I was walking around Downtown Red Hook to update a blog I wrote on the town and I passed Petals & Moss, a local flower and gift shop. What attracted me to the store was the unique window display of arrangements of flowers and the very simple and rustic look of the display. It really showcased the flowers in their simplest form and showed off their beauty. It was also the elegant wreaths that showed the creativity of the owner, Nancy Lee.
Petals & Moss has such a welcoming and artisan look to it from the outside
When I went inside to see the store I was greet by the owner in a very friendly and…
Well, Christmas is finally officially over for me. It was one for the books. The holiday season just came and went without much fanfare or activities. Nothing like last year which was a lot of running around visiting decorated homes or running to the next cocktail party or dinner. Those things just did not exist this year. This season was all about the outside walking tours and small get togethers.
The whole holiday season became a blur and I started to attend a lot of outdoor activities that became available. Anything to get out of the house and see people or go do something out of the ordinary. I really had to search things out.
They started closest to home. I was trying to split my time between places that were just a drive away, going back and forth to the Hudson River Valley, which gave me a change of scenery and walking the neighborhoods of Manhattan, which gave me a sense of purpose as I felt I was supporting the City by being a cheerleader for all it had to offer even in the era of COVID.
My holiday journey started with the delivery of 375 Christmas trees for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. It was a big undertaking for a major charity that supports graduating high school seniors with scholarship money for college. I sometimes wonder if these students know what we go through to get the funds.
The trees were really nice this year
I have never seen so many Christmas Trees fly off a lot so fast. The membership of the Men’s Association got there at 9:00am and the truck arrived at 10:15am. We sold our first tree at 11:30am as we were tagging them. I stayed the entire day from 9:00am to 10:00pm when we closed the lot down for the evening. In the three shifts that I was there with the other guys, we sold 45 trees which we have never done our first day of sales.
The Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association at set-up 2020
We were completely sold out by December 11th which I have never seen before. It seemed in the era of COVID everyone reverted back to the 1970’s and wanted a fresh Christmas tree for their home. I thought this was wonderful and people could not have been more supportive to our organization.
Please read my blog on “Christmas tree sales in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ”:
Please watch the commercial I did in 2015 to sell our trees
The first week of December means “Open Houses” at some of our merchants in Downtown Hasbrouck Heights. I look forward to seeing all the Christmas merchandise being offered, all the bouquets created for the event and the beautiful Christmas windows that our florists in town have done.
Bill O’Shea’s Florist at 231 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ always has a nice gathering the weekend before Thanksgiving. This year was like no other but it did not keep a nice crowd of residents from coming out and looking over ideas for floral displays, house decorating ideas and listening to festive holiday music all while nibbling on prepackaged treats and bottled drinks.
Bill O’Shea’s has some of the nicest displays at the holidays
In a normal year, it would be hot chocolate and coffee with freshly baked goods but COVID has changed the way these businesses are run. Everything had to be prepackaged and most people at it outside as juggling and shopping with a mask on was tough.
The weekend after Thanksgiving, the same weekend we set up the Christmas Tree lot for the Men’s Association, Heights Flower Shoppe at 209 Boulevard in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ had their Open House and that was equally as nice.
Heights Flower Shoppe is housed in a turn of the last century home that dates back to the original founding of our downtown and has a very classic boutique look to it. The store was stocked with all sorts of Christmas decorations, homemade candies, decorative household gifts and beautiful floral displays as well as outside had decorated wreathes and grave blankets.
The homemade candies and Christmas decorations adorn the store
Like Bill O’Shea’s, there was all sorts of packaged holiday treats to enjoy including Italian sodas, small bags of homemade Christmas cookies and candies. Last year they had a nice assortment of cookies and small sandwiches with coffee, tea and punch so there are always holiday treats to nibble on too here as well.
All of Downtown Hasbrouck Heights was beautifully decorated for the holidays with wreaths on all our lamp posts, Christmas lights on the trees, merchants display windows decorated to the hilt and Christmas music playing.
Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ is always so nicely decorated for the holidays
This year because of COVID, the Annual Holiday Parade and Christmas Tree Lighting were cancelled in town but they did have a small get together at the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights to light the town Christmas tree. It was lit from Thanksgiving until the Epiphany on January 6th. It is always a beautiful site when entering town from the west side of town.
The Christmas Tree on the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
Even the little Neil Parrot playhouse, a local landmark in Hasbrouck Heights, was decorated for the holidays and was lite up at night as well.
The Neil Parrot Playhouse on the Circle in Hasbrouck Heights awaiting Santa
There were several nights of my aunt and I exploring the town and driving block by block to see all the decorated homes. Hasbrouck Heights and the surrounding towns of Lodi and Wood Ridge always do a wonderful job decorating for the holidays but with everyone being home and COVID hitting the area hard, people wanted to really decorate and make this year even more festive. Between the merchants and home owners, they made this time of year in Hasbrouck Heights very festive.
Please read my blog on Visiting Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ:
I did not just celebrate Christmas in Hasbrouck Heights. I ventured into other parts of New Jersey, to New York City and my usual haunts in the Hudson River Valley but like New Jersey, New York State was on a lock down as well and all the decorated mansions and holiday gatherings were all cancelled as well. So everyone did their best to celebrate outdoors and have all sorts of tours and small get togethers. You had to move fast when reserving these events as they did fill up because everyone wanted to get out of the house and see things.
The Sinterklaas Parade that I have participated and volunteered at for so many years was cancelled because of COVID but like the Halloween Parade, the committee put together a video of the parade to share with the world. Still it did not compare to the excitement of walking down the hill with stars and music lighting up Downtown Rhinebeck, NY.
The noble Frog was to be our mascot for this year’s Sinterklaas Parade
It was not the same as the year before where the crowds kept getting larger and larger every year. The whole town came to life with activities, songs, lights and laughter but was silent that weekend except for people having dinner in town. I was able to sneak up during the week. The entire town was decorated with white lights and beautifully decorated store windows. Rhinebeck is one of those towns in the Hudson River Valley that looks straight out of a Currier & Ives woodcut.
Downtown Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas
Since all the Christmas parties and get togethers were cancelled, it gave me more time to look into other outdoor events. I went to a special “Historical walking tour at the Holidays” at the Bergen County Historical Society in River Edge, NJ. The tour was lead by Historical singer and lecturer, Linda Russell, who explained the traditions of the Dutch Christmas all while singing Colonial Christmas songs in between the talks at each historical house on the property.
The Steuben House at Christmas
Actors dressed in costumes (and masks of course-COVID is still going on) danced in the Steuben House ballroom as colonialists celebrating the holiday, Dutch housewives putting their children to bed while awaiting Sinterklaas. There was a Dutch wooden shoe with carrots for his horse outside the door and mistletoe on the ceiling.
Linda Russell performing and lecturing at the Bergen County Historical Society
There was a discussion on the Pagan traditions of bringing ‘greens’ from outside inside to have a bit of ‘live nature’ into the home. So mistletoe, pine and holly adorned homes during the winter months as these things were green and brought a bit of life into the dead of winter.
The last part of the lecture was done in front of the Campbell-Christie House with a visit from Sinterklaas himself. We had a short talk about who Sinterklaas was and his part in the holiday season. Then all the members of the tour enjoyed refreshments and got a goody bag when we left with holiday sweets. The lecture and songs were a nice way to enjoy the beginning of the holiday season.
My favorite song by Linda Russell “I saw Three Ships”
As I was finishing up the semester at the College, I was getting holiday preparations done at the house, having small gatherings of family and friends and trying to be COVID safe. I was also running in and out of the City finishing my blog on Kips Bay before the holidays started getting busier. I learned a lot of New York’s Colonial past from walking around this area of the City.
My blogs on the Walking the neighborhood of Kips Bay:
The next weekend I made my last trip of the season to Long Beach Island to visit Beach Haven and the tour the rest of the island one last time before winter set in. It had really closed down since Halloween. I expected it to be much busier with more people moving down there on a permanent basis. Driving up to the lighthouse, I saw more dark homes then lite ones.
I wanted to take one more tour of Long Beach Island to see how they celebrate Christmas at the shore. They do things very quietly in Beach Haven. I went to the Surflight Theater to see the only play I had seen since I attended Carnegie Hall last Christmas to see the play “We need a little Christmas” which I had seen advertised at the theater over the summer.
“We need a Little Christmas” at the Surflight Theater in Beach Haven, NJ
After the theater, it was surprisingly warm that afternoon hovering around 58 degrees so I walked to the beach one block away and walked on the Jersey shore for my only time that year and for the first time on Beach Haven beach since 1975. It has been a long journey since that time.
The Beach Haven beach was beautiful that afternoon
The town’s Christmas trees were across the street from the theater on the square just off the downtown. Even they had a subdued Christmas at the shore and the whole event welcoming in the season was done virtually.
Christmas in Beach Haven, NJ adapted like the rest of the world
My holiday dinner was spent at the Chicken or the Egg that evening and it was really good. The menu is so extensive and innovative. It was hard to make choices.
Cinnamon Bun Ice Cream sandwich at Chicken or the Egg
Their fried chicken sandwiches are really good and their Cinnamon Roll Ice Cream sandwich should not be missed.
The Chicken or the Egg at 207 North Bay Avenue in Beach Haven
I was able to tour the whole island that afternoon before it got dark and even at twilight here and there were signs of Christmas in small trees lit in the shopping areas and decorated homes. It is an interesting place at the holidays with the waves crashing in the background.
My blog on “Exploring Downtown Beach Haven and Long Beach Island, NJ”:
The next week was finals week at the College and I had to give my final exam. The students also finished work on their case study, “Bud N’ Mud”, a simulated flower/coffee shop I had the students develop. It was interesting to see how a group of student entrepreneurs would create a store with their own ideas on how to grow the business. This project ended the Fall semester.
One of my favorite logo’s from the “Bud N’ Mud” project
With the Christmas trees selling out by December 11th, we held our annual Christmas party at the Christmas tree stand site for the Men’s Association. It was a cool not cold night and we all huddled around the fire taking alternate turns hitting the makeshift buffet table and enjoying good conversation. It was a great way to end the year successfully and there will lots of scholarships being given out at the end of the school year.
The last big event before Christmas came was the Sunday before Christmas with the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department holding our Annual “Santa Around Town”. Because COVID was growing, the event was revamped from previous years and instead of stopping at sites all over town, we drove down each street in town slowly, having Santa wave and greet people who were on their lawns, driveways and porches. The residents of Hasbrouck Heights seemed touched by it and I could tell from the safety of the fire truck that the kids got a kick out of seeing Santa. People really needed the pick me up in holiday spirit at the time.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department at “Santa Around Town” 2020
On the Tuesday before Christmas after I finished work with my other job I needed a break and wanted to go on a road trip to the Hudson River Valley again. I was nostalgic for Christmas’s past and decided to visit some of the towns Upstate.
I explored Downtown Woodstock first seeing their very unusual Christmas tree in the square. I have to say one thing about Woodstock, they do pick out the most interesting tree to sit in the square. It always looks more surreal than traditional. Their annual “Santa Parade” was cancelled this year as well and they did a drive by with Santa at the Woodstock Fire Department who runs the parade.
Downtown Kingston, NY was next on the list. Talk about a town in transition. In the almost three years since I have been visiting Kingston, I have never seen a downtown change so rapidly. The businesses there have gone from all this ‘hippie granola’ businesses to all these antique furniture stores and art galleries and some really expensive restaurants. One of the locals told me the new residents are “Brooklynizing” Kingston.
Still the downtown was nicely lit for the holidays and their Christmas Tree while small is nicely lit for the holidays on the edge of the downtown “Stockade” district. The Dutch Reformed Church on the other end of downtown was nicely lit with wreaths on the doors.
I crossed the river and drove to Red Hook, NY which I love. Their downtown looks like an old fashioned shopping district straight out of another Currier & Ives print. All the little stores were decorated with garland and white lights and the merchants decorated their windows to the hilt.
My last stop on my search for the perfect picturesque Hudson Valley River town was returning to Rhinebeck, NY for the day. Rhinebeck was quiet on this Tuesday evening as most of the restaurants were closed and the shops had closed for the evening. Still it was nice to walk around and admire the while lights on the trees and admire the display windows.
The Christmas lights and windows of Downtown Rhinebeck, NY
Even the way I celebrate Christmas changed this year. Instead of spending time with my family, I spent three days in Manhattan with my best friend, Maricel, at a hotel in Times Square. Neither of us had the time to travel and we both had to work in the City, her at her hotel and me working on my blogs so both of us needed the rest.
AC Hotel New York Times Square at 260 West 40th Street
We stayed at the AC Hotel New York Times Square at 260 West 40th Street. What the room lacked in size, it made up in the view and in the location. We were one block from Port Authority, two blocks from Times Square and within walking distance from all the Christmas attractions from Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas windows and the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
While Maricel worked on Christmas Eve, I walked around the City. I saw the tree at Rockefeller Center which was loaded with people not keeping socially distanced. I admired the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue which had a New York City theme with Christmas scenes from around the City “This is how we Celebrate”.
Saks Fifth Avenue’s Christmas Themed window “Over the East River and Through the Neighborhoods to Grandfather’s House We Go”
Rockefeller Center’s Christmas Tree was even more special this year
I thought the windows at Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf-Goodman really lacked in creativity. Bloomingdale’s was having a bad year and Bergdorf’s had just gotten sold again (forth time since I worked there in 2004) so I did not expect much. With Lord & Taylor declaring bankruptcy earlier in the year and closing the main store on Fifth Avenue and B. Altman’s long gone and Macy’s going mechanical for the last few years, the excitement of seeing the windows has been less than enthusiastic.
Still it was nice to walk around Midtown after leaving the Rockefeller Center area and just walking around Third, Park and Madison Avenues. By 7:00pm, everything had shut down for the night and the streets were really quiet. What was eerie was when walking down Park Avenue and looking up and seeing so many dark buildings. The area looked abandoned with so many apartment lights out. I wondered where everyone went?
When Maricel got off work, I brought in dinner 9th Avenue Deli at 769 Ninth Avenue. I brought in a juicy cheeseburger and chicken fingers which we shared and then dug into. The perfect comfort food on a cool night. Christmas Eve was a mild 59 degrees and it was nice to walk around.
9th Avenue Deli at 769 9th Avenue
We just hung out the whole night and watched movies in the hotel room. I went to bed early and sunk into the wonderful Marriott hotel bed. Marriott had the best hotel beds and every time I stay at one of their hotels, I slept like a log.
Christmas Day we just relaxed in the room and I called many members of my family to wish them a Merry Christmas. While Maricel went to work, I decided to start touring neighborhoods like Kips Bay, Rose Hill and NoMAD in preparation in my walks there. It started out being a cold, cloudy day and there was barely anyone on the street. I saw a few people walking their dogs and that was about it until about 3:00pm. It them cleared up and was a mild 55 degrees until it got dark and then cooled down.
What really shocked me about Times Square was how dirty it was on the streets. They had not picked up the garbage on Christmas Eve day and did not pick it up until after Christmas Day so between the theaters being boarded up and the ply boards filled with graffiti, hotels closed and restaurants shut, the whole Theater district looked like NYC circa 1975. It was creepy how the pandemic was affecting the business of this neighborhood.
Neighborhoods like Kips Bay, Murray Hill, Rose Hill, NoMAD and the Flatiron District were really quiet that morning and early afternoon. All the restaurants and stores were dark, three hotels had closed in the district and I saw just a few people milling around. Things changed as I got closer to Macy’s Herald Square.
When walking around Koreatown, which runs between Sixth and Fifth Avenues between 35th to 32nd Streets, the side streets were teeming with Korean couples and groups of family members dining in the outdoor restaurants and cafes. This neighborhood was really jumping and full of life.
As the day wore on by 5:00pm, the rest of the City came back to life and more restaurants and stores opened up. Christmas morning and afternoon were now over and I could tell that people wanted to get out of the house (probably to get away from the family celebrations). When Maricel returned, I ordered in dinner from Golden City Chinese Restaurant at 423 Ninth Avenue, one of the few neighborhood restaurants open and we our dinner in the room. The food was okay. It was nice to just eat in the room and relax.
Christmas dinner was Lemon Chicken and Fried Rice from Golden City Chinese Restaurant
We checked out at noon on the 26th and she left for work that afternoon, I headed into Brooklyn to visit the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the Brooklyn Museum. Both were really quiet that day. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden was mostly dormant for the winter and most of the garden was closed off because of COVID. The “Studio 54” exhibition had long closed at the Brooklyn Museum so I just wondered the halls and looked at some of the changes in the permanent exhibitions that they had. I left the City for home early that evening.
The last week of the holiday, I entertained family at a Lasagna and Champagne dinner I had a the house. Since I was not able to spend time at home during the holidays, my aunts came over to my house and we had a three course meal with champagne and wine. We spent the whole night laughing and enjoying the evening.
New Year’s Eve was a quiet evening at home alone talking with other friends who were staying home alone as well. Times Square was empty that evening with the exception of the 350 first responders who were invited to the ball drop. When I watched it on TV it was eerie to see it so quiet. There was no one for blocks except police guarding Times Square.
I headed back up to the Hudson River Valley again on New Year’s Day to go on two walking tours in Staatsburgh, NY at the Mills Mansion. It was the Annual “First of the Year” walking tours and it was a cool, crisp morning for a walking tour of the property. There were two tours that morning, one was on “Winter Activities in Victorian Times” with us learning about all the winter activities that the residents here enjoyed like skating , sledding, ice boating and horse drawn sleigh rides.
Staatsburgh, the Mills Mansion in the winter
The other tour later that afternoon was on “Ice Harvesting in the Hudson River Valley” , where we learned about how the ice harvesting of the Hudson River was a big business before the advent of refrigeration. Large slabs of ice were cut from the river, floated down stream and then packed in straw awaiting sale over the metropolitan area for peoples ice boxes throughout the year. It just gave me anther excuse to visit the region I love so much.
My blog on the Mills Mansion on VisitingaMuseum.com:
Another local event that was COVID safe was a driving tour through the “Holiday Lightshow” at Demarest Farms in Hillsdale, NJ. This was the first time that the farm opened the apple and peach orchard across the street from the farm stand. I saw this display the last week it was open and even after the holidays, it was a special treat as we awaited the Epiphany.
Driving through the display only took about forty minutes but was a delight in the senses and sounds. I played the classical music station as I drove through and admired all the colorful lights on the now dormant trees while Santa’s and Snowmen winked and waved and toy soldiers lit the way through the dark field. Even the Demarest homestead was ablaze with lights.
Demarest Farms at 244 Werimus Drive in Hillsdale, NJ
My blog on “Visiting the Farms of Bergen County, NJ at Christmas”:
Don’t miss this holiday lights ride through the orchard in 2021
The holiday event I visited was the Bronx Zoo for their “Holiday Lights” event at the zoo. It was the last night of the event and I arranged for the tickets that afternoon. The zoo gave me a 30% discount to go that evening and I was on the subway ride up to the Bronx.
The Bronx Zoo Light Show
I was really impressed by the display. The entire park was decorated with white lights, with different sections of the park decorated with different themes such as jungle animals, aquatic mammals and all sorts of assorted elephants, seals, penguins, lions, tigers and bears (oh my haha). There were costumed characters to take pictures with and they even had the Bug Carousel open that evening. I got a kick out of riding this since I had not done this since I was a little kid.
The Bronx Zoo musical Christmas Tree in the old part of the zoo
In the older section of the park, they had zebras on stilts and a musical Christmas trees that had an interesting soundtrack of contemporary Christmas songs. Even though Christmas had been over now for almost two weeks, it me back into the Christmas spirit.
So there was the Christmas holidays in the era of COVID. Lots of outdoor activities in hot and cold weather. Many walking tours and more subdued events. Gone were the cocktail parties and big formal dinners and in their place were many more smaller outdoor events and communicating with nature.
Maybe we all needed to take a break from the more formal traditions and go back to the basics of family and friends. I think this was a reflective year and realizing what is important. It had not changed that much for me. I just adjusted to the times, wore a mask and got going. Staying safe and keeping others safe is what is all about.
Hours: Open Thursday-Sunday: 11:00am-5:00pm (the last tour is at 4:00pm)/Open Monday Holidays from April 19th to October 28th. The mansion then closes to prepare for the holiday season. Closed on Thanksgiving and Easter. There are special programs from January to April so please see the website.
Admission: $8.00 for adults/$6.00 for groups and Seniors/Children under 12 are free. Special events have separate fees and can run from $8.00 to $10.00 and above.
Just as New York City is starting to open back up slowly to visitors and tourists, the Hudson River Valley has opened its restaurants, farms, wineries and historical sites to visitors who need some fresh air and escape from their worries. It has been a tough last couple of months for everyone all over the country and especially in New York City that depends so much on their office workers and tourists to keep the economy of the City thriving.
The Hudson River Valley started to slowly open back up in June and sites have been cautious about keeping everyone socially distanced and keeping events to a smaller scale. Of course you have to wear masks to everything so it does make it difficult to be outside sometimes. Still it was nice to pass people stopping at farm stands to buy fresh produce, visiting farmers markets to see all crafts people with baked goods, prepared foods and artworks. It was just a nice change of scenery.
After finishing the Murray Hill section of Manhattan, my first neighborhood visited since the City reopened on June 10th, 2020, I wanted to visit the sites of the Hudson River Valley. The Staatsburgh Historical Park and the Friends of the Mills Mansion put together a series of smaller events for members and their guests over the weekend so I travelled up to Staatsburgh, Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck and Red Hook to visit historical sites and see the farms. There was a lot I wanted to cover that I was not able to visit last year because of my schedule.
I started on Saturday at 9:00am in Hyde Park, NY where I have once lived while attending the Culinary Institute of America in the late 1990’s. I had plenty of time to visit since my tour was not until 10:00am in Staatsburgh so I visited the Hyde Park Farmers Market. They had just finished setting up when I got there and having a whole hour before the tour of ‘Historical Staatsburgh’, I decided to stop off and visit the market.
The Hyde Park, NY Farmers Market
It was a cool morning when I arrived but most everyone had already set up their booths and it was a nice selection of baked goods, fresh vegetables and fruits, homemade items like pickles and jellies and a lot of crafts and skin care products. Apples are just starting to come in and there were all sorts of varieties available.
It was nice talking to the merchants about their wares and about business. The COVID pandemic has really affected the farmers markets like everything else and people are just getting used to walking around with masks on even in outdoor spots. The customers like myself put on the their masks and start exploring the booths.
One bakery I stopped at, Tom’s Heritage Bakes Goods & Jam by baker Tom Green, made a pastry that was cross between a pocket and turnover filled with fresh peaches, blueberries and cream cheese. It was $5.00 but it was amazing. The fresh fruit and the buttery pastry was a great combination. Another merchant was selling beautiful wooden snowman and Christmas trees and his wife was selling hand products. I was blown away by the craftsmanship of both of them. It was nice just being outside talking to people who looked happy to see another adult outside the house.
Don’t miss Tom Green’s fruit pockets at the Hyde Park Farmers Market
After the Farmers Market, I headed to Staatsburgh State Park and downtown Staatsburgh (which is about six buildings) to take the walking tour of “Historical Staatsburgh” that the park and the Friends group were sponsoring. While I waited for the tour to start, the local Episcopalian church was having their monthly soup and baked goods sale from 9:00am-12:00pm. It was not even 10:00am, they were almost all sold out. The weather had changed over the weekend and it was about 50 degrees when I got to Rhinebeck and had not warmed up that much. It was soup weather.
St. Margaret’s Church was having a wonderful Soup Sale before the tour
Also before the tour, I got to visit the Staatsburgh Library which is housed in the old church chapel. That was a really interesting library. It was lined with beautiful light fixtures and had a nice selection of books that was well organized and had a cosy Children’s Room that was off to the side for the kids. They also had public bathrooms which was very convenient before an afternoon of touring.
The Staatsburg Library was originally the church and then the chapel
We just outside the church at 11:00am and then started our tour of Staatsburgh. We started our walk at St. Margaret’s Episcopalian Church and were lucky enough to be allowed inside. We had to keep socially distanced but got to see the graceful woodwork and the beautiful stained glass windows. The Mills family had donated them to the church and were parishioners here.
The stained glass windows here are hundreds of years old
On the tour through the town, we got to see the homes of various servants and merchants who worked with the Mills family. What I was impressed with was how well the Mills family compensated their employees so that they could have a nice and comfortable life. The homes the servants lived in were really nice even by today’s standards. I could see why everyone stayed with the family a long time.
Many of the homes have been renovated since but still you could see how nicely they were designed and built. The gardens of these homes were in full bloom with zinnias and daisies so the colorful rock gardens accented the homes nicely.
Staatsburgh up until the end of WWII was a factory and industry town that mostly closed down after the war. It was explained to us that when Route 9 was built and bypassed the town, it went from a large working community to the sleepy little town it is today which I did not think was such a bad thing. Staatsburg has such a nice hometown feel to it now.
As we walked through the neighborhoods, we walked past the railroads where society would stop in their Pullman cars and attend society events at the Mills and other Hudson River families homes. It was mostly in ruin now but once this is where High Society gathered before they arrived at their summer homes or as guests.
The last part of the tour was visiting what was left of the small downtown which included a Coach facility for horses and an old elegant department store which now is a store that sells sails for sailboats. A real sign of the times how much a town can change.
The old department store in Staatsburgh now is a sail shop
After the tour finished, I took a ride around the side roads of the old town and admired the houses and gardens one more time. I liked the combination of stone gardens and old homes that make up this part of town. It gives it such a classic Hudson River town look about it.
For lunch after the tour, I went back to Del’s Dairy Creme at 6780 Albany Post Road for lunch. What a nice place for a relaxing lunch. The old ice cream stand has been renovated and the food here is excellent. I had their Roadside Burger which is a simple burger made with freshly ground beef with lettuce, pickle and tomato on it. God, was it delicious. You could taste the richness of the beef with the fresh vegetables. The Pint of Fries were freshly cut potatoes that had deep fried and salted to perfection. The only disappointing part was the milk shake made out of vanilla soft serve. It had no flavor to it.
Del’s Dairy Creme has the most amazing burgers and ice cream
I sat at one of the many tables on the lawn behind the stand. It was cool that afternoon so I wanted to get as much sun as I could. I also noticed all the families that were eating there that afternoon who looked they needed to get out of the house too. The kids ran around and played corn hole while their parents talked.
After the tour, I rode to my next stop the “Walkway Over the Hudson State Historical Park”, an old bridge in Poughkeepsie that you can walk the span of the bridge and see the views of the Hudson River and the surrounding valley.
The “Walkway Across the Hudson” was originally opened as the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge, the first train crossed in January 1889. Known as “The Great Connector,” the bridge linked the industrial Northeast with the developing Midwest and at one time the span was the longest in the nation(Walkway Over The Hudson pamphlet). It was a beautiful sunny day and the view was amazing.
The views over the Hudson River were beautiful
You can cross the river both on the Highland NY and Poughkeepsie, NY and I parked on the Poughkeepsie side. Please be careful when parking in the parking lot with all the bumps and pot holes.
The walk across the walkway was just breathtaking. You could see all the way up and down the river and the views of the riverside with the foliage changing. This on top of watching sailboats going by the bridge and there were some kites in the air on this cool, windy afternoon. You really have to take your time to walk both sides of the bridge. On the Highland side, there is a beautiful park with trails.
The beauty of the Walkway Across the Hudson needs to be appreciated on both sides of the bridge.
After I exited the Walkway, I decided to take a walk around Downtown Poughkeepsie, which I had not visited in almost 25 years since I went to college in Hyde Park. It was being gentrified then and now is going through another wave of gentrification right before COVID hit the country.
The Walkway Across the Hudson and the historical surrounding neighborhoods
The Little Italy section of Poughkeepsie must have been greatly reduced since its heyday. While walking around the Mill Street section of the neighborhood, all that is left is two restaurants, a bakery, a hair salon and a pizzeria. The pandemic has closed several businesses.
Still some of the food establishments stand out. Don’t miss La Deliziosa, an Italian pastry shop at 10 t. Carmel Place. I had an eclair that was delicious. It had a rich creamy custard filling with a thick chocolate icing topping that was a pleasure in every bite. I know that I had a big smile on my fact when I was walking back up Mill Street.
Little Italy and the Historic Downtown are being gentrified quickly
I could see the borders of the old neighborhood but I noticed was that the artists and ‘hipsters’ were moving into the neighborhood. Art galleries and studios were moving into the neighborhood as well as the old Victorian homes were being or had been renovated back to their glory days. The nearby Barrett Art Center is the hub of activity.
I walked from Little Italy to the Historic Downtown with its cast iron and stone carved on the first four blocks which are now housing art galleries, new restaurants and clothing stores. I could see by the new windows and sandblasting that the buildings have already been flipped and the artists are turning these into loft. This part of downtown will soon look like Downtown Beacon, NY soon. It looks like the artists are escaping the City and settling up here.
The Historic Downtown of Poughkeepsie has its Victorian charms
The Cast Iron buildings of Downtown Poughkeepsie are being made into lofts
After my tour of the historic part of Poughkeepsie, I took a drive up to Downtown Red Hook for a slice of pizza before I headed home for the evening. I love going to Village Pizza III for dinner. They make the absolute best red sauce that they use in their pizza and entrees. After having such a big lunch, I just settled on a slice of pizza and a Coke. I then walked around Downtown Red Hook before the trip home. Most of the stores were closed but it was fun to just work off lunch and dinner before I left for home. I would be back the next day for a tour of the Hudson.
Village Pizza III in Downtown Red Hook, NY is outstanding for pizza
Yum! Their pizza is excellent!
The next morning, I made my way back to the Hudson River Valley for the Hudson River Cruise in Kingston , NY at the Kingston Roundout. It was a quiet morning in Kingston as I got there about an hour and a half earlier than the cruise. It was also much colder than the day before and I learned my lesson from the day before and wore long pants on the cruise.
Hudson River Cruises run through the end of October and should not be missed
Before my 11:00am cruise, I got to walk around the Kingston Roundout, the riverfront section of the City of Kingston. This area of the City has seen a lot of action lately as the exodus out of the City up to Kingston has been tremendous. On another trip I took to Kingston one of the women at the Trolley Museum told me that they have 11,000 new residents in Ulster County.
I have to admit that it was not the greatest day to go out on the Hudson River. The temperature really dropped over night and even at 11:00am it was still only 48 degrees. It did warm up a little as the cruise went one but it was still cool the whole trip.
Don’t miss a trip on the Rip Van Winkle II before it closes down at the end of October
The boat, the Rip Van Winkle, was not that full at 11:00am in the morning, there were about 50 of us on a boat that normally holds about 200. So there was plenty of places for us to ‘socially distance ourselves from one another on the boat and most of us chose to sit on the top deck.
Even though it was cold, at least it woke us all up. When we pulled out of the Roundout, the first thing we saw as we exited to enter the Hudson River was the Roundout Lighthouse at the mouth of where the canal meets the Hudson River. Talk about picturesque.
The first stop on the cruise is the Roundout Lighthouse
There was a tape recording of the history of the lighthouse and the people that lived there. It seemed that the lighthouse keeper died on the way back to the lighthouse and his wife carried on the job for many years.
As we passed the lighthouse, continued south down the river until we started to see the mansions along the Hudson River like Wilderstein and the Mills Mansion at Staatsburgh. I have seen these estates many times from land but never from the view of the river and now know why they built the houses where they did. What views! Also the foliage was just starting to change Upstate and the colors were so vibrant.
The foliage is just starting to change in the Hudson River Valley
Our next point of interesting was the Esopus Meadows Lighthouse further down the Hudson River where we heard a recording of that lighthouse keeper as well. The lighthouse was built in 1871 and has been going through renovations and upgrades over the last several years. Sitting in the middle of the river with a backdrop of the foliage made the whole effect picturesque.
The Esopus Meadows Lighthouse sits majestically in the Hudson River
As we rounded the lighthouse, we heard the history of the lighthouses place in the Hudson River before automation and the changes in shipping over the next hundred years. Even though the Hudson River is still a major place of commerce and shipping it is not to the extent it was a hundred years ago. The coming of the railroads and then airplanes changed all that.
We headed back to the Roundout with a history of the mansions that lined the Hudson and our last home was the beautiful Wilderstein, the home of Daisy Suckley who was a relative and confident of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Queen Ann home sits on a buff with a beautiful view of the river.
Wilderstein sits on a buff with a beautiful view of the Hudson River
We made our way back to the Kingston Roundout by 1:00pm and it gave me plenty of time to explore the neighborhood. The Kingston Farmer’s Market was still going on when we returned and I do not know where these vendors get their prices. $5.00 for three cookies and a small bundt cake for $8.00? Were they kidding us? These prices were higher than the Farmer’s Market in Hyde Park and more inline with Union Square in Manhattan. Bypass this one folks!
The museum than covers the creation of the Erie Canal and the immense changes to shipping down the Hudson River and the growth of New York City due to shipping. It then covered the modern times with sailing, boating and rowing and its use today.
Hudson River Maritime Museum at 50 Roundout Landing
My next stop was the Hudson River Maritime Museum at 50 Roundout Landing right next to the cruise ship dock. This interest museum covers not just the nautical aspect of the Hudson River but its history from it’s creation by the glaciers and its indigenous population by the Lennape tribes and their life on the Hudson to the the coming of the Dutch settlers and the changes of population.
The history of the shipping and trade on the Hudson River
The museum also covers the development of industry and pollution on the river and how environmentalists have worked to clean it up. There is so much that has happened on the river and its history is extensive. There are also simulated rooms that had been once shipping offices and the complete history of the pleasure rides up and down the Hudson River in steamships. I was at the museum for over two hours.
The shipping industry has been extensive
After another quick tour of the Kingston Roundout shops and restaurants (which I may add are getting more expensive), I left Kingston for a quick trip to SUNY New Paltz to the Samuel Dorsky Museum. The campus had been closed since March and it was the first time since last year I was able to visit the museum.
In between both museums, I stopped for a snack at the Apple Bin Farm Market at 810 Broadway in Ulster Park, NY. This cute little farm stand is right next to their orchards and has all sorts of produce, gardening supplies and grocery products to purchase.
The Apple Bin Farm Market is typical Upstate Hudson River Valley
The market is really nice
I stopped and had a apple turnover which was pricey at $3.50 but was out of the world. It was loaded with apples and cinnamon and topped with a thick icing that I gobbled down in the parking lot. I will be visiting here again soon.
The SUNY New Paltz campus was open on a limited basis and the museum had just reopened. The Dorsky Museum was having a two exhibitions at the time that were carried over from the Spring when the school closed. Artist Jan Swaka, a local artist who had moved from Poland to the Hudson River Valley, was being featured. His works had the influence of change and turmoil coming from a Communist country.
Jan Sawka’s ‘Mother in Law portrait
The other exhibition called “Local Hudson River Artists 2020”, that featured local artists that really showcased the developments in the local art world. It was quiet at the museum and I had the galleries to myself. The campus was quiet during the weekend.
Local Hudson River Artists 2020 exhibition
After I toured the museum and part of the campus which there was no one around, I headed to the Mills Mansion for an outdoor concert that the were having for members. It was the first social event we had had since the Afternoon Tea for Masked Balls in February. I have been taking walking tours around the mansion recently (see VisitingaMuseum.com) but this was really nice.
Staatsburgh State Park-The Mills Mansion
The park and home are the former home of Ruth and Ogden Mills and is a really nice place to tour when it is open. We had the concert out on the portico in the front of the house. It was nice nice to see some of the other members again some since last Fall and some since the winter. We were treated to a concert by the duo ” Acute Reflections”, a jazz duo who looked like they were freezing in their costumes. It had dipped down to 50 degrees at this point and was going in the high 40’s by time the sun went down.
The duo “Acute Reflection” performed that late afternoon.
The concert was really nice as people were bundling under blankets to keep warm or enjoying light snacks that were provided by the Friends of Mills Mansion. The concert went on for about an hour with classic hits from Cole Porter and other known artist from that era plus some original songs they wrote. The duo had a lot of light banter between the two of them during the concert that we were picking up on. Still they were terrific.
Acute Reflections video
It was nice to see the sun set behind the mansion and admire the foliage. It was a nice way to end the evening and then watch the sun set over the Catskills in the distance.
After I left the mansion that evening, saying goodbye to other member of the Friends group, I stopped by Giacomo’s Pizza at One Spakenhill Drive by the Marist College campus for a slice of pizza. Talk about not socially distancing! Marist students were coming in and out all night and the place was packed with people ordering pizza and taking it back to campus.
There was not much of a selection that evening as their normally is so I just had a quick slice of Cheese and went on my way.
Giacomo’s Cheese pizza is really good
Even in the era of COVID, many of us are finding ways of adapting to what is going on in the world. With me, I just throw a mask on and go about my business. This is what life is all about just living it.
I will be making more trips to Upstate New York before Halloween.
Places to Visit:
The Staatsburg State Historical Site (The Mill’s Mansion)