Monday, June 11, 2012

Hudson River Valley

Before I get started I want to remind readers that you can click on pictures to see a much larger image.  Then, use your browser's Back button to return here.

We made an early dash (hit the road at 6:30 AM) past Dover and Philadelphia to avoid the intense traffic that often cripples traffic in the area.  We made it through and were well north on I476 toward Allentown PA before 9 am. We swung around Allentown and headed northeast to the Catskill Mountains and our campground near Wurtsboro, NY.  We hadn't seen a decent hill since November because we've been hanging around the coast and Florida since then.  We found some in the Catskills.  They are nothing but hills compared to the standards out west but it does add a little character to the landscape. Not that you can really appreciate it much because trees are almost always blocking your view.
Hasbrouck House - Washington HQ

Our quest for historic sites continued along the Hudson River valley.  The first stop was to the Hasbrouck House in Newburgh.  This home was rented for use as a military headquarters for George Washington at the end of the Revolutionary War.  He (and Martha actually stayed there, too) was there for 16 months, longer than any other HQ he had during the war. This was the HQ after the British had surrendered but before a peace treaty had been signed. The location was strategic to keep an eye on the British who still occupied New York City.
Beacon Hill across the Hudson

It is on the Hudson River and across the river on Beacon Hill was the last of a series of warning fire posts. The fire posts were positioned all along the river from NYC to here as a form of fast communication.  If the British were to make a move the first fire would be lit and then lookouts at each fire post would see the other fire and light theirs, thus quickly sending a signal up the river to Washington.  The Continental Army was ready nearby in case the British decided to try something.

Washington did many important things affecting history while at this location. One of the them was his vehement rejection of the suggestions that the nation become a Monarchy with him as the leader. Please use the following link for more information on all the fascinating things that Washington did while here. It was incredible to be in the building where so much history was made. Note - unfortunately they did not allow pictures inside.

FDR home - Springwood
The next day we took a drive to Hyde Park. There is one of many Vanderbilt mansions there but we chose not to tour it.  Instead, we focused on Roosevelt history.  We went to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Museum and Library only to find it closed (mostly) for restoration.  They had a small pictorial history display that was nice but much less than we were hoping to see. We were able to take a tour of the home of FDR. The home is where he was born, raised and lived his entire life when not living where work took him. The home was his mother's and upon her death the home was donated to the Department of the Interior to become a historic landmark under the condition that her family could stay there until relinquished.  Upon FDRs death in 1945 Eleanor moved to Val-Kill and relinquished the property in tact, with furnishings. FDR came back as often as he could during his presidencies as an escape from hectic Washington.

Library - office
This was another special time while walking around in the home, especially the library/office, where one of our greatest presidents lived, had important visitors like Winston Churchill and made some of the most critical decisions in our nation's history during both the Great Depression and WWII.  Goose bump time. Here are a couple of links to more information.

Stone Cottage
After leaving Springwood, the FDR home, we went over to Val-Kill.  The Stone Cottage was built by Franklin as a retreat that could be used year round even while Springwood was closed down for the winter.  The Stone Cottage became a favorite place for Eleanor to get away from Franklin's domineering mother and political scene. In 1926 Eleanor built Val-Kill on the site as a place to teach manufacturing skills to underemployed farmworkers. When the venture folded in 1936 she converted the building into apartments. Upon Franklin's death Eleanor moved to Val-Kill permanently.
If you google Val-Kill and Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site there is a lot of information.
(Note:  the term "kill" is Dutch for stream or small river, ie Val-Kill, Catskill, etc)


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