A hot time in the old town: Kingston to burn this weekend

(Photo by Phyllis McCabe)

(Photo by Phyllis McCabe)

Every two years, redcoats and bluecoats occupy Kingston for three days, commemorating the torching of the city by the invading British under Major General John Vaughan in October 1777, when it was infant New York State’s first capital. The reenactment weekend begins at 7 p.m. this Friday, October 4 with a Committee of Safety Meeting at the Hoffman House Tavern in the Uptown Historic Stockade District. A 7:30 p.m. lantern-lit cemetery tour and an 8:15 organ recital will follow at the nearby Old Dutch Church.

On Saturday morning, October 5 at Kingston Point Park, there will be a reenactment of the British landing at 11 a.m., a skirmish with the local militia and some symbolic small-scale arson. Fighting continues in the Stockade District in the afternoon, beginning at the Senate House at 1:45 p.m. and moving towards a “siege” at the Matthew Persen House, built in the 1660s and one of the structures at the last surviving street crossing (intersection of John and Crown) in the US where all four corners are occupied by pre-Revolutionary stone buildings. Cannons will be fired, and at 3 p.m. the mayor of Kingston will be tried for treason on the site of the old Schneller’s beer garden on John Street. The victors will host a Grand Ball at City Hall at 8 p.m., with instruction in 18th-century dances commencing at 7; period costume is encouraged but not mandatory.

Amidst all this scheduled activity, both British and Colonial troop encampments in Forsyth Park will be open to the public for tours, inspections and drills on Saturday morning and evening and again on Sunday morning, October 6. A mock “Battle of Upper Forsyth Park” and tactical demonstration at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday will wind down the official “Burning” events, admission to all of which is free. For more information, call (845) 334-3914 or visit www.ci.kingston.ny.us.

But there are plenty of other players getting in on the action in Kingston this weekend – especially in the Stockade District on Saturday. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Senate House will be hosting its Autumn Festival, with reenactors from the Third Ulster Militia on-site demonstrating 18th-century camp life. There will be performances of period music and demonstrations of meat-smoking, candle-dipping, cider-pressing and hearthside cooking, as well as hands-on activities such as making cornhusk dolls and dried-apple wreaths. Admission to the outdoor events is free, and guided tours of the Senate House will also be provided by costumed interpreters at $4 for adults, $3 for seniors; kids age 12 and under get in free. For more information, call (845) 338-2786 or visit www.nysparks.com.

If you’d like to become more knowledgeable about the historic settings for the reenactment of the Burning, sign up for the 1658 Stockade National Historic District Walking Tour being conducted by the Friends of Historic Kingston (FoHK) on Saturday, October 5. Departing from the FoHK Gallery located at the corner of Wall and Main Streets at 2 p.m., the narrated tour will include viewing many 18th-century limestone houses still standing in the Stockade District; the site of the drafting of the New York State Constitution in 1777 at the Ulster County Courthouse; the gravesite of New York’s first elected governor, George Clinton, in the Old Dutch Church Burying Ground; and a tour of the interior of the circa-1812 Johnston House, the former home and showroom of nationally noted antiques dealer Fred J. Johnston. The tour costs $10 for adults, $5 for children under age 16. For more information call (845) 339-0720 or visit www.fohk.org.

All that pavement-pounding and musketball-dodging is bound to work up an appetite, so you might want to spend your lunchtime at the Kingston Farmers’ Uptown Market, sited on Wall Street in the heart of the battle zone and open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Besides some 40 vendors of local produce and gourmet delights, the Market will present a music-and-crafts mini-event called Catskill Mountain Music Together from 12 noon until 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. For details visit www.kingstonfarmersmarket.org.

While you’re in the neighborhood on Saturday, you can also appease the redcoats by picking up your Loyalty Papers at the Persen House from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., tour the Old Dutch Church Sanctuary from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or visit the Volunteer Firemen’s Museum from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Sunday, the Persen House is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Firemen’s Museum from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the Church will offer a worship service at 10:30 a.m.

Burning of Kingston & related events, Friday-Sunday, October 4-6, various venues, Kingston Point & Stockade District, Kingston; (845) 334-3914, www.ci.kingston.ny.us.

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