Travel: Out of New York – and into American history

Historic buildings and an extensive valley: the Hudson Valley near the metropolis offers a welcome contrast to a city trip.

From May to November you can visit historically significant buildings in the Hudson Valley. Image: Jaime Martorano

Anyone visiting New York City, this wonderfully diverse and capricious concrete jungle, is offered a stimulating contrast program from an hour north of the metropolis. Forests, hiking trails, lakes and mountain landscapes. The extensive Hudson Valley with its many villages also attracts with a high density of historically significant buildings, which are accessible from May to November to experience American history in the original.

It’s a sunny morning. Insects buzz through the garden, geese walk on the gravel. The idyll is deceptive, one thinks again and again. Those called by their first names during the tour, Dina, Sue, Flip and Tom, belonged to Adolph Philipse, a Dutch loyalist, politician and human trafficker. Thanks to an inventory list, you know what your 23 slaves were called.

Ceaser milled 2000 kilograms of wheat a day

We are on a journey back in time to 1750 and to Sleepy Hollow. A, literally translated, sleepy nest in the British colony of New York. Philipsburg Manor, an estate built in 1693, is located in the middle of the hilly landscape of the Hudson Valley and is Philipse’s successful import-export company. At some point you stand in this man’s bedroom. You can see a backgammon game, a four-poster bed and an oval wooden head on which his wig once sat.

Outside by the watermill, a museum guide tells how Ceaser ground more than 2000 kilograms of wheat a day. In the cellar he points to Kirne, in which Dina and Sue are pounding skimmed cream into butter. In the barn, you can flute tufts of flax yourself, a strenuous affair that was carried out by children. After the two-hour tour, there is a break at the weathered wooden fence.

While entrepreneur Adolph Philipse played cards, the slaves toiled in the barn and in the mill.  Image: Bryan Haeffele

While entrepreneur Adolph Philipse played cards, the slaves toiled in the barn and in the mill. Image: Bryan Haeffele

Visiting the USA’s first billionaire

If you’re after another history lesson after Philipsburg Manor, hop on the shuttle bus to Kykuit, the 40-room estate of oil magnate John D. Rockefeller. With his petroleum refining company founded in 1870, he became the first billionaire in the United States. Kykuit is inspired by the Dutch kijkuit and means lookout, which quickly turns out to be understatement.

The residence, inhabited by four generations of Rockefellers, stands on the highest point of the hamlet of Pocantico Hills. In the driveway you meet the Greek god Okeanos, who is built as a sculpture in a granite basin. Behind him, the blue-green Hudson Valley stretches to the horizon like a painting.

The 40-room property owned by entrepreneur John D. Rockefeller shows the pomp of days gone by.  Image: Jaime Martorano

The 40-room property owned by entrepreneur John D. Rockefeller shows the pomp of days gone by. Image: Jaime Martorano

You won’t be amazed: the finest upholstered furniture, sparkling chandeliers and antique vases illustrate the wealth of the Republican family. In the basement hang tapestries by Picasso made for Vice President and Governor Nelson Rockefeller, a third generation offspring. It is quite possible that his mother Abby persuaded him to invest in modern art: in 1929 she founded the Museum of Modern Art, today one of the most important art institutions. The tour ends in the garden of Kykuit, which one might call a park or a sculpture course.

At the place of origin of important literature

Sunnyside, the former home of the writer Washington Irving, is the last stop of the day trip. The ivy and wisteria-covered cottage stands on the banks of the Hudson and is the origin of Irving’s 1820 The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, one of the most famous short stories in American literature.

Writer Washington Irving wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in his home called Sunnyside.  Image: zvg

Writer Washington Irving wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in his home called Sunnyside. Image: zvg

Inside you discover the world of a collector, details point to a curious resident and diligent reader. Outside, plane trees sway in the wind and while you look out at the water you think you understand why historically significant literature was created here.

Good to know

getting there The Hudson Valley in the US state of New York is a popular destination for excursions from New York City and can be easily reached from Grand Central station on trains on the Metro North line. The train ride from Grand Central to Tarrytown takes around 40 minutes and costs between 7 and 15 francs, depending on the time of day.

Historic Buildings The Philipsburg Manor, Kykuit and Sunnyside can only be visited as guided tours (May to November), which are best booked in advance: https://hudsonvalley.org/historic-sites/.

On site In Tarrytown either on foot (15 minutes) or by bus to the visitor center at Philipsburg Manor, where the Kykuit shuttle is also stationed. Incidentally, opposite is the Old Dutch Church, the second oldest church in New York State, as well as the Sleepy Hollow cemetery, where you can visit the Rockefeller Mausoleum, among other things. Sunnyside can be reached by either two buses or a 15-minute taxi ride. From there, the Metro North line runs from Irvington directly back to Manhattan.

Hudson Valley

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