Historic Hudson Valley

Historic Hudson Valley is a not-for-profit educational and historic preservation organization headquartered in Tarrytown, New York. The organization runs tours and events at five historic properties in Westchester County, in the lower Hudson River Valley.[1]


The organization operates at five historic sites in Westchester County open for public tours:


Historic Hudson Valley was formally founded in 1951 as Sleepy Hollow Restorations by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. That year, the state of New York chartered Sleepy Hollow Restorations as a non-profit educational institution; Historic Hudson Valley continues to operate under this same charter. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. was deeply interested in preserving places of historic importance and provided the funding for the establishment of Colonial Williamsburg, among other projects. Close to his Hudson Valley country house were Sunnyside, the home of the celebrated writer Washington Irving, Philipsburg Manor, and Van Cortlandt Manor. He saw in all three the potential to educate the public about the history and culture of the Hudson River Valley and wished to assure their preservation and public access.

Rockefeller purchased Sunnyside in 1945, from Washington Irving's collateral descendants, and underwrote its restoration. In 1950, Rockefeller arranged for the transfer of title to Philipsburg Manor, which had been operated by the Historic Society of the Tarrytowns, to Sleepy Hollow Restorations, and in 1953, he acquired Van Cortlandt Manor and brought a team of historians and architects from Colonial Williamsburg to restore and refurnish it.

In 1984, the Rockefeller family arranged for Sleepy Hollow Restorations to acquire title to the Union Church of Pocantico Hills. (The church contains stained glass windows by Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall, given to it by members of the Rockefeller family.) In 1986, Sleepy Hollow Restorations acquired Montgomery Place in Dutchess County.

The purchase of Montgomery Place in 1986 was part of a strategy to expand the organization's influence beyond Westchester County. This change in strategy was accompanied by a name change the following year to Historic Hudson Valley.

Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate in Pocantico Hills, had been left to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the will of Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, who died in 1979. The property was leased from the National Trust by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. In 1991, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund entered into a partnership with Historic Hudson Valley to operate a program of public tours, which started in 1994.

In 1992, Historic Hudson Valley's IRS status changed from that of a private foundation to a public, not-for-profit organization.

Historic Hudson Valley sold Montgomery Place to Bard College in January 2016.[2]

Governing board

The organization is governed by a volunteer board of trustees and funds its operation through visitor admission and membership fees, annual fundraising, and an annual draw from its largely unrestricted endowment. Waddell W. Stillman is the president.[3]

Educational mission

Historic Hudson Valley focuses its work on three key areas:

Guided tours

Tours at Philipsburg Manor, Sunnyside, and Van Cortlandt Manor use the third-person "living history" approach by interpreters in historic clothing supplemented by hands-on demonstrations of period work and leisure activities, while Kykuit and the Union Church use a more traditional lecture/discussion approach. Philipsburg Manor concentrates on telling the story of slavery in the colonial north. Sunnyside focuses on Washington Irving and the Romantic movement in 19th-century literature, landscape, and architecture. At Van Cortlandt Manor, the themed-tours concentrate on interpreting lifestyles and history of the New Nation Period that immediately followed the American Revolution.

School Programs

Historic Hudson Valley offers a varied menu of school workshops developed with teachers and based on state curriculum requirements.[4]

Special events

Special events focus on issues and ideas that are season-specific or that require a fuller programmatic rendering than is possible on the standard tour. For example:

  • CORNucopia, held at the end of summer in Sleepy Hollow, NY, is an annual "festival at Philipsburg Manor celebrating the importance of corn and its heritage in America".[5]
  • Dickens's 'Christmas Carol', held annually at the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow at Christmastime, is a performance wherein a "master storyteller [...], complete with musical accompaniment, regale[s] you with his adaptation of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.”[6]
  • Pinkster is an annual re-creation of the 18th-century African-Colonial festival of Pentecost, through which visitors can explore African music, dance, foodways, and storytelling.[7]
  • Sheep-to-Shawl, held every April at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, NY, celebrates, "From fiber to fashion, [...] all things wooly sheep! Visitors are invited to explore each step in the process of turning wool into cloth using 18th-century techniques." Additionally, "Hands-on activities include dyeing wool and crafts for children, including a giant 20-foot diameter weaving project!", and "Outside on the grounds, Scottish border collies display their skills at sheep- and duck-herding. Visitors are invited to enjoy a fashion show, Project Colonial Runway, and kick up their heels to the sounds of a live bluegrass band."[8]
  • The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze[9] and Horseman's Hollow[10] explore traditions linked to "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and contemporary ways of observing the traditions of Halloween.[11] Additionally, Irving's Legend, held annually at the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow every autumn, is a performance wherein "Master storytellers offer dramatic performances of Washington Irving’s classic tale, featuring the Headless Horseman, Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones, and Katrina Van Tassel. Flavored with live spooky music, the spellbinding storytelling captivates all audiences."[12]


  1. "About". Historic Hudson Valley.
  2. "Press Release: Bard College Finalizes Purchase of Montgomery Place". Bard.edu. 12 January 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  3. Strom, Stephanie (November 16, 2009). "A Revolutionary War Widow's Estate Becomes a Preservation Battleground". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-11-17.
  4. "School Programs". Historic Hudson Valley.
  5. "What is CORNucopia?". Historic Hudson Valley.
  6. "Dickens's 'Christmas Carol'". Historic Hudson Valley.
  7. "Celebrate Pinkster". Historic Hudson Valley.
  8. "Sheep to Shawl". Historic Hudson Valley.
  9. "The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze". Historic Hudson Valley.
  10. "Horseman's Hollow". Historic Hudson Valley.
  11. "Top 10 Halloween Attractions in Sleepy Hollow Country". Historic Hudson Valley.
  12. "Irving's Legend". Historic Hudson Valley.

See also

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