Our Themes

The Rockefeller Family Legacy

John D. Rockefeller Jr. was a passionate philanthropist and preservationist: His sons were leaders in business, government, environmental advocacy, and champions of art. The Rockefeller legacy of preservation and passion for education informs the themes and operations of present-day Historic Hudson Valley in so many ways, from our tours of Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate, to our interpretation of the Chagall and Matisse windows at Union Church of Pocantico Hills, commissioned by the family.

Our Pocantico Hills headquarters and library at 639 Bedford Road sits on land donated to us by Laurance S. Rockefeller, and family members continue to support the organization’s efforts, serving on its Board of Trustees, contributing expertise and thought leadership.


Washington Irving

America’s “Founding Father of Literature” was also the country’s first home-grown celebrity. His achievements propelled him into highly visible roles in government, and his literary characters like the Headless Horseman, Rip Van Winkle, and Brom Bones are iconic fixtures in America’s cultural history.

Irving’s magic pen and colorful life are starting points for our exploration into the country’s literary history. His charming country homestead of Sunnyside, with its whimsical mélange of architectural flourishes set snug against the Hudson, continues to delight visitors. And Sunnyside is the place where visitors connect the tales of Washington Irving to the American art of storytelling, past and present.


Halloween in Sleepy Hollow Country

Washington Irving put Sleepy Hollow on the map, literally, through his classic tale “Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Now, Historic Hudson Valley’s major Halloween season events — steeped in the heritage of Irving’s tales — are among the biggest in the country. The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, Horseman’s Hollow, Irving’s Legend, and Legend Behind the Legend draw more than 160,000 visitors each fall.

No longer a single evening where goblins roam the neighborhood in search of sugary treats, Halloween as experienced in Sleepy Hollow Country is a full season of entertainment, kicking off in early October and extending through mid-November.


Slavery in the Colonial North

In the late 1990s, Historic Hudson Valley, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, made a bold decision to radically change its approach to Philipsburg Manor. Tossing out a focus on the site’s Dutch owners, Historic Hudson Valley instead shifted the lens to the enslaved Africans who involuntarily labored there.

Commonly thought to exist solely in Southern colonies, slavery had a significant presence in the North as well. Employing conscripted men and women was a vital part of the twin economic engines of agriculture and manufacturing. By 1750, more than 11,000 enslaved people were in the colony of New York alone.

Now, through innovative beyond-our-walls school programs like Runaway Art, Historic Hudson Valley is bringing its curriculum to thousands of schoolchildren each year. By telling the story of slavery in the colonial North, Historic Hudson Valley plays a crucial role in the public’s understanding of the history of race relations in this country.