The finds of “Flat Water”

Seven of the town’s most interesting and unusual vernacular structures in a range of period styles dating to the 19th and 20th centuries will be featured on this tour, with the Greek Revival aesthetic and the diversity of its expression in the region a recurring theme. (Courtesy of New Hurley reformed Church)

Landlocked Plattekill, located between Gardiner, Shawangunk, Marlboro and Lloyd, is one of the lesser-known areas of our region. The Wallkill Valley Land Trust (WVLT) will highlight Plattekill and its hamlets of New Hurley, Modena, Ardonia and Clintondale for the eighth iteration of its popular Houses on the Land Historic House Tour on Saturday, June 2 from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The self-guided “Plattekill’s Rural Treasures: Houses, Hamlets, Crossings and Byways” will conclude with a wine-tasting reception at a private artist’s studio and home from 4:30 to 6 p.m. 

The tour will reflect the rural nature of the town and its hamlets. Visitors will visit simple farmsteads and Federal-period three-bay side-hall and five-bay center-hall structures. Seven of the town’s most interesting and unusual vernacular structures in a range of period styles dating to the 19th and 20th centuries will be featured, with the Greek Revival aesthetic and the diversity of its expression in the region a recurring theme.

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Most of the homes have never been open to the public before. “The tour is going to be an adventure this year,” says Vals Osborne, WVLT board member and co-chair of the event. “The research this year was a huge challenge, but I’m very proud of what we accomplished. We were starting from scratch – not even the homeowners knew much about the history of the houses – and it was a pretty major effort.”

The Wallkill Valley Land Trust works closely with the Society for the Preservation of Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture on the research for the tours. Osborne also credits major research contributions this year from her co-chairs, Carol Johnson, director of the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection at the Elting Memorial Library in New Paltz, and Elizabeth Werlau, Town of Plattekill historian.

 

Werlau wrote the introduction for this year’s guidebook. In it, she chronicles the earliest settlers in the area, who arrived in the early-to-mid-1700s. Many came from the Westchester area, although the lack of water in the town made nearby regions more desirable to newcomers. The arrival of the railroad in the late 1880s helped to define some of the hamlets, which were given their present-day names when post offices were established. The name “Plattekill” was derived from the calm stream – platte kill or “flat water” in Dutch – running through it, while the name “Clintondale” was chosen to honor governor DeWitt Clinton. “Modena” comes from a Latin word meaning “protected.”

Werlau writes that, during the process of doing research for this year’s tour, investigation by Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture members revealed simpler beginnings for several of the homes: evidence of earlier construction found in the homes’ basements and roof structures, masked by later alterations during their expansion. “The high-style Italianate and full-blown, romantic Victorian tendencies one sees in many of the grand mansions fronting the Hudson River never emerged in this region,” notes Werlau. 

Proceeds from the tour benefit the nonprofit Wallkill Valley Land Trust, whose mission is to preserve the unique rural character of southern Ulster County. “Our raison d’etre as a land trust is connecting people to the land,” Osborne notes, “to educate people about the land and hopefully encourage them to protect and preserve it.”

The organization has conserved 37 public and private parcels of land totaling more than 2,500 acres since the organization was formed in 1987. Representing the Towns of New Paltz, Gardiner, Shawangunk, Rosendale, Esopus, Lloyd, Plattekill and Marlborough, its efforts include conservation of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail in New Paltz and Gardiner, the Rosendale Trestle, Joppenbergh Mountain, three CSA farms and a variety of agricultural properties and habitats that include wetlands and forests.

Advance tickets for “Plattekill’s Rural Treasures: Houses, Hamlets, Crossings and Byways” may be purchased online at https://bit.ly/2IT7OTo. The tour’s starting point is the 1835 New Hurley Reformed Church on Route 208 in Wallkill. Tickets may be picked up there from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. (sharp), along with a detailed guidebook and map. A navigation route is suggested, but tourgoers are free to choose their own path; two of the houses on the tour are within walking distance of the church. All along the way, volunteer docents will be available in every room of each home to offer information and answer questions. Tickets cost $45 ($40 for WVLT members) with advance purchase by May 31, or $50 ($45 for members) thereafter. The post-tour wine reception is included.

The quality of the guidebook given to tourgoers is worth noting here. It includes a history of the region: its founding and development over time and the agricultural, architectural and cultural highlights of the place, along with photographs and detailed descriptions of the families who built and lived in the homes, from their construction to the present day. The guidebook nicely serves its purpose of explaining what one is seeing while on the tour, but can also be kept as a collectible compact history of that part of the region. Osborne says that the Land Trust organization may, in fact, at some future date, publish the guides together as a local-history reference book.

WVLT’s 8th annual Houses on the Land Historic House Tour of Plattekill area, Saturday, June 2, 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m., reception 4:30-6 p.m., $40/$45, New Hurley Reformed Church, 1145 Route 208, Wallkill; (845) 255-2761, www.wallkillvalleylt.org. Advance tickets for “Plattekill’s Rural Treasures: Houses, Hamlets, Crossings and Byways” may be purchased online at https://bit.ly/2IT7OTo.

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