As you tour Rhinebeck New York, you’ll find an historic little town nestled in the Northern Hudson Valley New York region with majestic views of the Catskill Mountains, the Hudson River, and more. Rhinebeck is a sophisticated four-corner town, proud of its Dutch History, scenic beauty with tree lined streets that beckon you to meander through very unique specialty shops, where you’ll find contemporary and classic, European and Domestic men’s and women’s apparel, jewelry, lingerie, spa and beauty services, and so much more.
Rhinebeck is also a mecca for art and culture: visual, performing and dance, and Independent Film. Featuring fine dining, casual bistros, and a thriving locavore movement, it has been touted as one of America’s best Gourmet towns. From charming B&B’s to exquisite hotels this town has it all! And … a fabulously lively past.
Since the death of mobster Dutch Schultz in 1935, rumors had proliferated about the whereabouts of his buried treasure up near the craggy ranges of the Catskill Mountains – one of his favorite getaways.
It was in 2010, that a different kind of fortune was unearthed in the town of Pine Plains, New York. Unlike the many other searches made over the previous decades, here lay a find discovered almost eighty years earlier. Less than a mile from the town center stood a 400 acre swath of land known as Harvest Homestead Farm, owned and operated by the Adams family for generations. It was in the heart of this land, beneath a nondescript bunkhouse atop a hill, that the treasure was buried. No, you will not be finding suitcases of gold or cash or even a trove of jewels or stacks of bonds. It was much more rare and valuable to its beholders who found on this farm the foundations of a sprawling complex – a clandestine distillery, the likes of which had never been seen before – welcome to prohibition!
Financed by Schultz and built by rotating teams of local workers during the last gasps of Prohibition in the spring of 1932, this massive underground distilling operation produced thousands of gallons of moonshine against the idyllic backdrop of rural Pine Plains. Can you just imagine? Here, a sprawling network of interconnected tunnels, bunkers and false chimneys ensured, for short while at least, that detection by the authorities was avoided. The “hooch” was produced in an elaborate distillery cleverly secluded in an old cow barn, and constructed of steel reinforced concrete, valves, and pipes scattered throughout the property. Spring houses supplied water from underground aquifers, and a swimming pool served as a cooling reservoir. Tunnels spread throughout the farm, serving as secret passageways between the structures for its workers and as a means of speedy exit in case of trouble. An open secret to his own family, co-founder Alex Adams’s grandfather, Charles, worked the farm at the time as a young “potato harvester.”
Despite their best efforts, the production of moonshine in a sleepy country town did not escape detection. After numerous previous failed attempts, just after dusk on Monday, October 17, 1932, Federal agents raided the site. Among the items found were two 2,000 gallon stills in operation, two high pressure boilers, over 15,000 gallons of mash, 10,000 pounds of sugar, two Ford trucks, one Reo truck, and a Lincoln sedan. Two workers were arrested, and two days later, twelve federal agents returned to destroy all of the equipment seized.
Over the next 78 years, the farm would undergo many changes. Its owner, Patrick Ryan, was a retired New York City policeman, which may have played a part in his avoidance of prison for harboring the distillery. After the raid, he quietly reverted the property back to its turkey farm origins until finally, in 1969, it passed to Janet and Charles Adams, the same “potato harvester” who had worked at the distillery over thirty years earlier. For forty more years, the Adams family kept watch over the farm and its buried secrets. Then, in the Spring of 2008, Charles’s grandson Alex Adams and close friend Ariel Schlein learned of the passage of the New York farm distillers’ law and decided it was time to write another chapter in Dutch’s history!
So, after an extensive archaeological survey and review, the site was added to the New York State Archaeological Inventory as a “Bootleg Era Bunker Complex”, while the New York State Historic Preservation Office deemed it eligible for inclusion in the State and National Register of Historic places. Now, almost eighty years later, Dutch’s Spirits is building a new distillery in the footprint of the original bunkhouse site – the foundations of which are still being unearthed.
They are now working to become a self-sustaining farm operation and agritourism destination specializing in artisanal hand-made spirits. You can purchase some of their first products, including Dutch’s Spirits Sugar Wash Moonshine, Dutch’s Spirits Peach Brandy, and Dutch‘s American Era Cocktail Bitters. As they continue to rebuild this historic site, you will be treated to a tour of the historic remnants of the old spring house and boiler room, over the sprawling tunnel complex, and throughout the cavernous bunker, then onto the original bunkhouse site to see the new work in progress. At the close of this most unique and interesting tour, you will find yourself in their “B&B” (that’s Bitters & Brew), a smaller structure recently completed to test some mash recipes and house the production of their cocktail bitters, Bitters Making Kits and other “soon-to-be-released” items. As visitors, you’ll learn about the bitters-making processes and taste some products, including a few of those test batches. I’ve always been fascinated with “hootch”- I think the word is even fun to say, and given an opportunity to learn about this wild and wooly time in our history, in the place where it happened, is a wonderful opportunity – not to be missed!
Close out this exciting day with dinner at The Ice House on the Hudson. It is located in a beautiful setting, literally in the shadow of the Mid-Hudson Bridge. The restaurant faces the Hudson, and the interior decor maintains the authentic flavor of the former ice house. With a very nice selection of draft beers, good food and excellent service, plus a fun upbeat atmosphere, you will enjoy the most terrific view of the “Walkway over the Hudson”. This is just one of several great days on this tour of upstate New York. Please review the complete itinerary and plan your interlude with “hootch“ and, oh so much more!
Click on the link below for more details on this delightful escorted vacation.
- Escorted vacation (0% fuss, 100% vacation!)
- Tour for active adults (share a great experience!)
- Includes home pickup and return (for clients in Marion and adjacent counties)
Eadie, Interlude Blog Team
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