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Learn to Churn Butter, Make Candles, Dye Wool, & More at Van Cortlandt Manor this Weekend

April 24, 2007

VCM staff teaches how to strip bark off a felled log

Visitors to Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson on April 28 and 29, 2007, can try their hands at more than a dozen colonial-era tasks during “Hands-On Heritage Crafts.” The gardens, grounds, and buildings of this living history museum will be bustling with activity as visitors are encouraged to learn about the traditional activities of the 18th century in an interactive way. Each activity is presented by guides wearing clothing of the period. The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days.

“Colonial guests” can help make candles, churn butter, create cheese, and stitch brooms. They can also try their hands at coopering (barrel making), wool dyeing and spinning, shoe making, tin smithing, flax breaking and spinning, quilting, weaving, and open-hearth cooking. Particularly popular with youngsters is the chance to help Van Cortlandt Manor’s blacksmith forge iron hooks and other items.

VCM volunteer shows a “modern-day friend” how to weave a fish net

Children can also sew a bag designed to hold medicinal herbs and then have it filled with dried botanicals in the manner of the 18th century. One example is a “sleep bag,” which is filled with a mixture of rose petals, mint leaves, and cloves, and was used by early Americans as a cure for insomnia.

“Our approach for this weekend is to offer as many hands-on activities as we possibly can,” said Althea Corey, site director of Van Cortlandt Manor. “There’s no other place in the Hudson Valley where a 21st-century person can experience more crafts and tasks of the 18th century.”

The weekend also features a small farmer’s market, with local artisans selling honey and maple products, an assortment of pickles, relishes, mustards, jams, and cheese.

Admission to Van Cortlandt Manor is $12 for adults; $10 for seniors; $6 for children 5-17; and free for children under 5 and HHV members. Van Cortlandt Manor, a Historic Hudson Valley site, is at 525 South Riverside Avenue (off Route 9) in Croton-on-Hudson. Take the Croton Point Avenue exit from Route 9 and follow the signs. For more information, please call 914-271-8981 or visit


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