Clare and I decided to go to the Hudson Valley in New York for our summer vacation in August of 2022. Our planning had pinpointed Poughkeepsie as the central point for our exploration of the area of the Hudson we were most interested in. It reminded me of the “French Connection” movie with Popeye Doyle’s famous line, “Now I’m gonna bust your ass for those three bags and I’m gonna nail you for picking your feet in Poughkeepsie.” Did I ever think I would be going to Poughkeepsie? Not really.
Although Poughkeepsie isn’t the highlight of New York, it is a pleasant community and we certainly enjoyed our stay in the area. It is very close to Hyde Park where the Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt homes are located, where our tour’s main focus would be. We arrived on Monday and after settling in at the hotel, went to the Mill House Brewing Company for dinner. The dinner was enjoyable and we would recommend it to those passing through Poughkeepsie.
We arrived early Tuesday morning at FDR’s family home in Hyde Park and were in the first group tour of the property. Our guide was excellent and provided many historical details about FDR and his presidency. While FDR’s home was large and spacious, it was not grandiose by any means. The stone exterior, in my opinion, exuded the strength and character of the Roosevelt family. In the front room, there was a lot of navy memorabilia as well as a corner cabinet full of birds that Franklin had caught and studied as a child. The downstairs had a living room, dining room and to the far left, a large “family room” where Roosevelt often relaxed with family, friends and dignitaries. Before we went up to the second floor, our guide pointed out that the railing on the stairs had not only been touched by the Roosevelts but by their many guests including visiting kings, queens, and Prime Minister Churchill. The bedrooms were probably large for that day but not as large as one might expect given the importance of the guest who stayed there. The guide told us that the home was actually owned by FDR’s mother, Sara, who had her own bedroom close to the presidential couple. Eleanor had a small bedroom, next to Franklin’s bedroom. There was a third floor of the home which was for the children but there had been a fire many years ago in that part of the home and so it had been closed off and never reopened.
After the home, we visited the stables and gardens, then went to see the FDR Presidential Library and Museum. The museum exhibited a large swath of FDR’s life and presidency. In the basement, it had the car that was specially outfitted for FDR so that he could drive, despite his paralysis.
Afterward, we went to lunch at the Eveready Diner. We had wanted to go to a brewery but it was closed so we opted for the diner. After lunch, we drove through the Culinary Institute campus. When we were first planning the trip, we had planned to eat at one of the restaurants run by the Culinary Institute but since we had put off our trip due to the excessive heat until late August, the Institute was closed for summer break. That was unfortunate but when you travel, you have to adapt at times as we had to later in the trip.
That afternoon, we visited the Vasser College. Vassar College was the first college in the United States to be founded with a full-scale museum, the Frances Lehman Loeb Gallery, as part of its original plan. The Loeb Gallery has an impressive collection of art that’s worth a visit. Be sure and also take a some time to visit their sculpture garden which may be small but worth the time to visit. We also briefly visited the Bardovan theater building which is interesting in that it has a walkway with many stars names emblazoned in the sidewalk.
That evening we went to Brasserie 292 for dinner. I would highly recommend, the food was delicious, services was outstanding and they had an excellent wine selection. It was in downtown Poughkeepsie and the older buildings and murals were quite interesting.
The next morning, we went to Innisfree Garden. My car GPS led us to a dead-end road but Google found the proper route. One of the challenges of travel these days is the accuracy of GPS. While Google is more often correct, it does sometimes fail as well or make decisions that were not asked for. Innisfree is billed as one of the world’s best gardens, we were puzzled by that designation. While it is an interesting place with much interest, I’m not sure we would agree with one of the world’s best gardens. It is large and expansive, with a large lake, many trees, and interesting structures and water features. It did provide a very pleasant stroll in the morning. An eagles nest was pointed out to us but, unfortunately, no eagles were spotted
That afternoon, we skipped lunch to go to Eleanor Roosevelt’s historic home in Val-Kill. We were provided a half-hour lecture on Eleanor and her early life. What an amazing woman she was and you can understand how FDR’s greatness was so much due to Eleanor, the great woman behind the man. I knew some of her strengths but realized, I didn’t know how much she influenced FDR. To understand what a powerful woman she was, Franklin had Eleanor speak to the American people about the attack on Pearl Harbor before he gave his speech because she was so well known and trusted by the American public. Eleanor’s home isn’t the point, it was Eleanor herself that should make you want to come and view her home and gardens so that you can better understand a truly great person. We did take a short detour to go into the Vanderbilt Mansion Historical Park. We just took a slow drive through the estate and my description of the Vanderbilt Mansion is “way too ostentatious for me”. Can you imagine the number of politicians, dignitaries, writers, and actors who would crowd around the piano and sing along with Eleanor after a dinner in her home.
We went to dinner that evening at a restaurant on the Hudson. We first tried Mahoney’s Irish Pub & Steakhouse but were not in the mood for bar food so strolled down to River Station which had more seafood and a better view of the river. The following morning, Thursday, we went to the Walkway over the Hudson. The walkway had been the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge, built to transport western raw materials to eastern industrial centers. At the time of its opening, it was the longest bridge in the world. At its peak as many as 3,500 rail cars crossed the bridge each day. A fire destroyed the tracks in 1974, probably started by a spark from a train’s brakes. Due to poor maintenance, a service pipe meant to pump water onto the tracks in case of a fire was inoperable. The bridge was rebuilt and re-opened in October 2009 as the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park. At 212 feet above the Hudson River, this 1.28 mile linear park boasts scenic views north to the Catskills and south to the Hudson Highlands. The views are worth the walk.
We then drove to Beacon for our next stop on our journey. Our plan was to go to the Dia Beacon Modern Art Museum. We arrived only to find that the museum was closed for no known reason but that it would be open on Friday. Unforeseen problems do occur so as we’ve always done, we had a number of options on our list of things to see. After some discussion, we decided to go to the Hudson Beach Glass Company. We got there and interacted with the glass blower who made the glass in his one-man factory. As it turned out, he grew up in Richmond, VA, and went to school at VCU as I had so we spoke about VCU for a short time. Clare and I then went looking for a place to eat on the main street of Beacon. We found a nice small restaurant that specialized in crepes and had a very good lunch. Afterward, we went to a brewery called the Industrial Arts Brewing Company to try some of the local brews before checking into our hotel.
Friday, we went to Newburgh to take the Pride of the Hudson boat trip down the Hudson River. The ship could use a new coat of paint but it was generally a pleasant trip along the Hudson River. We were interested in seeing the Bannerman Castle Arsenal and the cruise came close enough to get a good look at the ruins. It was a partially cloudy day so I was interested in taking shots of some of the mountainsides that were illuminated at times by the sun. We also had a great opportunity to see a couple of eagles perched in the trees along the river. The ship went down to West Point before turning around to return. The excursion took around 2 hours and I thought it was worth the time to be able to see some of the parts of the Hudson. Afterward, we grabbed lunch at a taco restaurant that was close by. They were quite good and the beer was refreshing.
Then we were off to see the Dia Beacon Modern Art Museum. Yikes, it was a bit more modern than I expected. They did have a room with Andy Warhol which I kind of liked, at least I understood it. Most of the other artists left me wondering what actually is art. Despite my own thoughts, I think it was worthwhile to give modern art a chance and try and understand the message they are trying to convey.
Our final stay was in Tarrytown before heading home. Clare wanted to see the Washington Irving home. We did go to see it but it was not open when we went so unfortunately we missed it. We went to dinner that evening at Sweet Grass Grill which turned out to be quite an event that evening. I’d recommend the restaurant but towards the end of the meal, the fire alarm went off. We did finish our meal to the sound of a blaring alarm that couldn’t be turned off until the fire department arrived. Quite an eventful meal before heading home.