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UPCOMING EVENTS

  • Thursday, March 26 - Friday, March 27
    It's a Spring Thing!
    Free Admission: Penny Social, Plant Sale, & Bake Sale. Get your spring flowers and veggie plants! Breakfast sandwiches & coffee for sale 9am–11am and hot dogs from 12–3pm. Call for more information. Phone: 845-876-2071x107. Url: http://communityatbrookmeade.com.

  • Friday, March 27 - Monday, March 30
    Senior Project Festival
    Performances created by graduating seniors of Bard’s theater and performance program. Fri 6:30pm, Sat noon & 6:30pm, Sun noon & 6:30pm, Mon 6:30. Free, reservations required. Phone: 845-758-7900. Email: fishercenterboxoffice@bard.edu. Url: http://fishercenter.bard.edu.

  • Friday, March 27 - Sunday, March 29
    American Irish Dance
    Solas An Lae Dance Co. explores the nature of light. Choreographed by Deirdre Lowry. Fri & Sat 8pm, Sun 3pm. $20. Phone: 845-876-3080. Url: http://centerforperformingarts.org.

  • Saturday, March 28
    Opening: Duo Solos
    Reception for exhibit of new paintings by David Eddy and bricolage works by Polly W. Law. Upstairs gallery. 4–7pm. Phone: 845-876-7578. Url: http://ShahinianFineArt.com.

  • Saturday, March 28
    Stephen Petronio Co.
    Widely regarded as one of the leading dance-makers of his generation. 7:30pm. $30/student rush $10. Phone: 845-757-5106x2. Email: pgrkaats@bestweb.net. Url: http://www.kaatsbaan.org.

  • Sunday, March 29
    All You Can Eat Breakfast
    Lions' Club event at Germantown School Cafetorium (Main St. side of school). 8am to 11am. Phone: 518-537-6687.

  • Thursday, April 2 - Saturday, April 4
    Lobby Hero
    By award-winning playwright & screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan; directed by Amy Lemon Olson. The moral dilemma of a young security guard in a Manhattan apt. bldg. Thu–Sat 8pm. Tkts $25. Phone: 845-230-7020. Email: info@tangent-arts.org. Url: http://tangent-arts.org.

  • Friday, April 3
    Neil Gaiman & Laurie Anderson
    Professor Gaiman hosts a dialogue with the legendary musician and composer. 7:30pm. $25/$5 w/Bard ID. Phone: 845-758-7900. Email: fishercenterboxoffice@bard.edu. Url: http://fishercenter.bard.edu.

  • Saturday, April 4
    "Contemporary Art in Historic Spaces"
    Join us for a lecture by Curator Pieranna Cavalchin, curator of contemporary art at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. 3–5pm. $10/$12. Pre-registration suggested. Phone: 518-828-1872 x109. Email: shasbrook@olana.org. Url: http://olana.org.

  • Saturday, April 4
    ZviDance
    Surveillance called "a shrewd collage, both appealing and disconcerting.... the urban world we know, deconstructed and reassembled." NY Times. 7:30pm.$30/student rush $10. Phone: 845-757-5106x2. Email: pgrkaats@bestweb.net. Url: http://www.kaatsbaan.org.

  • Saturday, April 4
    Aaron Landsman Performance
    Public Dialogue: Perfect City Discussions. Theater artist Aaron Landsman reimagines urban life in a performed public meeting. 3pm. Free, reservations required. Phone: 845-758-7900. Email: fishercenterboxoffice@bard.edu. Url: http://fishercenter.bard.edu.

  • Saturday, April 4
    Egg Scramble
    Egg hunt, crafts and raffle; on the grounds of Linden Avenue Middle School at 11am. Url: http://redhookvillage.org.

  • Sunday, April 5
    Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company
    Bold, energetic and technically demanding program. 7:30pm. $30/$10 student rush w/ID. Phone: 845-757-5106x2. Email: pgrkaats@bestweb.net. Url: http://www.kaatsbaan.org.

  • Monday, April 6
    Property and Freedom
    Is gaining legal title the way to overcome poverty in South Africa? One day conference co-sponsored by Hannah Arendt Ctr. 9am–5pm. See website for more info. Email: arendt@bard.edu. Url: http://bard.edu/hannaharendtcenter.

  • Thursday, April 9 - Sunday, April 12
    Lobby Hero
    By award-winning playwright & screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan; directed by Amy Lemon Olson. The moral dilemma of a young security guard in a Manhattan apt. bldg. Thu–Sat 8pm, Sun 3pm. Tkts $25. Phone: 845-230-7020. Email: info@tangent-arts.org. Url: http://tangent-arts.org.

  • Friday, April 10 - Sunday, April 12
    Othello
    Modern interpretation of Shakespeare’s play adapted and directed by Lou Trapani. Focus: people of color in a white society. Fri 4/10 at 8pm, Sun 4/12 at 3pm. $24/$22. Phone: 845-876-3080. Url: http://centerforperformingarts.org.

  • Saturday, April 11
    Shakespeare on Broadway
    A revue from musicals that have been adapted from the works of Shakespeare, including West Side Story, Kiss Me Kate, The Boys from Syracuse, Two Gentleman of Verona. Directed by Kevin Archambault. 8pm; $24/$22. Phone: 845-876-3080. Url: http://centerforperformingarts.org.

  • Saturday, April 11
    Bard Baroque Ensemble
    Concert at 7pm. Phone: 845-758-7196. Email: conservatoryconcerts@bard.edu. Url: http://bard.edu/conservatory/events.

  • Saturday, April 11
    Chili Night at Elmendorph!
    Benefit for Historic Red Hook w/homemade food & live music by Red Hook’s Maggie Rothwell. 6–8pm.Tkt at door $10/$6 children. Phone: 845-758-1920. Email: redhookhistory@gmail.com. Url: http://historicredhook.org.

  • Saturday, April 11 - Sunday, April 12
    Linden Ave. Drama Club Performance
    Sat 6–8pm, Sun 4–6pm. In the LAMS Cafe. Phone: 845-758-2241. Url: http://redhookcentralschools.org.

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General Interest  |  Local History  |  Building & Home  |  Food & Wine  |  Health & Wellness

Postcard showing Mill Pond, Amenia. credit Courtesy Amenia Historical Society.

Amenia and the Birth of "The Brotherhood"

Spring 2014   

Ever wonder about that stone bank building at the corner of routes 343 and 22 at the center of Amenia village? If it looks to you like it came from another world, you’re right. In 1860, Dutchess County was the birthplace of the Brotherhood of the New Life, one of the many "alternative communities" born during the great American spiritual revival of the mid-nineteenth century. The Brotherhood began in Wassaic, and grew onto additional property in nearby Amenia where, after accumulating a sizeable amount of capital, the group founded the First National Bank of Amenia and built that stone building.

The Brotherhood’s founder was Thomas Lake Harris, a hypnotic and otherworldly minister who cobbled together his own eclectic set of beliefs during an evolving career. Harris started out as a young preacher in Western New York, where he became known for the poetical passion of his oratory. Then he embraced spiritualism, claiming to be in touch with the angels and publishing three books of poetical revelations dictated while in trances during his visits with dead poets in heaven.


Thomas Lake Harris in is late seventies. credit Courtesy Bart Casey.

Soon he declared that he had spirit-traveled to celestial communities on Mars, Jupiter and other planets—all part of his training to become the pivotal go-between between fallen man and the Deity.

By 1859, at age 36, Harris was the leader of New York City’s Church of the Good Shepherd, an independent, progressive and well-heeled congregation holding Sunday services in the chapel of New York University in Washington Square. Followers included Horace Greeley, future presidential candidate and editor of the New York Tribune, as well as wealthy heiress Jane Waring, daughter of a successful New York State stove manufacturer.

Harris traveled around the South on the eve of the Civil War and in Great Britain after the Crimean War. The civil and social unrest he witnessed convinced him that the tumultuous period was beginning,which would precede the final struggle between Good and Evil, itself the precursor to the second coming of Christ. To counter this cataclysm, he convinced a close inner circle of followers to pool their money and buy property in Dutchess County where they could prepare for the changes to come and become ready to play leading roles saving mankind in the new post-apocalyptic order.

For a brief period in the years before founding the Amenia settlement, Harris had been co-leader of a failed utopian community in West Virginia. Here he learned that any community attempting to set up a new world order should have only one leader—and a well-funded one at that. Sound finances and savvy business practices became his hallmarks. At the start, Harris’s main benefactor and deputy was Jane Waring, the heiress, who contributed millions of dollars in today’s money to the community. Jane also ran the farming operations, having grown up on a farm with her agriculturalist brother George, manager of Greeley’s farm in Chappaqua and lead sanitary engineer for the draining of Manhattan’s wetlands and the ensuing creation of New York’s Central Park. Joining from New York City and contributing commercial expertise came several experienced businessmen with their families, During the Civil War three large families arrived from Georgia, escaping the depradations of that battle-ravaged state and adding the proceeds from the sale of their properties and slaves. From Britain came Arthur Cuthbert and his fiancée, Emily Fawcett, to be married in Amenia by Harris; Cuthbert would become Harris’s lifelong disciple and biographer.

This founding group spent their days in healthy manual labor building the first house in Wassaic, which was located across from the famous Gridley kilns, on the wooded hillside overlooking the deep gorge creek of the Wassaic River, just off today’s Route 22. Today, forest has grown over the original stable’s grounds and garden. An early member recalled that the structure was "a very fine one at the time, and known locally as the House in the Woods." Evenings were spent in "right breathing": reaching out for contact with the celestial realm, where Harris was already a frequent visitor and confidant of the archangels. As more people came, new properties were bought around Mill Pond, on today’s Lake Amenia Avenue, where the Brotherhood operated a mill as a first base of commerce in the community. Jane Waring then planted the Brotherhood’s vineyards on the adjoining hillside, near today’s Silo Ridge Golf Course.


The stone bank building in Amenia built by the Brotherhood, now a branch of M&T Bank. credit Courtesy Amenia Historical Society.

As the community flourished, Harris decided they should spread the word more to local villagers about the great changes to come. To do this, his New York City disciples helped Harris found the First National Bank of Amenia, installing the prophet as president. At first, the bank was a modest one-room wooden structure with an imposing safe, a welcoming woodstove, and a wealth of chairs for townspeople to rest on and chat. Eventually, in 1865, the bank built its distinctive five-sided stone building now gracing the main street of the village.

More exotic members began to arrive. J. W. Hyde, an expert winemaker from Missouri, joined with his wife Lucy and son John to take over vineyard operations. In London Emily Fawcett Cuthbert talked up Harris to her close friend Lady Maria Oliphant, and soon this widow of the chief justice of Ceylon petitioned to join the Brotherhood. Before long she brought along as well her son Laurence, a prominent writer, war correspondent and member of parliament. The Oliphants brought wealth and an implied endorsement for Harris from the highest levels of British society, where they were friends and intimates of ministers, aristocrats and the royal family. And when Laurence completed his probationary period in England and arrived in Dutchess County, he brought with him a group of Samurai students on a secret mission from their lord in the southern Japanese province of Satsuma to learn the mysterious ways of the West. They were, in fact, some of the earliest visitors from Japan to ever come to the USA, and several went on to high office as ambassadors for the modern government set up by Meiji-era Japan; one even became minister of education.

Since everyone joining the Brotherhood contributed all of their worldly funds, the safe at the First National Bank of Amenia might well have been bursting at its seams. By 1867, it was decided the entire group should re-scale itself and relocate to larger properties 400 miles to the west on Lake Erie, , at Brocton, New York, where a more sizeable wine business could be cultivated. So, after a successful birth and seven-year childhood in Dutchess County, the Brotherhood moved on to adolescence in Brocton, and eventual adulthood in Santa Rosa, California, where from 1876 to 1934 it became a leading Sonoma County winery on the fabulous Fountaingrove estate. One family, disgruntled with Harris’s leadership, eventually returned east to Washingtonville, in the Hudson Valley, where as competitors to Harris they took over the oldest winery in the country and renamed it after the Brotherhood. This winery is still in operation today.

Harris’s later years brought scandals about sexual shenanigans and financial deceptions, casting a permanent cloud over the reputations of both Harris and Oliphant (who broke with Harris as well and went on publishing bestselling books about his exotic travels). At its inception in Dutchess County, however, this colorful community was full of hope and idealism. Writing in 1930, Robert Martin, who grew up in the Brotherhood, addressed questions about any possible "lax morals, or improper conduct" in the early Dutchess County days. He stated then they were all "a straightlaced, God-fearing band of men and women" intent on leading mankind to salvation. However, Martin didn’t pull any punches about his final assessment of Harris and the Brotherhood for his somber ending to the story, where he judged Harris "a charlatan, with feet of the most ordinary clay" who eventually squandered the members’ money and dashed their dreams of glory.

 
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Featured Community Businesses

Antiques bought & sold by appointment only. Reasonable prices, good selection of styles, all in great condition. Restoration services. Jack Hacker, owner. Please call for appointment & directions.

845-883-5988

Lessons, instruments, rentals, repairs. For all your musical needs!

1 Milton Ave, Highland
845-691-2701

Safe, Clean, Quiet Environment featuring Express Laundry Machines.

Convenient location in the Middle of the Village behind Starbucks®.

5A Plattekill Ave, New Paltz
845-943-8814

"Capturing the Heart of It". Imagine having the same photographer capture your wedding who got Joyce Carol Oates to glow, Ethan Hawke to calm down, Jay Z to smile and Bill Murray to fish in a swimming pool? Celebrity photographer Steffen Thalemann fell in love with weddings when helping a friend on the job one day. He has joyfully dedicated part of his career to this art ever since. Group shot or individual portrait, his passion for people allows him to truly connect on a human level, capturing the essence of every moment.

New Paltz
845-255-5787

Relax, renew, rejuvenate here. Enjoy Hot Stone Therapy, Aromatherapy, Tandem Massage, Deep Tissue, Partner Instruction, Salt Scrubs, Fabulous Feet, Manicures, Facials, and much more. Gift Certificates. Enjoy a brookside treatment. Also a great idea for a party.

45 Jenkinstown Rd, New Paltz
845-255-3160

AMGA Accredited Guide Service offering professional instruction and guided trips for rock climbing, ice climbing, winter mountaineering, snow shoeing, and hiking to all ability levels throughout the Gunks (Shawangunk) and Catskill Mountains. We provide technical equipment needed.

845-658-3094 or 800-GUNKS-NY

Your area professional since 1968 is always buying and selling coins, currency, gold & silver, jewelry, old marbles, postcards, toys & many other small collectibles. Fair, honest dealings guaranteed. Bill & Ruth Blair. Call for an appointment.

845-254-4717

Enjoy the taste and sounds of Italy in an intimate and warm setting right here in Rhinebeck. Dishes from the Italian homeland with gourmet artistry and local bounty. Call about catering or to book your special occasions. Find Puccini Ristorante on Facebook. Venite à trovarci presto! Grazie!

22 Garden St., Rhinebeck
845-876-3055

A place to meet, play and learn music! Lessons and Classes; Kids, teens and adults; Voice, guitar, saxophone, improv, music theater, vocal groups. Local and regional performing acts.

The Chocolate Factory 54 Elizabeth Street, Red Hook
845-444-0607

Complete Auto Repair Center. Repairs, sales and 24-hour towing.

Mon-Fri 8am-5pm. Sat 8-noon. Closed Sunday.

Chris & Justin

84 New Paltz Rd, Highland
845-691-3720

Unusual and surprising gifts. Useful objects for every room in your home. Well designed, functional, and decorative items. Modern baby gifts. Remarkable jewelry. Visit and visualize our offerings in your life.

67 Main St, New Paltz
845-255-6862

Massage & Body Treatments. Relax and be pampered with scrubs, wraps and steam baths. Ease away pain and tension with with Specialty Massages such as Foot Bath Reflexology, Hot Bamboo or Thai Yoga Massage. Evaluated and praised by a Forbes Representative from a five-star spa. Let me share my love of this work with you—and those you love—gift Certificates available. Visit our new website for more information.

71 Main St Second Floor, New Paltz
845-853-6904

Do it yourself or use our in store drop off or pick up and delivery service for laundry and dry cleaning. Across the street from Trailways Bus Terminal.

140 Main St Plaza, New Paltz
845-255-7554

A 7,000 sq ft antique mall located between Hyde Park & Rhinebeck. Our changing inventory includes furniture, jewelry, silver, porcelain, oriental rugs, & lighting. We also offer appraisal services & comprehensive estate liquidations including auctions. We are the destination for decorators, designers & collectors to find unique and beautiful treasures. Please stop in when visiting the area. Be sure to sign our guest book to be added to our newsletter for special announcements. Mention you saw us in About Town & receive special pricing on select items.

5229 Albany Post Rd (Route 9), Staatsburg
845-876-8168

Homes built with quality, care, and craftsmanship.

46 N. Chestnut St, New Paltz
845-255-5988

AboutTown Ulster: PO Box 474, New Paltz, NY 12561, 845-691-2089  EMAIL US
AboutTown Dutchess/Columbia: The Chocolate Factory, 54 Elizabeth Street, Suite 11, Red Hook, NY 12571, 845-758-3616  EMAIL US
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