There are jewels hidden in our own backyards that, once discovered, change the way in which we think about our community, its past, present and future. There were those who came before us and laid the groundwork, and those who will come after us; but in the midst of living, it is critical to understand the ebb and flow of how we got here and where we’re going.
To this end, the Wallkill Valley Land Trust (WVLT) — a not-for-profit land conservation organization situated in the Hudson Valley and helping to put thousands of acres into permanent conservation easements that prohibit development and sprawl and encourage contiguous open-space lands, riverfront accessibility and active and passive recreation for the public — is hosting a historic house tour dubbed “Mysteries of Clintondale: Curious Corners and Vanished Pathways in the Heart of Apple Country.”
In and around the newly renovated restaurant/bar the Gunk Haus in Clintondale are a bevy of historical homes, apple orchards, apple packaging plants and other twists and turns along the beaten path that are steeped in history and human stories. Thus Johanna Sokolov, vice president of Communications and Development for the WVLT, became inspired to host the organization’s second annual house tour in Clintondale.
“Last year we did it in Kettleborough, which is in a corner of Gardiner and well-known by many locals and historians, and it was wildly successful,” she said. And one of the volunteers who helped her and others from the Land Trust prepare this house tour was also a part of the Hudson Valley Vernacular Architectural Association, whose members travel throughout the Valley to unearth and discover interesting homes, historical sites and period architecture. When Sokolov asked where the Land Trust should do a house tour next, it was this volunteer who took her to the Clintondale area and showed her things that she had never seen.
“There was this amazing cluster of homes just near the Gunk Haus, and then an old Quaker church, and fascinating homes along Crow Hill Road, which I learned used to be the major bypass between what is now New Paltz and what is now Highland, but then was just New Paltz and ended at the New Paltz Landing by the Hudson River.” That street was and is a winding, steep, unnerving road that is now a dead end and has acquiesced to allowing 44/55 to be its main thoroughfare. “As we drove through those twisting roads and hairpin turns and I discovered so much more about the history of Clintondale and its hidden treasures, I thought this would be the perfect tour!”
Sokolov was guided to Shirley Anson from the Plattekill Historical Society, and then to many other “stand-up citizens who were so willing and enthusiastic to lend a hand towards this tour. Shirley has so much knowledge and archives. And through everyone’s efforts and willingness, we were able to create a stunning tour: a detailed map and brochure that really links people to the land, the land to people, how we’ve settled, how we’ve changed and most incredibly, the innovations of the apple industry, which I could not have done without the help of the Hurd family.”
Those who sign up for the self-guided tour, slated for June 2 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., will have a guided loop that they can follow that includes several historic homes, apple orchard coolers, modest homes with an incredible history and much more. In each home will be a guide who will answer questions and explain the history of the home, or the industry that has fed the region for centuries to the present. One of these includes Paul Kelley’s home: a stone house with gorgeous tree, shrub and flower plantings and one-of-a-kind furniture, as he was the longtime Industrial Arts teacher at the New Paltz Middle School.
The Hurds have also lent their cooler to be part of the tour, which exemplifies one of the historical turning points in apple marketing: They were the first to embrace Cornell University’s study and stamp of approval on controlled apple packaging, which allowed a fresh harvest to stay fresh for months based on a cooling and oxygen system. “There are showcase houses and modest homes and coolers and farms, and so much on this tour that is so exciting. I think everyone will be more than pleased,” said Sokolov.
While this tour is a fundraiser for the WVLT, the organization expends much more funds into connecting the community and membership with the land and the homes than it receives back. Fortunately it applied for and was the recipient of a 1772 Foundation grant that this year blended history with land conservation: the perfect blend for the WVLT.
Tickets are $25 in advance/$30 day of the event at the Gunk Haus, located at 387 South Street in Highland. To learn more and to register — which all should do who wish to take the tour — go to www.wallkillvalleylt.org. ++