By Steve Kelman
The National Park Service (NPS) will be celebrating the 100th Anniversary of its creation in 2016. Of the more than 400 NPS sites within the system several are located in the Hudson River Valley. As the nation prepares to mark a century of what historian Wallace Stegner once said was “the best idea we ever had” the coming months and weeks would be a wonderful time to visit the park units that are located in the region.
First some brief history…
Started in 1916 under the administration of President Woodrow Wilson, the National Park Service became an agency that operated (and still does) under the Department of the Interior. Before that time responsibility for the nations’ national parks, monuments, battlefields etc. was shared between the Department of War, Departments of Agriculture and Interior.
Today units within the NPS are designated as national parks, (example Yellowstone), historic sites, monuments, cemeteries, scenic trails, scenic rivers, and battlefields.
The National Park sites (or units) located within the Hudson River Valley, all of which are National Historic Sites, are: the homes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Vanderbilt Mansion, the home of Martin Van Buren and the Thomas Moran National Historic Site.
A section of the more than 2,100 mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail (Georgia to Maine) also passes through the Hudson River Valley.
Coming in from the west and Harriman and Bear Mountain State parks, the Appalachian Trail (AT) crosses the Bear Mountain Bridge and then continues in a northeast direction first by ascending a mountain known as Anthony’s Nose near Peekskill.
The trail winds through Hudson Highlands State Park and Clarence Fahnstock State Park as it meanders its way to the New England states and eventually to its northern terminus on Mount Katahdin in Maine.
The trail in this region is maintained by volunteers from the NY/NJ Trail Conference. Opportunities for numerous day hikes along sections of the trail abound.
The trail is marked with two inch by six inch white blazes.
For hiking suggestions consult the New York Walk Book which is published by the Trail Conference. Information can also be obtained www.nps.gov/appa
Val-Kill, The Home of Eleanor Roosevelt is the only national historic site in the National Park Service dedicated to a first lady.
Built on land that was owned by her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Val-Kill, was her main home from 1945 until her death in 1962.
Val-Kill was Roosevelt’s “place to gather family, friends, associates, walk in the woods, picnic, ride horses and swim.”
Visitors can explore the grounds and garden, hike on woodland trails on the property and tour the house. From May 1st through October 31st the site is open 7 days a week from 9am to 5pm. Guided tours are offered throughout the day with the last tour at 4pm. Before May 1st tours are only offered at 1pm and 3pm Thursday through Monday. The visitor center opens at 12:30pm.
The Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site is located on 54 Valkill Park Road in Hyde Park. The telephone number
is 845-229-9115. www.nps.gov/elro
Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt:
From his birth, childhood and throughout his political career as governor of New York and then as President of the United States Springwood was the “nucleus” of the life and career of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Throughout his presidency he returned to his home in Hyde Park “some 200 times for temporary respite from Washington.” FDR also entertained numerous digni-taries here including King George IV and Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
The 290 acre national historic site also houses Roosevelt’s presidential library (the library and museum building were designed by FDR) and is part of the National Archive system as well.
The site is open year round and tours are offered throughout the day from 10:30 to 4pm. The grounds are open sunrise to sunset seven days a week.
The Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site is located at 4097 Albany Post Road (U.S.Rt.9), Hyde Park six miles north of Poughkeepsie. 845-229-9115. www.nps.gov/hofr
Martin Van Buren National Historic Site:
Lindenwald was the home of 8th President of the United States Martin Van Buren from 1841 until his death in 1862. Located in the town of Kinderhook, where Van Buren was also born in 1782, the mansion is located on 22 acres of land that was a part of his original land holdings.
The mansion was originally built in the 1790s. Van Buren served briefly as Governor of New York in 1829 before becoming Secretary of State under President Andrew Jackson. Before his own election as president (1837-41) Van Buren also served as Jackson’s Vice President.
The historic site’s ground and trails are open all year. Tours of Lindenwald are offered from late May through October and occur hourly between 9 and 4pm.
Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site is considered a complete example of a “gilded age country place.”
Called Hyde Park, the mansion was bought in 1895 by Frederick Vanderbilt and his wife Louise, “to use as their spring and fall country estate.” A ginkgo tree on the property, planted in 1799, may be one of the oldest on the continent.
The mansion is open daily by guided tour only while the grounds are free and open every day sunrise to sunset.
The Vanderbilt Mansion is located on 119 Vanderbilt Park Road (on RT 9), Hyde Park. 845-229-7770 www.nps.gov/vama
Thomas Cole National Historic Site
Cedar Grove in Catskill is the home of Thomas Cole (1801-1848), the painter whose landscape designs launched an art movement known as the Hudson River School. The home and the studio are an affiliate site of the NPS.
Guided tours of the main house and studio are offered May through October. The Thomas Cole National Historic Site is located at 218 Spring Street, Catskill. 518-943-7465 www.thomascole.org.
Here is a short list of some events/activities that will be taking place in the Hudson River Valley as part of the 100th anniversary.
On March 14th author Douglas Brinkley will celebrate the launch of his upcoming book
Rightful Heritage, FDR and the Land of America, scheduled to take place at the Henry A. Wallace
Visitor Center located at Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site.
On April 16 at 1pm, a three-mile hike on the Hyde Park Trail between Vanderbilt National
Historic Site and Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt is open to all. Meet at the Vanderbilt parking lot.
The annual Val-Kill Picnic on June 4th at the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site features
music, food, children’s activities, and square dancing.
All National Park sites located in the Hudson Valley will be taking part in the White House’s “Every Kid in a Park” program which runs from now until August 30th.
The program invites all fourth graders to visit any national park in the Hudson Valley or the nation for that matter, for free.
Students who want to partake can simply log on to any NPS site, complete an activity and obtain the pass.