The Hyde Park Historical Society is going through a type of rebirth as it has reopened with a fresh approach towards not just the history of Hyde Park, NY but the area in general and life here over the last two hundred years. The society is taking a new direction and revamping their efforts on the displays and on the history and activities of the museum. The museum is housed in what was once the Hyde Park, NY Fire Department building.
The museum is broken down into sections by displays. When you enter the museum there is an display of bicycles and recreation items that would have been used over the years…
Even in the age of COVID I wanted to do something special for my birthday. I had not travelled since last Christmas and the idea of staying in a hotel did not appeal to me with everything going on. Watching enough webinars through my Alma Mater, Cornell University, I found out that everyone was taking all sorts of precautions to make everything safe for guests. Getting tired of not going anywhere but locally I got an invitation to go back to Staatsburgh, NY for another walking tour at the Mills Mansion on the day before my birthday. It was for the “Discovering the Estates Tour” where we walked the grounds of the park to see the abandoned Hoyt and Lee estates that abut the Mills Mansion estate grounds.
Staatsburgh, The Mills Mansion, at 1 Mills Mansion Drive
Add to that wanting to go on the “Cemetery Walk” at the Dutch Church in Downtown Kingston Stockade District that is offered every Halloween, I planned the perfect early birthday present for myself. I thought I would go on the tours and treat myself to a early birthday lunch in Rhinebeck, NY.
The Old Dutch Church cemetery and grounds in Kingston, NY
I checked the weather in Upstate New York and it was going to be a sunny warm weekend with a chance of rain on Monday because of the hurricane travelling up the East Coast from Florida. Being that the foliage was starting to turn in the Hudson River Valley I wondered how it would be further up into the state.
I took a look at my schedule and classes did not resume until that next Tuesday and I made a phone call to the Otesaga Resort Hotel, a hotel that I had always wanted to stay out and visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame while I was there. I don’t know if it was just fate or that I was destined to go there but the hotel was fully booked that week.
The Otesaga Resort Hotel in Cooperstown, NY
The woman from Reservations told me because of the Columbus Day holiday and that being a vacation week for everyone that he hotel was fully booked for the first time since March (remember hotels can only be at 25% capacity at this time). She then said she would put me on the wait list but just as she said this she said to hold on. She came back to me and said that they just had a cancellation for a room for the night I wanted and would I like the room? I was able to book the room with a King sized bed and a partial view of the lake. It was fate and I jumped on it. That and the rooms were half the price they normally are so it gave me a chance to see Cooperstown, NY while keeping within budget.
So off I went to another weekend in the Hudson River Valley and further Upstate to Cooperstown, NY. It was near Halloween and I was going to search for ghosts. The first stop the morning I left for Staatsburgh-The Mills Mansion was the Hyde Park Farmers Market. I was in search of the baker I had met a few weeks earlier who had that terrific peach and blueberry cream cheese pocket. I wanted to get another if he had it.
Don’t miss the Hyde Park, NY Farmers Market on Saturdays in Hyde Park, NY
Luckily enough I found him. I met Tom Greene from Tom’s Heritage Baked Goods & Jams again and told him how much I loved the fruit pocket from my last trip. He said unfortunately the blueberry and peach season was over but he had apple pockets this time. It was delicious. Loaded with a sweet apple mixture and cinnamon in a flaky pastry made every bite melt in your mouth. It is well worth the $5.00 price.
Tom Greene of Tom’s Heritage Baked Goods & Jams
After I walked around the market again seeing all the produce, wines and crafts, I drove up the to Mills Mansion for my next walking tour, “Estates of Staatsburgh”, a tour of the abandoned Lee and Hoyt estates on the park property. A perfect tour as we get closer to the Halloween holidays and search for a ghost.
The tour of the old homes started at the Mills Mansion with a little story about Ruth and Ogden Mills, the owner of Staatsburgh. Their home had only been used for about four months out of the year, usually when they left Newport after the summer was over and before Christmas when they would leave for New York City for the Winter Social season. They were records though that the family did spend some holiday seasons there.
We also toured the grounds where greenhouses, boat houses and ice storage houses once stood and there was a conversation about the role of the staff especially the gardeners and farm staff while the Mill’s were away. Estate was still a working ‘gentlemen’s farm’, where they raised sheep, pigs, chickens and cows for show and for food for the estate.
Then we travelled along the river and through the woods to the Hoyt estate which stood abandoned on a buff overlooking the Hudson River. The Hoyt’s were distant relatives of Ruth Livingston Mills on the Livingston side of her family. They had lived in the home for generations until the State of the New York bought their home and estate through eminent domain back in the early 1960’s. The house and the outer buildings now sit abandoned until renovations can begin for them as Educational Centers and storage.
The Hoyt Mansion does look a little like a haunted house
The Hoyt Estate in its heyday
After a visit to the Hoyt’s home we visited the estate of the Lee Family which was further down the path. The home had burned down in the 1950’s so all that was left was traces of the driveway and the ice house for the estate. It still looked ominous sitting in the middle of the woods.
The Lee Mansion in its heyday before it burned down.
After our tour through the woods, the tour guide told us of the improvements both families had done to their homes before they were either abandoned or burned down. There are still traces of old buildings on the grounds and paths and gardens. We also got to see traces of the old garden shed and cow barn that are now in ruin. Now all of it has let Mother Nature take over.
At the end of the tour they finally opened the bathrooms for us (none of the men were too thrilled by this) and then we were left to tour the Mills estate or relax on the lawn and talk with other guests (socially distanced of course). I just relaxed and admired the beautiful views of the river on a warm sunny day.
The Mills Mansion back lawn facing the Hudson River
After my tour of the old estates, I travelled back to Downtown Poughkeepsie to take a better tour of the older historical sections of the City including Little Italy again, the Historic Union Street section and the older part of downtown. I never realized what a beautiful city Poughkeepsie is and the potential it has for a turnaround. The ‘Walkway Over the Hudson State Park’ is really bringing people back to the City. Plus it is one of the last towns along the Hudson River to gentrify.
Downtown Poughkeepsie is quite interesting in that none of the colleges that surround it ever opened a campus building in the downtown. Marist, Dutchess Community College, Vassar, Bard and the Culinary Institute of America are all located around the City. I can see by walking around the area closer to the Hudson River this is all beginning to change. It seemed that all the homes and businesses in area are being snatched up quickly as they are coming onto the market.
I parked in the Historic Union Street and started to walk around the neighborhood. There are a lot of old brick homes and mansions in the area. There are also a series of businesses that are being renovated in the area. People are really fixing the neighborhood and you can start to see by the beauty of the architecture.
Historic Union Street is changing fast
I then walked up the Main Street from the river to the historic part of the downtown and looked up at all the awnings of the buildings and you can see that many were built in the late 1880’s. These formerly boarded up buildings are being fixed up and turned into lofts and the store fronts are now art galleries and small restaurants.
The lower part of Downtown Poughkeepsie has its charms
The cast iron buildings of Downtown Poughkeepsie are being renovated
There are now three art galleries downtown, an arts building and now a fancy French restaurant and two upscale bars. Once you go about five blocks past the old Luckey Platt & Company Department Store building then it starts to get a little seedy. This is where most of the urban renewal most have happened and knocked the old area down. Still there are a lot of changes going on here too.
I then walked around the old Little Italy which I had explored a few weeks earlier. There is not much left to it. There are two restaurants, a pizzeria, a bakery and a hair salon. There is an Italian Cultural Center in the neighborhood as well. Now artists and ‘hipsters’ are moving in with new arts centers flanking the area and there is a lot of renovations of homes going on here.
This lower part of Poughkeepsie is changing fast
Before I left Little Italy for Kingston for the Cemetery Walk, I stopped at Emiliano’s Pizza at 111 Main Street for a quick lunch (See my review on TripAdvisor). The pizza was quite good. It was really cheesy and gooey but the sauce could have used more spices. Their selection and prices are very fair and the service is really good.
Emiliano’s Pizza at 111 Main Street
I arrived in the Kingston Stockade around 5:30pm and started to explore the historic Stockade and the changes that are happening there too. Kingston is going through a transformation as well. All the old what I would call ‘granola’ businesses like the all natural coffee shops and restaurants and old clothing stores have since closed. There was a lot of empty store fronts since last Halloween when I visited for the Puppet rehearsals at the Rokeby estate.
What has started to replace them is an incredible amount of smaller restaurants which are really expensive and a few furniture galleries that looked like they got priced out of Hudson, NY. I can see that this part of Kingston is getting more expensive like the Roundout section.
I wanted another quick snack before the Cemetery Walk, so I stopped at Wing Shui Chinese Restaurant at 53 North Front Street which is one of the last of the ‘old’ businesses left in this section of the neighborhood. I just ordered a few egg rolls and I have to tell you they were some of the best I had eaten in a long time.
Wing Shui Chinese Restaurant at 53 North Street
They were loaded with chopped roast pork and fresh vegetables and fried to perfection. I have to go back in the future. I have not had egg rolls this good since we went to Chan’s in Dunellen, NJ back in the 1980’s. They made a real impression on me when something is this good.
The egg rolls at Wing Shui Chinese Restaurant are excellent!
I wish I could have said as much for the ‘Cemetery Tour’ at the Old Dutch Church. I had been to the church in the past for Sinterklass fundraisers so I had been inside many times and just walked around the cemetery during the day. I was hoping this would be a more spooky type of event with the actor giving an approach from the dead’s point of view.
The Lantern Tour of the Cemetery
The problem with the actors who were playing the roles of the people buried at the Old Dutch Church cemetery was that they wanted it both ways. They wanted to play the roles of people in their own era and this spread out in a three hundred year period and then they wanted to bring modern politics into it which I did not want to hear their opinions and would not what someone would have thought in their time frame.
The actors who played the roles of Emily Chadbourne, Father Divine and slave Jenny started to equate their characters to modern times which took the twist out of it. It made it less spooky and more political. The only actor who stayed in character was the one playing Calvert Vaux, the landscape designer of Central Park and a architect of many buildings.
The Old Dutch Church in the daytime is very interesting
The cemetery itself was very lurking after the event was over and everyone had left. The actors were gone as well as everyone else in about an hour and the church was locked up. Then it really did look gloomy with only the moon light and street lights to illuminate it. I was parked outside the church (did I luck out with parking that evening) and passed it again as I walked the downtown one more time. There are more changes coming to Kingston.
I spent the night in Hyde Park again and I highly recommend the Quality Inn. In the era of COVID I want to say that I was not too keen about staying in a hotel. The hotel does a great job in protocols and the place was as clean as a whistle and followed all the standards set by the CDC. The room was spotless (I have stayed here many times and the hotel has excellent standards) and there was a air purifier in the room as well as the window was open and smelled very nice. I also had a nice view of the woods and the rock wall outside.
I highly recommend the Quality Inn at Hyde Park, NY
I swear though trying to find an open restaurant after 9:00pm in Red Hook, Rhinebeck or Hyde Park was next to impossible. Everyone seems to roll up the carpet at 10:00pm. I ended up at the Hyde Park McDonald’s (see review on TripAdvisor) trying the new Spicy Chicken McNuggets which I highly recommend. They were really delicious especially with the new Spicy Sauce.
Don’t miss the Spicy Chicken McNuggets; they will make you want to come back to McDonald’s.
All that running around and driving on the first day of my trip wore me out. It was just to the Rhinebeck and Kingston areas and I was pooped. I was running from one thing to another and when I got back from McDonald’s, I hit the pillow and slept soundly. This hotel is so comfortable.
I checked out early the next morning. Talk about a good night’s sleep, I was ready to go. I went back to Downtown Poughkeepsie again to try Alex’s Restaurant at 1 Market Street which has been a fixture in the City since 1911. I wanted to go someplace different for my birthday breakfast.
Alex’s Restaurant at 1 Market Street in Poughkeepsie, NY
The one complaint I had about the restaurant was that when you are a single person they give you the worst table. With COVID, we were not even allowed to eat at the bar and I was stuck at a table in the back by the bathroom. That made the meal less enjoyable.
Still the food here is really good (See review on TripAdvisor). I had a dish called a “Breakfast Sampler”, which was two slices of French Toast, a pancake, two scrambled eggs, two slices of bacon and a rather big sausage patty. Everything was delicious and the waiter, Michelle, was really nice and was able to handle the crowd that morning.
I took more walk around Downtown Poughkeepsie before I had to cross the river again to the Kingston Roundout. As part of a gift to myself, I wanted to explore sites on my bucket list. My first stop was the Trolley Museum of Kingston. I had missed it on my last trip to the Roundout. Between the cruise and the Maritime Museum, it took up the whole day.
The Trolley Museum at 89 East Strand Street
The Roundout was busy that morning. It looked like New York City had emptied out and everyone came up to Kingston for brunch. The Trolley Museum at 89 East Strand Street is a unique little museum that tells the history of the trolley car not just in Kingston but all over the country.
The first part of your visit is the trolley ride up the Hudson River which on a beautiful clear sunny day is just amazing. We took a small trip to the center of town to pick up more people and then we took a ride through the woods and followed the river up to Kingston Point Park.
The ride up the river was fun
We were able to take a break and just walk around Kingston Point Park, looking at the foliage along the river and watching the sailboats go by. It was another cool morning but I learned my lesson and bundled up. It was just breathtaking.
The views are breathtaking
We only had about a half hour to enjoy the park and then it was back to the Roundout. I was able to explore the displays around the small museum and then walked through the subway cars and buses that were on display outside. I know that the kids seemed to loved it.
I wanted to stop back at the Dorsky Museum at SUNY New Paltz again to finish seeing the ‘Artists of the Hudson River’ exhibition so off I went again to New Paltz. When I left Kingston you literally could not find a parking spot as that’s how busy it was all getting at the Roundout.
The Dorsky Museum on the SUNY New Paltz campus
The Samuel Dorsky Museum at New Paltz is one of those terrific college museum’s that is tucked inside a campus building. The museum opened early that morning so I saw the exhibition with no one else around. The local artists had a nice showcase for their art. The college did a nice job mounting the display. There were some interesting pieces in the exhibition. This one below is made of locally made bricks from an old building.
The “Artists of the Hudson River Valley” is a great exhibition
After a quick tour of the exhibition, it was time to take the trip of to Cooperstown, NY. I had taken instructions from Google maps and took the trip up the local highways. What should have been a two and half trip ended up taking four hours. I went from Route 9 North past Saugerties and Catskill and then headed up Route 145 where I went through every small town in all the farming communities. I had never seen areas so depressed before. These were areas where progressed passed by.
The one thing I started to notice in all these small towns along the highway that in each of the towns I saw old Victorian homes being fixed up with rainbow flags outside of them. Either people were coming home or the reaches of people moving out of New York City reached these lengths. The only positive thing coming out of this pandemic that I noticed was that by people leaving the City and moving into these small communities is they will progress, new businesses and money to these small towns.
Even thought many of these towns were falling apart they had their charms as well. There were small downtown’s surrounded by Victorian homes telling the story that these were once prosperous farming towns with their own businesses and social lives. The town that stood out the most was Middleburgh, NY right near the end of Route 145 near the Interstate 88 turn.
The farms of Middleburgh, NY meet the Catskills with the most colorful foliage
Once I got off Route 145, I got on the Interstate and then went on a back road maze of streets that the directions sent me until I decided to just stay on the main road and drove up Route 7 to Route 18 to Cooperstown. I must have seen every small town in Upstate New York.
I finally arrived in Cooperstown at 6:00pm almost four hours later and I was exhausted from all the driving. I stopped in Downtown Cooperstown for directions and then it was off to the hotel. I got into town before it got dark so I got to see the views of the hotel. The Otesaga Resort Hotel at 60 Lake Street is right on the bend of the southern most part of Lake Otsego.
The Otesaga Resort Hotel is a grand hotel
The Otesaga Resort Hotel was taking every precaution as well. The hotel was only at a 25% occupancy and you could tell by the parking lot it was not that full. When I entered the lobby there were only a few people there and the front desk gentleman was behind a Plexiglas sheet with a mask and gloves on. Sterile but smart.
My room was everything that I hoped for. I had a third floor partial lake view room on the third floor which I found out after I left the hotel is one of the haunted floors. The hotel’s bio said that there the voices of small girls laughing in the hallway. I heard dead silence of a floor that was not that full. I settled in before I left to find a restaurant for my birthday dinner.
The Hawkeye Bar & Grill , one of the signature restaurants of the hotel, was the only one that was open with a very limited menu. I decided to come back later for a drink at the bar and headed into downtown a block away. There was not much open on a Sunday night at 7:00pm. It looked like the whole downtown closed up.
It was a cool night and I wanted simple comfort food. I was in the mood for a hot turkey sandwich and I found it at the Doubleday Cafe at 93 Main Street. Talk about being socially distanced there were only about ten people in the restaurant and a few more walked in after I got my dinner. Like I said, there was not much open. The restaurants were either too expensive or had boring menus.
The Doubleday Cafe at 93 Main Street in Cooperstown
The service here is really friendly and personable. After that long trip, I really needed this. The food was delicious (see review on TripAdvisor). The hot turkey sandwich really hit the spot. It was loaded with fresh turkey on white toast with a side of mashed potatoes. I got to watch the end of the Giants-Dallas game while I was eating (Giants lost again) and watched the last of the stragglers walking around the downtown.
The Hot Turkey Sandwiches here are delicious
After both the game and dinner were over, I took a long walk around the downtown. My family and friends had been calling me all day to wish me a happy birthday so I ended up talking to my brother while I was walking around. There was no one around that night and I swear there must have been about ten people walking around Downtown Cooperstown. The place was so quiet.
I walked back to the hotel that evening and it was all illuminated for the evening. The hotel looked busier than it was and in the lobby people were talking by the fire, working on their computers by the couches and the fire pit bar was packed with people who were socially distanced.
I had talked with one of the waiters earlier who said a friend of hers had seen a ghost in the hotel and said the Fifth Floor made people working at night a little uncomfortable so off I went to the Fifth Floor to search for a ghost.
All I saw was an empty hallway and people talking in rooms. Nothing going bump in the night. So I headed down to the Hawkeye Bar & Grill on the lower level of the hotel for a drink. I had a Cosmopolitan that really knocked me out. I was tired from all that driving. I was going to sit out at the fire pit but no one else was outside at that point and they were ready to close. They closed the bar at 10:00pm. At least I got my birthday drink in with a cheery hello from the bartender (see review on TripAdvisor).
The Fire Pit bar was very popular that night
If there was a ghost in my room, it could not have waken me with a atom bomb. I went into such a deep sleep that I awoke at 8:30am rested and refreshed. I had a 9:30am breakfast appointment in the Glitterglass Room, the hotel’s dining room for breakfast. What I loved about the package I chose was breakfast was included.
I had the best waiter. He said to me that since the buffet could not be done, I could order anything from the A La Carte menu and as much as I wanted. BIG MISTAKE! I love breakfast and I was starved. I started with a three egg omelet with ham and Cheddar with a side of bacon, potatoes, rye toast and tea and orange juice. After I ate that, I also ordered Fresh Waffles with blueberry compote. I think I shocked the waiter by eating everything.
The Glitterglass Room for breakfast is beautiful
After breakfast was over and before I checked out of the room, I walked around the grounds to admire the foliage and the lake. It cleared up outside and it was sunny with blue skies. The grounds of the hotel are just breathtaking. The views of the mountains and the lake are so scenic and graceful. The golfers, COVID or not, were out in force and already playing rounds of golf. It would have nice to use the pool or swim in the lake but that was out of the question.
The grounds of the Otesaga Hotel are glorious
I dropped my bags in the car and walked down to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for the morning. The downtown area was still really quiet and I had timed tickets for 12:30pm. I thought I would be there for about two hours. I was there for almost three.
National Baseball Hall of Fame
The National Baseball Hall of Fame is a true testament to the sport. There are artifacts from every era of the sport starting with early traces of bat and ball sports going back to the Egyptians and Greeks. The progress of the sport since the end of the Civil War to today is reflected in the memorabilia that has been donated over the year by teams, players and fans.
“The Captain” Derek Jeter
The museum opened in 1939 and has been growing every since. I really liked the Hall of Fame room with all the plaques of celebrated players. Recently Derek Jeter was inducted into the Hall of Fame but because of COVID, the ceremony was cancelled. I was looking for Reggie Jackson, “Mr. October”, who was induced in year ago. I just remember the thrill when he went in as a Yankee.
The Hall of Fame Room
I wondered through all the exhibitions of old player uniforms, displays of many of our most famous players and exhibits of the Negro and female leagues. There were interesting displays on Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. There was a complete collection of baseball cards and collectibles.
Lockers of the famous teams
There was even displays of Hollywood films such as “The Bad News Bears” and “A Field of Dreams”. There was a complete history of the ball and bats and the progression of uniforms over the years. There was even a history of the teams playing globally in Japan and the Dominican Republic.
The one thing I did notice that for a holiday weekend (it was Columbus Day) how quiet the museum was that afternoon. There must have been barely fifty people in the museum walking around at any one time. Even when I left the museum at 2:30pm, there were not that many people walking around outside.
Before my next stop the Fenimore Art Museum up the road, I stopped for lunch at Sal’s Pizzeria at 110 Main Street right near the National Baseball Hall of Fame for a quick lunch. After the breakfast I had I was not that hungry. I can always fit in a slice of pizza and a Coke. The pizza was pretty good, crisp on the bottom and gooey on the top. The sauce did not have much flavor though. It needed more spices.
Sal’s Pizza at 110 Main Street
The owner seemed worried about business. There were very few people walking around the downtown at 2:30pm and it did not look like it was going to get any busier. Even I was surprised for a holiday weekend it was so quiet. He confided it had been like this for awhile. Still the pizza is very good and the service is friendly.
I had stopped earlier in the morning at Schneider’s Bakery at 157 Main Street for a jelly doughnut. I just had to see the inside of this traditional old fashioned bakery.
Schneider’s Bakery at 157 Main Street
I highly recommend coming here for an early morning snack or for dessert later in the afternoon. Their cinnamon jelly doughnuts are delicious and the service is so friendly.
The selection of baked goods is extensive
After lunch, I walked back to the hotel, picked up my car and took one last look at the Otesaga Hotel. God, was a beautiful place it is with all the foliage and views of the lake. I was just spell bound by it all.
My last stop on this adventure was the Fenimore Art Museum at 5798 Route 80, right up the road from the hotel. This wonderful little museum is packed with interesting American Art from the Revolutionary and Colonial era, family heirlooms from the Cooper and Fenimore families who once owned all the surrounding land and developed the town, Native American Art from the Thaw Family and several pieces from the Hudson River School set of painters.
The Fenimore Museum at 5798 Route 80
The upper floors hold the special galleries which have revolving shows as well. I thought the Native American galleries were interesting. There are were all sorts of artifacts from all eras from ceremonial masks and religious objects to clothes and jewelry. There was an facinating amount of objects from different tribes.
The Thaw Collection of Native American Art
The historical family pieces show how much the family had a hand in the development of Cooperstown.
The Cooper Family Collection
I spent the rest of the afternoon touring the galleries by myself. There were not too many other patrons at the museum. I was surprised like at the National Baseball Hall of Fame that they were so quiet. It was myself and just a few other people. I left when the museum closed at 5:00pm.
Before I took the long road home, I took one more tour around the downtown and admired its beauty with all the foliage in full color. It was quite a site The ride home was so much quicker as I took Route 88 to Route 90 and then to the New York Thruway to Route 17. I was home in three and a half hours which really shocked me with the traffic I hit.
It was an amazing and relaxing weekend of interesting museums and cultural sites, beautiful point of nature to communicate with and wonderful food at restaurants that did a wonderful job in keeping me safe. I may not have found a ghost for Halloween but it was a great birthday weekend anyway.