Having been forced to leave Brooklyn because of Sandy (and feeling more than a bit useless as a result—I am eager to get back and help my community there), I’ve been effectively Newburgh-bound for the past week. My friend Jen from the lovely blog Honey Kennedy is here with me, as her long-planned vacation in NYC was completely upended by the storm. We decided to get ourselves out of the house for a bit and take a drive north up to my hometown, Rhinebeck.
We drove up on the east side of the Hudson River and stopped off at the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park along the way. The estate is open to the public, and even though I’ve been there many times in my life (admittedly most of them prior to age 13—that’s just how it is when you grow up in the Hudson Valley), I’ve never really taken it all in through adult (am I an adult?) eyes. So beautiful.
We got to Rhinebeck in the late afternoon. The skies had turned gray and drizzly, my favorite kind of light. Our fall foliage season seems to be dragging on for longer than usual this year, and there are still plenty of red, orange and yellow leaves hanging around. As much as I detested Rhinebeck as a teenager (and as much as I am grateful to live in cities with far greater diversity as an adult), it is nice to go back there every now and then. It’s sort of like a storybook idea of a small town, with block after block of perfectly-maintained houses built in the 1800s, slate sidewalks, smoke shop Indians, and tiny restaurants that close when the sun goes down.
Even though I’ve now lived away from Rhinebeck longer than I lived there, it’s still the only place where I don’t need to rely on my shoddy (non-)sense of direction. I know the roads of the village like the back of my hand. It feels like home. It’s hard for me to admit that. I guess I have a few places that feel like home to me.
A dusty purple house on South Street, my favorite cemetery, the Johnson’s old house on South Parsonage, Foster’s Coach House Tavern (I had French fries and red wine)…and a few Instagrams, too. I lived in that little red house until I was 17 and left for college. Every time I go back to Rhinebeck I’m happy to see it’s still red.
I dunno. I guess it’s just a thing with most people’s hometowns, right? They seem so much nicer after you leave.
Oh, I definitely appreciate my town (a suburb of Albany) a lot more as an adult, with two small children. I totally understand why my parents thought it was a good place to raise kids– good schools, nice neighborhoods, etc. I still couldn’t ever live here but I don’t hate it so much anymore.
The green and brown house reminds me of the Addams family house! Spooooky
Lots of Addams-style houses in Rhinebeck! He liked the one at 54 W Market St best.
Oh my goodness! I think that I have just developed a new obsession. To contextualise this: I am from Queensland in Australia. We simply do not have houses like those here. So beautiful.
And get well soon, NY.
You don’t, but Queensland is beautiful in a completely different way! I used to go there every summer to visit relatives and loved it there.
thank you ms. anna for sharing. you must have crazy mix’em ups in your head & heart right now…. i feel like i know what you’re going through…. what with you being displaced from Brooklyn, visiting your old childhood neighboorhood and just feeling all jumbly nostalgic and achy… vague desires of “home” mixed with strong urges of empathy and love… love and prayers to you from japan
I’m ‘from’ a very small, tourist-oriented town in northern lower Michigan; it is beautiful there, too. Would love to return, but the cost of living is high, while lots of people want to live there, keeping wages and job opportunities low. Enough do manage, though, that every time I return for a visit, getting around is a whole new challenge!
Lovely photos, and it’s good to know that Sandy didn’t clobber your past, only your present. Thank you for sharing it with us.
That’s funny. I’ve always loved Rhinebeck, and while it’s not very diverse, I can’t imagine anyone hating it. But I suppose teenagers can hate anything!
Like I said, it’s very easy to think that Rhinebeck is a great place if you don’t live there (I’m assuming you’ve only visited and not made it your home?)—and that’s not the teenager in me talking. There are reasons why there’s an extreme lack of diversity, and it was experiencing those things firsthand as a child that enabled me to see through that pretty veneer very early on. I was born there and I lived there for the first 17 years of my life.
I know nothing about Rhinebeck’s politics today, and it’s very possible that things have changed for the better in the 20 years since I left. My mother left at the same time I did—as soon as I graduated from high school, that was the end of the run for my family in that town. My siblings (all older than me) left as soon as they graduated, too. Rhinebeck was an extremely conservative place rife with bigotry, and anyone who was the “other” was ostracized. Whether that “other” was being a different color, not heterosexual, a non-Christian religion (or no religion), of a lower income bracket, from another country, unmarried with children, divorced, having a non-traditional job—anything—you were the “problem.” My family checked many of those boxes, and we did not fit into the ultra-conservative (politically and socially), bigoted mold that Rhinebeck imposed, at least at that time.
The beauty of the houses aside, I thought it was an awful place. It’s pretty to look at, yes, but what’s under the surface in a lot of small towns like Rhinebeck is very ugly—the worst of America. Hopefully as the older generation dies out, a more liberal and diverse population will take over.
Honestly, I’m glad I had a good enough sense of awareness as a teenager to know what was going on and to not want to hold onto it. Visiting once every couple of years is enough.
Really gorgeous photos of Rhinebeck. When we almost moved there you said it was gorgeous and you were right. That red tree! Also, amazing wallpaper. Can’t wait to see it in the kitchen!
Sometimes I miss the Hudson Valley especially the Sante Fe Restaurant in Tivoli
Lovely pictures. I want to pin them all! I just moved back to my hometown, which has typically been a conservative town, but, thankfully, things are changing here and people are starting to open up to new ideas and to differences. If that change wasn’t happening, I couldn’t live here. I can deal with people not thinking the exact same as me, but not with the lack of diversity you describe.
I feel the same way about my hometown in Nowheresville, Ohio. It’s farm country and pretty boring. A nice place to grow up as a kid, but I would not, could not live there past 18.
That being said, we go back to visit friends, and they all own these amazing Victorian-era houses with yards and large covered porches and walk their kids to school, while working as teachers and in insurance offices. Meanwhile, in the DC area we’re paying $2k a month in rent and are scraping by on double income, no kids. But of course, my friends in Ohio LOVE coming to visit us because of all of the culture and things to do! 🙂 The grass is always greener, I guess.
I grew up in a very small town outside of Pittsburgh that seems very much like Rhinebeck. I moved to the city as soon as I possibly could for the same reasons that you left. I definitely enjoy visiting my family and seeing the town through nostalgic rose colored glasses, but I know in my heart I will always be an outsider there.
Side note- you always seem like the best hostess, even under these terrible circumstances! For purely selfish reasons I think you should buy one of those sweet old mansions and open a vegan B&B so we can all come stay at Anna’s. 🙂
In love with photos 2,3, and 5. (Also the horse. What’s that story?)
The horse is in the entryway at Foster’s (there’s a link in the post), an old restaurant in Rhinebeck that’s in a converted 1890 horse stable. There’s a lot of cool horsey stuff in there—it’s the kind of place that places like TGIFridays try to look like (but fail). Their food is very, very average, but the atmosphere is so good that it doesn’t matter.
Love it. Thank you!
Oh, my, the memories. When I was about six, I thought the stagecoach phone booth at Foster’s was the be all and end all of existence.
I’m actually a third generation local (not from Rhinebeck proper) but also left town after high school. I completely relate to your comment above. There’s some really ugly stuff underneath the surface in that area in general, and I often felt trapped by what I perceived versus what I was actually able to influence. I’ve been gone for 15 years now, and while I enjoy visiting a few times a year, I am happy to keep my distance.
What great photos and a beautiful little town. Thanks for sharing your day trip. The next time I’m in NYC. I will take time out to visit parts of the Hudson Valley.
Love the houses, love the history but will you PLEASE stop posting pictures of your hair. It creates serious hair envy. Seriously. Enough. And I am really digging those glasses.
Great pictures of Rhinebeck and Vanderbilt. I didn’t appreciate Rhinebeck when I lived there either, but now I do. It will always be home to me. Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Jen, you’re one of the few people I know understands exactly where I’m coming from when it comes to Rhinebeck then and now. I’m so thankful that we had our little band of outsiders.