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Happy birthday Mr. President


KINDERHOOK–The president would have approved of the gift.

That’s Kinderhook native and eighth U.S. President Martin Van Buren, whose home at Lindenwald is south of the village on Route 9H. It’s a national historic site and it’s about to grow larger.

Official announcement of the expansion of land accessible to those who visit the site came Friday, December 4, at a ceremony at the Kinderhook Reformed Church Cemetery marking Van Buren’s 227 birthday a day early–he was born December 5, 1782 and died in 1862. A map of the expanded site covered in bright wrapping paper was unveiled by two students from the Martin Van Buren Elementary School, who ripped away the wrapping assisted by a National Park Service  ranger. The map shows the new land that will come under the control of the historic site, all part of a larger plan to keep the landscape around the historic site much as it was when the president lived there in the mid-19th century.

Twenty-six acres adjacent to Lindenwald will be transferred to the U.S. Park Service by the Open Space Institute (OSI), Dan Dattilio, superintendent of the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, said in a phone interview this week. Another 101 acres will remain privately owned by Roxbury Farm, a large community supported agriculture operation. But OSI has easements on the Roxbury Farm property that will keep the land in agricultural production while opening parts of it to the public. Plans include a new trail that would follow the Kinderhook Creek, which winds through the site.

The historic site, which is operated by the National Park Service, will also take over the Farm Cottage, built by the late president for his “farm boss,” one of only three structures remaining from the time Van Buren lived there.

The original Van Buren estate covered 226 acres, but the Park Service currently owns only 20 acres, with easements on another 19. So the new lands mark substantial progress toward preserving not only the land Van Buren once owned, but also what Mr. Dattilio describes as the historical setting of the property, now commonly referred to as its viewshed. The original estate and viewshed encompass a total of 300 acres, though the site superintendent emphasized that the government would only acquire additional land from willing sellers and prefers to have easements rather than owning more property.

Describing the unspoiled view that greets visitors arriving at the historic site whether they’re driving north or south along Route 9H, Mr. Dattilio said, “What’s really amazing is the opportunity it represents for the community” to show off a part of United States history at a site that still has “a lot of integrity.”

Parry Teasdale contributed to this story.


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