Another Great Bookstore Off the Beaten Path - Wilson Homestead

Sunday, June 12, 2022

 Bookstores always remind me that there are good things in the world.

                                           -Vincent Van Gogh

Seems fitting to begin today's blog post with a quote from the subject of my last post - Vincent Van Gogh.  A couple weeks before our visit to the Van Gogh Experience, we traveled northeast  to the tiny town of Hebron, NY, just a little bit west of the Vermont border near Rupert, to visit Wilson Homestead. 

Our trip to Wilson Homestead had been planned for quite some time, since January actually when we went to Vermont to find Luke Larson's restored barn in Middletown Springs VT, as featured on the show, Restoration Road.  On that trip, we purposely planned our route so we could locate Wilson Homestead in the spring when it reopened for the season. We've been biding our time waiting till May 7th when the bookstore opened for the 2022 season and made our pilgrimage the following weekend.  They say good things are worth the wait, and trust me, Wilson Homestead was definitely worth the wait.  

Originally longtime proprietors of Towpath Antiques in Fort Ann NY, Sally and Joe Brillon, knew it was love at first sight when they purchased the 1786 homestead.  They dreamed of owning a bookstore in the old barn and Joe spent years renovating the handful of buildings that call Wilson Homestead home.  Like Rodgers Book Barn in Hillsdale and Owl Pen Books just a short distance away in Greenwich, this bookstore is so much more than a building with books.  Wilson Homestead is a destination, a destination to a time gone by, a simpler time when time seems to have stood still.  Even the journey there felt like an elixir to slow the heart and mind.  If you're anything like me - with a passion for back roads, old barns, farm fields for as far as the eye can see, and a love of old books, you can imagine what a thrill this field trip was.

Sally Brillon was on duty during our visit, buzzing around the property when we arrived.  The consummate hostess greeted us in the parking lot, welcomed us to the shop and gave us a quick lay of the land, including pointing out the 'Chicken Coop'.  She asked that we be sure to close the door when we finished, leaving me to wonder if it was a real chicken coop.   Intrigued by the idea, we visited the coop first and found it was, indeed, filled with chickens, just not egg-producing ones.  The coop is an enchanted little building filled with everything chicken and farm related - farm books, chicken paraphernalia, cookbooks, blacksmith tools, baskets and more.

After some time, and carefully closing the door behind us, we headed to the big barn where my immediate physical reaction was a jaw drop. I've come to the conclusion that bookshop owners are the most skilled of all shopkeepers at packing the most merchandise into a space. While that may sound like a disorganized mess, I can assure you that every nook and cranny in this gorgeous barn, was organized, labeled and neat. Aside from the thousands of books on every subject imaginable, the barn is sprinkled with antiques.

While we were browsing, another customer arrived, (a regular, repeat customer) who told Sally he'd become interested in Mason jars.  When he asked if she knew if she had any books about Mason jars, Sally walked directly to a nearby shelf and promptly plucked a book from its shelf and presented the happy customer with exactly what he was looking for.  That was impressive - no card catalogue or computer research was necessary in helping her find this book within seconds.  

Of course we found a few treasures to bring home, some older editions for decorating purposes and some newer ones for the grandkids.  Once again proving what a small world we live in, when we told Sally about our previous trip by to visit Luke Larson's place, Sally told us she sold Luke some old windows for his restored craft barn! That's not surprising since one of the buildings on the homestead houses architectural salvage pieces.  From Sally's warm hospitality, vast knowledge of local landmarks and history, amazing selection of books (mostly non-fiction, with a cul de sac of fiction as noted in a recent article in Thrillist), this was a visit that satisfied all my senses.  It also provided lots of beautiful photo ops on the nearby country roads.....but first I savored the many right here on the Homestead.

Wilson Homestead is open from May-October, Saturday and Sundays 11:00-4:00 and other times by appointment.  It's located at 1117 Chamberlin Mills Road, Hebron NY.  You can also follow them on Facebook....

Normally I'd suggest making a detour if you're in the area, but in this case I say, plan a ride to Hebron some weekend soon and visit Sally & Joe at Wilson Homestead.  While you're in beautiful Washington County, stop by Owl Pen Books in Greenwich NY and meet the lovely new owners, Eric, Sydney and their delightful daughter, Sally Jane.  Owl Pen is located on Riddle Road in Greenwich and is open Wednesday-Sunday, 11:00-5:00 from May-October.  To read about Owl Pen in a previous post: 

A Return Visit to the Magical Owl Pen Books

Thanks for stopping by Life As I See It.  Come back soon but in the meantime check out my blog Directory for more stories about Life As I See It.


A Trip Into the Art of Vincent Van Gogh at the Immersive Experience

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

 What would life be like if we had no courage to attempt anything?

-Vincent Van Gogh

Aren't we lucky that Van Gogh had courage, courage despite living a short life plagued with depression, psychotic episodes and delusions.  

Dutch artist, Vincent Van Gogh was born in 1853 but didn't become famous until after his death in 1890 at the age of 37 of a self inflicted gunshot. This was not the first evidence of his mental angst.  After a confrontation with his friend, avant-garde Paul Gauguin, Van Gogh cut off a piece of his ear with a razor blade.  None of Vincent Van Gogh's paintings sold until after he died and today his paintings are some of the most expensive paintings ever sold.  

Since 2017, a 360° digital art exhibition has been traveling through Europe, Asia, North and South America.  This "Immersive Experience" just opened in Schenectady NY, and John and I got to experience it first hand today.  I have to admit I wouldn't consider myself a Van Gogh fan but that didn't stop me from thoroughly enjoying the Experience.  And....I have a much better appreciation and admiration for his art after being 'inside' of it today.  I mean that quite literally.

For those unfamiliar, the exhibit is located inside the Armory Studio in Schenectady, otherwise known as the Schenectady Armory on Washington Avenue by Schenectady Community College.  I have to say, the one flaw about the location was the parking.  While there is a small handicap lot on the side of the building with a ramp, the parking lots are a bit of a hike for older folks. It doesn't look far, but you will have to walk around to the front of the building to enter and then climb a flight of steps.  For those who can handle the walk but not the stairs, maybe entry to the building at the handicap lot would be useful.  For the young and able, there's plenty of parking.

Once inside, visitors can wander through a hall of Van Gogh art flanked by information about the artist.  Ticket holders eventually enter a large area with 50ft ceilings where spectators can sit in sling-type chairs or on benches.  We opted for a bench.  For the next 40 minutes, Van Gogh's paintings are projected on every wall with movement and quotes, along with what is meant to be Van Gogh narrating.  At first I'll admit it was a little overwhelming trying to figure out where to look so as not to miss anything, but once we figured out that images would repeat and would appear on one side then the next, we were able to relax our focus and just take it all in.  Beautiful music also played in the background making the exhibit an experience for even more of the senses.  

Above, what you can't see, is the fact that the colors and patterns were moving over a 3D bust of Van Gogh.  It was so mesmerizing!

We had the first tickets of the morning, 10:00am. I expected it not to be crowded on a weekday but was surprised to find a good sized crowd with around 25 waiting outside for the doors to open. I've read that only 200 are admitted at a time and it didn't feel at all crowded in the 20,000sq. ft. space, especially during these Covid times. It's good to know the movie plays on repeat, and guests came and left throughout. Tickets are sold at 30 minute intervals and the entire experience with enjoying the exhibit before the show takes a comfortable 60-75min.

 After leaving the "immersive" part of the show, guests could sit and color Van Gogh's paintings with printed sheets and crayons provided.  

The exhibit was scheduled to be in town through August but was extended.  The exhibit is closed on Tuesdays.  For more information and to buy tickets: Van Gogh in Schenectady  Ticket prices are:
$32.20 for adults, $19.10 for kids 12 and under, $20.70 for seniors, students and military.  For those looking for a VIP experience that includes a special VR experience with goggles. and a "Starry Night" poster, it'll cost you an additional $19.10.  We didn't opt for that but I've heard it's well worth it.  There's also a gift shop filled with a large selection of items bearing Van Gogh's art from jewelry to clothing, umbrellas to notebooks, posters, books and so much more.  I will admit I enjoyed this experience far more than I expected to considering I wasn't an ardent fan.  If you love Van Gogh or art in general, I think you will love it too.

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