The entrance to Mesier Park where the Homestead is located
The plaque outside the home
I visited the Mesier Homestead recently and toured the home with a local docent. Home to four generations of the Mesier family, the house has been added onto since it was built in the mid-1700’s. The rooms are decorated with furnishings from the Victorian era and shows life as it may have been in the late 1880’s at the height of the Victorian era.
The Mesier Homestead in the summer months
The tour of the rooms shows how the home was added onto to meet the increased demands of a growing family and one of increasing affluence. The…
I love visiting the Hudson River Valley so any event or tour that I can go on is an excuse to come up here. I had visited all the sites that I wanted to see on a trip two weeks earlier but wanted to see them in more detail plus I wanted to take some pictures. The weather finally broke, and it was a much more pleasant 83 degrees as opposed to the 96 degrees the trip before. That makes the trip much nicer.
I asked my aunt along so that we could share in the experience, and I could use her phone to take pictures of the all the sites. It is a much nicer trip when you have someone along who enjoys these things. The one nice thing about traveling to the Fishkill, New York area is that it is only an hour away and a straight run up the New York Thruway to Route 84 and then to Route 9. Just a couple of quick back streets and you will be there.
On my first trip up, I got there so early that no one was at the first site, The Brinckerhoff Homestead Historical site, the home of the East Fishkill Historical Society at 68 North Kensington Drive in Hopewell Junction, NY. I double back and stopped for a quick snack at G & R Deli Cafe, a small deli at 2003 Route 52 in a strip mall near the old IBM campus. I needed a snack. This was my go to place both in the summer and when I came back for Christmas. The owners are really nice and the food is excellent.
Since I already had dinner plans, I ordered a Sausage, Egg and Cheese on a roll ($5.95) which was a bit more expensive than in the City but it was delicious. The sausage had a nice taste of sage and gave it a lot of flavor. I just relaxed outside in the parking lot and ate breakfast. Another time that I visited, I had the same version with bacon and both times the sandwiches were excellent.
The breakfast sandwiches at G & R Deli are excellent
After my snack, I got back to the Brinckerhoff Homestead at 12:00pm when it was supposed to open but around 12:30pm there was still no one there and I kept knocking on the door. That’s when one of the county members let me know that they did not open until 1:00pm. Since I had a list of places to visit that day and the time had been posted all over the internet, I asked if we could please start early. He agreed and I got a personal tour of the house. When I came back two weeks later, I better timed it for the 1:00pm opening to take pictures.
The Brinckerhoff family is prominent in the Fishkill area and family members still visit the homestead so the house’s history is ongoing. The house is broken down into three sections as you can see by the picture. The original part of the home was built by John G. Brinckerhoff in 1755 and it consisted of the “Everything Room” on the lower floor with the hearth for cooking, a beehive oven and the large room upstairs for family living.
As John Brinckerhoff’s family grew, they moved out of the house and his brother, George G. Brinckerhoff moved into the home with his family. After the Revolutionary War was over and George G.’s assignment was over in the army, he returned to the house and in 1785 added the middle main addition of the house with four additional rooms. The larger rooms and high ceilings showed the family affluence in that they could heat the home.
When George died in 1812, his brother John and his family moved back into the house. In 1814, the family sold the house to the Purdy family. They lived in the house for the next 60 years and added the final addition onto the house to the left with a summer kitchen and an outdoor oven. It remained in the family until 1875 when it was sold to the Palen family who used it again as a farm. It was then again sold to the Moore family in 1926 and lastly sold to East Fishkill Historical Society in 1974 by developer Gustav Fink who was a developer in the area (East Fishkill Historical Society).
The rooms are decorated in period furnishings and when we started the tour, you begin in the oldest section of the home with the original kitchen area.
The “Everything Room” in the Brinckerhoff Homestead
This is where the family would cook, eat, do their work on farm affairs and socialize. There was also a small general store on the property as well. The upstairs was closed to the public.
You next moved into the main rooms of the 1785 addition which brought it the into then modern era with high ceilings and larger rooms so that the family had more living space and could entertain.
The Main Dining Room of the home which was set for Hot Chocolate service which again showed the family’s affluence as chocolate was very expensive then
We also toured the Living Room which was set for socializing and work women did for the home with needlepoint, weaving, and clothes making. There was still room for people to gather and entertain.
The Living Room of the 1785 addition to the home
Along the main corridor of the home in the addition was all sorts of artifacts from the Revolutionary War period and items from the time.
Our last part of the tour was the latest addition by the Purdy family when we toured the ‘Summer Kitchen”, which showed how the home had progressed over the years. Little by little each family brought it into the next ‘modern era’.
Both times I got to tour the grounds and the beautiful gardens that the volunteers maintained. Rock gardens and flower beds line the three acres of land around the house. Along with the flower beds, several historical buildings have been moved to the property including the one room schoolhouse from District 9 in East Fishkill that was built in 1826, the 1870 Icehouse which once supplied another home with its ice for the home to keep food fresh before the advent of refrigeration.
The Schoolhouse and the Icehouse and gardens
Another building that is still in use and is open when the house is open for touring is the John Hyatt Blacksmith shop from 1880. It still has some of the original tools and the blacksmith on duty still works the fire and performs tasks in the building.
The last building on the property is the Van Wyck Carriage Barn from 1845. It had been built by Judge Theodorus Van Wyck for his home that was built in East Fishkill that was torn down by the development of the IBM Campus in 1984. IBM paid to have the carriage house dismantled and moved to this property.
The East Fishkill Historical Society with the Brinckerhoff home in the center, the schoolhouse to the right and the blacksmith shop and the carriage house to the left
We took our time to tour the house and the grounds and on my initial visit I got to tour the schoolhouse, the ice house and the blacksmith shop to see the inner workings of these buildings and how they operated.
The docents had told me that they had recently held a ‘Strawberry Festival’ recently promoting the local fruit crops and serving complimentary strawberry shortcake that everyone enjoyed and was gone quickly. There are also Revolutionary War reenactments done on the property and for the holiday season the home will be decorated for the period Christmas holidays with an open house, so there will be things to do and see in the future.
When I returned in December, the curator invited me back to see the house decorated for Christmas. So while I was up seeing the decorated mansions of the Hudson River Valley the first, second and third weekends of December (read my blog on visiting the Hudson River Valley-Day Two Hundred and Fifty-Five-Christmas Again?):
The whole Brinkerhoff Homestead site was decorated for a Revolutionary era Christmas and the tables were set for an Afternoon Tea Fundraiser. The displays showed both a Revolutionary War and Victorian theme. With the fire places blazing, it made the whole house smell of oak and pine.
The Brinckerhoff Homestead decorated for Christmas
The Brinckerhoff Homestead Christmas tree
The Christmas display case at the Brinckerhoff House of Victorian toys
Santa does visit the first weekend of December
Our next stop on the tour of homes was the Van Wyck Homestead Museum at 504 Route 9, the old Albany Post Road. The house had stood on the main transportation line during the Revolutionary War period and it had served as General George Washington’s northern supply depot during the war because of this location.
Van Wyck Homestead Museum at 504 Route 9 (the Old Albany Post Road)
In 1732, Cornelius Van Wyck bought 959 acres of land from the original Rombout Patent and built the smaller section of the home to the right in 1732. As the family gained affluence in farming and trade, the larger section of the home to the left was built in 1757 with larger rooms and higher ceilings again to show a family’s wealth.
Because of the location of the house in Fishkill on the main road of transportation and the strategic location near the mountains to the south, General George Washington requisitioned the home as the northern supply depot for the Continental Army in October of 1776. Here supplies were run through, army regiments passed and people were buried who died during the war. The house was also used as the headquarters and court marshals and punishments took place on the property (Van Wyck Homestead Museum pamphlet). After the war was over, the house and farm was returned to the family.
The historical marker of the original home
The way the house was furnished was slightly different from the Brinckerhoff Homestead that looked more like you were walking into someone’s actual home. The old Living Room of the Van Wyck Homestead is being used as a meeting room and a place to display items from the Revolutionary War.
The Living Room and Meeting Room at the Van Wyck Homestead
The Revolutionary War Collection at the Van Wyck Homestead
Towards the back of the home is a Library/Research area and we were able to see all the old books and records that are part of the home’s collection. This is where most people do their genealogy work and family research.
The Research Library at the Van Wyck Homestead
What both my aunt and I thought was interesting was when we entered the older part of the house and the old Dining Room area. Many of the artifacts were old Van Wyck family heirlooms that had been donated over the years.
The Dining Room of the Van Wyck Homestead
Some of the recent additions were the crib which had been in the family for five generations and had just been donated to the home as well as the painting over the fireplace had just been collected by the home. Like the Brinckerhoff Homestead, there are many members of the Van Wyck family who come back to visit and still live in the area.
The Colonial kitchen and hearth are in the oldest section of the home from 1732. This is where the “Everything Room” was located. Back when this was the only section of the home, this is where all the cooking, dining, family business and social activities were located. All sorts of kitchen equipment lined the walls and shelves to show life in colonial times. It was funny that much of it has not changed over the years, just modernized.
The original family kitchen in the 1732 section of the Van Wyck Homestead
Outside the home, the organization planted the outside gardens and there is a recreation of the old beehive oven aside the home. It gave you a glimpse of how food came about for these large families before supermarkets.
The Van Wyck Gardens showed how the house was self-sufficient at one time
After touring the grounds, we walked back to see the displays one more time. On my initial trip, the tour guide let me see the upstairs rooms. In the newer part of the home, they had been turned into storage and offices for the docents. In the older part of the home, the old loft area was used for storage, and it was pretty dusty. The house was closed for Christmas but will reopen in the Spring.
After touring these two homes, we were off to Wappinger’s Falls further up Route 9 to visit the Mesier Homestead in Mesier Park just off the beginning of Downtown Wappinger’s Falls. There was a concert going on in the park and my aunt said she needed a break from visiting these old homes. Too many arrowheads and Revolutionary War furniture so she stayed and listened to the concert while I toured the home.
The Mesier Homestead is the home of the Wappinger Falls Historical Society, who maintains the home. The Mesier home is much like the other homes in that it had been added onto as the family grew and became more affluent. The original part of the home is currently going through a renovation and the President of the Wappinger Falls Historical Society explained that they just discovered the old hearth and oven and are currently restoring the historic windows.
The original part of the home is currently under renovation
Starting the tour at the front entrance of the home that leads to the formal Living Room that is decorated with Victorian decor. Again the large rooms and high ceilings showed the family affluence by showing how they could afford to heat their home.
The Living Room at the Mesier Homestead
The copies of the Mesier family portraits in the Mesier Living Room
The Living Room leads to the back Library where many additions of older books are held and where visitors can do research on their family history in the Wappinger Falls. Many are trying to trace their family’s history.
The Mesier Homestead Library and Research Room
The back area of the house is closed for renovations, but you can climb the stairs to the old bedrooms on the second floor. Here is where both the family and the family slaves then servants lived on the same floor.
The Adult’s Bedroom set during Victorian times
A woman’s boudoir during Victorian times
The rooms also showed a child’s place in the family where during Victorian times were treated like ‘little adults’ being trained for their future lives. Toys not just sparked the imagination but also prepared children for domestic life
Children’s playthings during Victorian times spurred imagination
On top of the recreations of the family life in both Colonial and Victorian times that the family lived through, there was an extensive collection of Native American items showing the original settlers of the region when the Lenape Indians lived, fished and hunted in this area before the arrival of the Dutch in the late 1600’s.
The Native American collection on the second floor of the Mesier Homestead
The last part of the tour ended in the formal Dining Room where the entertainment was done and the family took their meals. When I asked why these homes seemed so much smaller than homes like the Vanderbilts and Mills families, it was explained that these families were older more established and did not have to show off their wealth. Since these were God fearing individuals, it was not acceptable to be ‘showy’. People knew they were affluent so they could show off but not flaunt it.
The formal Dining Room at the Mesier Homestead set for dinner
During the Christmas holiday season, the house is beautifully decorated for a Victorian Christmas with garlands and bows and period decorations. Most of these old homes are elegantly decorated as the families once had done during the holidays.
The Living Room at the Mesier Homestead at Christmas
During Colonial times, Christmas meant church services in the morning or afternoon and then a formal dinner in the afternoon. You might have pine, garland and berries decorate the house whereas during Victorian times, it was a much more elaborate affair. There would be a Christmas tree, garland and pine all over the home and gift giving. Christmas cards would have also decorated the home as well.
The Mesier Homestead foyer decked at Christmas time
The Dining Room table was decorated for Christmas lunch
After the tour, I took a quick walk into downtown Wappinger Falls which has a great downtown with terrific restaurants and a great view of the river and falls.
Downtown Wappinger Falls has such a unique look to it.
During Christmas time, the downtown had a quaint look to it with garland and wreaths decorating people’s homes.
Downtown Wappingers Falls during Christmas
The Christmas tree in the Wappingers Falls square downtown
The Bandstand decorated at night
Our last part of the tour was visiting the First Reformed Church of Fishkill at 717 Route 9 at the beginning of Downtown Fishkill, NY. This elegant old church with its historic cemetery was built in 1732 on land that had been set aside for the church.
The Fishkill First Reformed Dutch Church at 717 Route 9 with the DuBois House next door
The church was closed for the afternoon as services are at 10:00am on Sundays so I toured around the church and the cemetery. What was interesting about the cemetery is all the family plots and who was intermarried into whose families.
The cemetery behind the church is full of family plots including the Brinckerhoff and Van Wyck families
After touring the church and the cemetery grounds, I took my time and walked Downtown Fishkill which is lined with small but interesting restaurants and stores. The street had been lively the two times that I visited with people enjoying the outdoor dining and the perfect 80-degree weather.
The Van Wyck family vault is located in the church’s cemetery
During Christmas time, the church was tastefully decorated for Christmas and for holiday services.
The church was decked with wreaths and garland
The church doorway looked like something out of a Christmas Card
Downtown Fishkill, NY decorated for Christmas
CIty Hall decorated for Christmas
I searched that entire downtown from one end to another and I could not find the Fishkill Town Christmas tree.
While walking around Downtown Fishkill, I came across the Fishkill Creamery at 1042 Main Street and needed a quick snack on a hot afternoon. The store was really busy with people eating outside on the benches and tables. I stopped in and had a scoop of Strawberry Cheesecake and a scoop of Birthday Cake ice cream. Did it hit the spot! The Strawberry Cheesecake was especially good with chunks of fresh strawberries in it.
The Fishkill Creamery at 1042 Main Street in Downtown Fishkill
After the ice cream, it was time for dinner (I always believe in saving room for dessert). Both times I tried Antonella’s Pizzeria & Restaurant at 738 Route 9 in Fishkill. You really have to search for the restaurant as it is located in the strip mall in the Shoprite Mall.
Antonella’s Pizzeria & Restaurant at 738 Route 9
The food here is really good. When I came up on my own, I just wanted something small, and I ordered the Cheese Calzone ($8.95). The thing was huge! The Calzone was so large that it could have fed two people easily. It was loaded with Ricotta, Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and they make a terrific marinara sauce that accompanied it. By the time I finished devouring the thing, I was stuffed. This after all that ice cream.
We returned to Antonella’s when my aunt and I returned to Fishkill for the touring since I was so impressed with the food and service. My aunt had the Sausage, Pepper & Onion Roll ($8.50) and I had the Stromboli Roll ($8.50) which had ham, salami, pepperoni, Ricotta and Mozzarella cheeses wrapped in a perfectly baked pizza dough. Both were served with their flavorful marinara sauce. After a long day of touring, it was just what we needed. We also took plenty of time to relax and digest on this trip.
The Cheese Calzone’s at Antonella’s are excellent
It was really a nice day and there is so much to see and do in this part of the Hudson River Valley. I had not really explored Fishkill, NY so it was fascinating to see all these old homes and historic sites and know their place in history. Take the time to tour these homes and hear the family stories. Remember to head back during the Christmas holiday season and explore these homes and the downtowns when they are decorated for the season. There is a special magic in the Hudson River Valley during the holiday season. Check their websites for more activities during the year.
(Please read the accompanying reviews on VisitingaMuseum.com to see a full description on these homes).
Places to Visit:
Brinckerhoff House Historic Site/East Fishkill Historical Society