Stockade Walkabout puts focus on heritage of Schenectady

A conversation between Christopher Yates and Dirck Romeyn? Two of Schenectady’s leading figures from

A conversation between Christopher Yates and Dirck Romeyn?

Two of Schenectady’s leading figures from the late 18th century, Yates and Romeyn probably did have a friendly chat or two at the First Reformed Church 225 years ago, and it will happen again on Saturday as part of the 52nd annual Stockade Walkabout.

History and art, not so much homes, will be the theme of this year’s Walkabout, which has been incorporated into a larger event called the Schenectady Stockade Heritage Weekend. Things begin Friday night at the Mabee Farm’s new Franchere Education Center with a gala event showcasing the artwork of Len Tantillo and continue on Saturday with the Walkabout and an all-day seminar for history lovers at St. George’s Episcopal Church.

Schenectady Stockade Heritage Weekend

WHAT: Three events celebrating Schenectady’s history

WHEN: 6-9 p.m. Friday, Tantillo exhibit at the Mabee Farm in Rotterdam Junction; 11 a.m-5 p.m. Saturday, the Stockade Walkabout (“A Walk Through History”), at various sites in the Stockade; and 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, “New Interpretations–Schenectady 1661-1715,” at the Great Hall in St. George’s Episcopal Church

HOW MUCH: $25 for Tantillo reception, $15 for “A Walk Through History” and $60 for “New Interpretations”

MORE INFO: 374-0263, ext. 5, or

Instead of the house tour that Walkabout patrons are used to, this year’s event will have a series of presentations going on at nine different locations in the Stockade neighborhood. Some of the presentations will be short skits, prepared by historian Susan Staffa for the Colonial Schenectady Project 20 years ago. Staffa died in July of 2010.

Colonial conversation

One of the stops will be at the First Reformed Church, where Colonial leader Christopher Yates, played by George Marshall, will have a conversation with pastor Dirck Romeyn, played by current First Reformed associate minister Daniel Carlson.

“Originally we thought we might have four or five little skits, but the thing kind of mushroomed,” said Marshall, who in past Walkabouts has dressed in period costume and portrayed Schenectady founder Arendt Van Curler and Alexander Lindsay Glen, the first resident of Scotia. “Now we have actors and re-enactors, all in period costume, at nine different locations in the Stockade. Some will be more like short lectures, and some will have a full cast and include a performance.”

In November of 1784, one year after the American Revolution officially came to a close after the Treaty of Paris, Romeyn became the pastor at First Reformed. He had previously been in New Jersey, where he had been an enthusiastic supporter of the American cause and had actually been on the run from the British throughout the war. Yates, meanwhile, was a prominent Schenectady citizen who had performed capably in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. He died on Sept. 1, 1785, in part due to his war wounds, at the age of 48.

So during that 10-month span when they were both in Schenectady, the two staunch Patriots undoubtedly would have met and shared war experiences.

“Ours is a play with six or seven people, and in it we will have Yates and Romeyn meeting shortly after the American Revolution, and they will be talking about the future of Schenectady, Union College and about education for future generations,” said Marshall. “Our script is based on the material that Susan Staffa put together, and we’re pretty excited about it. It’s different and new, and we think the people are going to enjoy it.”

Commercial development

Over near the English Garden Bed and Breakfast at 205 Union St., visitors will get to listen in on a conversation between Daniel Campbell and Alexander Ellice, two men who weren’t too quick to join the Patriot cause.

“We’re going to take up Susan Staffa’s point that capitalism in America began in Schenectady,” said former Schenectady County Historical Society president Frank Taormina, who is directing the 10-minute production.

“We’ll have a conversation between Campbell and Ellice talking to each other about how wide their commercial business interests are. They both had stores right in that area, so people will learn how capitalism was carried out by these two men.”

A re-enactment of an early Sons of Liberty meeting at Clench’s Tavern, with Nick Barber directing, will also be part of the program — near the corner of North Church and State streets.

For a more scholarly look at Schenectady’s early history, “New Interpretations — Schenectady 1661-1715,” will begin with a special tour of the Stockade at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. Tantillo will begin the official program at 10:45 a.m. at St. George’s Episcopal Church.

Another speaker will be Bethel historian Brenda Safer, who will talk about early Dutch cartographer Jacques Corteljou at 11:30 a.m. After a break for lunch, Schenectady County Community College’s Diana Carter will start the afternoon program at 1:15 with a talk titled “A Schenectady Fort Before 1690?” Others scheduled to speak include Claire Hamilton (“The Teller Pasture”), Marilyn Sassi (“Pottery and Porcelains”) and John Ackner (“Blacksmithing in Schenectady”). An hourlong roundtable discussion will conclude the day’s activities at 4:30.

Art lovers, meanwhile, will have the Schenectady County Historical Society’s collection to look at throughout the day, while Edwin Becker’s 1960 mural representing Schenectady’s history will be on display at the First Niagara Bank on State Street. All three of the Stockade’s historic churches will also be open to the public.

Art at the farm

The weekend gets started on Friday night at the Mabee Farm, where Tantillo expects anywhere between 40 and 50 of his paintings to be on display. It will be just the fourth time that such an extensive collection of Tantillo originals have been gathered together for one show, the most recent coming in 2009 at the West Fries Museum in Hoorn, the Netherlands.

“There’ll be some paintings in the exhibit that I did a very long time ago, so for me it’s going to be interesting to see how my painting style has evolved,” said Tantillo, who lives in Nassau in Rensselaer County. “I’ll probably think that I could have done all of them better. I think I’m still maturing as an artist, but my subject matter has been consistent. I’m still as fascinated by history as I was all those years ago when I first started.”

Among the Tantillo originals on hand will be “The Old Erie Canal,” “The Half Moon in Newburgh Bay” and “Bay of Manhattan.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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