The annual historic house tour hosted by the Wallkill Valley Land Trust (WVLT) on Saturday, May 31 from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. will focus on “Houses and Farms in the Wallkill River Valley: The Changing Face of Agriculture in Gardiner and Shawangunk.” Several of the homes have never before been seen on a tour, said WVLT board member Vals Osborne, and two aren’t in any published literature on the area – including the last stop on the tour, where an informal wine-and-cheese reception will be held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., featuring wines from Gardiner’s Whitecliff Vineyard and Winery.
The self-guided tour begins at the TuthillHouse at the Mill Restaurant & Tavern at 20 Gristmill Lane in Gardiner, where from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. guests will pick up a booklet with maps, directions and descriptions of the properties. The restaurant is located in a historic property itself – a circa-1788 former gristmill listed on the National Register of Historic Places – but it isn’t officially part of the tour.
It is the starting point for all tourgoers, whether they’ve pre-purchased their tickets online for $35 (by May 30) or waited to buy them at TuthillHouse on the day of the event for $40. Members of the WVLT receive a $5 discount in either case, and the admission fee includes the wine-and-cheese reception for everybody after the tour.
Registration is recommended in advance – no matter how payment is made – by filling out the form on the WVLT website and mailing, e-mailing or hand-delivering it to 64 Huguenot Street in New Paltz. All the details are at www.wallkillvalleylt.org.
There are seven houses on the tour – four of which are on the National Register of Historic Places – including examples of the Dutch-style stone house, the Federal style in stone and clapboard, Greek Revival clapboard dwellings and a stone Colonial surrounded by early 20th-century houses. And in addition to the gristmill where the tour begins, there are two other National Register historic sites along the way: the gorgeous Reformed Church of Shawangunk, with its parsonage and graveyard, and a still-active brick mold factory.
Most of the homes are situated on old farm complexes originally settled by Dutch, French Huguenot and other families, although this year the WVLT is including a contemporary home on the tour for the first time: a solar-powered geothermal house situated to take full advantage of wind and sun within the structure of an 1850s barn moved from Pennsylvania and erected here.
A knowledgeable trained docent will offer information at each property. Tourgoers should allow several hours to complete the circuit. The route covers approximately 24 miles altogether, but each home is only a five-to-seven-minute drive apart, said Osborne. While it’s not possible to follow a chronological route in terms of the age of the houses, she adds, the visitor will be able to see the connections between the earlier and the later homes. “Each house is a great example of its period, and together they offer a superb overview of vernacular architecture in this region.”
And the environment in which visitors will experience the homes is an important part of the tour, said Osborne. “The Shawangunks are really stunning along these routes, and it does give you this sense of preservation, conservation and adaptive reuse of what were almost all dairy farms originally. In a funny sort of way, we’re promoting the beauty of the region, too – not just the houses.”
And that ties in with the reason that the WVLT is having the tour in the first place: All proceeds support the land preservation efforts of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust. The nonprofit organization was founded in 1987 to preserve land in southern Ulster County, enhancing the quality of life for all residents and visitors through conserving scenic, agricultural, ecological, recreational and culturally significant land. The WVLT now has approximately 1,700 acres of preserved land in the towns of New Paltz, Gardiner, Shawangunk, Rosendale, Esopus, Lloyd, Plattekill and Marlborough. Its conservation easements include active farmland, places of historical importance and the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.