We had to make a detour through the iconic town of Woodstock – famous for the 1969 three day music festival. However, the festival was held in Bethel, fifty miles north. That has not prevented the current village from promoting itself as the home of this historic event. The town is littered with tie-dye t-shirts and nostalgic memorabilia from the 1960’s. Incense wafts from a few stores, and some shopkeepers seem to be kept in a perpetual state of hippedom.
A few photographs, a couple of t-shirts, and we were good. Still, I could not resist blasting the old Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song ‘Woodstock’ as we drove out of town.
A few hours later, we stopped at Hyde Park to visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library (Roosevelt Home). This former president grew up on this site, represented the state of New York, and went on to serve four terms. Stricken with polio at the age of twenty-nine, he effectively hid this from the public and led the United States in the war years, ushered in Social Security, and accomplished what Obama is trying to do – put people back to work.
This is the first Presidential Library established in the country, and his home is maintained exactly as Roosevelt left it in 1948. The library next door, built in the Dutch Colonial style of irregular stonework, conveys his historic place in our heritage – his life of luxury, ascension through the political ranks, and advocate for America during a tumultuous time.
The Hudson Valley is famous for an art movement that began back in the 1800’s. This Hudson River School (Hudson River School) portrayed pastoral landscapes from the area – the Catskills, Adirondacks, the Hudson River itself – where people and nature co-existed.
Thomas Cole (who died early at the age of 47), generally acknowledged as the founder of this movement, lived just outside the town of Hudson This simple home, once standing by itself on the shores of the Hudson, is now surrounded by a busy street and the suburbs. We did a quick one-hour tour of the two-story house, visited the studio where he painted, and viewed some of his paintings hung in the upstairs gallery.
Just up the hill from Thomas Cole is the home of Frederic Church (Olana State Historic Park), one of Cole’s early students. This is a more dramatic tour, so if you have to choose, this is the one to participate in. The location, the Olana State Historic Site, is maintained by the state of New York. Frederic and his family traveled the world, built a Persian-style mansion overlooking the Hudson, and outfitted the homestead with artifacts from around the globe.
Touring the home is inspiring. His paintings hang in every room, artifacts from the Middle East and Africa adorn the open spaces, vistas over the valley are afforded from every room. Though perhaps less well known than Thomas Cole, he certainly seems to have had more commercial success.
Our last stop was in the town of Hudson, famous for its antique stores. This was a strange destination. Certainly had a slew of high-end stores, although a block over was a tough-looking neighborhood. So, the one street had high-rollers from New York shopping for expensive Edwardian furniture, while a block away, obviously unemployed folks struggled for their next meal.
The entire Hudson Valley is beautiful and popular – not the quiet and pastoral scenery that I envisioned it to be. Still, it is a worthwhile destination and appeals to me for its artistic pedigree.