The Bevier-Elting House or Finding Dina Dubois
By John R. Greenwood
I’ve found myself entwined in another curious Jack Lewis, Hudson River connection.
|New Paltz, New York |
My job is in transportation. I work in the Hauling Department of a local convenience store chain with locations throughout New York State. Many of them can be found in the small cities, towns, and villages along both sides of the Hudson River, from Lake Placid, which is within a few miles of the source of the Hudson, to Newburgh just a few miles north of it’s final destination New York City. Since my initial discovery of Jack Lewis’ “The Hudson River”, I have found and documented many of the same places Jack included in his 1960’s journeys. Some of them are actually visible from the parking lot of places I’ve delivered to hundreds of times.
On August 22, 2014 I visited Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz, New York. Twelve Huguenot families settled here in the late 1600’s. By the 1700’s many of them had built stone homes. Many of those homes remain today. They are well maintained and beautiful to behold. Although these homes are along the Wallkill River and not the Hudson, they were of special interest to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Franklin’s childhood home, Springwood Estate in Hyde Park, is just a few miles south on the banks of the Hudson. Since Eleanor Roosevelt is responsible for asking Jack Lewis to do his Hudson River book of paintings documenting places along the Hudson, I’m certain she felt it was important to include some references to the stone homes on Huguenot Street. It’s well documented that the Roosevelt’s had a special love for the stone homes in the area.
On this day I planned to ride with one of my drivers on his route in the New Paltz area. When researching the location of Huguenot Street I “Googled” it. It was then that I realized that Historic Huguenot Street is only a block away from the New Paltz location where we would be making a delivery. I made sure I had my Jack Lewis book and my camera tucked away in my day pack. I met my driver at the Distribution Plant at 3:30am. The only thing left was to pray for the rain to stop and for the sun to come up early enough for me to catch a glimpse of one of the historic homes Jack painted in his book.
When we exited the NYS Thruway at New Paltz the rain had stopped and it was beginning to get light out. I’d been on this route dozens if not hundreds of times. This store was actually on my route back in the 90’s when I was still driving and making deliveries but today had a special feel to it.
I was like a little kid about to pull into the parking lot at Disney. It’s funny how something as simple as finding places another man painted fifty years ago could give you such an adrenaline rush. As we turned onto Route #32 I saw a sign I had passed one hundred times before and never noticed. Historical Huguenot Street was within my grasp. I asked my driver Pete to pull over to the side of now quiet Route #32. I jumped out before he realized what I was doing. I yelled back to him, “I’ll meet you at the store!” I was grinning from ear to ear.
My legs and joints were as stiff as a dry board from our two and a half hour ride, I hobbled down the street like an injured Harrison Ford with the Lost Ark in view. In less than 100 yards all I could see was historical markers and stone houses--some dating back to the late 1600’s. In the morning light I’d found my Holy Grail for the day. The Bevier-Elting House stood there with open arms welcoming me and my camera. She stood there strong and proud, in all her grace, staring back at me as if to say,”Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you!”
I was so excited that when I tried to pull Jack’s book out of my pack, I dropped my camera and it bounced across the pavement. I wanted the book out so I could compare the 1962 painting to the 2014 version that I was looking at. When the camera skidded to a stop, my heart did the same. If my camera had broken at that moment I may never have been heard from again. I lifted her gently, said a Hail Mary, and checked her vital signs. She's a tough little SONY. I patted her scratchy viewfinder and began clicking away. I was in writer-photographer-historian-artist-heaven for awhile. The street was eerily silent, I was screaming for joy.
In this post I included various shots I took that morning comparing the book’s black and white photographs of Jack’s watercolor paintings done in 1962 to the photographs I was taking at 6:30 in the morning in 2014.
I would tell you that discovering Huguenot Street and the Bevier-Elting House made my day but that would be lying. As if finding another connection to Jack’s Hudson River book wasn’t enough I later found yet one more that has me ready to set out on another story-mining expedition. In Jack’s book he speaks of a young girl whose painting he’s asked to critique.
Here is an excerpt from the book where he describes the meeting:
|"The Hudson River" - Jack Lewis |
I said to myself,”What are the odds of finding Dina Dubois, that young women from 1962?” It seemed reasonable. Google, now being man’s second best friend might provide some assistance. I sat down at computer, took a shovel full of dirt, tossed it over my shoulder, and began digging once again. Look out Dina Dubois where ever you are!
| "The Hudson River" - Jack Lewis|
One day later, the male voice on the phone responded to my question, “Is there a Dina Dubois who lives at this number who might have a connection to Huguenot Street?”
The man said, “Why yes there is, but she’s out for a walk with friends right now.”
He said, “She loves talking about her history with Huguenot Street so if you could call back in about forty-five minutes I’m sure she would enjoying speaking with you.”
As an old timer once said to me, “Wouldn’t that dunk yer hat in the creek!”
Did you ever notice how time drags when Dina’s out for a walk.
To be continued...