When confronted with paying the admission fee during my recent visit to Washington Irving’s Sunnyside, I was presented with the option of joining Historic Hudson Valley as a member. This kind of thing appeals to me. I picture myself in a series of decadent ball gowns, flitting from one red carpet gala to the next. By happenstance, I wound up in Washington D.C. at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2009 with the President and First Lady, Springsteen, Mel Brooks – not my usual social circle. I threw myself at Alan Alda on the coat check line, gushing hysterically about the brilliance of M*A*S*H. It was humiliating, yet strangely exhilarating.
Memberships may not be the route to glamour and glitz, but they do help open doors for you that may otherwise be closed. For example, my membership to MOMA got me in ahead of the crowds to a Tim Burton exhibit. But I allowed my membership to languish despite repeated pleas from MOMA; they begged me to attend cocktail parties and movie screenings, hoping I’d donate a new wing I guess, but I never managed to get to any of the special members-only events.
Since I live relatively close to all the member sites in Historic Hudson, I figured I stood a better chance of maximizing my membership. The lady in Victorian garb who elbow-twisted me into the purchase mentioned the added perk of free tickets for members to the Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze, the Hudson Valley’s premier Halloween event. Sold!
The membership cost $100. I was given free admission that day to Sunnyside ($12). My two free Blaze tickets saved me $32 but I certainly had more visiting to do to make it all worthwhile.
On Columbus Day, I headed over to the Union Church of Pocantico Hills ($7). Originally built by the Rockefellers, this tiny church is home to priceless stained glass windows. The rose window was designed by Matisse on his deathbed in Nice. Photos of the work in progress show a template of the design taped to his bedroom wall.
Nine windows by Marc Chagall are also located in the church, including the breath-taking Good Samaritan at the rear of the church, similar in scale to Chagall’s windows in Israel at the Hadassah Medical Center. Volunteers are in the church during regular hours to talk about the origin of the windows (and to keep you from taking photographs – I snapped the rose window before the prohibition was issued.) Or download the app, Matisse and Chagall in Rockefeller Country. Make sure you go on a sunny day. You will not be disappointed.