Tag Archives: Agricultural History

Historic Farm Tour Focusing on New Paltz Area


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CIRCA, a tour of historic farmhouses this Sunday, June 10th, aims to highlight the rich and varied architecture that remains from the late 18th and 19th centuries, when the New Paltz area was part of the Nation’s breadbasket.  

CIRCA will feature six local homes, all of which have strong ties to this pivotal period in America’s history. Also included on the tour is an 18th century Dutch-style barn, today home to Adair Vineyards, and an artist’s studio created from a unique early 19th century stone barn.


It was the bounty of the Hudson Valley and the industrious nature of our 18th and 19th century farmers that helped feed our young country – especially burgeoning cities such as New York.

Farming in this era involved individuals of all social strata, from the wealthiest of gentleman farmers, to the hardworking tenant farmers who made it possible for the prosperous to extract wealth from the huge tracts of land they controlled.

Among the homes included on the tour is early 19th century home of Thaddeus Hait. Hait, from a well-to-do Westchester County family of the time, moved to the then newly-formed town of Plattekill. By 1828, he had accrued 153 acres, some of which is still farmed today. His home is an interesting example of how the refined Neoclassical style was interpreted in a decidedly rural setting. The result is an otherwise modest home that endures as an example of the optimism and aspiration of its builder. Outside, the home features an unusual second floor “Juliet” balcony. Inside, high style mixes with exposed stone walls and brick floors. The current owners have lovingly preserved the home and the surrounding outbuildings.

Two short miles away, as Hait staked his claim, Josiah Hasbrouck and his wife Hylah Bevier lived in a striking Federal-style showpiece they completed in 1814. This home, known today as Locust Lawn, was at the heart of a massive 1,000 acre gentleman’s farm. Josiah and Hylah, who each were descended from the earliest Huguenot settlers of the area, presided over a home truly remarkable for its time. Lived in by three generations of their family, the home was shuttered in the 1880′s – in effect turning it into a time capsule of one family’s unique history. A preserved museum home today, the home has been closed to the public for the past two years and is normally open only by appointment.

On the other end of the spectrum is a humble home owned by DuBois Hasbrouck and dating to the late 18th century. This home, built for tenant farmers, represents the lives of the families who toiled to get a toehold on the American dream. This simple one-and-a-half story home, expanded over time, still sits along a gentle stream with views of the fields all around.

Capping off the tour will be a reception at the Maplestone Inn, a substantial stone house built by John L. Jenkins and Mary Catherine Broadhead in late 18th century. Innkeepers Sean and Patty Roche have generously agreed to open their renovated streamside barn for the reception.

CIRCA will be held on Sunday, June 10th, from 11am to 5:30pm. Advance tickets are $25 and can be purchased at www.casaulster.org or by calling (845) 339-7543. Day of tickets are $30 each. The event is presented by Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA), which works to ensure that foster care is temporary and that all children can grow up in safe, loving and permanent homes. CASA was founded in Ulster County in 1987 and is one of over 950 CASA programs across the country. More information about CASA can be found at www.casaulster.org.

Ulster County: The Many Lives of Selah Tuthill’s Gristmill


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In 1788, the same year as France was moving closer towards revolution and the United States Constitution was being ratified, a young man made his way to the area that would one day bear his name. His name was Selah Tuthill. He founded what would become known as the Tuthilltown Gristmill in Gardiner, New York. Once the mill started churning out stone ground flour, it would do so continuously for over two hundred years until its second life as a restaurant and distillery. Continue reading

Holstein History, Milk Bottles and Milking Machines


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The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark will hold its third annual Holstein Heritage event at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 3, the third day of Dairy Month, at the Smithfield Community Center, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road in Peterboro.

Milton C. Sernett PhD will present Peterboro: Cradle of the Holstein Breed! Sernett’s interest in the history behind the New York State Holstein Association monument on Oxbow Road just north of Peterboro gave impetus to this annual event recognizing the important role that Peterboro played in the agricultural industry.

In his illustrated talk Sernett will use his research to relate the history of Gerrit Smith Miller’s importation to Peterboro of the first registered Holstein-Fresian herd in America. Sernett published the book Cradle of the Breed: Gerrit Smith Miller and the Kriemhild Herd, for the first Holstein Heritage event, and followed that publication with another in 2011 Say Cheese! The Story of the Era When New York State Cheese was King. Both books will be available at the program, at the Peterboro Mercantile, and are online at mercantile.gerritsmith.org

Returning directly from the National Association of Milk Bottle Collectors (NAMBC), Peter Bleiberg will share information on milk bottles and their collection. Bleiberg, a resident of New Hartford and the next editor of The Milk Route, the official newsletter of the NAMBC, has been collecting milk bottles for twenty-four years. He focuses his collection on the variety of pictures and slogans that began to appear on painted milk bottles in the mid-1930’s.

To promote the use of their milk and other dairy products, dairies used images of cows, barns, babies, families, ice cream, butter, nursery rhymes, war-related scenes, and many other subjects on the backs of the colorful bottles. Peter’s presentation, entitled Marketing of Milk in the 1940s, includes pictures of hundreds of bottles and traces the advertising themes on the bottles that sat in our refrigerators and on our kitchen tables every morning.

Mike Gleason will return to the annual event with his antique milking machines and, hopefully, with copies of his book on milking machines that is in publication at this time.

The public is encouraged to attend this heritage session which broadens understanding of the rich history of Gerrit Smith and his family. The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark at 5304 Oxbow Road in Peterboro has been designated by both the state and national park services as a site on the Underground Railroad.

 Exhibits on freedom seekers and abolitionists are in the three buildings on the estate that are open to the public. The site is open in 2012 on weekends from 1 -5 pm through September 23, for special events, and by appointment. Admission is $3 and free for students. For more information: 315-280-8828, info@gerritsmith.org or www.gerritsmith.org.

Illustration: A Holstein from an 1898 print.

Scything Demonstration at Saratoga National Park


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On Saturday, June 2, 2012, from 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM, Saratoga National Historical Park will offer a demonstration of 18th-century style scything. Imagine trying to maintain your lawn or a field using only a long, sharp blade.  Skilled living history teams will use 18th-century style scythes to clear large areas of field as they gather hay for farm animals. As they work, a park ranger will tell stories about farming and food harvesting in the late 1700s.


In the event of rain, the event will be held on Sunday, June 3, from 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM. For more information about this or other events, call the Visitor Center at 518-664-9821 ext. 1777 or check their website at www.nps.gov/sara.

Illustration: Image from Benjamin Butterworth’s The Growth of Industrial Art depicting reaping grain by hand sickle during the colonial period.

Saunderskill: One of the Oldest Farms in America


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Those readers who follow my writing realize quickly that I have a special affinity for the Hasbrouck House in Newburgh more commonly known as Washington’s Headquarters, State Historic Site. Many of those visiting the site do not realize that a part of that site’s history can be traced back to Western Ulster County, New York where Jonathan Hasbrouck’s mother Elsie Schoonmaker was born and raised. Continue reading

Forest to Fields: Champlain Valley Agriculture History


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A short booklet, From Forest to Fields: A History of Agriculture in new York’s Champlain Valley published by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Essex County and the Lake to Locks Passage Scenic Byway highlights the rich history of the Champlain Valley with a focus on the region’s farms and fields.

From Forests to Fields is authored by Anita Deming, who has more than 30 years experience as an agricultural extension agent with CCE, and Andrew Alberti, Program Manager for Lakes to Locks Passage since 2008 (where he focuses on 21st century technology applications and local and regional interpretation and planning) and a contributor here at New York History. Alberti is also editor for the Lakes to Locks Passage and National Geographic Geotourism website.

Chapters cover Native American agriculture, early explorers and settlements, the agricultural revolution, farming in the modern era and a short review of the architecture and use of farm buildings and a list of resources. The authors explain the impact of the 1807 Embargo Act, the influence of the opening of the Champlain Canal in 1823 on local farm trade, the grange movement, and changes in the local sheep and dairy industries, and more.

The booklet is 48 pages and profusely illustrated. You can request a copy by contacting Lakes to Locks Passage. There is a suggested $10 + S&H donation.

The Farmers’ Museum Sugaring Off Sundays Slated


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The Farmers’ Museum will play host to a springtime tradition with Sugaring Off Sundays. Held every Sunday in March (March 4, 11, 18, and 25), the event features historic and contemporary sugaring demonstrations, children’s activities and more. A full pancake breakfast is offered from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. with other activities scheduled 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In the Museum’s historic village, children find activities — not homework — at the Filer’s Corners Schoolhouse. Everyone learns about spring tonics and treatments in the More House, and the blacksmith is demonstrating his craft at the Peleg Field Blacksmith Shop. Visitors are invited to have a taste of jack wax, hot maple syrup poured over snow.

On March 18 only, Native American educator and storyteller Mike Tarbell tells stories from the Haudenosaunee tradition.

The Empire State Carousel, a favorite attraction at The Farmers’ Museum, will be open. Local maple products will also be for sale.

Admission to Sugaring Off Sundays is $8 for ages 13 and up; $4 for children age 7 to 12; and free for children 6 and under. Admission includes full breakfast. No reservations are required. Visit FarmersMuseum.org for more information. Sponsored in part by Bank of Cooperstown, Otsego County Maple Producers, Sysco, and Quandt’s Foodservice Distributors.

Photo: Blacksmith Steve Kellogg demonstrates age-old techniques to visitors during last year’s Sugaring Off Sundays event at The Farmers’ Museum. (Photo by Zach Winnie)

Wind Power Has A Long History in America


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Scores of gigantic wind turbines in the Adirondacks’ northeastern and southwestern foothills are a startling site amidst historically bucolic scenery. The landscape appears “citified,” with structures nearly 40 stories high where the largest buildings rarely top 3 stories. It is a dramatic change, and a far cry from simpler days when family farms were prevalent. Few realize that in those “simpler days” of dairy farms, windmills were actually quite common across the region.

Of course, the windmills once dotting the North Country’s landscape were nothing like today’s behemoths, which stand nearly 400 feet high from the ground to the tip of a skyward-pointing blade. And, the windmills of old weren’t always efficient machines.

Wind technology took a tremendous leap forward in the 1850s thanks to Daniel Halladay, a Connecticut machinist. Halladay’s windmill not only pumped water, but automatically turned to face into the wind as it changed directions. Almost as important, he devised a way to control the speed of the blades (windmills are prone to destruction from within when operating at high rpm levels). Halladay established the US Wind Engine & Pump Company, setting up shop in Illinois. From the start, the business flourished.

Though his sales were focused on the country’s expansion westward, New York State was also experiencing dramatic growth, particularly in the remote northern Adirondack foothills, where pioneers faced a harsh climate and difficult living conditions. Halladay’s invention eventually helped turn some of those weather negatives into positives by taking advantage of wind patterns across upper New York State.

In 1874, the railroad was expanding north from Whitehall towards Plattsburgh. Since steam engines require water, the line generally followed the shore of Lake Champlain. Tanks were constructed along the route where the rails approached the lakeshore. Steam pumps or windmills were used to fill the feeder tanks, which had a capacity of 33,000 gallons each.

As settlers moved north on both sides of the Adirondacks, windmill technology crept northward with them. Farming was necessary for survival, and the enormous workload was eased by mechanical devices like windmills. The description of one man’s operation about 18 miles south of Lowville was typical of the times: “… a beautiful farm of 280 acres, milks 35 cows, and is a model farm. House, barns, windmill pump, all systematically arranged.”

In situations like that, windmills often filled tanks placed on the upper floor of a barn. The water was then gravity-fed to the livestock below and piped to other locations as needed. The machine was also used to grind various grains. Early models were mounted on wooden frames, but many fell victim to the very power they were trying to harness, toppling before raging windstorms. Eventually, steel frames supported most windmills.

Wind power wasn’t just for individual homes and farms. In July 1879, H. H. Babcock & Sons of Watertown was hired to install a windmill at 1000 Islands State Park. Water was drawn from the St. Lawrence River to large tanks near the dining hall, and from there was conducted to the various cottages by galvanized iron pipe.

And at Hermon, a contract for $6,595 was signed with Daniel Halladay’s company to install a new waterworks system. Included were a wooden tank of 50,000-gallon capacity, a windmill with a wheel diameter of 20 feet, and more than a mile of piping. The frost-proof tank was 24 feet in diameter, 16 feet high, and 3 inches thick. It sat on a trestle 20 feet high, while the windmill stood on a trestle 80 feet high.

Many hotels, including the Whitney House in Norwood and the Turin House in Turin, used windmills to power their water systems. At Chazy, windmills pumped water from the quarries; at Port Henry, they filled water tanks for the trains; and at Saranac Lake, they fed the water supply of the Adirondack Sanitarium.

In 1889, George Baltz of Watertown handled the Halladay display at the Jefferson County Fair, demonstrating that windmills furnished cheaper power than steam engines and could run a feed mill, a circular saw for cutting wood, or pump water.

Though Halladay’s products were widely known, he did have competitors. Some added their own modifications, and some were “copycats.” And they weren’t all products from afar. In 1882, an advertisement touted a windmill “warranted to take care of itself in high winds, equal to the best western mills, and is sold for half the money. It is manufactured at Potsdam.” It featured a self-regulator, and appeared to be based on Halladay’s own successful model.

In the late 1890s, most of the windmills in the Ticonderoga and Lake George area were products of the Perkins Windmill Company, which had already installed more than 50 units across the lake in Vermont. Though windmills in the Midwest were primarily for irrigation, most of those in the North Country supplied water to homes, businesses, and farm animals.

Wind power did face competition from other sources. Gasoline engines became more and more common, offering a reliable alternative. However, they were expensive, noisy, and costly to run. An operator had to be present to start and stop a gas engine, while windmills employed a system of floats to start and stop filling the tanks automatically. A once-a-week oiling was the only required maintenance. The biggest problem at the time was that gas engines ran when you wanted them to, but windmills depended on the weather.

The giant turbines we see in northern New York today are not a new idea. In a peek at the future, Charles Brush of Cleveland, Ohio demonstrated in 1888 the first use of a large windmill to generate electricity. As early as 1895, observers noted that windmills were “destined to be much used for storing electricity. We predict an immense future for the windmill industry.”

In 1910, a farm in America’s Midwest employed windmills to charge a bank of batteries. Wind power provided electricity to light the farm and operate the equipment. When the wind didn’t blow, the farm ran on battery power for a few days.

By 1925, wind turbines had been used to run refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, and power tools. And in 1926, the NYS Fair urged farmers to purchase windmills, using a 12-foot-high model to show the benefits they might enjoy. It was an enticing glimpse at the potential of electricity. Ironically, the popularity of windmills soon became their undoing.

Though they were a wonderful source of cheap power, the main problem was intermittent operation. When the wind didn’t blow, the tools didn’t go. Battery storage systems were only good for brief periods, and people wanted power WHEN they wanted it. Soon, another overriding factor arose—the growing need for huge amounts of electricity.

By the late 1930s and 1940s, constantly flowing electricity was the goal, relegating wind power to the background of the energy battle. It was still used, and advancements were pursued, but success was limited. One notable effort was the huge Smith-Putnam windmill installed atop Grandpa’s Knob near Castleton and Rutland, Vermont, in 1941.

Though less than half the size of today’s models, it was still large, featuring a 16-ton, 175-foot steel rotor that turned at 28 RPM. Occasional use ended abruptly in 1945 when metal fatigue caused the blade to snap, hurling a huge section 1000 feet down the mountain.

In the North Country, windmills have returned after a long hiatus. They stand ten times taller than their predecessors (in 2012, the new ones will be 492 feet high), and now pump electricity instead of water. Where potato, hop, and dairy farms once dominated, the wind farms of today stand above all others.

Photos: Above, windmills 400 feet tall at Churubusco (and another under construction in the foreground). Middle Right: Typical use of windmill to fill railroad water tanks. Middle Left: Halladay windmills were offered by George Baltz of Watertown. Below, advertisement for Halladay’s company.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

33rd Annual Harvest Fest at Farmers’ Museum


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The Farmers’ Museum’s 33rd annual Harvest Festival will take place Saturday and Sunday, September 17 and 18 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with live music both days and new activities for children.

This popular fall event brings together a wide array of artisans, vendors, performers, and exhibitors to the Museum’s alluring 19th-century setting. Guests will enjoy horse-drawn wagon rides; craft activities for the entire family; artisan demonstrations; and an abundance of delicious foods from the season’s harvest including samples of McCadam/Cabot cheese, roasted corn, baked goods, ice cream, and more. You can even try out wood planes, hand drills, and other antique tools from their large collection.

This year, the Museum again welcomes members of the Southern Tier Alpaca Association. Owners and breeders will display their animals and participate in numerous activities throughout the weekend.

Children will enjoy agricultural activities that include building a haystack; corn shelling and grinding; apple cider pressing demonstrations; ropemaking; apple bobbing; and 19th-century games in the schoolhouse. Not to mention the alpaca and canine agility courses.

Witness or take part in the excitement of an old-time pie eating contest – both Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m., sponsored by the Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard.

Over 25 vendors and artisans will supply everything the season has to offer including beeswax candles, shaker oval boxes, early American tinware, baskets, Windsor chairs, and more – with demonstrations of soap making and woodworking.

Tap your toes the sounds of “Clemens Tradition,” an old time fiddle and classic country music group based in Osceola, New York, featuring the 2002 New York State Inductee to the North American Fiddler’s Hall of Fame and Museum – Jackie Hobbs and other special guests. They will perform in the Cornwallville Church, located in the center of the Museum’s historic village, each day at 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m. The shows are free with paid admission to the event.

See the winners from this year’s Junior Livestock Show as they make their way through the Museum’s historic village during the Parade of Champions – both days at 1:00 p.m.

To view a full listing of all the event’s activities, see our schedule online at FarmersMuseum.org/harvest.

Sponsored by KeyBank and McCadam/Cabot Cheese. Supported in part by the Southern Tier Alpaca Association and the Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard. This event is made possible withpublic funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.

Admission to the event: $12 adults (13+), $10.50 seniors (65+), $6 children(7-12), children 6 and under and members of the New York State Historical Association are free. For more information on any of our programs, visit FarmersMuseum.org/harvest.

Senate House Hosting Apple Heritage Day


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Join Senate House State Historic Site in Kingston, NY for Apple Heritage Day on Sunday, September 25, 2011 from 12pm – 5pm in conjunction with Ulster County Cultural Heritage Week. Enjoy a variety of 18 century apple related activities to celebrate Ulster County’s long history of apple growing. Afternoon activities include pressing apples for apple cider, making apple butter over an open fire, baking apple sauce cake in a Dutch oven and making dried apple wreaths and dolls. At 1pm and 3pm enjoy the 18th century magic of Bob Olson A.K.A. Mr. Bayly and featured at 2pm and 4pm are children’s puppet shows.

Also throughout the afternoon enjoy 18th century music performed by Rural Felicity and help Senate House wish Johnny Appleseed a happy birthday, born September 26, 1774. Admission to this event is free and as usual Senate House will be open for tours. Fees to tour Senate House are $4.00 for adults, $3.00 for seniors and children 12 and under are free.

Senate House State Historic Site is part of a system of parks, recreation areas and historic sites operated by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and the site is one of 28 facilities administered by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission in New York and New Jersey. For further information about this and other upcoming events call the site at (845) 338-2786 or visit the State Parks website at www.nysparks.com.

Adirondack Architectural Heritage Upcoming Events


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What follows are descriptions of three upcoming tours in Gloversville, Willsboro, and southern Clinton County, hosted by Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) that still have space available. AARCH also has a golf benefit at the end of the month in Ticonderoga.

Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) is the nonprofit historic preservation organization for New York State’s Adirondack Park. AARCH was formed in 1990 with a mission to promote better public understanding, appreciation and stewardship of the Adirondacks’ unique and diverse architectural heritage.



Early Industry and Architecture in Gloversville

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The city of Gloversville, unsurprisingly, developed around the glove industry, relying on the tanneries that were so abundant in the southern Adirondacks to provide leather. With the departure of this important industry, the city is now working to build a new identity. Fulton County Chamber of Commerce President Wally Hart will lead this walking tour of downtown Gloversville, exploring a stunning collection of turn-of-the-century commercial buildings in various stages of rehabilitation and learning about the city’s rich history. We’ll also visit the ornate Carnegie Library and the Glove Theater, formerly one of three theaters in town owned by the wealthy Schine family. The tour begins at 10 a.m. and ends around 3 p.m. The fee is $30 for AARCH and Chamber members and $40 for non-members.

The Clarks of Willsboro Point

Saturday, August 20, 2011



During the late 19th century Orrin Clark, and his sons Solomon and Lewis, operated a successful quarry on Ligonier Point in Willsboro, providing “bluestone” for a number of regional buildings, as well as the Champlain Canal and the Brooklyn Bridge. In addition to the quarry the Clarks ran a dairy farm and a shipbuilding business. This tour will visit the quarry remains; the Clarks’ homestead, Old Elm; the quarry master’s house, Scragwood; and the surrounding grounds. These buildings have remained nearly untouched since the Clarks’ occupancy, providing a rare view of life at the turn of the century. You will also be able to explore the family’s history through extensive documents meticulously organized in a private collection. The tour begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. The fee is $35 for AARCH and $45 for non-members.

200 Years of Farming

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Farming has been important to the Champlain Valley for more than two centuries. On this southern Clinton County tour, we will explore a series of homesteads and farms from the early 19th century to the present day, which will collectively show how farming has changed over time. We’ll begin the day at the Babbie Rural and Farm Learning Museum, then visit the Keese Homestead (c. 1795) built by Quaker settlers in a community called The Union. Other stops include Remillard Dairy Farm, family owned for three generations; Forrence Orchards, one of the largest McIntosh orchards in the state; and finally Clover Mead Farm, where we’ll see how organic cheese is made and sample their exceptional line of farm-fresh products. Led by AARCH’s Steven Engelhart, the tour begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. The fee is $35 for AARCH and $45 for non-members.

Golf Tournament to Benefit AARCH

Ticonderoga Country Club

Monday, August 29, 2011

Join us for our third annual golf Tournament. This year’s event will be held at Ticonderoga Country Club. This scenic course is set in the historic Lord Howe Valley and features an open yet challenging layout. The day will include a buffet lunch; a round of golf with cart; and the opportunity to win great prizes.The format will be a four man scramble with a shot gun start. The cost is $100 per person.

Photo: Downtown Gloversville.

In Wilimington: ‘Adirondack Tools and Tales’


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The Wilmington Historical Society will host a program with historian and author Don Williams entitled “Adirondack Tools and Tales” on Friday, July 15th at 7 pm at the Wilmington Community Center on Springfield Road in Wilmington (Essex County). Early Adirondack settlers had to live and survive in a rugged mountain environment with a harsh climate. Mr. Williams will explain how the tools they used were critical to that survival.

Don Williams grew up at the ingress of the Northville-Lake Placid Trail and on Route 30. He has authored nine books of Adirondack and local history and has written over 250 articles for magazines including Adirondack Life and the Journal of Outdoor Education. He served as Adirondack regional editor for New York Sportsman Magazine for twenty years. His “Blueline” newspaper column has appeared weekly in four newspapers since 1989. He also hosted the television program Inside the Blueline in Gloversville and Glens Falls for a total of six years.

Don Williams has appeared regularly as an Adirondack lecturer and storyteller at schools and organizations throughout the northeast for over forty years. He appears in the PBS documentary, The Adirondacks. A former school principal and licensed Adirondack guide, he has taught “The Adirondacks” at grade schools, libraries, high schools, colleges and elderhostel. Don lives in his “replicated Great Adirondack Camp” with his wife, Beverly, in Gloversville.

The “Adirondack Tools and Tales” program on July 15th is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. For further information, contact Karen Peters at (518) 524-1023 or Merri Peck at (518) 946- 7627.

Hudson Valley Farm Photo Exhibit at Olana


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Olana has announced the opening of a new exhibition by photographer Brandt Bolding entitled FARM: Agricultural Life of the Hudson Valley. The exhibit in the recently restored Coachman’s House Gallery at Olana State Historic Site.

In 1860, Frederic Church purchased approximately 126 acres of farmland and immediately set out to build a new “farm house” for his family. The artist expanded his land holdings over the next ten years and ultimately moved his family to the larger stone-and-brick house he built near the summit of the hill, but he continued to work on and operate a farm at Olana for the rest of his life. Church was proud of his farming accomplishments, writing friends and family of the success of his orchards, vegetables, and livestock.

The FARM exhibit coincides with extensive farm restoration work about to begin in Olana’s historic farm complex. The Olana Partnership and Olana State Historic Site have secured two major grants to focus on restoring Frederic Church’s farm. Over the next several years, meadow and orchard restoration projects will return the neglected farm to potentially active agricultural use. “According to a report of the American Farmland Trust, every hour we lose 125 acres of farm and ranch land in the U.S.,” reports Olana Partnership President Sara Griffen. “By focusing on the restoration of Olana’s farm we hope to play a small role in ensuring the agricultural future of Columbia County.”

Photographer Brandt Bolding states, “through extensive travels photographing and documenting the farms of northeastern America I am attempting to bring awareness of just a small part of what is at stake. Nowhere is this more of a concern than in the Mid-Hudson Valley…where citizens, and civic organizations large and small rally to preserve the irreplaceable beauty of our landscape from less than circumspect development.”

The photos included in the exhibition will be printed by the photographer in a limited edition of twelve and are available for purchase in the Olana Museum Store. The exhibit will be open every day through October 30, 2011 at Olana State Historic Site, 5720 State Route 9G, Hudson, New York.

About Brandt Bolding:

Brandt Bolding’s photographs have been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the northeastern part of the U.S. and have appeared in newspapers, journals, and publications by various preservation organizations in New York State. His work on agricultural life will be the subject of a solo exhibition at the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie, NY, later this year. Two of his photographs appeared in the book entitled Old Homes of New England: Historic Houses in Clapboard, Shingle, and Stone published by Rizzoli in April 2010.

Photo: Level Acres Cornfield, Route 82, Columbia County. Courtesy Brandt Bolding Photography.

Sustainable Living, Historic Hudson Valley Style


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What can our past tell us about better living today and for the future? A free festival of demonstrations, tours and living history interpreters, presented at Senate House State Historic Site on Saturday, May 14, offers some out-of-the-ordinary suggestions. Designed for the whole family, this outdoor event will offer ways for people of all ages to learn about practices of the past and their relevance to choices we make today. This free event is perfect for families and people of all ages, and occurs rain or shine. For more information, please call (845) 338-2786, or visit www.nysparks.com.

Friends of Senate House is partnering with the Kingston Land Trust and Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture to offer presentations on colonial gardening and cooking, herbal medicinals, creative darning of textiles, special tours of Senate House on the theme of sustainable building practices, hands-on activities for kids, and free admission to the Senate House and the site museum.

The Kingston Land Trust will present master gardener Allyson Levy of Hortus Conclusus who will be on hand at 11:30 and 1:30 to speak on the contents and uses of a colonial woman’s dooryard garden, and present the historic garden she created.

Dina Falconi, practicing herbalist and author, will speak with visitors about her own herbal preparations and medicinals, and present examples of her creations and the plants used to make them.

Rob Sweeny, member of Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture, will give special tours of Senate House at 10:30, 12:30 and 2:30 on the theme of historic building practices and house-holding in 17th- and 18th- century Hudson Valley.

Peter Cutul, a history educator with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation at Fort Montgomery, will present on historic land-use, farming and food preservation practices, with objects and samples for all ages to explore.

Dawn Elliott will offer a creative darning clinic, so bring your textiles for a consultation and possible repair.

Scions of Patria, re-enactors of 17th Century Dutch life in the “New World,” will present hearth cooking of traditional foods and other colonial activities and traditions.

Hands-on activities for kids: Children can practice writing with the “green” writing tool of the colonial period (a quill); learn about the history and uses of a plant, and pot a seedling to take home.

New York Heritage Weekend will showcase the Empire State to residents and visitors alike and to help kick off the summer tourism season; it offers the opportunity for participants to enjoy historic site programs that highlight the significant historical, cultural and natural resources of New York State. In anticipation of this statewide celebration, a new website has been unveiled: please visit www.HeritageWeekend.org.

This special event is sponsored and financially supported by the Friends of Senate House, the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area in partnership with the National Park Service.

Plowline: Images of Rural NY Project Launched


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In 1960, New York State was home to 88,000 active farms; today that number has decreased to roughly 36,000 farms – a decline of nearly 60% in 40 years. In response, The Farmers’ Museum in historic Cooperstown, NY is assembling an exciting collection of original photography to chronicle and preserve the changes in agricultural practice, rural life, and farming families of New York State from the 19th century through the present.

With the generous support of the Gipson Family, Plowline: Images of Rural New York is a resource not only for the scholarly community but also for the public to learn more about the rural heritage of New York State. Cooperstown photographer and museum visitor Andy Baugnet comments, “We cannot turn back the hands of time. However, the Plowline collection will allow us to view the past and experience how agriculture left its mark on New York State’s economic and cultural landscapes.”

Plowline presents beautiful black and white 1950s photographs of New York farm scenes such as harvesting the fall bounty, maple sugaring and horse-pulling. The collection also includes important aerial photographs of regional communities, including the construction of the New York State Thruway. Over 100 lantern slides from Cornell University’s Dairy Department, which instructed dairy farmers in the 1920s about how to operate an efficient farm, are featured in the collection. In addition, Plowline highlights snapshots chronicling an Orange County farm family’s life over a 30 year period. Finally, contemporary works by New York photographer Daniel Handel document the current farming revival in Upstate New York.

In 1942, The Farmers’ Museum’s founders set out to collect objects of American farm and rural communities and to display those in a method accessible to all interested. To enhance their accessibility, the photographs collected through Plowline will all be posted online. In addition, powered by Omeka, a free and open source platform developed by The Center for the Future of History Museums, the Plowline website has integrated Web 2.0 technology. “Thus,” says curator Erin Crissman Richardson, “the website encourages user participation and allows visitors to comment on records if they know something about the history of an object or what is happening in a particular photograph. Visitors can also share items with friends via Facebook, Twitter and other social media.”

Plowline, as a collecting initiative, will be continually adding photographs and will become a significant portion of the annual additions to The Farmers’ Museum collection. “We anticipate that Plowline will be the foremost resource of images of the 19th, 20th and 21st century rural imagery,” explains Vice President for Education Garet Livermore

Lectures: Albany’s Political, Landscape History


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The Albany Institute of History & Art will host two free lectures and book signings in November which look at the city’s past from different perspectives. On Sunday, November 7, 2010, at 2:00 pm Warren Roberts will present “A Place in History: Albany in the Age of Revolution” Then, on Sunday November 14, 2010, at 2:00 pm Robert M. Toole will present “Landscape Gardens on the Hudson, A History”

These lectures are free and open to the public. Admission to the lectures does not include admission to the museum.

In 1998, Warren Roberts took a bicycle ride into the heart of the city in which he had lived for 35 years, beginning a 10-year journey into the history of Albany. Reading about the city’s past, poring over old maps, and returning again and again to the city’s historic sites with a camera, Roberts found that the more he delved into Albany’s history, the more he uncovered about the city’s important role in three larger historical narratives: the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the construction of the Erie Canal. A Place in History examines how the events that unfolded along the Hudson River between 1775 and 1825 saved one revolution, caused another, and transformed Albany and the state of New York.

Landscape gardening is a hidden but unequaled historic resource along the Hudson River, exhibiting some of the most significant designed 19th-century landscapes in America—a legacy that continues today with the design of America’s urban parks and nearly every rural or suburban home. The first comprehensive study of the development of these landscapes, and the important role they played in the cultural underpinnings of the young United States, Landscape Gardens on the Hudson explores the Hudson Valley’s role as the birthplace of American landscape architecture.

Tractor Fest at The Farmers’ Museum This Weekend


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The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown will hold what it hopes will be an annual Tractor Fest on Saturday and Sunday, October 9 and 10, from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Tractor Fest will offer visitors an opportunity to see classic tractors from John Deere, Ford, and other manufacturers – representing the growth of farming technology from the 1920s until today. The Museum provides an ideal setting where visitors can learn about the world of tractors and how they powered America’s farms.

Families will find Tractor Fest to be an appealing weekend destination. Kids, ages 7 and under, can compete for prizes in a Kiddie Pedal Tractor Pull contest on both Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. There will be wagon rides around the Museum’s Historic Village – pulled by a Ford Golden Jubilee Tractor on Saturday and Sunday morning from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon. See a “hit and miss” engine powering a grinding wheel and Mr. Whipple operating his steam engine near the Blacksmith Shop. There will also be thrashing demonstrations, rides provided by Cooperstown Carriage Rides, The Empire State Carousel, craft demonstrations and more.

Discover classic and modern tractors throughout the Museum’s grounds. Springfield Tractor will display compact tractors with backhoe & front-end loaders and Cazenovia Equipment will demonstrate satellite controlled farm tractors.

For those with a deeper historical interest in tractors, Syracuse University history professor, Milton Sernett, will give a talk titled How the Ford Tractor Changed the American Family Farm: 1920 – 1940, on Saturday, October 9 at 12:30 p.m. in the Cornwallville Church located on the grounds of the Museum. This lecture is free and open to the public. It is made possible through Speakers in the Humanities, a program of the New York Council for the Humanities. Speakers in the Humanities lectures are made possible with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the New York State Legislature, and through funds from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

Tractor Fest is sponsored in part by Northern Eagle Beverage. Admission to the event: $12 adults (13+), $10.50 seniors (65+), $6 children (7-12), children 6 and under and members of the New York State Historical Association are free. Admission to the lecture is free. Food and beverages will be available throughout the day. Please visit our website at FarmersMuseum.org/tractorfest for more information and a full schedule of events.

Photo by Frank Forte.

Farmers’ Museum Annual Harvest Fest


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The bounty of the harvest will be celebrated at The Farmers’ Museum’s 32nd annual Harvest Festival, taking place Saturday and Sunday, September 18 and 19 from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. with live music Saturday evening from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. This year, the Museum again welcomes members of the Southern Tier Alpaca Association. Owners and breeders will display their animals and participate in numerous activities throughout the weekend.

This popular event brings a wide array of performers, exhibitors, and farm animals to the Museum’s alluring 19th-century setting. Guests will enjoy horse-drawn wagon rides; historic games and craft activities for the family; artisan demonstrations; and delicious foods from the season’s harvest including samples of McCadam/Cabot cheese, roasted corn, ice cream, and much more.

Over 20 vendors and artisans will supply everything the season has to offer including beeswax candles, cedar hand carved decoys and birds, Early American tinware, quilts, stained glass, Windsor chairs, and more.

Activities include an alpaca obstacle course, a pie-eating contest with pies supplied by the Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard (Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Sign up until noon in the Main Barn), a canine agility course, and a free family concert with live bluegrass music by the band “Gravel Yard” on Saturday evening from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. To view a full listing of all the event’s activities, see our schedule online at FarmersMuseum.org/harvestfestival.

Admission to the event: $12 adults (13+), $10.50 seniors (65+), $6 children (7-12), children 6 and under and members of the New York State Historical Association are free.