For over 60 years, on the second Saturday in July, some of the oldest stone houses in the country have opened their doors to the public on Hurley Stone House Day, when visitors arrive by the hundreds to tour the houses and see antiques “in their natural habitat,” as organizers say. This year’s event will take place on Saturday, July 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine.
It’s a chance to admire the period details in these homes, like the massive beams and the old rippled window glass, and examine the hand-forged hardware, multiple fireplaces and other Colonial features in the homes. Although each house is lived in and privately owned, each will have its own Colonial-costumed guides on the day of the tour, so that visitors may spend as little or as much time as they wish to in each house.
The homes on Main Street (which will be blocked off to traffic) are all within a 150-yard walking distance of each other, and most are accessible with one or two steps or ramps. Other houses on the tour – like the Matys Ten Eyck House, built in the 1700s – are easily reached by a shuttle bus service, included with the price of a ticket to the event. Tour tickets cost $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, $2 for children ages 5 to 12 and free for kids under age 5. Tickets will be available for purchase on the day of the tour at two booths: one at the Hurley Reformed Church, which sponsors the event, and another across from the Elmendorf House on Main Street, which houses the Hurley Heritage Society Museum.
This is the 350th anniversary for the old Dutch village of Hurley, first settled in 1661 and incorporated in 1662. Not all of the stone houses are open every year, but generally five to eight residents each year open their homes on this special day to visitors. Among the houses that will open for the tour this year are the 1723 Van Deusen House, the temporary capitol of the state after the burning of Kingston in 1777, and the Van Etten/Dumond “Spy” House, built prior to 1685: the oldest Colonial house in the town. It’s there that a British spy was held before being hanged on an apple tree across the street in retaliation for Kingston’s destruction.
Another house on the tour that will open to visitors this year is the Crispell House, built in 1725 by farmer Jonathan Crispell. It was sold in 1836 to the Hurley Reformed Church for use as a parsonage, and will afford visitors on the tour the opportunity to learn some cross-stitch techniques from a craftsperson on site, and to take home a souvenir of their efforts.
Then there’s the Dr. Richard Ten Eyck House, built in 1786 and the first two-story home in Hurley. It was reputed to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. The Elmendorf House on Main Street, built from 1783 to 1790, now houses the Hurley Heritage Society Museum, currently exhibiting examples of the area’s bluestone industry and artifacts of the Revolutionary War era. Across the street from it is another Elmendorf House that will be on the tour, says Jim Craven, assisting with the organization of the event, where a weaving loom and some displays of early Dutch artifacts can be seen.
In addition to touring the homes, visitors to Hurley Stone House Day can also experience a 1777 Ulster Militia encampment, where muskets will be fired and demonstrations of Colonial Era skills can be observed. A working blacksmith will ply his trade, enlightening visitors on the labor and skill that went into those services in Colonial times, and the town library will host a fair with collectibles and books for sale. Homemade food will be available at Schadewald Hall at the Hurley Reformed Church.
In addition, the Old Burial Ground (1708) can be accessed on the walking tour. It’s the oldest continuously operated public cemetery in Ulster County, and attracts many who come to Hurley to look for family names on its weathered headstones. The Ulster County Genealogical Society, which has its offices in the 1853 church next to the cemetery, also attracts many visitors seeking to trace their Dutch lineage.
Hurley Stone House Day will take place this Saturday, July 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and features a close look at some of the oldest stone houses in the country. The event will go on rain or shine, and houses close promptly at 4 p.m. The amount of time spent in each house is at the visitor’s discretion. The cost is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, $2 for children ages 5 to 12, under age 5 free. The ticket cost includes all events, stone house tours, shuttle bus and parking. Tickets are available on the day of the event at two locations on Main Street: the Hurley Reformed Church and outside the Elmendorf House that houses the Heritage Society Museum. For more information, e-mail [email protected] or log onto www.stonehouseday.org.