Wallkill Valley Land Trust 4th Annual Historic House Tour
By Vals Osborne
The Wallkill Valley Land Trust’s house tour returns on May 31st to the Gardiner area, weaving along the west flank of the Wallkill River and intersecting at times with the Shawangunk Kill. These river valleys and their tributaries have produced an area rich in farmland and wildlife habitat, with the Shawangunk ridge as a majestic backdrop.
Most of the houses are situated on old farms, combining working agricultural parcels with woodlands, rivers and streams, originally settled by Dutch, French Huguenot and other locally prominent families. Traveling along Albany Post, Bruyn Turnpike, Hoagerburgh, Red Mills and Bruynswick roads, one passes expansive agricultural tracts along a scenic route once dotted with endless dairy herds. Among those parcels adapted to new agrarian uses are the horse farms belonging to Blue Chip and Majestic View Farms and Horses and Hounds; the Brookside, Brykill, Kiernan and Watchtower grass-fed beef farms; and Watchtower’s apple orchards and blueberry patches. Other examples include the Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, Whitecliff Vineyard and Winery, and White Barn Farm’s sheep farm and wool manufactory.
The tour focuses on some of the region’s finest houses and their farm complexes, illustrating the evolution of regional architecture from the early 18th century to the present. Featured are important vernacular examples of the Dutch-style stone house and barns, the Federal style in stone and clapboard, Greek Revival clapboard, a stone colonial surrounded by early twentieth-century reincarnations of early houses, and a sustainable solar-powered contemporary house fashioned from an 1850s barn—with geo-thermal heating. Four of the seven houses are on the National Register of Historic Places; all have been lovingly restored. Other important sites, also on the National Register, include the Reformed Church of Shawangunk and its Parsonage and grave yard, Tuthill House at the Mill, until recently an active grist mill, and the J.B. Crowell & Son Brick Moulds factory, still operating today. The latter two are powerful reminders of 19th-century water-powered industrial life in the Wallkill River Valley.
The region retains some of the best vernacular architecture, pastoral landscapes and breathtaking panoramas in Ulster County. Of enduring significance, they illustrate the important roles that adaptive re-use of agricultural terrain and the restoration of historic houses plays in land conservation and historic preservation today.
Tickets: $40/$35 by May 30 ($5 member discount). Proceeds benefit WVLT. Ticket pick-up day of tour, 10:30am – 2:00pm, Tuthill House Restaurant, 20 Gristmill Lane, Gardiner. Admission includes informal reception at private home. For more information: WallkillValleyLT.org or 845-255-2761.