His name is inextricably linked with the identity of a region and the river that runs through it, but Henry Hudson the man has faded to little more than a footnote to a half-remembered history—an antiquarian character who bossed around a motley crew in a tipsy wooden ship with a fairy-tale name. But now the English navigator is stepping out from the shadows—his first mate’s journal is being read and reinterpreted, his role in history reassessed, and even his marriage subjected to dramatic speculation.
The occasion is the Quadricentennial Celebration of Hudson’s epoch-making 1609 journey up the river that bears his name. Communities from New York City to Albany are presenting reenactments and exhibitions of colonial Dutch culture and the indigenous peoples who came before them; fanciful public art displays involving carousel horses, fiberglass cats, and canvas banners; tours of stone houses, lighthouses, and heritage boats; performances of traditional folk music; shows of new and old art inspired by the Hudson River; and dramatic performances, including a piece utilizing giant puppets and colorful sets by the Arm-of-the-Sea Theater to recreate Hudson’s arrival from the standpoint of the native peoples.
The climax of the event occurs in early June, when a fleet of heritage ships—including replicas of a 17th-century Dutch sloop and Hudson’s Half Moon along with the Clearwater —retrace Hudson’s journey, with lots of pomp and circumstance. The heritage ships depart from New York Harbor on June 5 and will arrive in Albany eight days later, stopping in Kingston (June 10), Hudson, Athens, and Catskill (June 11), and Castleton (June 12) along the way. Escorted by a menagerie of tugboats and other work boats, military vessels, and private cruisers, the fleet will be attended by booming cannons, fireworks, and other festivities upon arrival.
History will also be made on the first weekend of October, when the Walkway Over the Hudson, located on a former railroad trestle that spans the Hudson from Highland to Poughkeepsie, opens with a gala parade and dramatic illumination. The walkway will be the longest pedestrian bridge in the world, and it preserves a structure considered an engineering marvel when it opened in 1888. For complete information on these events and others, visit www.exploreny400.com.
Here’s a brief description of seven Quad-related events this summer that promise to delight and stimulate new insights into our region’s past and present:
Before Hudson: 8,000 Years of Native Esopus Culture
The timelines and displays of Native American artifacts in a pair of upstairs rooms at the Visitor Center for Historic Huguenot Street illustrate a startling fact: The Hudson Valley has been inhabited for thousands of years. The oldest projectiles on display—all the artifacts were dug up on the site—date from 6,000 to 8,500 BC. There is a striking 28-inch-long pestle, beads, pottery shards, the ancient skeleton of a dog, and an original land treaty signed by the Leni Lenape and the British. The show also does an excellent job explaining the chronology of precontact cultures in the region and describing what little is known about them.
Historic Huguenot Street, New Paltz, through Oct. 31
River Views of the Hudson River School
What could be a more ideal setting for an exhibit of 19th-century Hudson River School landscapes than the home and studio of the movement’s founder? The 15 paintings on display at the Thomas Cole Historic Site include a Cole painting of the Catskills entitled Indians Viewing Landscape and a picturesque view of the prerailroad city of Hudson at the foot of Mount Merino by Arthur Parton. After getting an eyeful of the painted images, you can check out the real thing by taking one of the guided hikes to the actual landscapes the artists painted (scheduled June 6, July 18, August 1, September 5, and October 3). If you love these painters’ preoccupation with luminosity and sublime imagery, don’t miss the show of Hudson River School paintings at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, at SUNY New Paltz. Forty-five paintings on loan from the New York Historical Society are arranged as a “grand tour” from the lower Hudson all the way to Niagara Falls. The paintings will be on display through December 13.
Thomas Cole House, Catskill, through Oct. 11
Ever wonder what a steel bridge would sound like if you struck its girders, suspender cables, spindles, and other parts with a bunch of different mallets? Composer Joe Bertolozzi did just that on the Mid-Hudson Bridge, recording the sounds, sampling them into a computer, and using a software musical notation program to compose a piece. The result is a sonic site installation that has garnered press coverage from around the world. Starting June 6, the 40-minute piece will be broadcast continuously from Waryas Park, on the Poughkeepsie side, and from Johnson-Iorio Park, on the Highland side; there are also two listening stations on the bridge’s walkway, consisting of 12 buttons installed on the bases of two towers. The park broadcasts are permanent; the bridge listening stations will be dismantled on October 31 and reinstalled next April.
Mid-Hudson Bridge; Listening stations installed June 6
Dutch Festival at the Senate House State Historic Site
The Scions of Patria, a group of re-enactors wearing authentic colonial Dutch clothing, will encamp on the grounds of the Senate House on Saturday, from 11 am to 4:30 pm, while spinning wool, cooking over a firebox and demonstrating other necessities of existence in the 17th century. A maker of wampum will display his tools and the various items his currency would have been traded for, and recipes from the Van Cortlandt family will be shared. There will be a firing demonstration of flintlock guns, and a “sutler”—a Dutch merchant who accompanied the army—will peddle her goods. On Sunday afternoon, foodways historian Peter Rose will give a talk on New Netherland cookery, clog dancers will perform, and two bands will play period music and period instruments. All activities are free, as is entrance to the Senate House.
Kingston, June 13 & 14; (845) 338-2786
Ahoy! Where Lies Henry Hudson?
To compensate for Hudson’s horrific end and lack of a proper burial—his crew defected during a 1611 voyage, and the explorer was set adrift in a small boat off the coast of Labrador, never to be seen again—16 local architects are designing and constructing memorials for him, displayed on the grounds of the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild through October 12. Don’t expect staid slabs of granite; the architects are taking great liberties. For example, Byron Bell and Les Walker are collaborating on a dreamlike depiction of Hudson’s voyage, complete with storms, sharks, birds, and serpents that will meander around White Pines, the 1903 home of the arts and crafts colony’s founders. The installation’s theme will inspire music performances, poetry readings, puppetry shows, and scholarly discourse throughout the summer.
Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild, opens June 13
Heritage Parade, Film Shorts, and Vaudeville
The spirit of the 1909 Hudson-Fulton Celebration, which attracted thousands of spectators to Hudson River downtowns that have in many cases since vanished, will briefly materialize on July 18 when a parade of marching bands and groups in ethnic dress representing various countries march down Market Street. The occasion is the opening of the 1891 Armory, a national landmark that has been restored to its former glory. Inside, there will be Poughkeepsie’s first annual honey festival. Earlier in the week, on July 11 and 12, the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum will host the Under the Bridge film festival, featuring historic shorts of Poughkeepsie in decades past. The ghost of vaudeville, circa 1911, will be brought to life at The Chance on August 29, with a performance by Dr. Muir’s Spectacular Musical Revue, Shiny Shoes, and standup comedian Tom Dreesen.
Poughkeepsie, July 11 & 12, 18 & August 29