Local History

Don’t lose your head: Attractions near the real Sleepy Hollow

Don’t lose your head: Attractions near the real Sleepy Hollow

By the time Washington Irving moved to Sunnyside, he was renowned on two continents as “the first American man of letters.” He had already written both of his most famous stories, “Legend” and “Rip Van Winkle”; covered Aaron Burr’s treason trial for a newspaper; co-founded the literary magazine Salmagundi; coined the phrase “the almighty dollar,” as well as the nicknames “Gotham” for New York City and “Knickerbocker” for one of its residents; spawned the fiction that Christopher Columbus’ contemporaries believed the Earth to be flat; and, with his accounts of traditional Yorkshire Yuletide celebrations in his Bracebridge Hall stories, planted the seed of inspiration in Charles Dickens that would soon lead to the writing of A Christmas Carol.

Zulma Steele: Gender blender extraordinaire

Zulma Steele: Gender blender extraordinaire

A renowned beauty and intellect of legendary sensuality and style, she was praised, envied, scandalized, even worshipped (for one, by Byrdcliffe’s founder Ralph Whitehead, who named the domicile he built for her “The Angel.”) But though she was the first great woman artist of Woodstock, her face remains all but unknown to us.

Gender blending in early Woodstock & our first female genius

Gender blending in early Woodstock & our first female genius

The idea that a feminine impulse could save testosterone-driven capitalism from itself is not new. In fact the notion was subtly rooted in Woodstock’s first back-to-nature, Arts and Crafts community, Byrdcliffe. Here a bisexual and lesbian sub-culture prevailed unacknowledged, even by itself. Historians of an earlier era remained at best vague in describing it, and at worst silent. That silence ends now.