NY Trip Day 3: Fishkill and Beacon

This post covers the third day of my trip to downstate New York with Sean in July of 2011. It was written July 16.

Today was a slow day. I didn’t get up until 12:30pm; guess I was tired! I spent a few hours searching online for historic or interesting sites to visit and eating a sandwich and some blueberries. Finally at around 3 I decided to head out.

My first stop was the ATM in Fishkill to grab some cash, because I don’t want to run into the cash-only entrance fee problem unprepared again. Then I headed back up the road to the Van Wyck Homestead, which is right at the intersection of Interstate 84 and Highway 9. It was 3:50 when I arrived…and the house closed at 4!

Van Wyck HomesteadI managed to catch the tail end of a tour. The house isn’t that big, and it hasn’t been perfectly restored, so really the main interesting things were who had stayed at the house and how people had lived there. I saw the kitchen and heard how people cooked, and the guide talked about how people made soap from animal fat and had to import sugar in cones from the Caribbean Islands–where Alexander Hamilton was born, something I had never heard before. Hamilton, along with Lafayette, von Steubing, and Washington himself are said to have stayed at the Van Wyck house when it was used as a headquarters during the Revolutionary War.

After a quick look through the gift shop–which included a cabinet said to have originally housed a Murphy-style fold-down bed used by Gen. Washington–I headed outside to allow the poor proprietors to close the house up. I didn’t leave right away, though; instead I circled the home taking pictures, getting some decent shots of the building as well as some interesting stone structures, a garden, and a well. There’s more information about the house here.

Also on the property is a historic marker for the Great Indian Warrior Trading Path. I was excited to see this since there is also a marker for for path at Riverwalk in Augusta! (Click here for more information about the Path.) Needless to say, I got a few pictures.

When I was done poking around the Van Wyck Homestead property, I went back to the car and wondered what to do next. The obvious option was to head up the street into Fishkill and walk around, but I’d already sort of done that, so the idea didn’t excite me. I pulled out my trusty iPhone and searched Maps for “historic”. Many of the sites that came up were some distance away. I avoided those because I’d noticed many of the smaller historic sites had early closing times, like Van Wyck. But I did see a point nearby: the Madam Brett Homestead on Teller Street in Beacon, Fishkill’s neighbor to the immediate southwest. (Interestingly, the Van Wyck house was built on land purchased from Catheryna Rombout Brett, the lady who lived there. I didn’t discover that fact until I started writing this post.)

Madam Brett HomesteadI put the address into the Garmin and headed off to Beacon. It was a short and simple drive. When I got to the house, there was a big sign for it, but no parking area other than a normal-looking half-circle driveway, and no one was parked there. I saw a bunch of people walking around, and I wasn’t sure I felt comfortable getting out there. So I drove past and parked along the water on Main Street, where I saw some shops and cool murals.

muralschurchAs I walked back up I took pictures of a neat church, and I saw a building just beyond it that looked really awesome, but I figured I’d come back around in a loop and get pictures of that one later. I saw plenty of other interesting things on my way back to the Madam Brett house, and I took pictures all along the way.

The house sits on a wide lot behind a firehouse. The land and home are well-maintained. I walked up to the front door and created the spot on Gowalla and checked in, then got plenty of pictures around the site. I saw no information for visitors, so I’m not sure the house is actually open to the public, but it was still neat to see. I finished up by photographing the big sign at the corner, then walked back up to Main Street.

Madam Brett Homestead signAt that point I could have walked back to the car and left, but I saw that I had come out on a lively shopping and restaurant district. I turned left instead and headed further up Main, taking pictures of all the cool signage and architecture. I walked and walked until I got to the end of the street and saw signs for the Beacon/Newburgh Bridge. Then I crossed and headed back down the other side of Main Street. I got photos of an awesome church with a “fallout shelter” sign, the fire station in front of the Madam Brett house which was built in 1901 and is still in operation, and many small shops and restaurants with cool signs, including an authentic old-school diner called Yankee Clipper. I passed a place that made real fruit popsicles on my way up the street, and I so meant to stop and get one on my way back, but somehow I missed the place and didn’t want to try to go back up and find it.

downtown Beaconfallout shelter churchunisex salon signlive bait and deli signfire station signOn my way down, I gave $1 to a guy who said, “Could you spare a dollar?” Normally I don’t give to panhandlers, but this is because normally I feel accosted by them. I found the honest, direct question refreshing compared to Augusta panhandlers, who tell you their entire life story and how they believe in Jesus and whatnot before they get down to implying you should give them money. I also chipped in to a couple of guys playing a guitar and a banjo on the street outside a restaurant.

street performersThe cool-looking building next to the church did not disappoint when I finally worked my way back to it. I wish I knew more about architectural styles so I could describe it properly, but to do it justice, you have to see it. It’s dark brick with wooden features, including two small panels with cutout shapes. The place turned out to be the Howland Cultural Center. It didn’t appear to be open at the time, but I was happy enough taking photos of its dramatic, gorgeous exterior. Go here for information about the building, including its history and architecture.

Howland Cultural CenterHowland Cultural CenterHowland Cultural CenterI stayed at the center for a long time, then started walking back down where Main Street curves along the river, toward the car. I was fully prepared to leave at this point–it had been a good walk, and I was thirsty–but I decided to meander a little further down Main to see if there was anything of interest. Almost immediately I came upon some wonderful street art (starting here) along a windowless wall–I’m not sure if it was graffiti or “authorized”, but it was very striking.

street artGoing further, I suddenly realized I was hearing rushing water. I looked across the street and saw a waterfall. It was Beacon Falls: a man-made lock, like Savannah Rapids in Columbia County, Georgia, though not nearly as wide. Water gushed down into a beautiful shallow river charging across an endless field of jutting rock.

Beacon FallsComing at it from this angle, I saw a lot of “NO TRESPASSING” and “PRIVATE PROPERTY” signs, but as I approached the lock itself I realized the waterfall was at the end of a public trail, and it was the waterway and land beyond the trail that were private. My guess is they belong to whoever’s restoring the large round building overlooking the churning water.

Beacon FallsBeacon FallsBeacon FallsI took many pictures, probably too many, of the waterfall, then walked down the path a bit. It’s very short, leading through some trees to a small parking lot. I thought about going to the end, but even that seemed a bit much with how thirsty I’d become, so I turned around and went straight back to the car.

GPS led me back to the hotel a different way, through Beacon and downtown Fishkill, and I enjoyed the scenery and the views of local businesses as I swallowed against my dry throat and pondered stopping for a drink. But it wasn’t long before I got back to the room. I immediately downed about four glasses of water :)

Day three: Success!

NY Trip Day 1: Highland Falls and Boscobel

This post covers the first day of my trip to downstate New York with Sean in July of 2011. It was written July 14.

My first full day in New York was pretty fun. Sean and I drove to West Point, then he went to work and I took over the car. 25 cents bought me an hour on a parking meter, and I used that time to walk around historic downtown Highland Falls and look at the cute storefronts. I love how all the signs have old-time charm. One interesting feature is the way they decorate their fire hydrants; here’s one example:

fire hydrant
Fire hydrant in Highland Falls, NY

I also liked the small park with white gazebo I found. It looked like a cozy place for a picnic.

gazebo in park
Gazebo, Highland Falls, NY

I snagged breakfast at a Dunkin Donuts–I’d wanted to find a locally-owned diner or something, but had had no luck and was really hungry. It was only after I’d already eaten that I happened across a place that would have been perfect. Alas!

When my meter ran out I drove around trying to find some riverfront access, and I ended up accidentally going through the gate at West Point. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to come in here!” I told the guard. “Can I just turn around?” He was nice and waved me back out. I drove around that area a little more, then started heading back the way Sean and I had come in, deciding to check out one of the many things I’d seen on the drive that had interested me.

It took awhile, especially since I was too snobby to use the GPS, but I finally ended up on the correct road out of the area. The first sign I saw and decided to check out was in Garrison, NY, for “Historic Garrison Landing”. A skinny road twisted back and down and around, past the most adorable train station (wish I’d gotten some pictures!) and finally to Garrison Landing, which seemed to be a very small community–like two houses, two storefronts, a couple of art and theater arts buildings, and then a pier. It all sits just below the train station and there are signs everywhere saying “TENANT PARKING ONLY – NO COMMUTERS”. I finally found a space without a tenant-only sign and parked in it, then got out and looked around and took some photos. The boat launch appeared to be private, and the rest of the area was filled with children, there for an arts camp. After awhile I wondered why there were signs pointing here if there was nothing for tourists to see, and I got back in the Camaro and headed back out.

Garrison Art Center
Garrison Art Center, Garrison Landing, NY

When I got to Cold Spring, I decided to stop at Boscobel, because I’d noticed the historic site sign on the drive in and thought the name was funny. It turned out to be an historic home, originally built several miles further down the Hudson but moved to its current location after the local government sold the land it was sitting on for $35 and the house was in danger of being bulldozed. Volunteers dismantled the house and stored pieces of it in their basements until suitable land was found and it could be rebuilt and restored. I took a private tour and thoroughly enjoyed learning the history of the house. (The man who had it built originally was a Loyalist during the Revolutionary War; he was a farmer who ended up making a lot of money working for Britain, and used that to finance the home’s construction. Unfortunately for him, it took a long time to get to that point, and he suffered a carriage injury and other problems…so he only saw the foundation laid before he died, and his wife, 20 years his junior, saw to the completion of the house.)

Boscobel House
Boscobel House from the back
Boscobel House
Boscobel House from the front

Photos aren’t allowed inside the house, which is pretty standard in historic homes, but I was able to get lots of exterior shots. The rear is the most lovely, likely because it boasts the view of the Hudson.

Hudson River
Hudson River and US Military Academy as seen from Boscobel
US Military Academy
US Military Academy as seen from Boscobel

Before taking the above photos of the river view, I went downstairs and enjoyed the house’s current art exhibit, interpretations of the Hudson River area. I also went on a walk through the Frances Stevens Reese Woodland Trail, which features a waterfall, creeks and streams, wooden bridges and benches, and of course a wonderful winding trail through the trees. The Hudson River and the marshland just below Boscobel are visible from certain points on the trail, as is the US Military Academy; it was all very lovely.

Frances Stevens Reese Woodland Trail
US Military Academy
US Military Academy as seen from forest trail

After my adventure at Boscobel, I came back to the hotel to charge my nearly-dead iPhone and ended up websurfing for awhile. I was planning to go wander around a park up the street from Boscobel before picking Sean up, but I ran out of time. Sean and I finished our day messing around online at our hotel in Fishkill, only venturing out to try a Japanese restaurant that unfortunately didn’t turn out to be very good. Still, it was a full day of fun and I got lots of great pictures–an auspicious start to a wonderful trip.