Archive for the ‘Historic Essex’ Category

Totally, unabashedly, irreversibly seduced

In Adirondacks, Boathouse, Carriage Barn, Daily Munge, Historic Essex, House, Ice House, Lake Champlain, Renovation & Rehabilitation on July 19, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Today’s question from Al Katkowsky‘s Question of the Day book was the perfect invitation to reflect on Rosslyn Redux, the “big picture”!

What should you definitely not have done that turned out okay anyway?

In the summer of 2006 I definitely should not have purchased a dilapidated, almost two hundred year old house in Essex, New York. Definitely not. Not if I wanted to stay sane, solvent or married. Not if I wanted to do anything else in my life except for renovating, babysitting contractors, and nurturing this handsome old house back to life…

But I was totally, unabashedly, irreversibly seduced by Rosslyn, a sagging-but-still-stately, almost two century year old property on the Adirondack shores of Lake Champlain. My new bride and I swapped Manhattan for North Country bliss.

Our plan? Renovate a home. Grow a garden. Plant an orchard. Raise a dog. Swim, sail, ski, hike, bike and live happily ever after.

Or not…

Over a hundred carpenters, tradesmen and artisans later; over four times our budget and planned timeline later; and over countless marriage-testing misadventures later we finally finished our renovation. In time for the biggest flood in over two centuries to swamp our boathouse and waterfront for two months…

We should definitely not have undertaken this wildly ambitious project. But we did. And it turned out okay anyway. So far!

Check out for a vicarious plunge into the idiosyncrasies (and absurdities) of our renovation, marriage and North Country life.

Haying with Draft Horses at Full and By Farm

In Adirondacks, Champlain Valley, Daily Munge, Historic Essex, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on June 22, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Another spectacular day in Essex! Perfect summer days mean great gardens, and soon enough I’ll be posting a garden update to show you how well the tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and Brussels sprouts are doing. But first I’d like to introduce you to one of the lifestyle luxuries we’re able to enjoy as Essex residents. Please meet Sara Kurak and James Graves of Full and By Farm.

We pick up our farm share every Thursday evening, and Sara emails the farm members in the morning to let us know what to expect. I’m including last week’s note in its earthy entirety below, and the video tells a little piece of the haying story described in in her note. I hope you enjoy both! Here’s the Full and By Farm note for June 17, 2011.

We are trucking right along this week—moving animals, planting crops, harvesting, weeding, cutting hay, cutting soap, building wagons, enjoying the moderately warm sunshine. This is our first year cutting our own hay and the learning and preparation curves have been steep. Given the uncertain weather predictions for the week and all of our new-to-us equipment we decided to cut one small field on Tuesday and get the process down before going for it whole hog. We took Abby and Lightning out on the horse-drawn mower, selecting the smallest field, but coincidentally the steepest and least rectangular. They took it on like champs, despite several problems with the mower, and the sneaking suspicion that lots of sharp scissors are following right at one’s heels. James is out now tedding the field, we plan to rake, bale, pick-up and unload all TODAY. Hay wagon building has largely been a late night activity. If we seem a little shell-shocked at pick-up tonight, please be nice, it’s been a long day and week.

The vegetables are perking up and getting green out in the fields. Our current harvests however are still being hampered by the earlier mud season issues of poor germination and cloudy skies, followed by the really hot week which caused the soggy, stressed out plants to bolt. All this to say that we are starting to harvest a little bit of a lot of things. Great news on the variety front, but hard to divide up 40 ways. We’re getting creative though and offering up some fun stuff at the share tonight and as well as sweet things to nibble on while picking them up.

Three important things to know today:

1) We are having our spring farm tour and member dinner two weeks from tonight, on Thursday June 30th at 6pm. We’ll provide a farm-fresh dinner and solid wagon ride. You all bring the desserts, a place setting and drinks to share. Please rsvp by email or the list in the csa room. I’ve put in the rainbow request already, but they won’t guarantee a thing this far out.

2) We are officially rolling out the Full and By Farm “Go Whole Hog” challenge tonight!!! The rules are simple: fill out a card for your household, this will live at the farm. Check off the boxes after you’ve used each of the cuts on the list**. When your card is completed you will get a hand printed “Go Whole Hog” shirt or grocery bag. **And don’t worry, we’ll help you out with some of the more challenging ones.

3) Our last spring calf was born on Monday into a muddy puddle. It was a rough entry, but his long legs helped him out. We had originally named him Gus after the legendary Texas Ranger Augustus McCrae. But after getting to know him a little the name just doesn’t seem right, mostly due to his challenge with direction (i.e. his tendency to walk the opposite way when we move the cow herd). We’re considering Gonzo and Gulliver. Bring your vote tonight, write in’s are welcome.

In the veggie share: lettuce, lettuce, lettuce, spicy lettuce mix, braising mix, stir-fry add-ins, spring onions, spinach, nettles (by popular demand) potatoes, celeriac, black and white beans. coming soon: garlic scapes, baby turnips and radishes.

In the meat share: pork, chicken and ground beef, lard and leaf lard, lavender soap.

See you all tonight between 4 and 6,

Three Perks of Life in Essex

In Daily Munge, Historic Essex, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on June 16, 2011 at 5:07 pm
Three reasons I love living in Essex, New York: Essex Glass, Essex Provisions and Tom Duca.

Three more reasons why I love living in Essex, New York: Beverly Eichenlaub's Essex Glass,Essex Provisions' shrimp quiche and Tom Duca's find-a-problem-solve-a-problem magic!

Yesterday afternoon Beverly Eichenlaub sent me a message:

“Fresh Item: Cufflinks! Come on over and choose your pair!”

She’s heading off to represent her jewelry, Essex Glass, at a Father’s Day show in Rhinebeck later today, so I zipped right over this afternoon to see what she’d built. Bev and her husband Bryan Burke are the architects behind Premises Architecture + Design, but like so many of us living in Essex, she prefers to wear a couple of hats. She’s an inspired (and inspiring) artist. “July”, a patriotic three dimensional collage created by Bev adorns the wall next to my desk, and my bride wears her beautiful earrings all the time. In fact, they’ve become one of her favorite gifts for family and friends!

July, by Beverly Eichenlaub

July, by Beverly Eichenlaub

So it came as no surprise that her glass cufflinks were handsome works of art. She even designed a beautiful pair (the ones on the left in the photo above) to match a pair of earrings that she’d made for my bride. Can you imagine us showing up at The Depot Theatre with matching accessories? Snazzy! And better yet? She gave them to me as a gift. Today is Thursday, June 16, and no, it’s not my birthday. Or Christmas. It’s just another day in Essex… See why I love it here? Thanks, Bev. I love the cufflinks you gave me, and I’m excited to give the two pairs I bought as gifts. I know they’ll be well received. Good luck in Rhinebeck.

On my back to Rosslyn, I dropped into Essex Provisions for a mid-afternoon snack. They have the world’s best (bar none) oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and they’re always warm and gooey. Perfect pick-me-up for a few more hours at the keyboard! My bride is unable to eat chocolate (Aaahhh, the injustice!) so I picked up a fresh berry muffin for her. That was the plan, just a quick snack times two. But when I arrived at the cash register, two exquisite quiches were smiling up at me. Both vegetarian, fresh and delicious smelling. A quick call to my bride: “Susan, Essex Provisions has just baked an exquisite tomato basil quiche and a shrimp and herb quiche. Would you like one?”



“Sure, one for now and one for later.”

“But they’re huge!”

“We can freeze one…”

Gluttony. Essex Provisions has tapped into our visceral appetites since opening less than a month ago. The food is delicious. The shop is spotless and charming with an outstanding view of Lake Champlain (out over the marinas). And the two ladies who run it are gracious and friendly. Win, win, win.

I convinced my bride that the shrimp quiche would be plenty for now. Dinner tonight. Perhaps lunch tomorrow. And then we could swing in for a fresh quiche this weekend or next weekend.

Feeling totally spoiled by this point, I headed back to Rosslyn where I bumped into Tom Duca. Tom was one of our first friends when we arrived in Essex. He’s the unofficial Essex cruise director and an all around good guy. His laughter and hugs are intricately woven into the Essex experience. Not just my Essex experience, but everybody’s Essex experience. I’m not kidding! Ask around…

In addition to town ambassador and hugger, Tom’s a gifted and hardworking carpenter. He spent the last two days building and installing a hook/hanging station outside our sports closet. I’ll share a photo soon. But the amazing thing about Tom is that each time he’s worked for us, he’s divined additional projects that need doing. And then he does them. Just like that. Sometimes before we’ve even realized something needs fixing! In the photo above, he’s painting a gate that needed touching up. Earlier he’s discovered that another gate wasn’t closing properly because the stone wall into which one side was mounted had shifted during the winter. He brought a jack and fixed the gatepost for the second year in a row without even being asked. And then touched the gate and gateposts up with paint. This morning I spied him touching up another gate, one of a pair of unique gates that he built and designed about a year ago. You can look forward to a full post with photos and drawings in the not-too-distant future. Tom solves all of these problems quickly, efficiently and perfectly. All without making a fuss. Trust me, this is extremely exceptional behavior for a contractor! And we feel incredibly fortunate for his work and his friendship.

What an afternoon! And these are just the three most recent perks of life in Essex…

Hickory Hill and Rosslyn

In Artifacts, Daily Munge, Historic Essex, History & Heritage, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on May 19, 2011 at 7:00 am
The Ross Mansion, Essex, NY

The Ross Mansion, Essex, NY

I recently happened on this antique postcard of the Ross Mansion (aka Hickory Hill) which was built by the parents of W.D. Ross, the original owner of Rosslyn in the early 1820s. It still presides handsomely at the intersection of Elm Street and Church Street. I’m still sorting out the Ross family tree, intricately woven into the history of Essex, New York, and I’ll do my best to paint a clear picture as it emerges. For now, a couple of interesting references include:

History of the Town of Essex

Henry H. Ross (Wikipedia)

Honorable Henry H. Ross (Lancet Portrait Gallery)

Ross, Henry Howard (Biographical Directory of the Unites States Congress)

The interesting connection between Rosslyn and Hickory Hill is illuminated in Living Places: Essex Village Historic District.

“Hickory Hill” on Elm Street, and “Rosslyn” on the Lake Shore Road represent the residences of the wealthy merchants and lawyers who dominated Essex in the early days of its prosperity. Two-and-a-half-story brick structures whose design combines Georgian and Federal elements, both “Hickory Hill” and “Rosslyn” were built before 1830. The building of “Hickory Hill” (1822) built by Henry Harmon Ross for his bride, was taken from a five-bay design in Salem, New York. It displays great grace and lightness in its Palladian window, Neo-classic portico, and elegant cornices. Its setting in its own spacious grounds on the ridge which overlooks the village and the lake adds much to its beauty. “Rosslyn”, the William D. Ross house, originally constructed as a three-bay side hall dwelling, was expanded (1835-40) into five bays. Presently restored to its appearance in 1840, it commands a superb view of the lake and the Green Mountains in Vermont.

Another genealogical reference appears in

DANIEL ROSS: born February 23, 1764, Duchess County, NY; son of Daniel Ross (c 1740- c July 22, 1795) and Jerusa Howard; married Elizabeth Gilliland June 1784; one of the original settlers of Essex, NY on lands given to his wife by her father William Gilliland; had five children- Elizabeth, William Daniel, Henry Howard, Edward D., and Sara Jane; divorced Elizabeth c July 1815; Captain of Militia, Justice of the Peace, merchant, first Essex County Judge, and most prominent citizen; died at the home of his son Henry, Hickory Hill, Essex, NY March 10, 1831 at 67.

ELIZABETH GILLILAND ROSS EVERTSON: born 1764 in New York City; first child of William Gilliland (c1734-1796) and Elizabeth Phagan (c1740-1772); married Daniel Ross June 1785; had five children noted above; divorced c July 1815; married John J. Evertson by April 1, 1823; Evertson died by 1829; after Daniel’s death in 1831, she returned to her son Henry’s home, Hickory Hill, Essex, NY and died there August 3, 1847 at 83.

I will be adding Ross family references that I only have in print over the coming months. For now, here is an interesting if somewhat garbled snapshot of William Daniel Ross from Caroline Halstead Barton Royce as recorded in Bessboro: a history of Westport, Essex Co., N.Y. (Note: corrections are mine and possibly erroneous.)

William Daniel Ross dealt in lumber, iron and ship-building in Essex ; his wife was a sister of John Gould, Aid on Gen. Wright’s stafi; and his brother, Henry H. Boss, (afterward Gen. Ross,) was adjutant of the 87th at the battle of Plattsburgh.

If you can point me toward accurate history, genealogy, etc. for the Ross family of Essex, New York, please contact me. I would be much indebted to you. Thank you in advance.

Rosslyn for Sale

In Adirondacks, Boathouse, Historic Essex, House, Lake Champlain, Memoir, What's Rosslyn?, What's the story?, Where's Rosslyn? on May 16, 2011 at 11:16 am
Rosslyn for sale, November 2004

Rosslyn for sale (photo credit Jason McNulty)

Susan and I were driving back to Rock Harbor after visiting Rosslyn, an early 19th century home in Essex, New York, which our realtor had just shown us for the second time in several months.

It was spring. At least a dozen sailboats speckled Whallons Bay as we wound south along the edge of Lake Champlain. Small white caps, light wind, bluebird skies above. Two fishing boats trawled between the beach and Split Rock where a glimpse of Vermont was visible within the cleft.

We veered away from the lake and up Couchey Hill toward one of the most picturesque views of in the Champlain Valley. Hurricane, Giant, Dix and the Jay Range were silhouetted against cloud specked blue skies to the east. An undulating patchwork quilt of hayfields and tree lines stretched to blue green foothills clumped against the Adirondack Mountains.

Half an hour can vanish in a single breath while watching a sunny day expire here. Even at midday the view is an open-ended invitation to linger.

But with minds and mouths racing, we did not even slow down on our way back to Rock Harbor. We were sorting engagements, worrying over deadlines and synchronizing schedules for the week ahead. After a quick lunch, we would drive back to Manhattan. Although the trip could be as quick as five hours, Sunday afternoons were typically slower with increased traffic around Albany and returning weekenders adding to the congestion.

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