09/03/10 11:30am

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For many of us, staycations are this year’s vacations. Instead of the cottages and castles of the Continent, visit one of New York’s fascinating house museums. Each week, for the entire summer, we’ll alternate between a site in New York City, or one in greater New York State. Many of these houses are in danger of closing if we don’t patronize them. Check them out, and go visit! If you’ve been, please leave comments and suggestions, including dining or any other amenities.

Name: Bannerman Castle/ Bannerman Island Arsenal
Location: Pollepel Island, between Beacon and Newburgh, NY
Address: Hudson Highlands State Park, Route 9D, Beacon, NY 10512
Hours: May to October, call for reservations
Admission: $30 adult, includes boat ride and guided tour
Children: $25, 11 years and younger
Website: bannermancastle.org
Directions: See website

Details: Every summer staycation should include a ruined castle, and this one is close enough for jaded New Yorkers to take in. The tale of the castles’ origin, and its fate today, are all tied up appropriately, by the success of a Brooklyn entrepreneur. (more…)

08/27/10 11:30am

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For many of us, staycations are this year’s vacations. Instead of the cottages and castles of the Continent, visit one of New York’s fascinating house museums. Each week, for the entire summer, we’ll alternate between a site in New York City, or one in greater New York State. Many of these houses are in danger of closing if we don’t patronize them. Check them out, and go visit! If you’ve been, please leave comments and suggestions, including dining or any other amenities.

Name: Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace
Location: Manhattan, Flatiron District/Gramercy Park
Address: 28 East 20th Street, between Broadway and Park Avenue South
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10-5. Guided tours leave on the hour, last tour 4pm.
Admission: Free
Children: Free
Website: www.nps.gov/thrb/
Directions: 4/5, N/R to Union Square, 6 train to 23rd St.
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08/20/10 11:30am

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For many of us, staycations are this year’s vacations. Instead of the cottages and castles of the Continent, visit one of New York’s fascinating house museums. Each week, for the entire summer, we’ll alternate between a site in New York City, or one in greater New York State. Many of these houses are in danger of closing if we don’t patronize them. Check them out, and go visit! If you’ve been, please leave comments and suggestions, including dining or any other amenities.

Name: The Farmer’s Museum
Location: Cooperstown, in central New York, Otsego County
Address: 5775 State Hwy 80, Cooperstown, NY 13326
Hours: 10-5, May October 11 (Columbus Day), open other times, see website
Admission: Adults: $12, Seniors: $10.50, Active and retired military, members: Free
Children: 7-12: $6, Under 7: Free
Website: www.farmersmuseum.org
Directions: See Website. Approx 4 – 4.5 hour drive from NYC

Details: Full confession: I grew up near here. We had class trips to this place as often as NYC kids go to the Museum of Natural History. We all hated it. At the time, all they had was a central building and a few farm buildings with dioramas showing the lives of the Native American tribes who used to live there, and colonial Cooperstown and upstate farming life with a heavy emphasis on famous son, James Fenimore Cooper. He was America’s first novelist and author of the Leatherstocking Tales, which included Last of the Mohicans. Great story, but have you ever tried to read it? You think I’m wordy? They also had a cheesy gift shop with fake Indian souvenirs. How many six inch birch bark canoes can a kid have? We were not entertained, or even educated, which was the point. Anyway, skip ahead a few dinosaur years, and I happened to be in Cooperstown a few years ago, while visiting family, and I thought I’d check it out again. The whole place was totally different! It was GREAT! I had the best time! (more…)

08/13/10 11:30am

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For many of us, staycations are this year’s vacations. Instead of the cottages and castles of the Continent, visit one of New York’s fascinating house museums. Each week, for the entire summer, we’ll alternate between a site in New York City, or one in greater New York State. Many of these houses are in danger of closing if we don’t patronize them. Check them out, and go visit! If you’ve been, please leave comments and suggestions, including dining or any other amenities.

Name: Lower East Side Tenement Museum
Location: Lower East Side, Manhattan
Address: 97 Orchard Street, between Broome and Allen Streets
Hours: 10:30am 5pm, seven days a week, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.
Admission: Adults: $20, Seniors and students: $15, members: Free
Children: K-12 students: $8, special school programs available, see website
Website: www.tenement.org
Directions: F train to Delancy, B/D to Grand, or J to Essex

Details: The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is a unique and authentic look at life on the Lower East Side for the immigrant groups that called this area home from the 1860′s to 1935. This 5 story Italianate style brick tenement was home to an estimated 7,000 people from over 20 nations during that time. The building was built by Prussian-born immigrant Lukas Glockner in 1863. At that time it had a basement retail space and 22 apartments. It would later be modified into two retail spaces, the other on the parlor level, leaving 16 apartments. Over the years, as the tenement laws changed, the building would gain indoor plumbing, cold running water, an air shaft, and two toilets per floor. It also was piped for gas, and then wired for electricity. In 1935, rather than fixing up the building, the landlord at the time boarded up the upper floors, leaving only the storefronts open for business.
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08/06/10 10:30am

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For many of us, staycations are this year’s vacations. Instead of the cottages and castles of the Continent, visit one of New York’s fascinating house museums. Each week, for the entire summer, we’ll alternate between a site in New York City, or one in greater New York State. Many of these houses are in danger of closing if we don’t patronize them. Check them out, and go visit! If you’ve been, please leave comments and suggestions, including dining or any other amenities.

Name: Wilderstein
Location: Rhinebeck, NY
Address: 330 Morton Road, Rhinebeck, NY 12572
Hours: May to October, Thursday through Sunday, 12-4
Admission: Adults – $10, Seniors and students – $9
Children: Under 12 – Free
Website: www.wilderstein.org
Directions: Amtrak to Rhinecliff/Kingston, driving directions on website

Details: Wilderstein, which means wild man’s stone referring to an Indian petroglyph found nearby, is sort of a poor stepchild in the Hudson Valley historic house family. Not as famous architecturally as Olana, nor the home of the fabulously wealthy, like the Rockefeller home at Kykuit, Wilderstein is an old house lover’s old house museum. It’s a 35 room Queen Anne mansion overlooking the Hudson, in Rhinebeck, built for the Suckley family, (pronounced Sook-ly), a wealthy family with prominent familial connections to the area. The original house was an Italianate villa built in 1852. In 1888, the original owner’s son Robert Suckley and his wife Elizabeth had the home transformed by local architect Arnout Cannon into a large Queen Anne country house. He added the third floor and gabled attic, built the five story circular tower, and added the porte-cochere and the wide verandah. They had New York designer Joseph Burr Tiffany (Louis’ cousin) design the interiors, and hired Calvert Vaux to landscape the expansive grounds. He designed gardens, pathways, and added a carriage house, and other buildings to complement the house and gardens. All overlooking the beautiful Hudson River.
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07/30/10 12:30pm

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For many of us, staycations are this year’s vacations. Instead of the cottages and castles of the Continent, visit one of New York’s fascinating house museums. Each week, for the entire summer, we’ll alternate between a site in New York City, or one in greater New York State. Many of these houses are in danger of closing if we don’t patronize them. Check them out, and go visit! If you’ve been, please leave comments and suggestions, including dining or any other amenities.

Name: Merchant’s House Museum (Seabury Tredwell House)
Location: NoHo, Manhattan
Address: 29 East Fourth Street, between Lafayette and the Bowery
Hours: Thursday through Monday, 12-5.
Admission: $10 adults, $5 seniors and students, Members: free
Children: Free, when accompanied by paying adult. Special children’s programs available
Website: www.merchantshouse.com
Directions: Subway N or R to Eighth Street, #6 to Astor Place, or F, B to Broadway/Lafayette

Details: The Merchant’s House is the only 19th century family home in NYC preserved intact, inside and out. The Late Federal/Greek Revival brick building was designed by Minard Lefever in 1832, and was bought by a wealthy merchant, Seabury Tredwell, in 1835. He, his wife, their eight children, and four Irish servants, and a revolving host of relatives lived here, in what once was the very affluent and posh Bond St. area. When the neighborhood became less fashionable, and their neighbors moved uptown, the Tredwell’s remained. Only two daughters and one son ever married, quite unusual at the time, and the last Tredwell, Gertrude, the youngest daughter, was born in the house in 1840, and lived here her entire life, never marrying, and dying in an upstairs bedroom in 1933 at the age of 93. She managed to hold onto the house through good times and bad, and saw the neighborhood change into a manufacturing area with rooming houses and flophouses. After her death, a distant relative bought the house to save it from seizure, and it became a museum in 1936.
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07/23/10 11:00am

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For many of us, staycations are this year’s vacations. Instead of the cottages and castles of the Continent, visit one of New York’s fascinating house museums. Each week, for the entire summer, we’ll alternate between a site in New York City, or one in greater New York State. Many of these houses are in danger of closing if we don’t patronize them. Check them out, and go visit! If you’ve been, please leave comments and suggestions, including dining or any other amenities.

Name: Lyndhurst (Jay Gould Estate)
Location: Tarrytown, NY, an hour, hour and a half by car, depending on traffic.
Address: 635 South Broadway, Tarrytown, NY 10591
Hours: April 13th Oct. 13th, Tuesday through Sunday, holiday Mondays, 10-5
Admission: Adults- $12, Seniors- $11, National Trust Members- Free
Children: 6-16 with paying adult- $6, Under 6 with paying adult- Free
Website: http://lyndhurst.wordpress.com/
Directions: Metro North, Hudson Line to Tarrytown. See website for driving directions

Details: Lyndhurst is America’s finest castle. The house was designed in 1838 by Alexander Jackson Davis, one of the giants of early 19th century American architecture. Davis, whose designs for Carpenter Gothic cottages influenced a generation, designed in the Gothic Revival style, at a time when Romantic artists, poets and musicians were the rage, and a new appreciation for the natural world was taking place. Gothic architecture was part of that new Romanticism, and this house is as Gothic as they come. (more…)

07/16/10 12:30pm

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For many of us, staycations are this year’s vacations. Instead of the cottages and castles of the Continent, visit one of New York’s fascinating house museums. Each week, for the entire summer, we’ll alternate between a site in New York City, or one in greater New York State. Many of these houses are in danger of closing if we don’t patronize them. Check them out, and go visit! If you’ve been, please leave comments and suggestions, including dining or any other amenities.

Name: Weeksville Heritage Center
Location: Crown Heights North,
Address: 1698 Bergen Street, between Buffalo and Rochester, Brooklyn, NY, 11213
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 10-4:30. Walk-In Tours: Tues-Fri. 1, 2, 3pm
Admission: Adults: $5.00, Students and seniors: $4.00
Children: Under 8: Free
Website: www.weeksvillesociety.org
Directions: A/C , or 4/5 to Utica Avenue, walk to Bergen St. See website for more details.

Details: In 1838, James Weeks, a stevedore, bought a parcel of land in the Ninth Ward from Henry C. Thompson. They were both free men of color, and this sale took place only eleven years after the end of slavery in NY state. A town grew up around James Weeks’ home on Atlantic Ave and Buffalo Ave, and Weeksville was to be home to ministers, teachers and other professionals, including the first female African-American physician in New York state, and the first African-American police officer in New York City. By the 1850′s Weeksville had a population of over 500 people, and had its own churches, a school, an orphanage, a cemetery, an old age home, an African-American benevolent society and one of the first African-American newspapers, the Freedman’s Torchlight. The town became a safe haven during the Draft Riots of 1863, protecting many people from the mobs that terrorized Manhattan.
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07/09/10 12:30pm

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For many of us, staycations are this year’s vacations. Instead of the cottages and castles of the Continent, visit one of New York’s fascinating house museums. Each week, for the entire summer, we’ll alternate between a site in New York City, or one in greater New York State. Many of these houses are in danger of closing if we don’t patronize them. Check them out, and go visit! If you’ve been, please leave comments and suggestions, including dining or any other amenities.

Name: Olana
Location: Hudson, NY, approximately two hour drive from NYC, or Amtrak to Hudson, then taxi.
Address: 570 State Route 9G, Hudson, NY 12543
Hours: Tues Sun. 10-5. April – Oct. Entry to house only through guided tours. Last tour leaves at 4pm. Reservations recommended..
Admission: $9 adults, $8 seniors and students w/ ID. $5 car fee on wkends, can be credited toward ticket price.
Children: Under 12, free.
Website: www.olana.org

Details: Olana is painter Frederick Edwin Church’s dream home overlooking the Hudson River. Church was one of the masters of the Hudson River School, and this house is as much of a personal masterpiece as his magnificent landscape paintings. Church had commissioned architect Richard Morris Hunt, now famous for his Newport, RI cottages, to design a home he called Cosy Cottage, where the Church’s lived with their two children. Sadly both children died of diphtheria, and the Church’s embarked on a long journey to the Europe and the Middle East. The ideas for Olana were realized in Persia and the Middle East, and when Church and his wife Isabel returned, they began to plan out a house incorporating the themes and elements of Islamic architecture, adapted to the West. They called it Olana, after an ancient Persian treasure fortress. Church considered Hunt for the new house, but ended up working with Calvert Vaux, best known for his collaboration with Frederick Olmsted in the creation of Prospect and Central Parks. Olana was to be Frederick Church’s project for life, as he added new additions to the house, and changed things constantly, always with the purpose of wedding the Persian East to the American/Victorian West. Church designed the stencil patterns, the color palette, the décor and he and his wife chose the myriad objects from all over the world to showcase the civilizations and cultures of the world.
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07/02/10 11:00am

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For many of us, staycations are this year’s vacations. Instead of the cottages and castles of the Continent, visit one of New York’s fascinating house museums. Each week, for the entire summer, we’ll alternate between a site in New York City, or one in greater New York State. Many of these houses are in danger of closing if we don’t patronize them. Check them out, and go visit! If you’ve been, please leave comments and suggestions, including dining or any other amenities.

Name: Morris-Jumel Mansion
Location: Washington Heights, Manhattan
Address: 65 Jumel Terrace, between 160-162nd St, between St. Nicholas and Edgecomb Aves.
Hours: Wednesday Saturday, 10-4, Monday & Tuesday by appointment. Closed July 4th.
Admission: $5.00 adults, $4.00 seniors and students.
Children: Under 12 free, accompanied by parent. School programs offered, see website.
Website: www.morrisjumel.org
Directions: C train to 163rd St. See website for more directions.

Details: On this prelude to Independence Day, this summer, take the opportunity to visit the house that was Washington’s headquarters for the Battle of Harlem Heights, during the Revolutionary War. The house was built in 1765 for British colonel Roger Morris and his wife, Mary, as a country retreat. The orginal estate of over 130 acres was called Mount Morris, and sat high on a hill with views of the Harlem River, the Bronx, and Long Island Sound to the east, New York City and the harbor to the south, and the Hudson River and Jersey Palisades to the west. This would prove to be a most strategic military headquarters, during the War, although Washington was forced to retreat, and the house was commandeered by the British and Hessians for the remainder of the war. After the war, the house became an inn, and passed through several hands before being bought by French immigrant Stephen Jumel, a wealthy wine merchant, and his wife Eliza, in 1790. The décor and furnishings of the house are mostly from the period the Jumel’s owned the house, and feature French Empire style furnishings, including a bed said to have belonged to Napoleon.
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06/25/10 11:30am

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For many of us, staycations are this year’s vacations. Instead of the cottages and castles of the Continent, visit one of New York’s fascinating house museums. Each week, for the entire summer, we’ll alternate between a site in New York City, or one in greater New York State. Many of these houses are in danger of closing if we don’t patronize them. Check them out, and go visit! If you’ve been, please leave comments and suggestions, including dining or any other amenities.

Name: Hyde Hall
Location: Cooperstown, NY
Address: 1527 County Hwy 31, Cooperstown, NY 13326
Hours: Mother’s Day through Oct. 31st, 10am to 4pm
Admission: $10.00, seniors and children $8.00
Website: www.hydehall.org
Directions: on website. Cooperstown is a 4.5 to 5 hour drive from Brooklyn

Details: George Clarke began Hyde Hall, named after his family estate in England, in 1817. It was expanded several times and finished in 1833, and remains one of America’s finest Neo-Classical estates. Clarke built on a hill overlooking beautiful Otsego Lake, and his huge estate supported tenant farmers and staff, growing hops and other crops. The house stayed in the Clarke family until 1963, when descendants of George Clarke gave the house and grounds to the state of New York. The state created Glimmerglass Park from the lakefront grounds. Unfortunately, they didn’t know what to do with the house, which hadn’t been lived in since World War II, and it was in danger of being torn down. An organization called Friends of Hyde Hall, now called Hyde Hall, Inc. which included Clarke descendants, rescued the house, and found funding and experts to begin restoration, and preservation. (more…)

06/18/10 11:00am

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For many of us, stay-cations are this year’s vacations. With that in mind, we’re beginning a feature this summer exploring the house museums of New York City and State. You may not be exploring the castles and cottages of the Continent this summer (like Mr. B, who will be telecommuting from Berlin), but New York has some fascinating house museums right here, within easy reach of public transportation, or a day trip by car. Check them out, and explore the fascinating historic houses in our own backyard.

Name: The Alice Austen House
Location: Staten Island
Address: 2 Hylan Boulevard.
Hours: Thursday thru Sunday, 12-5, grounds open until dusk.
Admission: Suggested donation: $2.00
Website: aliceausten.org
Directions: Public transportation and driving directions on website.

Details: Alice Austen was a Victorian photographer, important for both her work, and her place in history. She lived in this 1690 cottage, called Clear Comfort, from her childhood in the 1860′s, until 1945. The early Dutch cottage was purchased by Alice’s grandfather in 1844, and was restored and transformed into a picturesque Carpenter Gothic cottage, high on a hill with a spectacular view of the harbor and Brooklyn. The house was originally to be a summer home for the Austens, but became the family home after Alice’s father abandoned his wife and family. Mother and daughter lived there with relatives, including an uncle Oswald, a seaman and world traveler who introduced a young Alice to photography. During her lifetime, Alice produced hundreds of images of a high quality, their range and level of expression forming a beautiful visual window on 19th century America, making her one of the very few Victorian women to achieve artistic recognition for her work.

The Alice Austen House museum allows the tour goer to see how life was lived by the Austen’s throughout the 100 years the house was in the family. Although it was originally a colonial-era Dutch cottage, it was added to, and modernized, again and again by Alice’s grandfather, John Haggerty Austen, and features over 10 rooms, containing original and period furniture, and Austen family photographs and memorabilia. The grounds are meticulously maintained, with landscaped gardens, and the view is spectacular. Alice Austen House is not well known, but is a wonderful escape to Victorian life in New York without leaving the city.