Monday, October 6, 2014

Vermont and Hudson Valley: Headed Home

The salon where the Vanderbilts and their guests would gather for after dinner concerts and conversations
We are actually back home but I thought I would get a brief letter out about our final two days.  On Friday late in the afternoon, we headed north to Albany.  On the way, we just had to stop and tour the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, just outside Hyde Park.  The photo above is the salon where guests gathered for piano concerts and conversation.  This home was built by Frederick Vanderbilt who holds the distinction of being the only member of his eight siblings to have died with more money than we received from his parents.  The others were experts at spending the family fortune--Biltmore in North Carolina--is a prime example while Frederick actually engaged in business and finance.  Nonetheless he was also trying to break into New York society controlled by the Astors.  The Vanderbilts were the nouveau riche trying to make it impossible for the "old money" to ignore them.  This country house is a prime example of the life style of the Gilded Age that came to a close with the Great War.
Hudson River and the Catskills in the distance.
The estate is probably one of the oldest continuously cultivated landscape in North America.  The views of the Hudson are spectacular.  This is worth a visit rather than a drive by.

Click here to see the photo album of the Vanderbilt Mansion.

Just before we crossed the Hudson River on the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, we drove up the east bluff and saw the exterior of Olana, the the exotic home and galleries of Frederic Edwin Church.  This property is now a State Historic Site.  It was closed by the time we arrived but the exterior was dynamic in the later afternoon light.

We continued on to Albany where we had booked a room in a downtown B and B:  The Morgan State House Inn.  It was excellent and has a fascinating story behind it.  The house was the home for Alice Morgan Wright (1881-1975), a sculptor who was also one of the founders of the League of Women Voters and the Humane Society.

Marilyn with Stella
We learned a lot of her story from a chance encounter with Stella who has lived in an adjacent apartment house for the last 50 years.  She worked as a nurse at a nearby hospital and lived here so she could walk athrough Washington Park to work.  She is 92 and a little hard of hearing--something she told us--but otherwise very spry.  She told us about Alice whom she knew.  She said that she took in all sorts of dogs and cats--on a short term basis-- almost as a shelter to keep them from facing other alternatives.  Stella said that walking by the mansion you could see dogs and cats at the windows looking down at you.

Empire Capital Plaza on a rainy Saturday morning.
Saturday turned out to be rainy and chilly unlike the warm and sunny days we had been experiencing all week.  We spent the day visiting the New York State Museum.  We barely got through a quarter of the exhibits.  The 9/11 exhibit was very moving.  We got to see video of first responders who barely escaped with their lives as well see up close some of the structural steel from the towers.

By Sunday morning the rain had passed and the clouds had departed.  We headed home and arrived in time for me to see the Kansas City Royals sweep the Los Angels Angels, the team with the best regular season record in baseball.  Go Royals!

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