Historic Putnam County & the Birth of the American Circus

The Putnam County Historian’s Office, in partnership with Southeast Museum, recently debuted “Historic Putnam County & the Birth of the American Circus”, a virtual exhibit hosted and narrated by Putnam County’s well-known journalist and skilled storyteller, Eric Gross.  This lesson in local history can be found on the County’s YouTube channel as part of the virtual events to celebrate Path Through History Weekend at Home, October 10-12, 2020, a semi-annual event through New York State Tourism.

The video tells the story of circus evolution from the early days of “Old Bet”, the elephant rented out by Nathan Howes of Southeast, New York, to development of menageries, and Seth B. Howes’ inclusion of acrobats and clowns, eventually all performing in a ring, under the big top.  In the 19th Century, many people from Putnam County were part of it – from menagerie shareholders, to side show barkers, slack wire walkers and blacksmiths and carriage makers alike – local Putnam County citizens were part of the birth of the American Circus.

“We are pleased to be part of a program that helps tell the story of the people and places that shaped American history,” says Jennifer Cassidy of the Historian’s Office about the Path Through History opportunity. “The birth of the American Circus has deep roots in Putnam County, and although our 21st century perception of circuses throughout history differs from earlier days, we must remember that people in the 19th century were seeing these wonders for the first time…long before radio, television, the internet and social media.”

Images and documents to help interpret the story of the early circus came from a variety of sources including the Putnam County Historian’s Collection, the archives of the Southeast Museum, Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, the Library of Congress and New York Public Library.

Path Through History Weekends showcase New York State’s fascinating history. Although this weekend is different based on restrictions due to COVID-19, it still includes virtual events beyond Putnam County including museums, historic sites, and cultural institutions.  For more information visit www.iloveny.com.


  • An early 20th Century circus wagon parading through Main Street, Brewster, NY (from HC548 Linda & Jim White Collection)
  • A portrait of Seth B. Howes, renowned circus magnate and Southeast resident (from the Historian’s Office Photograph Collection)
  • Examples of early Howes Circus advertisements and posters from the 19th Century

Discover the Mystery of Manitou Point

Garrison – Featuring dramatic rock outcroppings that look out upon the Hudson River, Manitou Point Nature Preserve comprises more than 100 acres, all open to the public.

The nearly 4 miles of public hiking trails feature a waterfall and wind through the preserve’s densely wooded forests. A tidal marsh offers refuge to a variety of waterfowl and songbirds. This hike is good for all skill levels. Leashed dogs are welcome.

Formerly known as Mystery Point, Manitou Point was once owned by Edward Livingston, descendent of Philip Livingston, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  Known as one of the Hudson River’s great early 20th-century estates, the property was sold several times before Open Space Institute stepped in and permanently protected this remarkable landscape.

Manitou Point is open daily from sunrise to sunset and is at 90 Mystery Point Road in Garrison.

Archives Edition – Series 100: A Stallion’s Family Tree

Series 100 in the Putnam County Archives, Stallion Records, includes the County Clerk filings for their registry via public notice. These interesting records range from 1887-1906, and include one from 1909. They come printed in the form of newspaper notices or handbills and typically advertise the horse’s pedigree, farm and former and present owners, physical description, and may include availability for stud along with its record of notable ancestors and offspring as featured in this notice for the blue ribbon winning, “Doctor Travis” of Tompkins Corners (Putnam Valley, NY).

Also, included in this post is a public notice of the Light Bay Clydesdale, King George that was printed in the Putnam County Republican in 1909 and used for his stallion registration the same year.

Join us at Tilly Foster for “Open House on the Farm” Saturday, October 17, 2020, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Please join us for an Open House on Tilly Foster Farm:

There will be Animals & Art, Antique Tractors, Apples, Cider & Donuts, Ask a Master Gardener, Clover Scavenger Hunt, Pollinator Pathway, Tilly’s Pumpkin Patch, Roasted Corn, Self Guided Art Tour & Hiking Trails



*Please leave your pets at home!



Learn More



Tilly Foster Farms
100 New York 312
Brewster, New York 10509

Take a Virtual Hike with Master Gardener Volunteers

Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteers present their first virtual guided hike! While we cancelled our planned in-person hike early in the year due to the pandemic, Master Gardener Volunteers filmed and narrated a hike of Putnam County’s Fred Dill Wildlife Sanctuary. These walking trails are right in the heart of Carmel, NY and easy to access. In this short video, Master Gardener Volunteers introduce you to local history, natural resources, and the invasive plants that threaten those resources.

You’ll see where to park and find the trailhead, learn about the man for whom the park is named, and enjoy the beauty of Putnam County’s forests. We welcome you to enjoy this curated hike experience.

Community and government partners include the Putnam County Soil & Water Conservation District, Parks Department, County Historian, and the Putnam History Museum.

You can find this and other videos, on Cornell Cooperative Extension of Putnam’s YouTube channel https://youtu.be/gqPV0kNnPQs 


Dragon Rock

Manitoga: Nature and Architecture in Perfect Harmony

Garrison – At the top of a winding driveway off Route 9D in Garrison sits 75 acres of woodland gardens and modern architecture, the realized vision of the late industrial designer Russell Wright. He acquired the property, which had been a quarry and logging site, in 1942, and it took nearly 20 years to complete the work.

A Melding of Design

Among the tasks undertaken, a stream was diverted to create a 30-foot waterfall and fill the rock quarry. It is here, along the sharp rock ledges, Wright built the house and studio, which he named Dragon Rock. Both structures appear to rise out of the landscape, creating a seamless transition between modernist architecture and the surrounding environment. A carpet of grass and plants cover the roof of the studio nearly camouflaging it as one walks the path around the pond to the house. Boulders, stone terraces and rock stairways blend the interior architecture with the surrounding landscape with walls of windows further blurring these lines. Within the home and studio, Wright used natural elements along with manmade materials including stone doorknobs, butterflies pressed between plastic as room dividers and pine needles embedded in plaster walls. The property includes meadows, woodlands and trails complete with intentional plantings, placed boulders and beds of moss to further illustrate the perfect harmony between organic beauty and manmade design.

‘Evolution of consciousness’

Describing Manitoga does not do it justice. There are few words to define the first-hand experience of walking the path around the Quarry Pool to the house itself, surrounded by plants, boulders and moss while hearing music played on speakers placed above you in the trees. According to Manitoga’s website, “In its concept, design, and management, Manitoga unites art, science, culture, and nature with an ecological aesthetic that is both human and spiritual. At a time when most Americans are profoundly alienated from nature and feel isolated from or sentimental toward the world they share with other living things, Manitoga can be seen as an important step in the evolution of our consciousness.”

Take a trip

Manitoga is a National Historic Landmark, an Affiliate Site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and one of the few 20th century modern homes with original landscape open to the public.

Access to the Inner Quarry area with House and Studio is by tour reservation only. Advance ticket purchase required. Tours last 90 minutes, rain or shine. Manitoga’s woodland trails are open to the public daily during daylight hours.

Please follow CDC/NYSDOH guidelines that can be found at https://parks.ny.gov/.

Manitoga is at 584 Route 9D in Garrison. For more information, call 845.424.3812 or visit www.visitmanitoga.org.

Philipstown Bikes Day

Pedal into Cold Spring and Nelsonville for ‘Philipstown Bikes Day’

The Philipstown Trails Committee is gearing up for its third-annual Philipstown Bikes Day Saturday, Sept. 26 (rain date: Sept. 27), from 9 a.m. to noon. Participants can bike, walk or join by any non-motorized means. Philipstown Bikes Day

The event will take place outdoors with social distancing maintained at all times. To aid in minimizing large gatherings, there will be no official starting or closing ceremony so those that wish to join in can do so at any time between 9 a.m. and noon and from any point in the 1.7-mile loop. There will also be a check-in station with health screenings in the upper parking lot of Haldane High School, 15 Craigside Drive in Cold Spring. All participants at the check-in area will be required to wear masks.

The annual event, part of a larger effort to bicycle 500 miles, encourages a healthy, active lifestyle and promotes the reduction of our area’s carbon footprint. Any participant who completes the loop at least once will receive a commendation, recognizing their participation in the event and support for a more bike-friendly and walkable community.

The mission of the Philipstown Trails Committee is to create more opportunities for bikers and walkers of all ages to safely access local sites and recreational activities; develop healthier, more active and environmentally aware lifestyles; and experience more social connections in the community.

For more information about the Philipstown Trails Committee or the Bikes Day event, please email philipstowntrails@gmail.com.



Patterson Library installs new Storywalk

The Patterson Library Youth Services staff has been busy making and installing a new Storywalk! Read the story of “The Day You Begin” by Jacqueline Woodson as you walk through Patterson.

The storyboards will begin at the gazebo and continue through the Library Park. From there, take a short drive or walk to Patterson Recreation, cross the railroad tracks, and stroll or ride down the environmental trail to the boardwalk, reading the story pages as you go. During your adventure, take a picture and send it to Miss Jenn or Miss Jane at ysc@pattersonlibrary.org.

Patterson Library is at 1167 Route 311 in Patterson. Visit the library’s website for more information about this program and others at pattersonlibrary.org/.

Enduring Friendships Exhibition opens at the A. Eric Arctander Gallery, Mahopac; Saturday, 9/12/20 from 1-5pm.

The Putnam Arts Council is pleased to announce its first gallery exhibition since the pandemic: Enduring Friendships, an invitational exhibition featuring photographers, David Small and Dr. Bernie Kessler and painter/printmaker Sergio Gonzalez-Tornero.   All three have been involved with the Putnam Arts Council for over 35 years and have made a mark on our organization in ways that are artistically and personally unique. Lifelong artists, all three have worked well into their 90’s.

We are proud to offer this exhibit to the public from 1-5pm on Saturday Sept. 12, 19 and 26 and Sunday Sept. 13, 20 and 27.   All visitors must make a reservation on our website to attend the show.  We will follow all NY State/CDC safety precautions limiting the number of visitors and requiring masks.
Gallery entry is free of charge.

Mr. Small’s primarily black & white photographs, features an eclectic series of street photography with subjects from all walks of life, some juxtaposed from their setting.  Some serious and some light-hearted, his series represents the diverse range of human emotion with some humor thrown in. Mr. Small is many private collections and is the recipient of many awards.

Dr. Bernie Kessler is an award winning photographer for over 50 years, exploring and celebrating the beauty of nature, including human nature.  His images have been exhibited internationally and are in private and corporate collections.  He is recognized as an outstanding teacher, enthusiastically sharing his passion for photography and consistently offering encouragement. His series of color photographs features landscapes from the Adirondacks to Teatown Lake Reservation and highlight beauty of New York and Connecticut.

Mr. Gonzalez Tornero’s family will provide his work in memorial, and have selected a series of red paintings, none of which have been displayed at PAC or in the immediate area. “Mr. Gonzalez, born in Santiago Chile in 1927 was an accomplished printmaker and painter.  Throughout his long and successful career, he has explore a wide variety of subjects, from vibrant, solitary images of wild animals to complex mediations on psychological and spiritual dimensions of human life from nearly pure abstraction that calls to mind elemental forces of nature to the history” (Newsletter, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison Wisconsin).

The Putnam Arts Council is located at 521 Kennicut Hill Road in Mahopac, New York.  The Council is supported, in part, with public funds from Putnam County and with public funds from the NY State Council on the Arts with support from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the NYS Legislature.  Visit putnamartscouncil.com for details on other programs we offer including art classes, voice lessons, and funding opportunities for artists and arts organizations or call us at 845.803.8622.




Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival Finds First Permanent Home

Thanks to a donation of land, the staple of New York summer theater will move to a nearby location. Riverside views will remain. 

The New York Times

The tent is moving. The pre-show picnics and riverside views are staying.

The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, a bucolic staple of New York summer theater at the Boscobel House and Gardens in Garrison, N.Y., will move about two miles south to a new — and permanent — home in 2022. The sprawling performing arts campus is expected to feature an upgraded open-air structure and, eventually, a second indoor stage for year-round performances. If such a thing is possible, this move will offer even more gorgeous vistas.

Kate Liberman, the festival’s managing director, said an acoustician who evaluated the new site initially had his doubts about the move. “He was like, ‘You already have the most beautiful space,’” she said. But then he paid a visit — and backtracked big time. “I was wrong,” he told her in a call while standing atop a ridge. “It’s even more spectacular than I could have imagined.”

For 33 years, the nonprofit professional theater company has been renting space on a grassy knoll overlooking the Hudson River about an hour north of Manhattan. But last October, Christopher Davis, a conservationist and philanthropist who lives in Garrison, reached out about gifting the company land to build a new home.

A spokesman for the company said he could not estimate the value of Davis’s donation, but that it included more than 50 acres of land. Davis had been a longtime donor and audience member.

“We were flabbergasted and overjoyed,” Liberman said. “And now, at a perilous moment for the entire industry, we will have sustainable footing and a permanent home.”

The company, which typically stages between three and five plays in repertory between Memorial Day and Labor Day, will upgrade its open-sided white tent to a permanent open-air structure. It expects to announce a capital campaign to help pay for its new home at a later date.

The new stage will include an enhanced natural ventilation system and superior sightlines, as well as improved acoustics, said Davis McCallum, the festival’s artistic director. The festival will also add dressing rooms, offices for stage management staff and a space for wardrobe work to be done on site.

But it will not sacrifice its characteristic coziness — McCallum said the new venue may even be slightly smaller than the current one, which seats approximately 530 people. “We love the intimacy of the tent,” he said. “And there’s a greater sense of connection to the human voice when we don’t have to amplify performers.”

McCallum, who has run the festival since 2014, said the company had been approaching the limit of how many performances it could cram into its roughly 12-week summer season. “For 33 of our 34 years, our performance schedule has been a function of our lease at Boscobel,” he said. “But now we can transition from a seasonal festival to a year-round cultural anchor for the entire region.”

But the site-specific performances that the festival is known for will remain unchanged. Actors will continue to materialize from the top of sharply sloped hills or pop out from pockets of thickly forested trees. “The land is our set,” McCallum said. “And we’re doubling down on that image in our new home.”

The new site will allow for visual art exhibitions in addition to theatrical productions. The festival has commissioned artists to dream up projects inspired by the new landscape, among them Kholoud Sawaf, a Syrian director; Melissa McGill, a visual artist based in Hudson Valley; and Madeline Sayet, the executive director of Yale University’s Indigenous Performing Arts Program and a member of the Mohegan tribe.

Like most theaters across the country, the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival canceled its 2020 season because of the pandemic. But it plans to return for one final season at Boscobel next summer.


Credit…The Garrison