The Hudson Valley is a beautiful region in New York State. Originally called New Amsterdam, this area was discovered in the 1600s by Henry Hudson as he searched for a route to India. Today the region is one full of picturesque tranquility, not to mention it is full of history.
In the latter part of the 17th century the English had gained control of New England from the Dutch, which included the Hudson River Valley in 1664. Over time, the tension between the colonies and the crown heightened and this region became a hotbed of activity.
The Hudson River Valley saw a number of forts emerge when the colonists began to see a need to defend themselves, and the region was also the one chosen for the prestigious West Point. It is also the location of George Washington's famous chains that stretched across the Hudson toward the British off from taken control of this water route.
Since those early American days, partially due to the close proximity to New York City, the Hudson Valley River region has remained a pivotal location for trade, business and residencies. Fast forward to modern day, and if you are visiting the Hudson Valley, there are many things to see and do. Here are a few top picks for the history buff:
A visit to the Hudson Valley region isn't complete without at least a brief stop at West Point. The location is still a very active military installment, but some areas are open to the public once visitors are cleared by security. The West Point Museum would be of particular interest to those intrigued by American and Military History.
Inside the museum walls there is a history of the U.S. Army, displays that document warfare and strategy and a showcase of weapons; there's even a tank. If you enjoy history, or have a keen interest in U.S. military history, the West Point Museum is a good choice.
Estates and Mansions
The region is also home to many famous estates and mansions. There's the Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Roosevelt and Boscobel historical homes. The estates are open to the public for tours (for a fee) and visitors can explore these homes owned by people who made a name for themselves in U.S. history.
At Boscobel House and Gardens, you can tour a mansion that was originally located several miles south and slated for demolition. The home is a 19th century one which was saved in the 1950s and physically moved piece by piece to its current location. The preservation of an elegant 1800s home is worth a visit. As an aside, the Hudson River views are pretty spectacular from this location.
To the north of Boscobel in Hyde Park, perhaps a 45-minute to one hour drive, is the FDR Presidential Museum and Library and the Vanderbilt Mansion. The former is the home of 4-term President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In the museum, the President's different stages of life are documented for all to see and the family home is pretty much the same as it was (with original possessions) at the time it was turned over to the National Park Service. The property contains a gold mine of memorabilia and is a tour of interest for history enthusiasts. Nearby is the Vanderbilt mansion. The estate home boasts 50 rooms and sits on over 200 acres. The mansion was built in 1898 and stands as a reminder of the large wealth some individuals were able to acquire during the Industrial Age in the United States, documenting a later era of New York history.
[Related reading: Museum Reviews: Boscobel House and Gardens, Garrison, N.Y.]
This is an interesting historical landmark, not necessarily because of the land it sits on, but due to the treasures that live there. The Rhinebeck Aerodrome has an amazing collection of early aircraft dating back to the early years of the 20th century when flight was brand new.
The Aerodrome is a unique opportunity to see up close and personal aviation history. During the seasons (June to October), each weekend visitors can actually see these planes fly! Additionally, there is a lot of other vintage memorabilia available for viewing throughout the museum area of the Aerodrome.
[Related reading: Visiting New York's Beautiful Catskill Mountains ]
Take a Drive
Scattered throughout the lower and mid-Hudson Valley region are many historical plaques that commemorate pivotal moments of early American history. If you grab a map, and choose a route, there are many things to explore.
There's Stony Point Battlefield, Bear Mountain State Park, the quaint Village of Cold Spring (this would be of particular interest to antique collectors), and many more.
Perhaps a little less known, but in Rockland County there is a plaque that marks the hanging location of Major John Andre. Andre was the British Officer linked to Benedict Arnold's infamous treason and the recipient of the papers Arnold had supplied; Arnold escaped hanging, but Andre did not. Today the plaque is located in the middle of a residential community, but you can still do a drive by and see the location where one of the most famous hangings in the U.S. took place.
There are several river towns located along the lower spectrum of the Hudson River. On the Westchester/Putnam County side (the east) there's Peekskill, Cold Spring, Garrison, Croton, Ossining, the Tarrytowns (one of which was renamed Sleepy Hollow a few years back) and Yonkers. The western side of the Lower Hudson River houses the towns of Bear Mountain, West Point, Stony Point, Harriman, Piedmont, Nanuet, Nyack and the Palisades, to name a few. Each of these areas has a historical story to tell, not to mention both sides of the river offer spectacular views.
In addition, there are many other homes and places of business which hold the claim and a plaque to commemorate "George Washington slept here". While Washington spent a lot of his time in Northern Virginia (his primary home was Mount Vernon, although he did not get to spend nearly as much time there as he would have liked!), historical documentation of his presence in his travels goes to illustrate how integral a region the Hudson Valley was during the formative years of America and what eventually grew to become the United States.
The region is chock full of valuable commemorations and landmarks to document early and modern American History. Not to mention its beautiful landscape. The Hudson River Valley is one region I have always loved.
Photo credits: Leigh Goessl/All rights reserved
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