Saturday, September 1, 2018

Veering Off the Beaten Path

Nestled along the Hudson River a series of picturesque towns, grand homes and mansions stretch the length of the waterway from New York City to Albany. Ever since Henry Hudson sailed the river in 1609 – and probably for eons earlier - the river has been a transportation network as well as a recreational paradise. Hudson encountered native Americans, some not so friendly, and abundant wildlife. 

Over a century after Hudson’s voyage well-to-do New York city folk began building summer homes and establishing great estates in the sparsely inhabited region. Several restored residences are open to the public today

Artists reveled in the river and surrounding terrain – the Catskill mountains, unspoiled forests, modest farms and villages. The Hudson River School of Art flourished in the mid-1800s – Frederic Church and Thomas Cole among the most famous. The artists won renown for their work and established the first home-grown American art movement.

In the mid-1800s James Roosevelt, a prosperous New York merchant, purchased a large home for his family in Hyde Park, on the east side of the Hudson River about 90 miles north of New York City. He and his second wife Sara Delano raised their son in this aristocratic country setting. Franklin Delano Roosevelt grew up to be the 32nd President of the United States, the only four-term elected President, and guided the country through the Great Depression and World War II.
Sculpture of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt at their Hyde Park estate.
Hub and I travel along highways from New Jersey to Vermont regularly, visiting family. We often say – why don’t we stop and see Roosevelt’s Hyde Park…or the Vanderbilt Mansion…or make reservations for an amazing meal at the Culinary Institute…or walk along the Walkway over the Hudson? But we keep driving…

Until this week. Returning from a two-week babysitting stint, we were in the mood for a change of pace, a transition from concentrated toddler time.

In 90-degree heat we ventured onto the Walkway, a rebuilt railroad bridge, and peered at the boats cruising the river. The view is not quite as pristine as that viewed by Henry Hudson and the Hudson School of Art painters, but glorious nevertheless. Rolling Catskill mountains and dense forests – a portion a legacy of Roosevelt’s conservation endeavors – contrast with the buildings and on-going construction of the city of Poughkeepsie. 
The Walkway Over the Hudson, almost deserted on a hot August afternoon.
Unfortunately the past haunts the river. Pollution from a number of sources – most notably PCBs discharged into the river by General Electric – caused pollution issues not totally fixed. GE halted the discharges in 1977 and river clean-up is on-going, but concentrations of the chemical impact the survival of fish, birds and mammals inhabiting the river today. 

The following day we arrived at Roosevelt’s home at 9:00 a.m., eager to tour the house and avoid crowds. The residence offers a peek into FDR’s remarkable life. The home remains decorated and furnished exactly as it was on April 12, 1945, the day of FDR’s death.  

FDR did not die at home – he was in Warm Springs, Ga., but is buried on his beloved estate. 

We toured the house and strolled through the museum. Three hours later, hungry and tending sore feet, we headed home, vowing to veer off the beaten path another time to visit additional Hudson Valley sites.
The flag on the Walkway over the Hudson at half staff in honor of John McCain.


  1. That sounds like a great tour of FDR's home.

    1. Fun listening to the guide provide insights and anecdotes into FDR's life not commonly known.

  2. My family lived in Hyde Park before moving to VT (when IBM opened here) and a tour of the FDR home was on the list when relatives came to visit. I would like to go back as an adult.

  3. I think it is the kind of place you can always learn something new and interesting. Just try to avoid the crowds!