed at each car to describe the railcar to us.
Where the museum really shines and where I saw the most pride is in the rail cars that have come to the yard over the years and have been carefully restored. The Southern Railway No. 385 built in 1907 for faster freight service, the Texaco Fireless Cooker No. 7240 built in 1937 for industrial switching duty and one of the newest steam locomotives still surviving, the U.S. Army No. 4039 built in 1942 for WWII service are just some of the cars on display (Whippany Railway Museum pamphlet).
The railcar that most impressed me was the Lackawanna Railroad Subscription Club Car No. 2454 that was once known as the “Millionaires Express” (Whippany Railway Museum). The mahogany paneled car carried businessmen from New York City through towns in the middle of New Jersey. What I thought was interesting was the people who rode it (Christie Todd Whitman’s father was a member) and the fact that you had to ‘buy’ the seat, which meant that no one could ever sit in ‘your chair’ if you were not there. This car ran for 72 years finally retiring out in 1984 (probably due to the recession and changing times).
After the extensive tour was over, I visited the model trains that were riding around the outside of the rail cars and talking with other volunteers on what the future plans of a new railcar that just arrived. I also walked up to their snack shop that is at entrance of the museum site and was bummed when they did not have any of the large pretzels in stock. The woman said that they are their most popular item and had not arrived for the tour day. I then moved on to my third site, The Whippany Burying Yard at 325 Route 10 East.
The Whippany Burying Yard was also having a tour that I just made when I arrived. It was given by a retired college professor who had lived in town all of his life and knew the history of the cemetery quite well. The old cemetery is steeped in history as one of the oldest cemeteries in New Jersey and home to many Revolutionary and Civil War veterans. As we learned on the tour later on, the only people that can be buried there now are former Mayors of the Town of Whippany who have died.
Two of the founding families of the town have many family members buried here, the Tuttle’s who still have relatives living in the area and the Kitchel’s. The guide for the afternoon took us on an hour tour of the cemetery, pointing out prominent members of the war years including Timothy Tuttle (died 1754), a founding judge of Morris County, Keturah Tuttle Platt (died 1850), who was a Charter member of the First Presbyterian Church, Captain Timothy Tuttle (II of III-died in 1816), who was a member of George Washington’s First Regiment in the Continental Army, Samuel Tuttle (died in 1762) and Colonel Joseph Tuttle, a blacksmith and Deacon at the Presbyterian Church who served in the French & Indian War.
The entrance to the Whippany Burial Yard
The Kitchel family was prominently represented as well with Abraham Kitchel (died in 1741), who was one of the six original judges of Morris County and his wife Sarah, whose family was claimed to date back to Charlemagne, Emperor of France, Abigal Kitchel (died in 1768), Uzal Kitchel (died in 1813), a Militiaman in the American Revolution and his wife, Anna (died in 1815). Many of these people as well as their ancestors made major contributions to the growth of the surrounding community.
We were also given a lesson in the construction and care of the old tombstones, some of which were beyond repair. Some of the original grave sites were made from sandstone, marble and granite with granite becoming the popular choice later on. Here and there some of the tombstones were decorated with winged skulls or cherubs. These show morality images of the dead (Whippany Burial Yard pamphlet).
We were also walking by the river that the graveyard sits on and were told that current erosian is affecting some of the grave sites. These might have to be moved in the future and the tour guide was not sure if any have been lost over the years. The old Presbyterian Church that sat on the site (built in 1718 and removed in 1755) has since disappeared and there is no trace of it now.
The Whippany Burial Yard has many different types of tombstones
At the end of the tour, the guide explained to us that the old Tuttle House, dating back from the late 18th Century was just left to the town by its last owner to be preserved as a museum for the community. The Tuttle house will need a lot of work in the future.
The Tuttle House at 341 Route 10 will be a future museum for the Historical Society
It was getting late in the day after my last tour, and I figured I had time to see one more site before the day was over. I wished they did not end the day so early at 4:00pm. It does not give people much time to visit all these sites in one day, but the museum tour guides made them so interesting that you did not want to leave so quick.
My last stop on the tour day was the Florham Park’ Historic Preservation Commission’s Little Red Schoolhouse and Hancock Cemetery at 203 Ridgedale Avenue. On the map it looked so far away but it was only ten minutes down the road from the cemetery and I got there in plenty of time to spend the last half hour of the day at the museum.
The Little Red Schoolhouse Museum at 203 Ridgedale Avenue
I was the only one there with two members who said that they were surprised on how busy the day was for them. They told me that almost every person who visited said the same things: either they passed the place a million times and never knew it was a museum or they lived here for about twenty years and never knew the town had a museum. I said I was from another area of the state, and this was my first time as well. The little museum is nicely set up.
In the back there is a small classroom set up keeping with the theme of the building. This lets students who are visiting the building of their counterpart’s early education with desks, ink wells and chalk boards that have not changed that much over the years. There are old desks and chalkboards and items that date either from the late 1880’s to about the 1930’s.
Not much has changed in the modern classroom over the years
There is early century clothing, farming equipment from the town’s farming past and event Native American objects found in the town and in private collections. Other items included decorative items from the home including dishware, home products and furnishings. Each section of the museum is divided up by lifestyle.
The docents that day explained that the items were reflect the town’s past and some came from families that have been in town for years. The museum reflects the community spirit of town’s past. It explains that times have progressed but not changed too much over the years. They also told me how hard they work to promote the museum.
I asked where the Hancock Cemetery was, and they told me down the road from the museum, so I left after about a half hour to let them close and looked for the cemetery. I never found it “down the road” so I was not too sure what direction they were talking about. By the time I got back to the museum, it was shut, and all the cars were gone. It was now 4:30pm. I decided to head off to dinner.
I got lost trying to take the back roads from Route 10 to Route 46 (later on when I got home, I found I was in the right direction but did not know it). I passed the Parsippany Historical Museum at the Bowlsby-DeGelleke House at 320 Baldwin Avenue on the way but at 5:00pm I could see one of the costumed docents was desperately trying to close up for the day, so I did not stop.
I finally made it to Downtown Boonton, NJ for dinner. The town was really quiet on an early Sunday evening. I passed the Boonton Historical Society and Museum at 210 Main Street that was closed for the evening. They had a full day of activities that day and must have closed early.
Boonton Historical Society and Museum at 210 Main Street
Ever since I got involved in the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association, I have been visiting this interesting little museum. They have the most intriguing walking tours on the history of the town’s development and on the ruins of the local iron works. They also have nice inhouse tours of the museum and very inviting Holiday Open House (pre-COVID).
Dinner that evening was a restaurant I had wanted to try several times but it either was not open or did not look open because there was no one in it. I2I at 408 Main Street just up the hill from the museum.
I had been looking forward to eating here for some time and even though the food and the service were quite good, the owner did something that really irked me, and I will not be returning anytime soon. (Please read my TripAdvisor review above for details on my experience).
After dinner, I walked around Downtown Boonton for a bit, looking over stores that had opened since the pandemic. The downtown is getting more and more hipster businesses and you can tell that an ‘artsy’ crowd is starting to move into the area. All the neighborhoods around the downtown are having a lot of home improvements from new paint jobs and windows to new landscaping meaning the artists from the City are starting to move in.
Please read my blog on Exploring Downtown Boonton, NJ-Day Two Hundred and Two:
I drove home later that evening. It had been an interesting two-day exploration to Morris County, NJ and I did not realize the rich history that it had. There are many more places that will be visiting in the future on their list as they open up for the summer months.
Please look at their link for more details and happy exploring!
On the second day of the Morris County, NJ “Pathways to History’ tour, I was on my way back to Morris County for a second day of adventure. My first stop on the tour was the Ayres/Knuth Farm (The Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation Inc.), a former working farm just off Route 10.
The main farmhouse on the Ayres/Knuth Farm
Not only was the site open for touring but they also had a mini car show with antique cars and fire trucks owned by some of the members. Seeing some of these Model T Ford’s and Steam Engine Fire Trucks in perfect condition shows American quality motorship at its finest.
What I liked about the farm is that it had been a…
I cannot believe that another Christmas has come and gone and COVID is still raging around. Talk about having to adapt to a new world a lot wiser and more aware. I have just become more careful over the last year and kept my activities to a minimum (yeh right, I still run all over the place for work and keeping people informed about happenings all over the place). I just try to stay safe. I put my walk of the Garment District on hold for the Christmas holidays and all that came with it.
Christmas started right after I came home from Thanksgiving dinner in Lambertville when the next morning, I had to wake up at 6:00am to get ready to go to the Christmas tree lot for the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association Christmas Tree Drop Off of the trees. We had 390 trees being delivered and it was all hands-on deck.
Setting up the Christmas trees
Who knew that the truck would arrive at 8:00am and we got caught off guard. No one expected it to come until at least 10:30am. So, at 9:00am, over thirty members and their children emptied all 390 Christmas trees off the truck (they shorted us ten trees), got them tagged and ready to sell. We had not even finished tagging the trees and our first tree sold at 10:30am.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at Christmas tree set up 2021
I stayed on the site until 4:30pm and we had already sold the first twenty-one trees. I could not believe how fast the trees sold that day. The only reason why I left is that I had to help with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department on the town’s Annual Holiday Parade. God did it get cold that night.
The night after Thanksgiving, the Hasbrouck Heights Chamber of Commerce holds the Annual Holiday Parade and the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department is always a participant from helping Santa enter town in the Parade to setting up the sound system for the Tree Lighting Ceremony. I swear it got so cold that night by the time the town lit the tree it must have gone down to 35 degrees. Thank God we bundled up!
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at the Annual Hasbrouck Heights Holiday Parade
After the tree was lit, I never saw a place empty out so fast. People were so cold! Even with all our layers, we were cold too.
I did an about face and the next morning left for Beach Haven, NJ to attend some of Long Beach Island’s Christmas activities. The day ended up being much nicer and was a bit warmer. It is a two-hour trip to the shore and you would think that a beach community is not the place to spend an early Christmas weekend but you would be amazed at the activities they had planned all over the island that day.
I left the house around 8:30am on what started out as a gloomy morning that turned sunny and clear by the time I reached Long Beach Island. I decided to visit the Barnegat Lighthouse first to see if it was decorated with lights like the lighthouse at Montauk Point. That was always impressive the years I went out to visit my friend, Lillian.
The lighthouse was not decorated for the holidays but was finally open to walk in and climb the stairs. It was over a hundred steps up and back down. What a view all the way up. There were small stops on the way up with views on each level landing. By the time I reached the top of the stairs there were only three of us up there and God was it windy. I only lasted at the top of the lighthouse a few minutes before I almost blew off. What views of the waves coming in!
The Barnegat Lighthouse at the tip of Long Beach Island
Before I made the journey to the southern part of the island on my November trip, I stopped by the “Santa’s Viking Christmas Village” to see the arts and crafts festival at Viking Village at 19th and the Bay Barnegat Light. It was a sunny but cool afternoon but the winds had calmed down and I was able to walk the booths with no problems. I was in search of homemade Santa’s for my mother’s upcoming birthday. I found them in two different booths, one made of a conch shell and another made of wood.
The local seafood restaurant was open for takeout and you could smell the fried fish in the distance along with the horrible singing by a guitarist who could not carry a note. Thank God he took a break in time for the Barnegat Light Fire Department to bring Mr. and Mrs. Claus to the Village for a visit to the local children.
Santa’s Viking Christmas Village at dusk at closing
After touring the Village, I made my way back down Long Beach Boulevard to the LBI Foundation of The Arts & Sciences Holiday Market 2021, which was mostly full of more expensive artwork and home decor products. It was not as festive as the Village Market and all our mask wearing steamed up everyone’s glasses which was a big complaint.
My next stop was the Long Beach Island Historical Society which sponsored an “Elves Workshop” for kids and their parents with all sorts of arts and crafts happening at twelve different tables lining the front room of the museum. There was cookie decorating and Christmas tree creation with beads and cloth and gingerbread house making. To end the evening, they had Smores and Marshmallows roasting over open firepits in the park across the street.
The Elves Workshop at the Long Beach Island Historical Society
The museum knows how to welcome in the holiday season.
The Christmas display at the front of the Long Beach Island Historical Society
After my visit to the Historical Society, I went down the road and revisited the NJ Maritime Museum 528 Dock Road right by the water. I had read so much at the shark attacks in New Jersey back in 1916 and wanted to see the exhibition again. I also wanted to see the exhibition on shipwrecks again so I spent the rest of the afternoon at the museum and then walking down to the harbor to watch the sun set. The sun sets on that island are amazing.
For dinner that night, I went back to the Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in the Beach Haven downtown. The food and the selection here is just excellent and the perfect place for comfort foods on a cool night. My waiter could not have been nicer and recommended the White Clam Chowder, which was so thick and rich and you could taste the cream and fresh clams in every bite. God the seafood was so sweet.
The Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven, NJ
For dinner, I started with the New England Clam Chowder and did it hit the spot. Loaded with clams and potatoes in a rich cream soup. It warmed me up inside. I ordered the Chicken Pot Pie for the entree, which was delicious as well. Chunks of chicken and fresh vegetables in a flaky crust and a rich gravy. On a cool night by the shore, there is nothing like it to warm you up. Talk about making the perfect choices for dinner.
After dinner on my visit in November of 2021 at the Chicken or the Egg, I finished dessert at The Woo Hoo and walked up through the downtown to see the last of the people roasting marshmallows in the park and walked to Kapler’s Pharmacy at 1 South Bay Street. The drug store was sponsoring horse drawn carriage rides around the neighborhood. I thought what a nice way to end the evening with a twilight view of the sun setting and watching the Christmas lights going on at houses around the neighborhood. The Jersey Shore at Christmas can really surprise you.
Kapler’s Pharmacy event at 1 South Bay Avenue in 2021
I thought it was a nice group of visits to get my mind off what is going on in the world. What’s better than the Jersey Shore in warm weather? Visiting at all times of the year in warm weather and then returning for the Christmas holiday events. Who says the Shore closes at Labor Day?
Later that day I found out that Michigan State beat Penn State 30-27. What a way to end the day on my November trip!
After a short trip down to my mom’s for her birthday and two Private Member Nights in New York City at The Met and the Museum of the City of New York (see blog below):
Day Two Hundred and Eight: Private Members Nights in NYC:
it was back to Rhinebeck, NY for the Sinterklaas Parade and Celebration on Saturday, December 4th. I swear I was running from one place to another the whole week but was looking forward to the parade that had been cancelled last year because of COVID.
I travelled back up to Rhinebeck again for the festivities and got there by 10:00am in time to help unload the truck at the Starr Library. That brought back a lot of memories from parades past and it was so nice to walk around the cool air of Upstate New York. What started off as a very gloomy morning cleared up and it ended up being a clear, sunny and mild day in Rhinebeck.
We unpacked the familiar floats and puppets from years past and put together the bees, owls, geese, knights and dragons, horses that would lead Sinterklaas down his route and Children’s puppets that had children hoping for better times ahead. I always enjoy the comradery of the morning of putting the puppets together for the parade. Our theme this year was “Miss Mouse and Mr. Toad get married” so our events were based on the two characters getting hitched.
(I wanted to thank volunteer Jonathan Green for these pictures)
Me (in the jacket and khakis at the set up for the ‘Sinterklaas Parade’ in Rhinebeck, NY
Setting up the puppets for the parade is interesting
All the latest puppets ready to enter the parade
Mr. Toad preparing for his marriage to Miss Mouse
Miss Mouse preparing for her marriage to Mr. Toad in the Sinterklaas Parade
The Dragon is preparing for his duel with the knights of the parade
The puppets were set up in record time and we were finished by 11:45am
After we were done with the puppets, I drove down to Downtown Rhinebeck and parked a few blocks away and walked over to Main Street and joined in the opening festivities at the Beekman Arms. The restaurant was already packed with customers when I got there and the banquet room was full of visitors at the Opening Ceremony.
I had already checked in to my hotel, so I did not have to come back to the hotel until later that evening. This time I stayed at the Marriott Poughkeepsie which was much closer to Rhinebeck than staying at the one in Fishkill. I have to say that both hotels were wonderful when I was visiting the area.
The Marriott Poughkeepsie at 2641 South Road/Route 9
The Opening Ceremony at the Beekman Arms is always a lot of fun. All the costumed characters are introduced like the Pocket Lady, Mother Holly (who is always feeling jolly), the Queen Bee and the Snow King and Queen. They also introduced the Mayor of Rhinebeck and his wife, who portrayed Mr. Toad and Miss Mouse and reconfirmed their wedding vows in real life in front of the whole crowd. I thought that was very touching and I told her this later when I ran into her at another event.
After the marriage ceremony and the traditional Polar Bear Dance, Jonathan Kruk, a well-known storyteller, told the story of Sinterklaas. Mr. Kruk is a wonderful speaker and knows how to tell a story. He always captivates a crowd. Even though I have heard the same stories for years, I still enjoy listening to him speak.
No one is better at storytelling then Jonathan Kruk at Sinterklaas
Because I said that I would help with the checking in with the volunteers for the parade, I had to be back to the library by 4:00pm so that only gave me about a little over two and a half hours this time to enjoy the festivities.
What was nice was the policy blocked off the Downtown area so that everyone could walk in the streets and watch the performers do their thing. There were bands on stilts performing rag time music and holiday classics, the Polar Bear danced around and greeted visits with a quick spin on the street and I visited the Toad Stool where Mr. Toad and Miss Mouse greeted each visitor with a bundle of ribbons so that you could give them to strangers for good luck. I had never heard of that tradition before but it was interesting to walk through a giant toadstool.
I also walked around the businesses that were open and admired the store window displays. It was as if each store was trying to outdo the other for creativity and beauty of the Christmas season. My favorite was Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street in Downtown Rhinebeck.
I watched the Grumpuses, Sinterklaas’s helpers do their traditional dance, singing groups entertain the outdoor crowds (Keeping COVID safe) and performers with sticks doing their routine. What I liked about Sinterklaas this year is that there were a lot of outdoor venues, so people were not cooped up inside wearing masks.
By 3:00pm I was starved and knowing that I would not be able to eat until way after the parade was over, I stopped at Pete’s Famous at 34 East Market Street. I love dining here and like their generous portions and the friendly service. I had my favorite Turkey Club sandwich with French Fries which is always good. They roast their own fresh turkey every day for their sandwiches.
The day started to fall into dusk and the whole town was being lit up. This is when Rhinebeck shows its true beauty as a Christmas village. All the trees in the Downtown are lit with white lights and adorned with paintings of the Sinterklaas Festival and ribbons. Also, all the stores light their windows and it makes the whole town look like a Currier & Ives woodprint.
Downtown Rhinebeck at dusk
Downtown Rhinebeck at night when its magic comes to life
I got back to the library at 4:00pm and assisted the staff in getting everyone ready for the parade, explaining how to work the puppets and hold them and making sure that everyone knew to listen to the marshals who were running the parade when it started.
It had been two years since we had a parade but it felt like time had not even passed by. I love to watch the parade come to life. As everyone lines up, the lights go on at each puppet and the bands get into high gear. Then there is the excitement of walking down the hill into Downtown Rhinebeck to the adoring crowds of the parade.
The crowds have tripled in the decade that I have been volunteering for the parade. The first time that I volunteered it was in 2010 with my father on my first trip up to Rhinebeck since being at the Culinary Institute and then I started volunteering again in 2014 when I started working on the Halloween Parade in the City. Just like that parade, excitement builds as the parade starts.
Walking down that hill is an amazing thing as people get so excited to see the floats and hear the music especially at this time with COVID raging on. Things seemed more festive as this is an outdoor event and it was two weeks before the omicron outbreak raged the country. It was a night of revelry and welcoming in the holiday season.
Sinterklaas is a magically evening in Downtown Rhinebeck
Opening Ceremonies at The Beekman Arms
Because the positions in the parade and the puppets were all filling myself and the other person, I worked with on checking people in took the “Follow the Banner in the Parade” banner down the hill to get everyone to the staging area for the conclusion of the parade. We were right behind the drumline of women who concluded the parade and whipped spectators into a dancing frenzy. I watched as people literally danced in the streets happy to be outside enjoying this evening. It was so nice to see families have such a good time.
This wonderful view of the parade that was posted online of ‘Sinterklaas 2021’
The parade ended in the community parking lot with all the characters are introduced and the well wishes to Sinterklaas and his entourage. There was music and the fire eaters showing their talents off to the large crowd who were looking towards a much happier holiday season. It was just nice to see everyone having a festive evening.
After the ceremony was over, I just walked around Downtown Rhinebeck, admiring the beautifully decorated windows and admiring the white lights adorning the trees. I love this downtown at Christmas.
The Downtown Rhinebeck Christmas Tree near the Community parking lot.
I stopped at Village Pizza for dinner and it was nice to just warm up. God is their pizza delicious.
After dinner, it was another quiet walk around downtown Rhinebeck to admire the lights and the window displays. I love walking around this town.
Downtown Rhinebeck before dusk
Downtown Rhinebeck’s merchants go all out for the holidays
The next morning, I was off early to join some of the other members of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association for a modified Christmas hello to all our retired firefighters living in the NJ State Firemen’s Association.
Since our party was cancelled for the residents due to COVID, we gave our gift to the residents the week before (we got each resident a long-sleeved shirt that was monogramed with their name on it which I heard they all loved) and we also had a special Jersey Mike’s lunch for the residents the month before to ring in the holiday season.
Because of COVID regulations, we could only have a few members come but myself and the President of the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association talked with our fellow firefighters during ‘Holiday Bingo’ or walked around to greet them and wish them a ‘Merry Christmas’.
Santa greeting guests at the NJ Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ in 2019 in better times
It was just for a short time that we were allowed to stay but the members of the home appreciated it. We wanted to let our fellow firefighters know that we did not forget them during the holidays.
Members of the NJ State Firemen’s Home enjoying the Jersey Mike’s dinner we sponsored
Classes took up most of next week for me as we prepared for my Introduction to Business class to make their big presentation to me for their final grade. So, I was running around most of the week working with both my online class and my live class as we were getting ready for final exams.
On Thursday, December 9th, I took a break from all of my grading and went to see the production of “A Christmas Pudding” at Bergen Community College where I work. The students were putting on a Christmas retrospect of songs and readings which was a very nice performance.
The Theater students sang many traditional and contemporary songs from the American songbook with one student singing a very emotional version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis”. Considering everything that was going on with COVID, I thought it was very touching. The students did a good job with the production and it really put me into the Christmas spirit.
The Play “A Christmas Pudding” at Ciccone Theater at Bergen Community College on December 9th
Another thing that put me into the Christmas spirit was all the new songs coming out this year. Did we need some Christmas cheer this year! I wanted to share two of my favorites that came to me via YouTube.
These two songs appeared on the Internet when I was writing this blog and I thought they were very symbolic of what is going on right now during the holidays as we try to resume to a new normal. I wanted to share them with all of you.
John Legend’s new Christmas song: “You Deserve it All”
Nora Jones new Christmas song: “Christmas Calling”
Kohmi Hirose did this great version of “Sleigh Ride” in English
On December 10th, my students presented their Class Group Project entitled “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022” and the students did a terrific job with the project.
The students logo to “I’ve got a Golden Ticket to Bergen Community College-Homecoming 2022”.
Here is the presentation with all the commercials:
Day Two Hundred and Nine on my “MywalkinManhattan.com” blog:
This “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory themed project was inspired by the 50th Anniversary of the film. I had the students watch the film for inspiration and ideas, then put the framework for the project together and they took it from there.
There is a message from me their CEO as well:
A welcome from CEO/Co-Founder of Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc.
I could not have been prouder of my students both in my live class and in my online class who created the individual Class Project, “Market Street Candy & Confections”, reopening a 100-year-old candy store with a modern twist.
Here is the project with all the graphics that the students created:
Day Two Hundred and Ten on “MywalkinManhattan.com”:
With the major class projects over with, I prepared the students final exams and emailed off my online students their exam first. While they came in, I was able to grade along the way. Taking a break from that over the weekend, I visited Hope, NJ for a Lantern Walking Tour of the town and then a Candlelight Church Service at the Methodist church.
The Hope Annual Moravian Christmas Tour and Church service in Hope, NJ
I discovered this tour when I was traveling out to the Delaware Water Gap when I was updating my blog on “Visiting Budd Lake” and I stopped in Hope before heading to Blairstown, where I had wanted to visit the Blairstown Museum at the end of the day (it had closed by then). I saw this flyer when one of the shopkeepers in town handed it to me and I thought it would be an interesting event. What an eye opener!
I never heard of the history of the Moravian religion before and how they founded the town. We toured all the former factories and homes that had been built around the turn of the last century and then heard actors talk about that time during Christmas. Life just seemed slower then.
This is also where the opening scenes of the cult film “Friday the 13th” were shot. The initial scene where Annie arrives in Crystal Lake for her journey to the camp. I included the clip from the opening scene and the what the current locations look like now.
“Friday the 13th” from 1980 filmed in Hope, NJ
The famous opening scene from the film “Friday the 13th”
The inside of the Hope Junction Antiques with one of kind artwork and antiques.
This unique store carries an array of local and regional artists work, the owner’s personal art pieces and a selection of decorative items and antique pieces. It had an interesting selection of holiday items when I visited the town both on my journey through Budd Lake and Route 46 and when I took the walking tour on December 11th. The store was open still right before the tour.
Burgdorff Realty at 2 Walnut Street where Annie enters the truck
The cemetery is the ‘crossroads’ but is actually right down the block from the antique store and the realty company. This is now part of the St. John’s Methodist Church. This is where the Candlelight Services were held.
But I was not there for a movie tour but a cheerful Christmas tour of Moravian history. I met my tour group at the Hope Community Center which was beautifully decorated for Christmas. Before the tour started, the Hope Historical Society who was running the tour was selling food and Christmas items as a fundraiser. We started the Lantern Tour from this location.
The Hope Community Center at 5 Walnut Street decorated for Christmas
When we finished visiting some of the old factories, we visited ‘Trout Alley’, where people used to travel to get around the toll booth when they arrived in Hope. The path is now used to get to the antique store at the end of the path.
The Hope Historical Society was the sponsor of this program and was open the evening of the tour. We got to walk inside and look at old pictures of the town, old maps and artifacts that have been donated over the years by local residents that are part of the history of the town. The small one room building also houses vintage furniture and household and dress items. Please look at my blog at VisitingaMuseum.com above.
Looking down the street from Downtown Hope, NJ to the Inn at Millrace Pond where the Festival of Trees was located.
The house on High Street where we heard about Moravian Christmas traditions
Costumed characters sat on the porch that evening and reminisced about life at the turn of the last century as they prepared for the Christmas holidays. They talked about the hours needed to prepare the decorations and food for the legions of relatives and friends that would be visiting.
It was more spectacular at dusk when it was lit for Christmas
The First Hope Bank and Moravian homes that are now private residences
The bank was called the Gemeinhaus, which was the church/community center of the village. It was built in 1781. The house next door which is part of the bank is the Caleb Swayze House that was built in 1832.
Moravian Residences by the bank
The Caleb Swayze is the house towards the right and it was built in 1832. It is now part of the bank.
The homes and the current bank at dusk lit for Christmas
The Toy Chest Toy Store at 335 High Street a former Moravian home
I have been to the Toy Chest Toy Store many times on my journey to Hope, NJ and it has the most amazing selection of toys, games and collectibles in the area.
Moravian home where the Manger program was performed and after it was over, we visited many local homes of prominent residents from the area. To end the tour, we visited the back of someone’s garage where there was a live nativity scene performed that evening with actors reading from the Bible.
This interesting little barn/garage is across from the church and I thought looked quite festive
St. John’s Methodist Church at 354 High Street and the former Moravian Church where the Candlelight services were held. The service is posted on their Facebook page below.
I attended the Candlelight Christmas services at St. John’s Methodist Church which had once served as the Moravian Church and the service was followed as it would have been at the turn of the last century. The visiting priest had once been head of the church here and gave a very inspirational talk on the holidays that was followed by the lights being dimmed and caroling by candlelight which gave the whole church an interesting glow (you can see the whole service on the church’s Facebook page attached).
Afterwards I took one last walk around Hope to admire all the lights and decorations. After a quick slice of pizza at Hope Pizzeria at 435 Hope Blairstown Road, I was on my way home through the darkness. It really does get dark on these back roads until you hit Route 80. The little pizzeria is tucked into a small strip mall on the side of the road and has great pizza. It really was a festive and interesting evening.
Hope Pizza and Catering at 435 Hope Blairstown Road
For my Christmas present to myself every year, I go to Carnegie Hall for the NY Pops Christmas Concert but it ended up being on the night of my final exam and there was no way to cancel it, so I had to miss it again this year (COVID cancelled it last year).
When I visited the City the Sunday before for the “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, I walked back to Port Authority through Lincoln Center and I wanted to see what was going on this Holiday season and I saw that Kristin Chenoweth was performing a one woman show to promote her new Christmas album that Monday night. I was on the Internet that night to see if there were tickets left for the show.
The “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History at Central Park West at 79th Street
The next night I had tickets in hand and off I went to Lincoln Center which I had not been to in two years since I had seen “Whipped Cream” in December of 2019 for the holidays. It was so nice be dressed up and going to the Met again. The theater was packed with people with the same idea. The City was ablaze with Christmas colors and lights.
Lincoln Center in all its glory at Lincoln Center Plaza
What a concert! Talk about being in sync with the holidays and just what the doctor ordered after a long semester. I needed a good concert and this really put me into the holiday spirit. Ms. Chenoweth was really in great spirits that night and brought the house down with these two songs from her album plus playing from Broadway shows and the Great American Songbook. It was a great Christmas concert and I left humming down Eighth Avenue.
This song opened the show at the Metropolitan Opera House on December 13th, 2021
I was starved when I left for the theater since I was in a rush to get into the City that afternoon with enough time to make the concert and still grade quizzes that were coming in from my online class at the Cornell Club.
I had a sudden craving for Linguini in White Clam Sauce so off I went to Amore Pizza Cafe at 370 West 58th Street which I had visited over the summer. I ordered their Linguini in White Clam sauce which ended up being a piping hot almost pound of pasta with a quarter pound of clams on top ($10.95) with a Coke. Talk about excellent and the perfect dinner on a cool night. The sauce was so flavorful and the clams were so sweet and fresh. I ate contently and the manager was so happy when I told her the food was excellent. Talk about an end to a wonderful evening.
The Linguini with White Clam Sauce was just superb that night at Amore Pizza Cafe
For the rest of the week, I had visited the Met and the Museum of the City of New York for private events and while seeing the new “Shark” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, I went to see the “Origami Tree”, that has been a staple of the museum for years. All of these events really put me in the Christmas spirit and put the ghosts of last Christmas behind me. It was not too last.
The Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History
I wanted to visit the Hudson River Valley again before the holiday season was over and I saw on the Dutchess County Tourism site that Mount Gulian, a mansion near Beacon, NY was being decorated for the holidays and December 15th was the first day it would be open for touring.
I grabbed my aunt and we decided to spend the day visiting decorated homes and towns for the Christmas season. Our first stop was Beacon, NY to visit some of the stores on my website, LittleShoponMainStreet@wordpress.com, Colorant and Flora a Good Time both located in the downtown area and then off to Mount Gulian, a decorated mansion up Route 9.
Downtown Beacon, NY at Christmas
Mount Gulian was the home of the Verplanck’s for generations, the original house burned to the ground in 1938 and this house is a replica of the original sitting on the original home’s foundation. The house is decorated in many of the Verplanck’s family heirlooms donated by branches of the family over the years.
The main rooms on the first floor of the home including the former living room, dining room, sitting room and library were all decorated for the Victorian Christmas holidays. The hallways and doorways were also adorned with garland and bows and lights giving a festive and warm appearance to the house.
The tour took about an hour (see my blog on VisitingaMuseum.com) and the history of the house was discussed at various times and how family members called it home. Our tour guide also gave us interesting facts on the family and their connection with the house today. It is so nice to hear that various members of the Verplanck family still take an interest in the home.
Mount Gulian’s Dining Room decorated for Christmas Dinner
The sitting room at Mount Gulian
After the tour was over, the tour guide invited us to enjoy refreshments of hot cider and home baked goodies. Since there were only three of us on our tour, it gave us a chance to discuss the history of the families in the Hudson River Valley, the status of these famous homes and the future of historic sites of the region. It was really an engaging and interesting afternoon and the tour guide could not have been nicer. The whole event really represented what the Christmas experience is in the Hudson River Valley.
Between the Sinterklaas Parade in the beginning of the month, visiting the decorated homes of the region and walking the festive downtowns of the area giving them a “Currier & Ives” look about them. Dutchess, Ulster, Greene and Columbia counties really know how to convey the holiday spirit.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
Our next stop was visiting Rhinebeck, NY which we arrived before dusk. The town was just lighting the trees and all the storefront windows were beautifully decorated for the holidays as they were on the night of the Sinterklaas Parade. The only town I know that can compete with Rhinebeck for the title of ‘Christmas Village’ is Cape May, NJ.
Rhinebeck has a magical look at nightfall
Samuel’s Sweet Shop at 42 East Market Street gets into that spirit every year
I love the way they merchandise the store for the holidays and their prices are very fair on their candies and desserts. You have to try their doughnuts.
The delicious candies and baked goods at Samuel’s Sweet Shop
Our next stop after leaving Rhinebeck was downtown Red Hook, NY which to me represents the best in small towns in the Hudson River Valley with excellent reasonable restaurants, creative store owners and a blend of old and new in architecture. Plus, everyone is so friendly when you shop and dine there.
Downtown Red Hook, NY at Christmas
I have written about my many trips to Red Hook in my blog “MywalkinManhattan.com” and discussed visiting the downtown and its proprietors.
The Red Hook town Christmas tree is such a great addition to the downtown and it more amazing at night as is the rest of the town when it is lit. When it gets dark in town, Red Hook gets that classic Americana feel to it.
Downtown Red Hook’s Christmas Tree
Downtown Red Hook, NY at dusk is so beautiful
After the walk around Red Hook (most of the stores closed early that night), my aunt and I crossed the Kingston Bridge and visited the ‘Stockade District”, the historical and shopping district of Downtown Kingston, to see how the town prepared itself for the holidays. It really was beautiful even with the light rain.
Downtown Kingston, NY at Christmas
The businesses had garland and beautiful white lights adorning them and the windows were very festive as in the other towns. Large snowflakes decorated the main streets which were lit brilliantly.
Downtown Kingston, NY Christmas tree
The Kingston, NY Christmas tree is right in the middle of the downtown shopping district and gives off such a holiday vibe. It is also so beautifully decorated. It really brightens up this stretch of the street.
Our last stop that evening was visiting Woodstock, NY, where I had spent three wonderful Christmases and is a place that I highly recommend spending the holidays. The Christmas Parade every year is so festive and well organized. The town is also so nicely decorated for Christmas and the square always has the most unconventional Christmas tree. They are usually oddly shaped and decorated and that’s their charm.
By the time we got to town that evening, all the stores were closed for the night and we dined for our early Christmas dinner at Shindig at 1 Tinker Street.
The love the Christmas tree in Downtown Woodstock, NY. It always looks so unusual.
Downtown Woodstock, NY square and Christmas tree
My visits to Woodstock, NY during Christmas meant a lot to me and I always loved going to the town’s Christmas Parade on Christmas Eve night. Santa always makes such interesting entrances.
Shindig has the best hamburgers and some of the most delicious mac & cheese. Talk about great comfort food on a cool misty night in the Catskills. We were the last customers to dine there that night, so they did not rush us as they were cleaning up for the night. Don’t miss their Cowboy burger. I highly recommend it.
Shindig at 1 Tinker Street in Woodstock, NY (Closed June 2022)
We had such a wonderful time visiting all the towns with their Christmas decorations and beautiful window displays. The Hudson River Valley is a wonderful place to get into the Christmas spirit. Who knew with all this Christmas cheer that all hell would break loose two days later.
Thank God I did all these events when I did because by Friday, December 17th, the night of my final exam, there was panic all over the country with the spread of a new variant of COVID, Omicron. All of a sudden, this new variant from South Africa started to move like wildfire all over the country and New York City was inundated by it.
I had to stay home all weekend and grade final exams because grades had to be posted by Tuesday. All I heard on the Internet and on TV was the rapid spread and the almost panic mode that everyone went into. I hauled up in the house and concentrated on school and getting the students emailed with their grades so that they could relax and enjoy their Christmas break.
I posted all my grades by Monday night and had to drop off all the paperwork on Tuesday at the college. I was just glad that they had not cancelled classes on Friday night when I was giving my exam. That would have been too much on me scrambling to get the exams done. Since I was the only one teaching on a Friday night, I was hoping they just forgot about me and the class would just happen which it did. Thank God!
Tuesday afternoon, we had a sparsely attended Faculty Party which I thought was very nice considering what was going on all over the country. We kept our masks on while we were walking around the room and enjoyed a lot of finger foods made by our Culinary Department and soft drinks. It was nice to just talk to people through our masks and catch up with people I had not seen all semester.
On the Sunday, December 19th, the Sunday before Christmas, the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department held its Annual “Santa Around Town”, one of the highlights of the holiday season for both the town and the department. Last year because of COVID rules, we could only drive down each street slowly waving at residents.
This year we were able to go back to making stops and greeting each resident and taking pictures with children and their families. Even a family dog decked out in its Christmas jacket joined in the fun. It was nice to see people outside and engaging with their neighbors.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s ‘Annual Santa Around Town’
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department’s “Santa Around Town” 2021
By Monday, December 20th, it seemed that the whole country was going crazy with the new COVID variant. Flights were being cancelled, people were putting get togethers on hold and families were abandoning their plans for the holidays. Our family seemed fine until one by one, things kept happening the whole week and everything was derailed by Christmas Eve.
First my brother’s flight was cancelled and he could not get another flight until late Christmas Day so he nixed coming to Delaware for Christmas. Then a family member got sick so my mother cancelled all Christmas plans including our family dinner. She did not want anyone at the house who was not vaccinated. This derailed the plans even more as family members and friends were not vaccinated so no one was going to visit her house that day.
So when my mother called me to tell me that everything was being cancelled, I immediately looked into going back to Woodstock, NY where I had spent many happy Christmases. These plans were abandoned when my other brother’s flight was fine and he was coming for Christmas and he did not want to spend it alone in Rehoboth Beach.
So, I changed my plans again and booked a room at the Chalfonte Hotel’s Southern Quarters and Thank God was able to book the last room at the resort. The main hotel was closed for the season but the Southern Quarters is the small B & B concept they have next door, which serves guests all throughout the winter months (the main hotel will not reopen until May).
This was the weird part about the eve before Christmas Eve, it snowed overnight which it was not in the forecast and it looked like we would have a white Christmas. Since it was supposed to rain all day on Christmas, I looked at the weather and thought ‘great having to walk around with wet weather on Christmas’ but like the rest of the holiday season, Christmas Day brought its own surprises. After paying my respects at the cemeteries, it was off to Cape May to start the holidays.
My Christmas Eve was spent as it had three years earlier, going to dinner at the Boiler Room at The Congress Hotel for dinner. I love their coal-burning oven pizzas and their fresh salads. The dinner was really amazing and the restaurant was pretty busy all things considered. I guess some people were not going to be spooked by everything going on around us, myself included. I figured I was fully vaccinated and if I wore my mask every place, I needed to I would be fine.
The Boiler Room Pizzeria at The Congress Hotel in Cape May, NJ at 200 Congress Place
I had the most wonderful dinner. I started with a Mixed Green salad with Balsamic dressing and chopped strawberries which had the most complex flavor with the sweetness of the strawberries playing off the Balsamic vinegar. The greens were so fresh that they crunched when I bit into them. For the entree, I had the Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza with fresh mozzarella. Talk about a crisp pizza and the sauce could not have been more delicious with the fresh tomatoes and olive oil.
After dinner was over, I walked all over The Congress Hotel which is always so beautifully decorated for the Christmas holidays. The halls are lined with white lights and garlands and a fire roaring in the fireplace in the main hall. Outside on the lawn, there a colorfully decorated tree and decorated tables with pool heaters for people to sit under.
Seeing the casual and engaging conversations the other guests were having you would have never known that there was a major outbreak going on. Most people walking around the hotel were not even wearing masks.
After walking through the grounds and through all the gift shops to see what was for sale (their gift shops are really nice and they have an interesting bakery), I walked the Washington Mall which serves as the Cape May downtown. All the stores were closed by this point but I got to admire all the beautiful window displays and the white lights adorning the trees. The only town that can rival Cape May at Christmas is Rhinebeck, NY. Both have that Christmas feel to them.
The Gazebo in Downtown Cape May
After my walk around Downtown Cape May, I went to 9:00pm Christmas Eve mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Downtown Cape May at 525 Washington Street. I needed some spiritual guidance at this time of the year as well as the rest of the congregation did as well. What really surprise me again was that 95% of the parishioners did not wear masks. I guess people in Cape May thought they were away from the danger (I wore mine through the whole service, hey you never know).
Our Lady Star of the Sea Church at 525 Washington Street in Cape May, NJ
It was a beautiful service with the choir singing and a very inspirational Christmas talk from the priest. The service could not have been more perfect and the church was so beautifully decorated with Christmas trees with white lights and poinsettias all over the place. Very secular but still in the spirit of the holidays.
Christmas services at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church
The next morning, I had to be on the Cape May ferry at 10:15am and there was literally nothing open for breakfast without going to one of the hotels and there was no time for that. There was no food service at the ferry and the woman at the ferry was unsure if food was going to be available on the boat (it was we both found out later), so I left the ferry and had to go to the local WaWa around the corner at 3719 Bayshore Road.
If there was ever a meeting place on Christmas Day that everyone congregated at it was the local Wawa. The place was mobbed with people socializing with one another and wishing everyone else a Merry Christmas. You would have thought I was at City Hall or a Town Square. Everyone knew everyone else in the store and they were all ordering their breakfasts, getting coffee or their takeout orders or filling up on gas for a trip somewhere. I felt like I was in Mayberry.
The surprising part was I ordered a Bacon, Egg and Cheese omelet on a fresh hoagie and it was really good! I was amazed. The All-Berry Smoothie that I ordered with it was also terrific. I was blown away on my Christmas breakfast which I ate on the back of my car since there was no place to sit down.
After breakfast, I noticed the gloomy morning was starting to clear up and by the time the ferry left Cape May for Lewes, DE, it was becoming sunny and bright. When we got to Lewis by noon, it was sunny, clear and going up into the 60’s. It ended up being 65 degrees and sunny the whole day. God answered my prayers for a warm Christmas!
By the time I got off the ferry at noon in Lewes, De, it was a bright sunny and warm day. This is when the forecasters predicted rain all day. The entire afternoon was in the high 60’s, sunny and clear. It was the perfect day to be at the shore.
After dropping some presents off at my mom’s and wishing her a Merry Christmas, my brother, niece, my brother’s girlfriend and I went to Dos Locos in Downtown Rehoboth Beach for Christmas lunch. Unusual choice but it was the only place open. I had the most delicious Shrimp Quesadilla for lunch and that was more than enough after the big breakfast I had two hours earlier.
Before we left the restaurant, we took a memorable group shot in front of their Christmas tree. As we were leaving, I was amazed by how many people had the same idea we had and the restaurant really started to fill up.
My family at Dos Locos for our Christmas Dinner
To work off lunch (and my earlier breakfast), we walked all over the boardwalk that afternoon. Being such a nice day, again everyone had the same idea and we were wishing other families a “Merry Christmas” as they walked on the beach and walked their dogs around the downtown area. It was also ideal to go window shopping. By 3:30pm, it had reached almost 67 degrees and we walked along the beach and watched as one brave soul took a Christmas swim in the ocean. I know it was warm but it was not that warm outside.
My family by Santa’s House on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk
We took a lot of family shots around the Rehoboth beach Christmas Tree and at Santa’s House. He had left for the North Pole, so he was not around at this point. Still, everyone on the boardwalk was taking pictures by the tree.
My brother and I by the Christmas tree in Downtown Rehoboth
My brother and I in the bandstand in Downtown Rehoboth Beach
Me at the holiday displays in the Bandstand in Rehoboth Beach
The Manger at the bandstand in Rehoboth Beach with Santa’s House in the background
It started to get dark by 5:45pm at that point (the days are starting to get longer) and we headed back to my brother’s hotel as they prepared for dinner and I had to head back to the ferry to go back to Cape May.
I was surprised on how well Christmas had turned out. For a day that started off as the original ‘Clusterfuck’, it is amazing how plans change and the day can still turn out to be pretty good. I got on the 7:45pm ferry back to Cape May and we were in by 9:00pm. Again, not much was open on Christmas Day for dinner and I refused to have dinner at WaWa.
When I got back into town, the only two restaurants were the Chinese restaurant in the mall but they were closing for the night. So, I went to the Ugly Mug at 426 Washington Street in the Washington Mall for a snack. It was the only place open besides going back to Congress Hall.
Talk about crowded for a Christmas night! All the locals either had tired from their families, tourists need to get out of their hotels or people had just gotten off their shifts from work, people lined the bar having a good time eating, drinking and laughing. The Christmas games were going on and the bar was in full swing.
With only five minutes left to order, the manager of the restaurant who was eating right next to me was eating a cheesesteak and highly recommended it. So, it was a cheesesteak and a Coke for me on Christmas night. It was nice to sit back and talk with the other patrons and bartenders in a relaxed environment.
The Cheesesteaks at The Ugly Mug are fantastic. Just like Philly!
I spent the rest of Christmas night walking along the shore, listening to the waves hoping to get a glimpse of Santa on his way back to the North Pole. For the craziest Christmas Day with twists and turns, it ended up being a really great day. Not at all what we had planned but sometimes things work out for a reason. I ended up getting the best night’s sleep.
The day after Christmas my plans changed when a friend of mine who came into town changed the plans again and I decided to go to the theater at the Cape May Stage at 405 Layfette Street. I saw the final show of the season “Adopt a Sailor: The Holiday Edition”, which was performed by the Theater Director and his wife who are professional actors.
The Cape May Stage: Adopt a Sailor: The Holiday Edition
It was a clever story about a Manhattan couple that ‘adopt’ a sailor from the deep south for Christmas Eve. I thought it was a bit predictable with the stereotype of the uptight Upper West Side couple and the ‘naive’ sailor from the South but it ended up being a very bittersweet story about the couple looking within on their own relationship with this sailor shipping out on Christmas to a dangerous part of the world. It made them think about how small their own problems were and what Christmas was all about.
After the show was over, I decided to spend my last night in Cape May watching the sunset at Sunset Beach in West Cape May at 502 Sunset Boulevard. If you ever want to see the most spectacular sunset in the world and I have literally seen them all over the world, this is the most fantastic location to see the sunset over the Delaware Bay.
I stayed until after 5:00pm to watch the sun dip below the bay in most spectacular fashion. It really does amaze the way it slowly disappears into the bay and then the whole sky is a brilliant variety of colors. People were literally applauding the sun setting. I left Cape May for home after this.
You have to see the sun set at Sunset Beach at least once
In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I spent the night in the City before the Ball dropped museum hopping between the Met and the MoMA trying to see the current exhibitions before they closed and taking the long ride up to Inwood to see the Cloisters decorated for Christmas and the current exhibition “Spain: 1000-1200” and taking a second look at the Christmas decorations all over the City.
I wanted to explore the neighborhood for changes since COVID and my last trip to the area since the summer, so I walked from The Cloisters to West 155th stopping for lunch and visiting stores and bakeries that I had written about in the past.
I stopped for lunch at the New Golden Star Chinese Restaurant at 4247 Broadway, a restaurant that I had passed many times on my walks down Broadway and had wanted to try. The food is excellent and the service could not have been nicer. I had a Chicken with Broccoli ($11.95) with Hot & Sour Soup and an eggroll.
New Golden Star Chinese Restaurant at 4247 Broadway
The Chicken with Broccoli was delicious and the sauce with a combination of Hunan and Soy really made the dish. The Hot & Sour Soup was one of the best I have had recently. The chili peppers added some kick to the soup and it was loaded with vegetables and sliced pork. The service could not have been nicer.
After lunch, I continued my walk down Broadway. I had originally planned had planned to go the Met on Fifth Avenue but it was too late for that and then I decided to walk down Broadway but by the time I got to West 155th Street near the cemetery I was pooped. I needed something sweet, so I stopped at one of my favorite bakeries uptown Five Star Estrella Bakery at 3861 Broadway for a snack.
I had the most amazing Vanilla and Strawberry Iced Doughnut ($2.00) and between the sweet thick icing on top and the rich dough, every bite was heaven. I was reenergized but my feet were beginning to kill me. I stopped at Ilka Tanya Payan Park and sat down to finish my doughnut and relax.
I just admired the Christmas tree in the park for a bit before taking the subway back to midtown. I never knew that the park was named after the actress and activist, Ilka Tanya Payan. I thought it was nice of community to set such a beautiful tree up for the holidays and it was nicely decorated. I was finished for the day.
Ilka Tanya Payan Park at Edward Morgan Place & Broadway
New Year’s Eve this year was a quiet evening at home watching the ball drop on TV. There was no way I was going back to the City with those crowds in that cold. Thank God that 2021 is now over and hopefully better days ahead!
This was not the Christmas I planned but things took so many twists and turns that I just went with the flow. This is why I am fully vaccinated. Life needs to go on as normal in these unnormal times.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
My three favorite Christmas songs: These are the songs that I wait to hear on the radio.
The Ronette’s: Sleigh Ride:
Ray Parker Jr.: Christmas Time is Here
The Waitresses: Christmas Wrapping
I also thought these Christmas songs in Chinese were interesting when I found them on YouTube:
I find it intriguing how other countries see Christmas and interpret it.
Old Hook Farm Farmhouse Homestead at 650 Old Hook Road
One of the nice things about Bergen County, NJ is the small farms that remain in the area showcasing our Counties agricultural past. There are only about six left and located mostly up in the upper parts of Bergen County where the bulk of the farms were located up until the 1980’s. Land prices and development have made some disappear and with others a lack of an heir to continue the tradition on going forward.
The entrance to Old Hook Farm
The Old Hook Farm is a throwback to a combination of the old-fashioned General Store and Farm Stand that used to dot small towns in Bergen County. The outside of the store has a greenhouse full of decorative plants for both the house and for the gardens. In the Holiday months, the greenhouse is filled with hot house flowers for the holidays and outside there are Christmas trees, wreaths and other holiday decorations for sale. When it snows, it looks like a picture out of Currier & Ives.
The flowers and decorative products of the greenhouse
During the Fall months, the farm was ablaze with colors in the background while the front of the greenhouse was filled with gourds, pumpkins and corns of different colors. There were all sorts of Halloween related merchandise for decorating the inside and outside of the house.
Blogger Justin Watrel in front of the Fall display of products at Old Hook Farm
The inside of the Farmers Market has all sorts of fresh produce with seasonal fruits and vegetables, freshly baked pies, cakes and scones and loaves of bread from a local vendor.
The fresh produce is beautifully displayed in the inside of the market
The old fashioned feel of Old Hook Farm
There are candies from Conrad’s in Westwood, NJ (see blog on that store on this site), milk from a local dairy farm with no artificial ingredients, gluten free products and a lot of non-GMO grocery products and all natural snacks. There is an array of grocery items that are good for you.
The refrigerated cases are filled with all natural dairy products like ice cream, eggs and milk
There are natural cleaners for the home and cleaning supplies that are good for the environment. There is a small section of cosmetic and home products that are all natural.
The Old Hook Farm is a place of sights and smells and the beauty of the seasons in the trees and woods that surround the picturesque acreage. It is also a nice place to stock up on gifts and farm products for any social visit. It is special place especially during the holiday seasons.
History of the Old Hook Farm:
(From the Farm’s website)
The town of Emerson did not exist during the Native American origin. The name ‘Old Hook’ on the east side of the town came from the Dutch word ‘Hoek’ meaning ‘angle’ or ‘corner’. The angle of the land was created by the three connecting water ways, the Hackensack River, the Pascack Brook and the Musquapsink Brook. The first person to make their home here was William Rutan, who settled on a parcel of land just west of today’s ‘Old Hook Farm’ sometime around 1748 (Emerson Town History).
The fields behind the farm stand
The current ‘Old Hook Farm’ was bought by current owner, Bruce Marek’s grandfather in 1925 as a weekend getaway. He rented the farm and the farm house to a local resident for 35 years and the family had a large garden on the property until about 1948. Then his father took over the land and cleared the fields and had Soil Conservation come in and do contours and started to grow in the greenhouse. When his father died in 1973, he took over the farm and within eight years, reopened the garden store and started to experiment and grow organic crops (Bruce Marek’s interview with ‘Bergen Save the Watershed Action Network’).
I have been coming to Hot Dog Johnny’s since 1975 when I made my first trip to the Delaware Water Gap with my family. My father always enjoyed taking the back roads and he remembered this hot dog stand that sold buttermilk with their hot dogs.
Hot Dog Johnny’s at 333 Route 46 West in Buttzville, NJ
Hot Dog Johnny’s has kept the same limited menu since it was founded in the 1940’s, hot dogs, fries and drinks. It has been CASH ONLY all this time as well so don’t come with the fancy credit cards and they post that they are cash only right when you order.
The sign is famous on its own
You place your order at the take-out window and there are picnic tables just outside the building and down by the tributary of the Pequest River. The views of the river and the surrounding mountains are breathtaking and on a nice day, it is a pleasure to eat outside on the picnic tables by the water. You could not ask for better views in the Spring and Fall.
The food is really good and very reasonable. The hot dogs are deep fried and they are served on soft buns with a limited number of toppings: mustard, ketchup, pickles and onions ($2.25). There is no chili or items like that to top them. They have a nice snap to them when you bite into hot dog.
The French Fries I believe are freshly cut and deep fried to perfection. They are always hot, crisp and golden brown ($1.80). They are lightly salted and you can get packs of ketchup for them (due to COVID).
There is a limited number of beverages including Buttermilk, Birch Beer, Coke, Diet Coke, and Lemon/Lime Soda. The small drinks are $1.00 with larger sizes available.
The whole meal cost me $5.72 for a hot dog with mustard and a pickle, French Fries and a small ice-cold Birch Beer (the meal I have always ordered here). It is a good deal to me.
I love the food here.
The History of Hot Dog Johnny’s:
(From their website)
Across the nation the words “Hot Dog Johnny’s” trigger visions of a nostalgic roadside stand known as much for its food as for its atmosphere. With the Pequest River flowing in the background, Hot Dog Johnny’s is a landmark to anyone having traveled Route 46 through Buttzville, NJ.
Family owned and operated since 1944, John Kovalsky founded Hot Dog Johnny’s thus earning himself the new nickname. John and his wife, Louise, ran Hot Dog Johnny’s in its early days from a small modest stand to its current state as a sixties independent roadside stand.
Although both John and Louise have passed on, their legacy lives on. A very hard working man, who believed the only way to make an honest living was to work hard for it, stood behind his words as he worked in the Dover mines in the day and the Hot Dog stand at night. He strongly believed anything was possible with the right kind of support which he always credited his wife Louise with.
Hot Dog Johnny’s opened its doors on Palm Sunday, 1944 sharing space with a gas station at the intersection of Route 46 and 31 in Warren County, NJ. It was not long before John Kovalsky knew he outgrew the space he occupied thus leading him to buy land along the Pequest River on Route 46 not far from the original location. A man with great vision, he built a hot dog stand not only to provide the best food services possible but also to provide an atmosphere for families to meet and enjoy for years to come.
The testimonies of customers over the years prove Hot Dog Johnny’s visions were on target as they tell stories of coming to the stand as kids with their parents and now come as parents themselves with their own children. It’s a meeting place for family and friends, a fun place for kids to ride on the swings and whether you’re having your meal at the tables on the patio or on the grass by the river one thing is for sure, your experience at Hot Dog Johnny’s will be a memorable on for years to come.
The original stand is still displayed with pride on the grounds of the present Hot Dog Johnny’s property.
Hot Dog Johnny’s original stand that is located to the back of the parking lot
The business is currently being operated by Hot Dog Johnny’s daughter, Patricia Fotopoulos, who has been involved with the business since it opened in 1944. At age 8, Pat stood on the crates handing out sodas. Today, she stands proudly handing out the best Hot Dog’s ever to the most loyal customers ever.
Hot Dog Johnny’s has been cited by the Travel Channel as being one of the most popular roadsides stands across the country and has also been featured in many major newspapers across the country.
Here it is Father’s Day and the Summer Equinox again and I have reached Day Two Hundred. I have walked much more than half the Island of Manhattan, neighborhood’s in the surrounding boroughs, and historical towns and destinations in New Jersey, New York State, Pennsylvania and beyond. It is hard to believe that I have come this far and that I have been doing this for six years. It does take a lot of work to really see these neighborhoods in detail and research all the wonderful things to do and see. This is best part of the blog is sharing it with all of you!
I have recently completed another walk down the entire length of Broadway for the fifth time (Day One Hundred and Thirty Nine: Walking the Entire Length of Broadway) and a second walk around the perimeter of Manhattan (Day One Hundred and Sixty Seven: The Great Saunter Walk), the 32 mile walk that felt much better this time (being in better shape for walking by exploring Kips Bay, Rose Hill, NoMAD, Koreatown, Midtown South, Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen and Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton before this year’s walk. If you had read the blogs from last summer the City had just opened up on June 10th, 2020 but with the riots and security reasons, I did not enter the City again until June 15th, 2020). I wanted to update both blogs with new things to see and things that I might have missed, which was a lot.
I love walking through the new Riverside Park on my way uptown for “The Great Saunter Walk”. I started at West 23rd Street this year.
The Core of Manhattan and the Perimeter of Manhattan:
Day One Hundred and Thirty Nine: Walking the Length of Broadway from 242nd Street to the Bowling Green:
As I am finishing my walk of the streets of Hell’s Kitchen/Clinton between 10th and 12th Avenues, I am also revisiting neighborhoods that I have walked before adding new restaurants, stores and artworks to the blogs. So much changes but then again you notice things you did not see on the first few trips to that section of Manhattan.
In all my time walking around Manhattan, I never realized that is was itself an ‘open-air museum’ with lots of artwork along all the streets and parks and with that, I have also credited all the artists with their bios and a little history of their careers as well. Even the ‘street tagging’ has gotten interesting again and you really have to look along the walls to admire the ‘taggers’ work.
Don’t miss the Tom Otterness Playground on West 42nd Street. He gives new meaning to the word “Jungle Gym” in his park in Hell’s Kitchen
With the COVID pandemic slowing (it is not over everyone and I still carry two masks and sanitizer with me just in case), the City is opening back up and with the last of the graduations behind us for this year, more people are wondering the streets of the five boroughs and it looks like people are moving back in with more restaurants and hotels reopening. By September, we will hopefully see the Theater District (one neighborhood I will not walk until it reopens for a fair view of it) reopen and the shows start again.
Since last June, most of the bigger museums have reopened but this time only with timed tickets and limits on the people who are attending the shows. This has made for a better experience. If you plan on visiting the museums more than a few times, I would suggest becoming a member and saving the money on the entrance fee. Plus a lot of the museums really need the membership income.
Look over my sister blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com” for ideas of small museums and historical sites that I am revisiting:
I have also been taking many trips up to the Hudson River Valley on outdoor walking tours, patio lectures and farmers market visits. Just driving through these small towns will give you a touch of nostalgia and a wanting for the past. Trust me, all that turn of the last century architecture and quaint storefronts are being brought back to life from the displaced ‘Brooklynites”, who have scattered all over the Tri-State area and are bringing their creativity to small towns in four states, New York State, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Here and there tucked into these small downtowns, old Victorian homes and storefronts are being renovated and reviving communities that needed support to their downtown cores.
Downtown Catskill, NY was interesting to visit recently
So as I update my long walks around the Island of Manhattan and to the small towns in the Hudson River Valley, I hope everyone has a chance to read my older blogs starting with Day One in Marble Hill in June of 2015 and walk your way through Manhattan with me. COVID has changed so much all over the City but has not ruined the true hearts of New Yorkers and especially the Manhattanites I see everywhere.
Everyone is watching the City heal and will watch it go through a rebirth again. Trust me, it looks far better now then it did in the 1970’s and 80’s when I was growing up and the times I worked in Manhattan. You did not want to see West 34th Street in 1988 when I started at R.H. Macy.
I am also now on my sixth pair of sneakers since starting ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’.
Lastly to my father, Warren George Watrel, whom this blog is dedicated to I want to wish a very Happy Father’s Day! I miss our walks around Manhattan at this time of year but I always feel you in spirit!
I love you Dad and Happy Father’s Day!
Blogger Justin Watrel with his father, Warren Watrel in 2013
I love coming to Demarest Farms and visiting the farm store and the grounds. It is like a step back into time. When I was a young child, I used to come down to the old farm stand that was across the street and pick up corn and tomatoes with my aunt who lived around the corner from the stand. In the 1990’s, the family opened the farm store across the street which used to be the old cornfields right next to the Garden State Parkway and a new tradition was born.
In 1991, they build the big store across the street.
When you think of the words ‘rural’ and ‘farmland’ these are not terms you hear a lot in Bergen County, NJ, one of the heaviest populated counties to surround New York City. Yet the county has a rich history in farming and agriculture from the late 1600’s up into the 1970’s when development pressures got too strong and most of what was left of the farms of the area got plowed over for development.
Early in our county’s history, the Dutch and then the English supplied much of the fruits and vegetables for the New York City markets. Much did not change until the suburban expansion after WWII and many strawberry, celery and potato farms were plowed under for shopping malls and housing developments. Since that time and with the help of the Right to Farm Act, The Open Space Act and Farmland Preservation of the State of New Jersey, it is helping many small farmers in the state preserve their land for agriculture.
“From Revolution to Renewal” our Historical Bergen County project
This is why in Bergen County we revere our farms and our agricultural past. Last semester when I taught Marketing at Bergen Community College, I had my students create an extensive project describing and promoting our Colonial Heritage and our agricultural past. This included promoting many of our remaining farms.
Our small farms in Bergen County do more than just provide fruits and vegetables for our tables. They are open air classrooms to our agricultural past, places to buy fresh produce and baked goods to support local family farm stores and for interesting special events and outings for families. During the holiday season, some of these farms have haunted hayrides, turkey pardons and visits from Santa all while selling Christmas trees and wreaths.
This lead me to explore many of the small farms that make up the fabric of Bergen County all while seeing how the owners are reinventing the way they do business with today’s consumer. How do we react with nature and the great outdoors? So I walked through farm stands and fields and across parking lots looking for our rural past in the year 2020.
The Farm Cafe for wonderful breakfasts and lunches
I drove to Closter, NJ on my first stop to Old Schraalenburgh Farm and Farm Stand at 40 Old Hook Road and the Abram Demaree Homestead at 110 Schraalenburgh Road on the corner of Schraalenburgh Road. For years I had passed this farm and never gave it much thought until two summers ago I noticed the sign for the ‘farm burger’ and had to stop to see what it was all about. What a burger! (see my review on TripAdvisor).
Old Schraalenburgh Farm in the warmer months of fall 2022
The Corn Maze in fall 2022
I have since have had lunch here many times mostly when the weather is warmer. What I love about the Old Schraalenburgh Farm is that it is under the radar from most of the commercial farms in the county like Abma and Demarest farms which have all the family activities like hayrides and pumpkin and apple picking events.
The farm in the fall months
Old Schraalenburgh has a smaller restaurant and bakery and in the summer months tables outside to eat breakfast and lunch while admiring the fields of flowers and the barns and chicken coops.
The wonderful selection of gourmet items at Old Schraalenburgh Farm
The farm items are various at the farm stand
The Sweet and Savory pies
What I love about their restaurant is the quality of the food here. The ‘Farm Burger’ which they tout so much is much worth the ride here. This juicy burger loaded with cheese and fresh vegetables and a mayo type sauce and is a mouthful in each bite. Bring your appetite because this burger is large! (see review on TripAdvisor).
The “Farm Burger” at the Old Schraalenburgh Farm Stand restaurant
Their chicken pot pie is another lunch item I would recommend. They make them fresh here and bake them with a golden crust and when you let it cool is a mouthful of creamy sauce, hunks of chicken and fresh vegetables. You won’t need dinner after this entree.
I recently stopped at the Farm Cafe for breakfast after an appointment and their well known Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich ($5.95). It was amazing. The eggs used on the sandwich were fresh from their chicken coops and picked up daily. Topped with crisp bacon and American cheese on a toasted brioche bun it was heaven.
It was nice to just take my sandwich and eat it on one of the picnic tables overlooking the fields that were in the process of beginning to grow this seasons crops. On a sunny morning, there is nothing like this.
The Bacon, Egg and Cheese here is excellent
For dessert though, even with the options of their fresh brownies and homemade ice cream, you have to try their freshly baked fruit pies and pie cookies. The chocolate and fruit filled pie cookies resemble small fruit filled deep dish pies and are a delight in every bite.
The blueberry pie cookies
The bakery also has something called “Burnt Cookies” (.50 cents) that are in jars near the register. I thought someone made a mistake and overcooked them. The woman at the counter said “Oh no. People like a crisper cookie.” I still say they were selling a mistake but they were really good! I had the sugar, chocolate chip and an oatmeal cookies and they were really crisp.
To tell you how popular they are I dropped a piece at the chicken pen and the chickens and roosters got all excited and ran out of their pen to eat the piece that had fallen on the ground. That’s an endorsement.
The chicken coops are busy when you feed the chickens
During the summer months, it is fun to walk through the fields and admire all the beautiful rows of flowers growing and visiting the barn and chicken coops. During the holiday months, the store and restaurant were decorated for Christmas and were stocked with handmade gifts and artwork. The bakery section had a selection of meat and fruit pies for the holidays.
The bakery case at the farm
Walking across the street to the Abram Demaree Homestead and Farm across the street from the farm stand, the main house and barn were also decorated for the holidays. All the tables, counters and shelves were stock with all sorts of decorative objects, antiques, furniture and artwork. These treasures can decorate any home contemporary or historical.
The antiques and holiday decorations at the Abram Demaree Homestead
Off to the side of the main building, they were selling Christmas trees and holiday decorations for the home. The buildings with Christmas retro items and tree ornaments really put me into the holiday spirit. The homestead is fun to walk around in to see how our Colonial past played a part in the growth of Bergen County.
The beautiful old buildings on the farm
The beautiful old antiques on sale
During Halloween, the farm was busy with visitors buying preserves and jellies, baked products for home and people eating lunch on a warm afternoon.
The Skeletons guard the farm at Halloween at Old Schraalenburgh Farm
History of the Old Schraalenburgh Farm and the Abram Demaree Homestead:
In 1677, David Des Marest, a French Huguenot, purchased a large tract of land from the Tappan Native American tribe. This land passed from Dutch control to British rule and through the American Revolution, which produced an uncertain concept that became the United States.
In 1769, Abram Demaree, David Des Marest’s grandson, bought the house and ran it as a General Store and Tavern at the crossroads of one of the busiest intersections of colonial roads in Bergen County. His son, David, added to the house in 1809. The conjoined Demaree house along with a colonial Dutch-style barn, servants house and blacksmith shop form the original Abram Demaree Homestead (Farm History website).
The Abram Demaree Homestead in the Summer months
In the 1970’s, the house and property was falling apart and a group of citizens fought to get the homestead on the National Register of Historic Places. Since then, the home and farm have been part of a non-profit, The Demaree Homestead & Farm, with all the proceeds going to restoring and maintaining the home and farm. The farm and farm stand cafe are open to the public and the profits go to maintenance of the property. The Farm Stand Cafe features in season items grown right on the farm (Farm History website).
Across Old Hook Road from the Demaree Homestead is their working farm, The Old Schraalenburgh Farm, which has been continuously farmed since the 18th Century. Every Spring, the farm plants corn, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, apples, blueberries and pumpkins, among other fruits, vegetables and flowers (Farm History website).
Leaving the Old Schraalenburgh Farm, I headed down Old Hook Road on my way back to Westwood and stopped at the Old Hook Farm Stand for a look at their Christmas trees. The Old Hook Farm Stand is at 650 Old Hook Road in Emerson.
The Old Hook Farm at 650 Old Hook Road in the fall months
Old Hook Farm in the Fall
What I like about the Old Hook Farm is the selection of grocery products in their General store. They have an assortment of organic meats, dairy products, vegetables and baked goods that include delicious looking freshly baked pies, breads and cider doughnuts.
The Fall bounty is on sale at Old Hook Farm
Their shelves are stocked with all sorts of jellies, jams and condiments along with dry and snack goods that are accented by antiques and farm paraphernalia. This gives the store a feel of a turn of the last century General store that used to dot the towns of rural Bergen County.
The Old Hook Farm grocery section of the General store
In the Spring and Summer, the greenhouse stocks all sorts of decorative plants, flowers and garden supplies and I am sure is better stocked in the summer months for lawn care and landscaping. In the Spring, the tables are stocked with all sorts of seedlings for gardens, decorative plants for the home and gardening supplies and landscaping decorations including stones and layerings.
All sorts of decorative plants available in the Fall
In the Fall, the farm is awash with pumpkins, gourds and decorative plants for designing the house in a festive mood. There are all sorts of items for the Halloween holidays.
Blogger Justin Watrel at Old Hook Farm for the Halloween season
During the holiday season, there were all sorts of wreaths, cemetery blankets and Christmas trees to choose from. The perfect assortment to ‘deck the halls’ for the holidays.
Like everyone else in the County, when I got there, there was only a few trees to choose from. They had sold out early in a year when everyone wanted a fresh tree. Still the atmosphere with the atmosphere of fresh pine and snow gave the farm that old fashioned ‘1970’s feel’ when I used to visit the farms in Bridgewater, NJ growing up. Things seemed a lot slower then and you could just relax and enjoy the sites and smells of a farm.
The Christmas trees were pretty much sold out when I visited
From a distance behind the greenhouse, you could see under the snow that had just fallen, the fields where the crops are grown in the warmer months. The old farmhouse on the property was decorated for Christmas as well and looked like a home out of a Currier & Ives print.
History of the Old Hook Farm:
The town of Emerson did not exist during the Native American origin. The name ‘Old Hook’ on the east side of the town came from the Dutch word ‘Hoek’ meaning ‘angle’ or ‘corner’. The angle of the land was created by the three connecting water ways, the Hackensack River, the Pascack Brook and the Musquapsink Brook. The first person to make their home here was William Rutan, who settled on a parcel of land just west of today’s ‘Old Hook Farm’ sometime around 1748 (Emerson Town History).
The current ‘Old Hook Farm’ was bought by current owner, Bruce Marek’s grandfather in 1925 as a weekend getaway. He rented the farm and the farm house to a local resident for 35 years and the family had a large garden on the property until about 1948. Then his father took over the land and cleared the fields and had Soil Conservation come in and do contours and started to grow in the greenhouse. When his father died in 1973, he took over the farm and within eight years, reopened the garden store and started to experiment and grow organic crops (Bruce Marek’s interview with ‘Bergen Save the Watershed Action Network’).
The old farm house at Old Hook Farm
I next ventured to Hillsdale, NJ, two towns away to visit one of the most beloved farms in Bergen County, Demarest Farms at 244 Werimus Road, right off the Garden State Parkway. I have been visiting the farm since the early 1970’s when I used to visit my family who lived just two blocks away. Back then it was just a small farm stand just outside the family homestead. In 1991, they build the big store across the street.
The Demarest Farm Store at 244 Werimus Road
The farm stand building is always a buzz with people coming and going. People buying sandwiches, soups, hot entrée items and baked goods for lunch and dinner. There is a large selection of in season produce (which is a little pricer than most supermarkets) as well as jams and jellies.
Fall decorations at Demarest Farms in 2022
Where the market really shines is their bakery filled with cookies, brownies, freshly baked pies and their well-known cider doughnuts. They also have great potato pancakes that taste good hot or cold (in the era of COVID the food has been toned back a little from the past).
Demarest Farm store carries an array of fruits and vegetables at all times of the year
Demarest Farms in October 2022
The stand also has a nice garden section during the Spring and Summer seasons with everything you need for lawn care and for landscaping your home or decorating inside. During the Fall, there is all sorts of decorative items for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.
Demarest Farms right before Halloween 2021
During every season, Demarest Farms is always full of activities. During the Summer months (Pre-COVID), there was the big barbecues that the farm sponsored that got so popular that they had to have the police direct traffic into the complex. These ‘All You Can Eat” affairs were so much fun. It was like a throw back to the 1970’s when families used to dine out together in the Summer months. You could listen to a local band play while chomping on endless hot dogs, barbecue chicken, fresh corn on the cob, baked beans, salad and watermelon for dessert. There were also be chests of ice full of Coke, Sprite and Bottled waters (see reviews on TripAdvisor).
During the Fall months, there would be Hayrides through the orchards, Pumpkin and Apple Picking that are so popular you need a reservation and Haunted Halloween events that have people driving from all over Northern New Jersey to attend.
Getting ready for Halloween at Demarest Farms
The farm was packed with people during Halloween 2022 with the weather being in the sixty degree area. The farm had hayrides, pumpkin picking, apple picking and a maze for the children. The lines to get into the farm stand were fifty deep and traffic was crazy. One of the employees said that people were traveling as far as Long Island to come to the farm.
The maze at Demarest Farm Halloween 2022
Pumpkins of all sizes at Demarest Farms 2022
This Christmas, in the era of COVID, the farm really outdid itself ringing in the holiday season. The farm stand sold an array of Christmas trees, wreaths and cemetery blankets, all sorts of holiday treats in the store including cookies, pies and jams and jellies. There was also a nice selection of holiday decorations. By the last week before Christmas, most everything was sold out.
What I thought was fun and it was the first time the farm had done this was the “Holiday Light Show” through the Demarest Farm orchard which is across the street from the farm stand. This show was sold out every night for almost three weeks ending on January 3rd.
Demarest Farm Store decorated for Halloween and the Fall
The tour started at the farm stand where you could buy S’ mores to roast at the fire pit next to the nursery ($6.50). I thought it was a little expensive for two graham crackers, two marshmellows and a small bar of chocolate but people scooped them up and were roasting away. There were also cut outs from the holidays to take pictures and there was a small light show of singing reindeer performing all the classic Christmas songs.
Then it was time to take the drive through the orchard. We started the tour at farm stand and then drove across the street to the family homestead which was ablaze with colorful lights on the house and the surrounding trees. I took a slow drive through the orchard carefully following the cars in front of me to keep pace.
The apple and pear trees were decorated with multi color lights, Santa’s and Snowmen winked and greeted you at every turn. The barns were decorated with white lights and there was a tunnel of flashing lights to greet you and exit from. All along the way I listened to the Classical music channel to enhance the mood of the trip. It may have only been a half an hour but it was mesmerizing trip through a fantasy land of lights that put me back into the Christmas spirit. Demarest farms seems to have that effect at the holidays.
The History of Demarest Farms:
The Demarest family has been present in the New York area since David DeMarest arrived to New Amsterdam in 1663. The current farm has been in the Demarest family from Bergen County since 1886. In the 1970’s, Peter Demarest and his wife, Marsha introduced the pick your own apples and pumpkin business and eventually added peaches to the mix.
The Demarest Family history at the farm
In 1991, the family opened the current farm store on what had once been corn fields. The store today has evolved into a selection of fresh produce, prepared foods, baked goods, apple cider, jams and jellies and homemade crafts (Demarest Farm website).
The flowers at Demarest Farm are colorful
In 2014, Peter Demarest decided to retire and the sold the farm stand and farm to longtime employees Jason DeGise and Jim Spollen. The farmland had been preserved under the Farmland Preservation Fund and by the Open Space Trust Fund. The 27 acres are to be preserved as farmland and can only be used for agriculture (NJ.com).
Demarest Farms put out this wonderful promotional video on the event
Leaving Demarest Farms, I headed north taking the turns on Route 17 and Route 208 and headed up to Wyckoff. My first stop was the Goffle Road Poultry Farm at 549 Goffle Road. The farm which once must have taken up much more area has been reduced down to a few acres with chicken coops and hatcheries and the farm store.
The parking lot was a mob scene of people trying to get in and out of the driveway and being directed by one man in a mask. When I finally was able to get out of my car and park, I asked him if they were giving money away. He just laughed and said, “I wish”. He quickly said to me it was busier at Thanksgiving and they had lines going down Goffle Road.
Goffle Road Poultry Farm at 549 Goffle Road
I just walked in the store to look around passing all the people in line who were waiting to pick up their pre-orders. The store is stocked with all things poultry with fresh eggs. whole roasters and butchered chicken parts. In the freezer there were crab cakes, chicken nuggets and chicken and turkey pot pies, all of which they are known for and sought out.
The stand at Goffle Road Poultry Farm
Here there are no hayrides or special events although they told me Santa had already visited the farm. Just high quality food and excellent service done by a staff that looked very over-whelmed at the holidays.
When I returned recently to the Goffle Road Poultry Farm, I was able to buy some of their brown jumbo eggs ($2.95) and one of their frozen Chicken Pot Pies to bring home with me. There really is a difference in the fresh eggs versus the commercial ones. There is a richer flavor to the taste when you have them scrambled and in a omelet.
The Brown eggs at Goffle Farms have a richer flavor
The Chicken Pot Pie tasted more like a chicken pie, which has less chicken gravy in it, but it pretty much follows the same Bisquick recipe that I have at home with a mixture of vegetables and canned cream of chicken soup as its base. Still, it cooked up nicely and a flaky golden crust. It is worth it to stop and do some shopping here.
The Goffle Farm Pot Pie is more like a Chicken Pie
History of Goffle Road Poultry Farm:
The Goffle Road Poultry Farm has been a family owned and operated business for four generations. Joseph and Rose Silvestri came over from Italy in 1920 and started Belmont Poultry in Paterson, NJ in the 1930’s. In 1948, Joseph and Rose’s son, Dominic, started Goffle Road Poultry Farm of Wyckoff, NJ. To this day, the Goffle Road Poultry Farm is operated as a family owned business by the current owner and grandson, Joseph Silvestri and great grandson, Brian Silvestri. The family has found it hard to keep up with demand on such a small plot and is now partnering with Amish farmers in Pennsylvania who share the same standards of raising animals (Goffle Road Poultry Farm website).
Goffle Road Poultry Farm at the Halloween Holidays
My last stop on this journey was the largest farm of them all, Abma’s Farm at 700 Lawlins Road in Wyckoff, NJ. Abma’s is an impressive working farm with many greenhouses, large fields, a gift shop, nursery, and a farm store. They also have a large petting zoo to amuse children and adults alike.
The Abma Farm at 700 Lawlins Road in Wyckoff
I have to admit that I have only visited the farm in the cooler months and with COVID going on, the petting zoo was closed the day I was there and it looked like you needed a reservation to get in. The price is $3.00 unless you join their Barnyard Loyalty Program by accumulating 30 points from their farm store and nursery.
The greenhouses were pretty empty the afternoon I visited. What was left of wreaths and Christmas trees dotted the the nursery area. I am sure it was totally stocked with all sorts of items to decorate the house. There was still a nice assortment of wreaths to choose from and garland to decorate the banisters and hallways with for Christmas. The Christmas tree selection was down to about ten trees and they were very sad looking. Being right before Christmas, the selection was limited.
Abma Farm during the Fall of 2022
In the Summer months, the greenhouses were full of flowers and decorative plants and the fields are ablaze with colors. It will be about four months before we see that again but Spring is not that far away.
Halloween at the farm
The farm store was buzzing with people and it was hard to find a parking spot after the snow storm we had just had. Some of the drifts made parking tough but there was someone in the lot who made it easy to park.
Abma’s Farm Market & Garden Center in the Fall of 2021
The farm store at Abma Farm is full of fresh vegetables and fruits, a whole selection of bakery products including cookies, brownies, freshly baked pies and cider doughnuts. The prepared food section has all sorts of salads and sandwiches available and there is a selection of soups. There are also crafts available for sale.
The Abma Farm Store stocked with delicious foods
Though some of the special events on the farm have been cancelled because of COVID, they did have a socially distanced “Story with Santa” program and “You Pick” events for strawberries, potatoes, pumpkins and tomatoes during the different seasons. Events like pony rides and Easter themed events have been put on hold for the time.
The farm stand with fruits and vegetables
What I really enjoy about visiting Abma Farm is just walking around the farm itself. I was able to walk through some of the greenhouses and see the trees and decorative items, look at the vast field and can’t wait to return in the Spring when we can see the fields of growing produce and greenhouses full of flowers and plants.
The History of Abma Farm:
The Abma Farm
First generation of the family, Barney Abma, was born on April 25th, 1901. He came to America for the first time in 1917 when he was 17 years old searching for a new beginning. After spending a few years out west, then a short stay in Pennsylvania, he went back to Holland to marry. Barney and his new wife, Anna, settled in Wyckoff at the present location of Abma’s Farm in the late 1920’s (Abma Farm History website).
The front of the farm stand
The couple began working for the ‘Yeoman Farm’ and rented out part of the original farmhouse from owner, Daniel Yeoman. The farm was next passed on to Mr. and Mrs. George Fox (nee Yeoman). Barney Abma bought the farm from the couple in 1932 for $6,000. Part of the 50 acre farm was sold off and it is now the current 32 acre farm that it is today (Abma Farm History website).
The farm is now under the ownership of the forth and fifth generations of the Abma family under Barney and Anna’s son, James and his family.
I love this video on the family and about the farm.
There are also a few smaller farms in the County I was not able to visit before they closed for the season. Also most farm stands have closed for the Winter so there will be a lot to visit in the warmer months.
Still the holidays at the farms in Bergen County, NJ have a special place in our lives and have become part of the traditions of many families.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and look forward to updates in the Spring!
Spring and Summer of 2021:
As the weather has gotten warmer, I have been revisiting the farms that were closed right after the holidays . As the warmer months have come upon us, April has ushered in warmer weather and the bounty of Spring has arrived. The greenhouses are starting to fill with plants and shrubs and the farm stands.
The entrance to Stokes Farm at 23 DeWolf Road
I made my first trip to Stokes Farm at 23 DeWolf Road in Old Tappan, NJ. The farm stand has just opened since it has closed up shop right after Christmas. The shelves of the farm were starting to fill with fresh produce from the warmer states and there were all sorts of colorful fruits and vegetables.
Stokes Farm in the fall of 2022
The farm stand also has a bakery that has pies, cookies and cider doughnuts. The problem is that because of COVID all the items were prepackaged in large packages and you could not buy individual pieces. The woman at the counter said things will go back to normal business once all of this passes. By 2022, the bakery was up and running in full force.
The Stokes Farm Stand bakery area
Still the refrigerator cases are lined with fresh eggs, Amish butter, honey and cheese from the Amish Country in Pennsylvania and the shelves are full of jellies, jams, salsas and pickles that are made for the farm. The farmstand is just opening and there will be more to come as we move into the warmer months.
All sorts of delicious items line the shelves
The inside of the farm stand
I made my way out to the greenhouse in the back where plants are being grown for planting and for decorating the house. Most of the plants are still so small but as May and June arrive, these greenhouses will burst of all sorts of plants.
The plants and greenhouses
Though the part of the farm that you can visit is small, you can see that the farm is lined with greenhouses going back many acres and next to the stand is a farmhouse that was built in 1890. It is nice to just walk around and enjoy the fresh air at the farm.
The farm was getting ready for Halloween
The History of Stokes Farm:
In 1873, Isaiah Stokes headed out on a ship to America from his home in England. When he arrived, he purchased 40 acres of land in Old Tappan, NJ where he started a farm. He thought this would be a good location for selling produce, as Old Tappan is very close to New York City, as well as many established towns along the Hudson River.
His products included chickens, eggs, milk, hay, asparagus, beets and other assorted vegetables. As time went on, his son, Joseph Stokes took over the farming. The Stokes family continued sowing and growing into the early 1900’s. Joseph Stokes and his wife, Anna, worked very hard and soon developed a produce route through Piermont, Nyack and points further north along the river. They were one of the first farms to have a truck in the area when farms were still powered by men and horses.
The Greenhouses and gardens
Joseph Stokes had one child, Madeline, who married Ernie Binaghi in 1927. Madeline ran the farm and Ernie was a carpenter. The farm carried on through WWII. Madeline and Ernie had one child, Ronald, who after dropping out of NYU Music School in the early 1950’s , came home to help out with the chores. Ron married Jean and she moved into the farmhouse to become a farmer too.
The Stokes farmstead
In 1955, they opened a roadside farm stand, which was a four post open air shed. The stand did well, selling from the five acres of strawberries, five acres of tomatoes, in addition to peppers, eggplant and asparagus. As the years went on, Ron and Jean started selling produce at the Paterson Farmers Market. It was here that a farmer could sell his produce directly to the consumer or to wholesalers. The farm stand was rebuilt in 1966.
In the early 1970’s, the energy crunch started and the farm stand began to flounder. It was then that Bob Lewis came to visit Ron and Jean with a proposal. He asked them to participate in the first NYC Greenmarket at 59th and Second Avenue. So in 1976, Ron and his sixteen year old son, Ron Jr. ventured into the big city. Their lives changed that day. After the people bought everything on the truck, Ron Sr. was heard to say, “Is there a famine in this City?” Ron Jr., then sixteen started selling produce at the now famous Union Square market on 17th Street and it seemed that this type of market suited the farm quite well. Greenhouses were built in the 1980’s and the bedding plant business started to thrive.
The Stokes Farmstand and the farmstead behind it
High tech growing coupled with practical family values, helped the farm to grow steadily into the 1990’s. Ron Jr. and his wife, Jeanine, took over the day to day operations of the farm and the Greenmarket stands, while Ron Sr. and Jean continued to run the farm stand.
Grocery items at Stokes Farm
In 2000, Ron Jr. was named “Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year” for the State of New Jersey. This award is given to a farmer who has made his farm better over the years and also is active in his community. Ron went to Indiana to the national competition, where he placed fifth in the nation.
Ron Binaghi Jr. at Stokes Farm in Old Tappan, NJ
Today the farm is seventeen acres with 40,000 square feet of greenhouses. It is the goal of the farm to grow the best possible product to keep the customers healthy and happy and to keep the land as a farm for future generations.
The extensive amount of produce and baked goods are perfect for the holidays
Another farm that I missed during the holiday season was DePiero’s Farm at 156 Summit Avenue in Montvale, NJ. I have been coming to DePiero’s Farm for years at the old farm stand where the current Wegmans Supermarket and mall now stands.
Halloween at DePiero’s Farm
Haunted happenings at DePiero’s Farm Stand
Here used to be the large farm stand building that had everything from produce and baked goods to arts and crafts items and gardening equipment. That was torn down in the early 2000’s. I thought that they had closed for business until I rediscovered it again.
Depiero’s Farm Stand at 156 Summit Avenue
When I visited recently, I asked the woman who was working the counter about the history of the farm. She said that she had worked for the DePiero family for years and told me that this was the original farm stand until the family built the larger one down the road. When that was torn down to make way for the market strip mall, they moved the operations back to the original stand on the original farmland. I thought that was interesting.
The original farm sign
The original farmstead building is currently being renovated and expanded. The tables around the store are ladened currently with fresh produce from the Hunts Market (until the summer when local produce will be offered), there is a small bakery area with fresh pies ($18.00-$20.00), fresh pickles and peanut butter from the Amish Country. The shelves are lined with honey and fresh jellies that are made for the farm.
Early Fall at DePiero’s Farm
Outside the farm stand, there is a large greenhouse with rows of tables lined with all sorts of flowering plants and small vegetable plants growing. The larger greenhouse is surrounded by smaller greenhouses growing more plants. It is a large operation.
The greenhouse at DePiero’s Farm is full of flowers and decorations for the Fall
What amazes me is how the farm has survived with all the suburban sprawl surrounding it. On land that was once the farm, all sorts of new condos are going up, the second farm stand is now a mall and office buildings surround the whole small patch of farm.
DePiero’s Farm Stand decorated for Halloween
The History of DePiero’s Farm:
The DePiero Farm has been an owned and operated farm since 1924. The original farm was about 250 acres that stretched from Montvale, NY to New Paltz, NY. In 1987, the opened the original farm store that was popular for years. That facility closed in 2015 and has since been replaced with a new shopping complex anchored by a Wegmans.
The family has since reopened the original farm stand which is farmed on limited basis where they sell farm products, baked goods and Christmas items like wreaths and Christmas trees.
The outside of the original family farm stand
(NJ.com-Myles Mia 2015-“Longtime Montvale Farm closes its doors”)
My last farm that I did not have a chance to visit during the Christmas holidays but had opened on April 1st was Secor Farms at 85 Airmont Avenue in Mahwah, NJ. I would consider Secor Farms more like a giant nursery. Both on the outside and inside the greenhouses, you can walk around rows of flowers, decorative plants and seedlings for the vegetable gardens. The greenhouses are fun to walk in as you can see plantings at different stages of growth. It will be interesting to come back towards the summer to see how many of these plants progress to full form.
Secor Farms greenhouse is laden with flowers and plants
There is also a small shop to make your purchases. Here they sell gardening supplies, decorative objects for the home, hand creams and soaps, honey and candies and their homemade cider doughnuts that are unfortunately only packaged in bags of six ($5.95). Still they smell so good and the girl working the counter said that they are made fresh daily. I could see by the signs when the fresh produce starts to come in during the summer and fall that they sell this in the gift shop as well.
The Cider Doughnuts and other treats on sale at Secor farms in the Fall
Outside the gift shop, the parking lot is laden with bags of mulch and soil for garden beds awaiting their Spring cleaning. The lot is well stocked as we are just starting the gardening season.
Secor Farms in Mahwah, NJ
Ready for Halloween at Secor Farms in Fall 2021
The spooky entrance to Secor Farms at Halloween 2021
In the Fall especially around Halloween, the whole farm looks like Disneyland with Haunted Hay Rides, Pumpkin Picking, Fall decorative items for sale and the general atmosphere that welcomes in Halloween with a bang. The whole place was filled to the brim with cars ready for a long day at the farm.
Pumpkin picking at Secor Farms in Fall 2021
All of these farms in Bergen County, NJ have their own attributes so try to visit them all when you are visiting the area.
The History of Secor Farms:
Begun by Darryl Secor’s great grandfather when he moved to the area from Paterson nearly 80 years ago, the farm originally consisted of 50 acres in Upper Saddle River. In 1973, the family expanded into Mahwah.
The Secor Farm at the Fall Holidays
Secor Farms not only has been a famous landmark passed down through three generations: The Secors themselves have been extremely active in supporting the town (Mahwah-Ramsey Daily Voice 2017).
Fall at Secor Farms in Mahwah, NJ
The Fall produce at Secor Farms during the Halloween 2021 holiday weekend
Farms to Visit:
Old Schraalenburgh Farm Stand and Abram Demaree Homestead
177 Schraalenburgh Road
Closter, NJ 07624
Open: Farm Stand Cafe: Wednesday-Friday 11:00am-5:00pm/Saturday and Sunday 11:00am-7:00pm
I have been travelling up to the Hudson River Valley much more than usual this Fall. There has been so much going on between the events up at the Dutchess County Fair Grounds since the Fair in August and all the of the ‘Mansion Hopping’ and visiting to historical sites for my blog, “VisitingaMuseum.com”, which I have been concentrating on building over the Summer and Fall. I have been visiting on most weekends between September and the end of October.
Travelling up to the Hudson River Valley in the fall is an amazing time. Because of the lack of rain over the summer, the foliage turned much earlier than it usually does and the trees starting turning yellow and red in the end of September and beginning of October as opposed to last year and the year before where it was more the end of October and middle of November.
I started my journey up to Dutchess County right after the Dutchess County Fair at the end of August and continued through the end of October for Halloween events. I had bought a small Santa from a woodcarver for a small Mother’s Day present for my mom and she absolutely loved it so I had to seek him out again at events through the next three months. He was tough to find.
My mother loves the Santas at the fair
My first trip Upstate was for the Cornell-Marist Football game on September 21st. Because I have to teach college on Saturday mornings I left for the game later in the afternoon and I got to Marist College during the beginning of the second quarter.
The Marist College campus off Route 9 in Poughkeepsie is one of the nicest college campuses I have been to in a while. The campus sits right on the Hudson River and the nice part is that the football stadium is located right off the highway so as I was driving in I could see what was going.
Big Red Football
Long story short it was not the greatest football game I had ever been to and we won 21-7. Cornell University has not invested in its football team the way it should and it was like watching two high school teams play. The funny part was that Marist College and Cornell University have the same school colors so it was hard to see who was rooting for who in the stadium.
The one nice thing about the stadium is that on the other side of the stands of the stadium that Marist has lawn sitting and that is the best way to watch the game. It was also about 85 degrees that afternoon so it was the perfect football weather and I got tan while watching the game.
Sitting on the lawn side of the field is the best place to sit
After the game was over, I decided to explore the campus. God, the Marist College campus is gorgeous. The campus has expanded over the years since I went to school at the Culinary Institute of America and our campus was beautiful as well. Marist College has rolling hills, lush green lawns and the most amazing view of the Hudson River. People should just visit the campus to walk around. The foliage was just starting to turn so the view of the river and the hills that surround it was spectacular.
The next weekend I was back Upstate again to the fairgrounds in Rhinebeck for Oktoberfest. This interesting event was the smaller of the two events that I attended at the Dutchess County Fair Grounds after the Annual Fair in August. This was a smaller craft event that took up one section of the fairgrounds mostly where the craft exhibition space had been during the fair and the rides were located. I had gotten this event and the Sheep & Wool event later in the month mixed up and the wood carver was not there (later when I did meet up with him at the Sheep & Wool Festival he said that he was not invited). Still I stayed and explored the fairgrounds on this warm sunny day.
Along the main path, there were all sorts of arts and crafts vendors and gourmet food vendors selling their wares and there were a few food vendors towards the back of the event but the lines were so long that I decided to eat outside the fairgrounds. So I took a trip up to Red Hook, NY which is located just north of the fair grounds and had lunch at Village Pizza III at 7594 North Broadway (see reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com) for some lunch.
The food at this Village Pizza is just excellent and so reasonable as well! I had the most delicious Calzone ($6.95) that was just loaded with mozzarella, Parmesan and Ricotta cheese and was a gooey delight with every bite. Their red sauce that I have mentioned in my of my Upstate New York blogs, is just excellent. Well spiced and loaded with flavor.
Village Pizza III at 7594 Broadway in Red Hook, NY is just excellent for lunch and dinner
I came back two weeks later for the Sheep and Wool Festival which was a whole different experience in both 2019 and 2021 (the festival like everything else was cancelled in 2020 because of COVID).
The entrance to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds
The Sheep and Wool Festival which takes place the third week of October was a much bigger festival, larger than Oktoberfest but just a little smaller than the Fair. In the back by the animal pens there were displays from people in the 4 H with their sheep, alpaca and goats showing off these amazing animals. So many of the them were friendly and let you pet them. Most looked bored and tired of people taking their picture.
The sheep at the Sheep & Wool Festival
It was a lot of fun walking through the rows of yarn, specialty crocheted and knitted hats, blankets and baby items plus all the handcrafted items for the upcoming holidays. These took up most of the display pens that during the Dutchess County Fair are used for the animals. There are a lot of talented crafters and artisans that come to the Fairgrounds.
The Sheep and Wool Festival in 2019
The Sheep and Wool Festival in 2022
I did find the woodcarver, Joe Gleeson, on this trip and was able to buy to small Santa’s that he had in stock. It seemed that he had a good sell through at the Dutchess County Fair and there was not much left and he was just trying to keep up. I love Mr. Gleeson’s surrealist designed Santa’s. Another creative carver was Bill Kypreos from Bill-Lin Woodcarving, who I bought another Santa from in 2021.
After making that purchase, I walked all over the fairgrounds looking over the displays and all the crafts people. There were a lot of interesting vendors offering the most beautiful and interesting items.
Carapace Farm Puppetry by Susannah White
Mr. Gleeson has the most beautiful wooden carvings of Santa’s, Elf’s and Snowman. Bonnie’s Beast’s offered the most creative felt and knit play animals from felt wool. Artist Patricia McGarth created homemade all natural doggie treats that tasted like an all natural cracker. They were not bad to eat for a human. Utopia Bath Ltd. has an interesting bath line and lotions.
Artist Susannah White builds and creates puppets through her Carapace Farm Puppetry. She carries the most interesting hand and finger puppets and masks. She works with her mother, artist Amelia McIsaac who also does felt art and works on the “Star Babies” sculptures and other children’s art.
Artist JoAnn Clark is a fiber artist who specializes in Needle felted folk art. She created the most interesting animal art and figurines. Amelia McIsaac created flowering art through her Flowering Art Homestead company.
For lunch, I discovered that Janek’s, the Food Truck vendor I had eaten lunch at during the Fair was at this festival as well and I made the ‘B-Line’ to have lunch there.
For $15.00, I got their special again. This was a half pound freshly ground beef patty that was juicy in the center and caramelized on the outside. Then they top it with Cheddar Cheese, Smoked Glazed Ham, Pulled Pork and homemade pickles with a side of freshly made potato-cheese perogies cooked in butter and sweet onions with a side of sour cream.
Don’t miss Janek’s Food Truck at all Dutchess County events
Okay, yes it is not for the cholesterol minded person but I eat this twice a year and do I enjoy it. I walked the Fairgrounds twice just to work it off. I had the exact same thing in 2021 and it was just as good but the price went up to $18.00.
Do not miss the Cheeseburger with pulled pork and pierogi special at Janek’s Food Truck
In 2021, I left the Fairgrounds around 2:30pm to visit the Bard Campus to visit two of the cultural sites I wanted to see on my last couple of trips to the Hudson River Valley, Montgomery Place, the home of Janet Livingston Montgomery and the Hessel Museum, Bard College’s on campus museum.
I had been to Montgomery Place at 26 Gardener Way & River Road many times before when the house was owned by the Hudson River Historical Society. They used to run tours of the house and have cocktail parties on the porch outside. The grounds were breathtaking with views down to the Hudson River and the lawns had been freshly cut. The trees were getting that yellow and orange hue to them and it was nice exercise to just walk around the grounds. The house is now closed to tours (by appointment only).
The Hessel Museum was featuring two different exhibitions: “With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in Art 1972-1985”, which was a time of growth in home decorating themed art and “Closer to Life: Drawings on Paper of the Marieluise Hessel Collection”, the founder of the Museum and Co-Founder of the College’s personal collection of works. Both exhibitions displayed the art in its own unique way. What was nice was the museum was free as well as visiting the mansion.
In 2021, I spent the night at the Courtyard by Marriott in Fishkill, NY (see TripAdvisor review below) after the Sheep & Wool Festival so that I could revisit a lot of the businesses and small towns that I had been to in the past to check out the businesses and the status of the towns during COVID. What started as a specular day with a beautiful sunrise over the Catskills from my hotel room ended in a most gloomy cold day of driving around the Hudson River Valley.
The Courtyard by Marriott at Fishkill in Fishkill, NY at 17 Westage Drive
Almost all the businesses in Red Hook, NY were closed on Monday with the exception of Little Pickles, a small toy store that I have featured many times in my blogs (see LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com), The owner and I talked for awhile about the stores being closed on Mondays and how hard that is on customers.
Little Pickles at 7505 North Broadway
Red Hook was pretty much closed for the day and was rather gloomy in the rain. On a nice day though, it is the most unique and quaint town to shop and visit.
I left Red Hook and my next stop was Downtown Wappingers Falls, NY where the Meisner Homestead was located. Everything was closed here and about six or seven stores had closed in its unique downtown. Even the Falls were dripping as there was no water coming down the river. I could not believe how much was empty since my last visit almost a year ago. This was the up and coming downtown.
Downtown Wappingers Falls, NY
My last stop on my journey was Beacon, NY where a lot more of the stores were open for the day and the weather had gotten nicer. The foliage was a little nicer here but most of the trees were pretty much still green.
I walked the whole downtown twice visiting stores that had interested me in the past. Colorant at 146 Main Street is such a unique clothing store in which all the clothes are made of all natural fibers and dies (see my review on LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com).
Another store that caught my attention was Flora Good Times, a very interesting flower and gift shop at 197 Main Street. They had all sorts of interesting handmade pottery and a nice selection of seasonal flowers beautifully displayed.
Before I left touring all of downtown, I stopped at my ‘go to’ pizzeria, Pizza & Stuff II which has the best pizza. The slices are really large and the sauce is so well spiced and gives it wonderful flavor. The service here is really nice (see my review on TripAdvisor below).
After touring all the towns in search of new material, I headed home on a rather chilly night. I ended up having to turn the heat on in the house. The rain really had dropped the temperature.
In 2019, after the time at the Sheep and Wool Festival, it was next to the ‘Pie and Punch Evening” at the Kearney House in the Palisades Interstate Park. I had been to the Kearney House two weeks early on a Sunday but it was closed due to a Square Dance fundraiser they were running so I saw this on the Internet and thought it sounded fun (Please see the reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). The house would all be lit by candles and fireplaces as there is no electricity in the house. What could be nicer?
Kearney House at the Alpine Landing is lit by candlelight
Well just to let all you readers know that the Palisades Interstate Park is closed after dusk and does not reopen until it is light out the next day and there are NO lights either on the roads going down the hill to the basin or in the parking lot. When I mean the park is pitch black, it is pitch black. I thought this was dangerous since the road leading to the basin is very steep, not much of a barrier along the cliff side and no lights on the signs. I had some jerk follow me at full speed racing down the hill behind me. Let’s just leave this that there was a small boulder that I did not see and it did not get out of my way. The next hour in the park was not fun!
After I calmed down and was an hour late for the event, everyone could not have been nicer to me at the get together. Once I relaxed and had some hot spiced punch and a few pieces of pie and some cheese I calmed down. The boulder aside, it was a very nice event and I had a good time.
The Kearney House is an old Revolutionary aged home that had been used by the Kearney family as Inn and resting place for sailors and shippers using the Hudson River back when it was bustling with trade. The family ended up selling it before WWI and it was bought by the parks system. The division that runs the Kearney House and fundraisers for its upkeep run these themed events.
The house was all lit up by candlelight in both rooms and both fireplaces were roaring when I got in the room. It was the pies that calmed me down. They offered three different pies, Strawberry Rhubarb, Apple and Pumpkin that were from a bakery in Closter, NJ and were ‘out of this world’ delicious. The apple pie had the sweetest filling and tasted like pears were baked into it along with the apples. The strawberry rhubarb had a tangy-tart sweet filling to it and the pumpkin had a nicely baked creamy almost custard like filling all with this amazingly buttery crust. This is the type of pie that can make you forget all of your problems.
Kearney House story telling
On the table as well were wedges of sharp cheese and accompanying breads, roasted peanuts, ice cold water and served to you by volunteers in period costume. If I had not been so shaken when I entered the house (and of course the couple who helped me with the car told everyone at the party what happened so everyone was extra nice to me) and all the volunteers who helped with the event had not been so nice, it could have been a bad night.
The house lit by candle light and by the fireplace
Still there was a tour of the house both upstairs and into the attic, a musician playing songs and then a half hour of story telling all by the glow of candle and fire light that made the evening special. I ended up having a nice time talking to the other guests and getting to eat the endless slices of pie.
I left a little better than I arrived but I will tell you two things: I am NEVER going into this park again after dark, so matter what the event is and that was the last time I set foot in the Kearny House. It was so dark in the parking lot when I left I almost tripped on the barrier on side the of it.
My next trip up to the Hudson River in 2019 that next Sunday lead me to Beacon, NY to visit Pollepel Island/Bannerman Castle Island and to visit the mysterious castle in the middle of the Hudson River (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). I had talked about visiting Beacon, NY in my other blogs for the Third Thursday Shopping nights during the holidays and my visit to the DIA-Beacon in VisitingaMuseum.com.
When visiting Bannerman Island please remember that it is open seasonally and opens in later April and closes at the end of October so you have to plan your trip there accordingly. I got there the last Sunday it was open and please note that you do need advanced reservations to go to the island. I lucked out as there was two trips out to the island that day and there had been a cancellation that afternoon and I was able to make the boat trip.
The trip was on somewhat rough waters as it was a gloomy day with the sun peaking out only at the end of the tour. When we got to the island, we landed at the small dock and then had to walk up over 70 steps to the landing at the top of the hill. It wasn’t hard but hardly ADA compliant. We had excellent tour guide who knew the whole history of the island from when the family bought the island in 1900 to when the sons sold the island in the 1950’s.
The Bannerman Castle was actually an armory for munitions for the Bannerman company. Francis Bannerman IV bought the island to store his inventory of his military supply business and the items were stored there awaiting shipping to all over the world.
The castle itself had partially blown up in the 1920’s when the munitions caught fire and then in turn burned in 1969 and the interiors were destroyed. Recently part of the wall to the castle collapsed so the building is now being held up by metal rods to prevent further collapse.
The tour took us up the path toward the former arsenal so we could take a better look which is pretty dramatic sitting by the water with the vegetative growth around it. Mrs. Bannerman had once had the whole area landscaped with an exotic garden. Now that part is all growth and weeds.
Travelling up the path from the ‘castle’, we walked up the path that had been landscaped by the local garden clubs who have been put in charge of landscaping the old paths and gardens leading to the family mansion at the top of the hill. The mansion is going through a renovation so there is not much to see but there is a small gift shop inside and the history in the building. The outside of the mansion is being landscaped and used for theater show, movie nights and concerts. The views of the river are spectacular.
The view from the mansion on top of the hill
We exited down the back path and saw more interesting views of the Hudson River. There are more gardens on the way down and we heard more of the history of the island in that it was closed off until recently and was only visited by kayakers and adventurers. The island is now open for all sorts of activities.
On our way back, the tour guides gave us their own take on visiting the island which was pretty funny. They run these tours and can’t believe how mesmerized people are by buildings that were falling apart.
As we took the boat ride back to the dock in Beacon, I noticed that the foliage had an unusual line to it up on the hill. It was dead towards the top of the hill and the rest of the trees were combination of yellow and green. The tour guide said that an unusual early frost hit the trees and the ones at the top of the hill had already gone dormant.
It was unusual foliage in Beacon, New York
For the rest of the afternoon, I explored downtown Beacon and all the innovative stores and trendy restaurants. I ended up though eating at a Pizza and Stuff II Pizzeria at 339 Main Street. The pizza there is delicious. Those trendy restaurants prices are ridiculous and I am not too sure how the locals afford some of these places. Still it is a beautiful and quaint downtown with nice businesses set in the distance of the Hudson River mountains. The foliage around the town sets the tone.
As Halloween approaches, there will be more to do and see. Check out my blog on Halloween Again 2019.