Historic Hudson Valley
Historic Hudson Valley is a not-for-profit educational and historic preservation organization headquartered in Tarrytown, New York, in Westchester County. Its mission is "to celebrate the region’s history, architecture, landscape, and material culture, advancing its importance and thereby assuring its preservation."
Historic Hudson Valley is Westchester County’s largest cultural and arts organization measured by size of audience, number of employees, operating budget, and endowment.
The organization owns or is connected to six historic sites open to the public, five of which are located in Westchester County and one in Dutchess County:
- Washington Irving’s Sunnyside in Tarrytown
- Philipsburg Manor House in Sleepy Hollow
- Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson
- Union Church of Pocantico Hills in Pocantico Hills
- Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate, also in Pocantico Hills (owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation)
- Montgomery Place Historic Estate in Annandale-on-Hudson in northern Dutchess County
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 SHR as a non-profit educational institution; HHV 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 the collateral descendants of Washington Irving 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 SHR, and in 1953, he acquired Van Cortlandt Manor and brought a team of historians and architects from 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, SHR 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 Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller, who died in 1979. The property was leased from the National Trust by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. In 1991, the RBF entered into a partnership with Historic Hudson Valley to operate a program of public tours, which started in 1994.
In 1992, Sleepy Hollow Restoration's IRS status changed from a private foundation to a public, not-for-profit organization.
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.
Historic Hudson Valley focuses its work on three key areas:
Tours at Van Cortlandt Manor, Philipsburg Manor, and Sunnyside use the third-person “living history” approach by interpreters in historic clothing supplemented by hands-on demonstrations of period work and leisure activities. The Union Church and Kykuit use a more traditional lecture/discussion approach. Montgomery Place is largely self-guided. At Van Cortlandt Manor, the themed-tours concentrate on interpreting lifestyles and history of the New Nation Period that immediately followed the American Revolution. 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.
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. Pinkster, for example, is a re-creation of the 18th-century African-Colonial festival of Pentecost through which visitors can explore African music, dance, foodways, and storytelling. The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze and Horseman's Hollow explore traditions linked to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and contemporary ways of observing the traditions of Halloween. Children's Book Day at Sunnyside brings families together with local artists and authors to celebrate reading.
HHV offers a varied menu of school workshops developed with teachers and based on state curriculum requirements.
- Strom, Stephanie (November 16, 2009). "A Revolutionary War Widow's Estate Becomes a Preservation Battleground". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-11-17.