By Clifford Hart
The Hudson Valley is certainly imbued with a rich cultural history. Towns and byways throughout the region are dotted with signs marking important events from times gone by. Countless preserved structures and even entire villages are a draw to people from all over the country and the world. Even the landscape—the rolling farmland and deep blue mountains in the distance—seems to evoke a pastoral world from long ago.
Perhaps this sense of living history shouldn’t be surprising, for one of the most remarkable things about the Hudson Valley is the dedication of so many of its inhabitants to preserving its past. And it is in that same spirit of preservation that the Dutchess County Historian’s Office is launching the Historic Tavern Trail this May. Led by Dutchess County Historian William P. Tatum III, the Historic Tavern Trail (HTT) will celebrate some of the wonderful drinking and dining establishments of the area’s early days and provide context to participants through short presentations that will help bring those days back to life.
“It’s about connecting people with their community through history,” Tatum explains. “It’s the stories that really matter—that’s what makes history fun.”
Indeed, it’s easy to imagine that the old, creaking floors and walls of these old taverns would have a lot to say if they could talk. Countless decades of people coming and going, eating and drinking, sharing their lives and their stories, would surely make for enough material to fill several books.
And while a few Historic Tavern Trail events will take place within age-old establishments that continue to operate to this day—such as Stissing House in Pine Plains—many will also occur at historic locations not otherwise regularly open to the public as eating or drinking establishments.
Examples are the Kimlin Cider Mill in Poughkeepsie and the Elmendorph Inn in Red Hook, both of which currently house commercial operations but will be opening their doors for their respective HTT events, allowing people a unique opportunity to make merry amid historic surroundings. Even the Old Drovers Inn in Dover Plains, which began operations in the mid-1700s as a way station for cattle drovers making their way down the Post Road from New England to New York City, is currently operating only as a bed-and- breakfast, so it will be a treat for HTT participants to enter its doors and get a real taste of a tavern experience from way back when.
And a particularly exciting stop on the Historic Tavern Trail will be one that celebrates a somewhat more recent period in the history of alcohol consumption. Dutch’s Spirits, on the outskirts of Pine Plains, is built on the grounds of one of the biggest bootlegging operations from the days of Prohibition, namely the sprawling-yet-clandestine complex of Dutch Schultz, who controlled a vast alcohol empire until it was raided and largely dismantled by the Feds in 1932. Dutch’s Spirits will proudly open its doors, and its brand new restaurant, for a special Historic Tavern Trail event in late October.
For more information on the Historic Tavern Trail and a complete list of events and dates, contact Dutchess County Historian William P. Tatum III at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 845.486.2381. You can also contact Dutchess Tourism at www.dutchesstourism.com for more information.