WVLT tours will stress the intimate connection between the natural and built environment, beginning this year with the Kettleborough Historic District. This little-known corner of Gardiner, first settled in 1742 by the LeFevre family, encompasses an old stop on the Wallkill Valley Railroad – now the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, a major WVLT conservation easement – Ulster County’s second-oldest Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm and three buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore the interiors of houses never visited by the general public, including three 18th-century stone houses and four 19th-century wood-frame buildings ranging from the Federal Period through the Victorian Era. The core of the District, which formed one of the nation’s honored “Century Farms” and was among the first New York State farms to be electrified, includes several historic barns and the 19th-century one-room schoolhouse that served the District.
The family houses of Kettleborough exemplify a classic pattern of rural development in 18th- and 19th-century America. As their lands were subdivided to accommodate successive generations, the Kettleborough LeFevres expanded their old homes and built new ones in the latest building styles. The District is distinctive in its representation of virtually every one of our region’s vernacular styles, presenting a “timeline” of architectural evolution within an area of less than one square mile.
The tour’s printed program will detail the distinctive features of the houses to be visited and provide information on numerous other points of interest viewable from the approximately four-mile loop, including related buildings that belonged to other members of the family and 20th-century structures associated with the construction of the Catskill Aqueduct. Because the buildings are so compactly situated, comparatively little time will be spent traveling between sites (for the energetic, the area is bikeable from the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail). Visitors will have ample time to explore the features of the homes as well as their varied settings. Farmers will be on hand to explain current uses of the land, which include organic farming on the CSA and advanced fruit-growing techniques on a Cornell experimental plot.
Tickets are $25 if purchased in advance through the Land Trust’s website, www.WallkillValleyLT.org, or $30 on the day of the tour. Admission includes a reception following the tour. On the day of the event, tickets, a brochure and a map will be available from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Gardiner Town Hall, located at 2340 Route 44/55. For more information call (845) 255-2761. The tour proceeds benefit the WVLT’s land preservation efforts.