The Wallkill Valley Land Trust (WVLT) will host the sixth iteration of its annual “Houses on the Land” tour on Saturday, June 4 from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This year’s tour focuses on “Sherwood’s Forest: Rural Lloyd from the Wetlands to the River.” While most of the houses on the WVLT tours are historic structures, there is always at least one contemporary home included. But beyond that, the tour is really about more than just the buildings, says WVLT board member Vals Osborne: It’s about the connection that the houses have to the land on which they sit.
“Sherwood’s Forest: Rural Lloyd from the Wetlands to the River” will take self-guided tourgoers through the romantic rocky ridges, ravines, streams and woodsy terrain that figure prominently in the written history and poems of historian Warren G. Sherwood (born 1902), best-known for his 1953 History of the Town of Lloyd. The tour will also include a brief excursion into Centreville, south of Route 299, and is followed by an informal wine reception from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at a private home on the tour. Eight of the town’s most important rural homesteads dating from the early 19th century – most of them never before opened to the public – will be made available to visitors along with two contemporary homes.
“This is a pretty interesting year,” says Osborne. “It’s a very different tour this year. With the exception of one or two grand houses, it’s more simple, more rural. And the rural character of northern Lloyd is really special.”
The 10 Horse Art Center at 65 Black Creek Road in Highland – a restored horse barn renovated into a complex of artist studio spaces by pop-up book artist and illustrator Robert Sabuda – will be the starting point for all tourgoers. Several of the artist studios will be open that day. Tickets are available at www.wallkillvalleylt.org for $35 if purchased by June 2 or $40 on the day of the event. Members of the WVLT receive a $5 discount in either case, and the ticket price includes admission to the wine reception after the tour. Advance purchase is recommended, as space is limited and the tour usually sells out quickly.
Tickets and entry bracelets may be picked up on the day of the tour between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Art Center. A brochure with directions and a detailed history on the area will be provided there, along with a suggested navigation route, but visitors are free to choose their own path and are encouraged to carpool. Docents will be available in each home to offer information and answer questions (more than 100 docents participate in each year’s tour).
The tour will include three stone houses dating from 1810 to 1850, each very special in its own way, says Osborne. (One was even used to make counterfeit money.) “The earliest is a very simple little house, beautifully restored with a basement kitchen. Another is a square house with an off-center doorway and the most unusual stonework and brickwork around the windows and doors, laid in narrow courses. It’s very simple inside, but the exterior brick and stonework is stunning.” The third stone house has a two-story stone dwelling at its core with a 20th-century stone addition.
The houses on this year’s tour are off the beaten track, she adds, not necessarily visible from the road and not necessarily known of, even by local residents. One of the interesting things that happens with these tours, Osborne points out, is that when tourgoers discover these interesting properties in their own backyards, it galvanizes them afterward to do even more with their local historical societies and to recognize more fully their own architectural heritage.
Two clapboard houses on the tour, built by Huguenot descendants, include one from the mid-to-late-1830s, a classic Federal house basically unchanged with its original moldings and an interesting fireplace that surrounds an old “firebox” stove: “sort of like an early version of a Franklin that’s original to the home,” says Osborne. It was owned by an artist at one time and is lived in by her niece now. The tenant farmhouse on the tour has been artfully reimagined by its artist owner for contemporary living, and has a tiny guesthouse that was formerly a chicken hatchery, modeled on a birdhouse.
Art is a recurring theme on this tour, with several of the homes either having been occupied by artists or containing interesting collections. And the two contemporary homes “speak to and were designed with earlier traditions in architecture in the 20th century in mind,” Osborne says. One reflects the Arts & Crafts movement in a woodland setting, while the other celebrates early European Modernism in California from its perch over the Hudson River. Historic sites on the tour include the Plutarch United Methodist Church and the hamlet’s historic structures nearby.
The accredited Wallkill Valley Land Trust has been working closely with Carol Johnson, coordinator of the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection of the Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz, and members of Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture (HVVA) on the last few tours (including this one) to research and document the properties. “Their input has been phenomenal. One of the joys of doing this tour every year is learning so much,” says Osborne. “We have really unearthed a lot of new research on ownership and builders. We’re very proud of the project.”
Proceeds from the tour benefit the nonprofit WVLT, which has conserved 33 public and private parcels of land totaling approximately 2,500 acres since the organization was formed in 1987. Its efforts include conservation of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, the Rosendale Trestle, three CSA farms and a variety of agricultural properties and habitats that include wetlands and forests. Represented in the towns of New Paltz, Gardiner, Shawangunk, Rosendale, Esopus, Lloyd, Plattekill and Marlborough, the WVLT chooses one of these regions every year to spotlight in its annual Historic House Tours.
The WVLT advises that not all GPS systems navigate to the 10 Horse Art Center, and to make it more confusing, some maps list it at 341 Black Creek Road. If in doubt, while ordering tickets at www.wallkillvalleylt.org, check out the link there to a map showing the location between Plutarch Road and North Elting Corners Road in Highland.
WVLT Historic House Tour, Saturday, June 4, 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m., reception, 4:30-6 p.m., $35/$40, 10 Horse Art Center, 65 Black Creek Road, Highland; (845) 255-2761, www.wallkillvalleylt.org.