Days 60 and 61, WLBT

Aug. 14 and 15 Hudson Valley, NY

by David Runkel

It’s Day 60 and we’re headed South and West, leaving Cape Cod for the Hudson Valley and thence to New Jersey and Delaware.  The Tour again encountered torrential rain as the East remains as wet and muggy as our homeland is fiery hot and smoky. 

Rain and threats of thunderstorms, along with accumulated heat on the upper

Day Sixty of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Deedie chatting with Roosevelts

floors, created havoc with our stop at FDR’s home and museum in Hyde Park. (There was nearly as much heat between us in the car when the Author/Navigator flubbed up en route.) The home tour was twice delayed and the upstairs rooms closed, but we got a look at the house in which FDR grew up and lived much of his life, including 16 percent of the time he was president.  The house includes his collections of birds he shot and preserved before his mother got wind of the chemicals used in taxidermy; his collection of pictures of Naval vessels; and anti-British prints. We were told this particular collection acted as a magnet when King George VI came for a visit. President Roosevelt asked how he liked it and  the King responded that there were a few there he didn’t have in his collection.

Day Sixty of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
FDR

The ramp built to get him from one level to another can be seen under glass.  The young guide also pointed out a bell given to Roosevelt by his uncle Teddy, who said it came from a Spanish-American warship.  However, we learnd, the bell really came from a monastery.  Fake News.

The museum and Roosevelt film at Hyde Park dwell on the Depression and World War II, clearly the two key events in his presidency. It avoids other, controversial aspects such as FDR’s attempt to pack the Supreme Court with his supporters and his ill-fated attempt to purge the Senate of those who did not support him.

We departed feeling the library and museum, housed in a stone building with steep roofs that FDR designed, needs a little updating and a more fulsome take on FDR’s historic four terms in office. (This is editorial comment from the Tour Director.)

Off to Beacon, where The Swann Inn, a bed and breakfast with a large, colorful garden, awaited our arrival. 

Day Sixty of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
The Swann Inn

Somehow, Darlene and Neil to keep the gardens blooming, breakfasts bountiful and the atmosphere friendly all at one.  The next morning, after a delicious breakfast, with the best fruit course we have had on this trip and a special waffle, we were invited by Neil Caplan, our host, to accompany him on a boat trip to Pollepel island in the Hudson. An organization he heads is restoring a castle and gardens built more than 100 years ago by the Bannerman family, who were dealers in leftover military supplies and started Army-Navy stores, but also sold explosive devices.

After a stop at one of the thousands of New England Dunkin Donuts for sweet fortifications for the dozen or so garden volunteers and a handful of brick layers, we got on a flat-bottom boat on the west side of the river, crossing to the island on the opposite bank.  Up 72 steps to where the work is going on.  It’s a place with spectacular views and a performance space for under 100 where Neil hosts music and theatrical groups on a regular basis to bolster fund-raising efforts for the restoration.  

Day Sixty of the Scone by Scone Book Tour
Neil Caplan with Deedie and David

The work has been going on for 25 years and will take many, many more for a full reconstruction.  Skeletons of former buildings and the barriers to protect the island from the river’s changing channels will remain.  Quite a place to visit; tours are on weekends. This whole enterprise got underway when Neil and Darlene began enlisting others to help uncover and restore the remains of Bannerman’s vision. Check www.bannermancastle.org.

After a leisurely afternoon with some contacts for stops next month and beyond, we headed south from Beacon to the village of Cold Spring to pick up picnic supplies for an evening at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare, where two OSF vets, Mark Bedard and Brittany Simpson are appearing in a Shana Cooper-directed rollicking version of Taming of the Shrew.  We met Mark on the lawn overlooking the Hudson to catch up with him. Alas, his wife Emily Knapp and their baby Imogen were back in Brooklyn.  Playing Hortensio, Biondello and a Merchant, Mark’s ability to be all things to many people, including the audience, brought back many memories of his gift for acting. His comic talents were on full display and the audience loved it.  Sorry we can’t stay another night to see him in a more serious role, Bolingbroke in Richard II.  Brittany was a brilliant Bianca. Read about her insightful views on the role of hair in her role on HVSC’s website.

The venue overlooks the Hudson, a grand space with an open-air tent for 540, Hudson directly across from West Point, lawns running down to the cliffs. The company appears at the play’s beginning dashing across the lawn.

What a stay!