Vacationing in the Hudson River Valley--Where?

... we found it

by James Tierney

Names that don’t roll off your tongue like Van Cortlandt, Pocantico Hills, Phillipsburg, and  Irvington are small communities located in Sleepy Hollow Country in the Hudson RiverValley in New York. Doesn’t it sound exciting? To the people of the Hudson RiverValley these names are meaningful and have historic significance. As a vacation destination, people don’t seem to be rushing to get there. However, the more you see and hear, the more it appears that it may very well be a place to visit sometime in your vacation travels. We normally think of New York as BIG, like in the Big Apple, not as a place with small rural towns.

We “found” the Hudson RiverValley as part of our four-day trip to central New York where we stayed at Gavin’s Golden Hill Resort, located in the Irish Northern Catskills. Did you know there was the Irish Catskills? The Irish answer to the Jewish Catskills? There is also an Italian Catskills. Folklore tells us that the Irish immigrated to this area in east, Durham, New York because it looks so much like the hills and valleys of Ireland. We can vouch for this, enjoying the countryside while riding a bus for the four days back and forth, visiting various places in central New York.

Gavin’s provided us very nice accommodations, excellent food, and nightly entertainment. Dermot O’Brian and Jimmy Walsh were the entertainment for the three nights, giving us fantastic music and dancing, including a great deal of non Irish music. You may never have heard of them but they’re extremely popular rotating from place to place in the Irish Catskills. Gavin’s also provided other forms of entertainment in the afternoon with a horse racing game, Country Western line dancing lessons, a House Party with a Jazz Band, “topping” it off with an ice cream social, making your own sundae. An extra special treat was attending Mass at the Our Lady of Knock Shrine located nearby. The church is named for the apparition that occurred in the Church at Knock, Ireland where Our Lady appeared with St. John, the Evangelist and St. Joseph, to 15 men, women, and children.

We visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, a must visit for anyone interested in baseball. It is located in Cooperstown, New York, a very small town and not an area you will ever pass through on your way to somewhere else. It was named for the father of James Fenimore Cooper who wrote most of his novels here, including the Deerslayer. It is about 70 miles west of Albany and located there because that’s where baseball began, invented by Abner Doubleday in 1846. The annual Hall of Fame induction, includes a traditional baseball game at Abner Doubleday Field here in town. This year our own Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor were inducted. The Red Sox were well represented with the likes of Lefty Grove, Ted Williams, and Carl Yaztremski, and we COULD include Babe Ruth. Looking at famous St. Louis Cardinal George Sisler’s plaque brought to mind his single season hit record of 257 about to be broken by Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki. It WAS broken a few days later by Suzuki whose total for the year was 262. They say records are made to be broken but Ted Williams single season batting average of .406 and Joe DiMaggio’s consecutive game hitting streak of 56, both set in 1941, seem pretty safe.

Our next stop was Hyde Park, New York, home of Franklin Delano and Anna Eleanor Roosevelt. Called Springwood, this was the lifelong home of America’s only four-term president and pretty much in the same condition it was when he died in 1945, at age 63. FDR loved this place and came here as often as possible, spending time with family, especially the grandchildren driving them around in his 1936 Ford Convertible which had special hand controls to compensate for his polio and paralysis. They also had a summer house on the Canadian Island of Campobello. FDR was a distant cousin of Teddy Roosevelt and he and Eleanor planned their wedding for March 17th, 1905 because Teddy would be in New York for the St. Patrick’s Day parade. FDR and Eleanor are buried nearby in the Rose Garden, as is their famous dog Fala.

FDR’S Presidential Library and Museum is the only one actually used by a sitting president. It contains extensive displays of the lives and careers Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. The periods of the depression and World War II were very enlightening and very moving, as well as a 20 minute video depicting a chronology of their life. He established the precedent of public ownership of presidential papers which eventually became law. His 1936 Ford was also on display.

Nearby in Hyde Park also has the Vanderbilt estate which we didn’t visit but we learned that it is a replica of the Breakers  Mansion in Newport, R.I. The Hudson River Valley has many opulent mansions, Victorian houses, a Mourish Castle, and the homes of the landed gentry. Millionaires, presidents, artists, and distinguished citizens lived in these handsomely restored homes representing over four centuries of tradition.

Referring back to Sleepy Hollow Country in the first paragraph, this was where Washington Irving was inspired to write The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. John D. Rockefeller’s estate, Kikuyu is in Sleepy Hollow Country. The Historic Dewing House was George Washington’s headquarters on four different occasions during the revolutionary war. West Point is located in the Hudson River Valley. There are numerous other historic and impressive places to see in the area.

What do you think after reading this?  Maybe it’s worth a visit to the Hudson RiverValley sometime in your future?

December 3, 2004

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