Elizabeth Finkelstein says that “even as a two-year-old I understood the magic of old houses.”
Her parents, Dr. Joel and Gail Solomon, raised their family in one of the most historic homes in Queensbury, New York, on Chestnut Ridge Road. Called the Nehemiah Wing house, it was named after one of the 19th century owners, a descendant of Abraham Wing, a founder of nearby Glens Falls. The original clapboard part of the home is believed to date to the 18th century. The brick addition was constructed in 1852.
Ms. Finkelstein’s appreciation of old homes has turned into a lifelong passion for her and her husband Ethan; an Instagram account with 1.6-million followers; and now a TV show Cheap Old Houses that will debut on Monday, Aug. 9, on HGTV and Discovery Plus.
In New York State’s bucolic Washington County, on the edge of the hamlet of Salem, is a beehive of artistic activity known as “SAW,” for Salem Art Works. Founder Anthony Cafritz, writes “In a time when a lot of artwork is created in a reductive, ‘hands-off’ approach, SAW’s mission is to blend and create an atmosphere where all methodologies, approaches and concepts are equal. This fluid, investigative curiosity is a timeless pursuit which underpins a large part of the human experience.”
During the last week of May, I headed out to New York State’s Finger Lakes region with one of my oldest friends. Destination: the charming village of Aurora, on the east side of Cayuga Lake. After we arrived, we were joined by another friend of mine. We spent several laughter-filled days visiting wineries, shopping at the newly opened outlet store at the headquarters of MacKenzie-Childs, and staying at a beautiful property owned by the Inns of Aurora.
After my husband and I were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in March, we were thrilled to celebrate our new status by having a weekend away, in the sleepy picture book village of Grafton, Vermont. My husband wrote a piece about our escape for our newspaper, The Chronicle. I have reproduced it below, accompanied by my photos.
Last Sunday, we headed out to Gardenworks Farm, in Salem, NY, to visit with our good friends and the farm’s owners, Meg and Rob Southerland, and to select our Christmas tree. It was just like old times, piling into the car with our two sons, worried about whether our younger son would feel car sick on the drive over hill and dale to get to the farm. Surprise — our “boys” are now in their mid-twenties, having returned home during the pandemic to work from our home, yet both were enthusiastic about accompanying my husband and me on our tree venture — and no one got car sick! Indeed, I had hoped to go to the farm a few days earlier, but my sons complained that their work schedules didn’t allow them to go then, and how could I even consider not including them in such a classic family tradition?
Last fall I spent a magical week taking an adult education course at Oxford University, in Oxford, UK. Following the conclusion of my program, I headed to London and met up with my husband, who flew in from the States to meet me. After a couple of days that allowed him to acclimate to the time zone, we hopped on a train at Kings Cross Station and took the two-hour ride north to the city of York.
After spending a few days in York we rented a car and stayed on the grounds of Fountains Abbey, a World Heritage Site. During our stay, we explored the ruins of the Abbey and the adjacent Studley Royal Park. We spent a day taking a historic steam train through the Yorkshire Moors to Whitby, a coastal town known for its fish and chips, as well as being the location of a ruined abbey that was an inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. We also explored some of the beautiful landscape in this part of Yorkshire, which is England’s largest county.
For nearly 35 years my closest friend from childhood, who now lives in New York State’s Dutchess County, has rented a place on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard for an August getaway. She has been generous in her invitations to me to stay with her, and I’ve been blessed to spend time there. This summer, 2020, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, all of her plans, and mine, were cancelled because of concerns of being in crowded spaces in a place that attracts visitors from across the world.
Following up on my post about Frida Kahlo’s home in Mexico City, La Casa Azul, I’d like to share photos I took of the murals painted on walls in the Mexican National Palace by Diego Rivera, Frida’s husband.
Each June, the formal gardens at Hildene, in Manchester, Vermont, overflow with an abundance of heirloom peonies. Built at the turn of the 20th century as the summer home of Robert Lincoln, the only child of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, Hildene was saved from development by local residents in the 1970s after the last descendant of the Lincoln family living there died in 1975. The Friends of Hildene purchased the estate in 1978, worked to restore the home and gardens, and then opened it to the public. Here’s a quick history of the property from the Hildene web site.
I know there’s no shortage of people ruminating on the Web about being stuck at home and the various ways they are trying to cope during the Covid-19 shutdown. I am intensely grateful that I can do my work for our business from home, I don’t often have to venture into public places, and I don’t have young children at home who need help with schoolwork! Above all, I am thankful that most of my friends and family seem to be healthy and weathering the storm.
The line up on our kitchen counter. Grateful to have a can of Lysol spray.
But since we can’t physically travel, and are pretty much confined at home, I haven’t published an article on my blog since January, when I wrote about our visit to Frida Kahlo’s home in Mexico City. So even though I can’t share some wonderful destination, I can share what’s been happening in my house in northern New York State.