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Travel Logs February 2014

Compulsive Traveler

Visiting Dutchess County

By Sandra Scott

Gilded Age: Only a Vanderbilt family member would refer to the Vanderbilt Mansion as “Uncle Freddy’s cottage on the Hudson.” Frederick Vanderbilt was one of the wealthiest Americans having made his money in the railroad business.

Dutchess County is located midway between Albany and New York City on the east side of the Hudson. The county was named for the wife of James, the Duke of York. The river, rolling countryside, and quaint villages offer a plethora of things to see and do. It is easily accessible by car and train.

  1. Franklin Roosevelt: Learn about the man and the Roosevelt years starting with the 20-minute film, “Rendezvous with History” in the Henry A. Wallace Visitor and Education Center. When FDR took office in 1933, unemployment was at 25 percent. Roosevelt promised the American people a “New Deal” that focused on the “Three Rs” – relief, recovery and reform. He created a plethora of “Alphabet Agencies” such as the CCC, WPA, FHA and many other entities that created jobs and made life easier for the poor. Roosevelt said of Springwood, his beloved home, “All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River.”
  2. Eleanor Roosevelt: Visit Val-Kill, Mrs. Roosevelt’s lovely home tucked in the woods overlooking a pond and stream. It is very modest considering she was called, “First Lady of the World.” She had a tremendous impact on her husband’s presidency. She said that, “…sometimes I acted as a spur even though the spur was not always wanted.” Watch the video about the lady who had a $25,000 bounty on her head by the Ku Klux Klan. Mrs. Roosevelt said, “…prevent human misery not avenge it.”
  3. Walkway: Kudos go to whoever came up with the idea to turn an old railroad bridge over the Hudson River into a walkway. The railroad bridge was built in 1889 and was in service until 1974. Through the cooperation of public and private groups, the Walkway Over the Hudson Historic Park opened in 2009 making it the longest footbridge in the world. A kiosk with storyboards near the parking lots tells the story of the Walkway and explains that the Hudson River flows two ways for 150 miles – from Manhattan to Troy – as the river changes with the tide.
  4. Art: Vassar College is home to the free Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. The Cesar Pelli- designed Art Center is an interesting juxtaposition to Vassar’s Gothic buildings. While not vast in size it has a comprehensive selection of art with one room devoted to the Hudson River School of Art. The Hudson River Schools of Artists Romanized the beauty and grandeur of nature. The museum’s works range from Greek sculptures to pottery from the Han periods to Picasso’s artwork. And, as a special treat there is a lovely sculpture garden.
  5. Wineries: Enjoy the rural splendor by traveling the Dutchess Wine Trail. One must-do stop is Millbrook Winery where the vineyard has labels indicating the kind of grapes that are being grown. On a tour learn about how the owner designed unique devices that allow more sun and air to reach the growing grapes. The former farm barn now houses the gift shop, tasting room, and wine- making facility. Many wineries have become artsy destinations. This is true of Millbrook where they frequently host jazz groups and feature Art in the Loft exhibitions.
  6. CIA: The Culinary Institute of America has an excellent international reputation and is more than a place to get a college degree. Visitors can take a tour, dine at one of their restaurants, and/or participate in classes for food enthusiasts that range from demonstrations to wine tastings to a variety of cooking classes. The CIA was founded in 1946 in New Haven, Conn. to provide culinary career training for World War II veterans and moved to its current location which was the St. Andrew-on-Hudson, a former Jesuit novitiate. The CIA has 2800 students at the Hyde Park campus but they also have schools in California, Texas and Singapore.
  7. Gilded Age: Only a Vanderbilt family member would refer to the Vanderbilt Mansion as “Uncle Freddy’s cottage on the Hudson.” Frederick Vanderbilt was one of the wealthiest Americans having made his money in the railroad business. Even though the mansion is elegant with imported furniture, Italian marble fireplaces, 17th century Florentine tapestries, and more, it was “modest” in comparison to some of the other Gilded Age mansions, but then it was mainly a spring and fall getaway home. The American Beaux-Arts mansion is a glimpse into the days of the Gilded Age before taxes.
  8. Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome: The Aerodrome is a living museum with one of the largest collections of historic airplanes offering airshows with dogfights and plane rides. The museum also features early cars and motorcycles. When conditions are right the 1909 Bleriot, the oldest flying aircraft in the United States, takes wing. Learn about Harriet Quimby, the first licensed American female pilot and other fascinating tales from the land and air.
  9. Nature: Sprout Creek Farm, outside of Poughkeepsie, is the “everything” farm, run by two nuns of the Sacred Heart order who were gifted the property. The working farm is an educational center, summer camp, and a market for the cheese they make from their free-range goats and cows. Visit the Beatrix Farrand Garden, near the FDR estate, which has the ambiance of the “Secret Garden” and where visitors can take a cell phone tour. Or wander the 185-acre Innisfree Gardens near Millbrook that blends Japanese, Chinese and American garden styles. Plus there are many nature trails to explore including The Poet’s Walk near Red Hook.
  10. And more: Enjoy a narrated boat tour of the Hudson River on the “Mystere” which used to sail out of Brewerton. Tee off at one of the several golf courses. Lift a pint in the bar at Beekman where the argument began that led to the Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr duel. Or, dine at the Terrapin Restaurant in what was once a church. Check out the unique shops and antique mall in quaint Rhinebeck.

For more information check or call 800-445-3131.


Sandra Scott travels the globe recording the top attractions at every destination.

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