The 2019 Madison County Hop Fest Tour on Sunday, September 15th, will feature exemplary architectural structures that demonstrate the four components of 19th century hop processing, as well as provide new sites of the county’s hop heritage.
Visitors will get to enter the hop houses, see the elements and tools, smell the hop aroma saved in the timbers, and hear the explanations of the processes. The tour will include many “windshield viewings” of other sites included in the 2006 Bicentennial Hop Heritage Trail and in the Cultural Resources Survey supported by a grant from the Preservation League of New York State in 2006.
The tour begins at 9 am, attendees will be welcomed at the Bittersweet hop exhibit in the Carriage Barn, informed of the four components of a hop house to observe during the tour, and supplied with a guide brochure.
The first stop on the tour will be the preserved 1867 circular limestone oast house as one may see today only in Kent County, United Kingdom. The New England hop farmers first looked to England for models of kilns to dry hops. The kilns of Central New York State architecturally represent the 19th and early 20th C. hop industry in the Northeast. This conical roofed draft hop kiln with a high English cowl has been lovingly cared for by the Marshall Family of Munnsville. Visitors will enter the round stone stove room and walk through the press room and climb to the drying room with its towering cone roof above the fabric lined lattice floor.
The coach will continue to travel south through the Stockbridge valley where there were many hop farms in the 1800s, and associated industries like the manufacture of the Munnsville plow. The next stop will be Foothill Hops established in 2001 by Kate and Larry Fisher. The Fishers decided to bring hop growing back to the valley, were early hop growers in the state, were primaries in the development of the Northeast Hop Alliance with Cornell University, and now are brewing craft beer. Larry will provide explanations of the hops being dried and packaged, and Kate will welcome visitors to the brew shop.
As the tour progresses the coach will slow down and or pull over for “windshield observations” of other varieties of hop houses along the way. The tour will drive around the hamlet of Bouckville where commercial hop growing was introduced to New York State in 1808. A Pomeroy state sign identifies the field where James D. Coolidge planted those first hops, and that sign provides a popular photo option. Houses with visible dormitories for hop pickers will be sited. A lunch at the Colgate Inn in Hamilton has been arranged for the tour.
A stop and entry will be at a double pyramidal hop house built across the Sangerfield River valley from its twin. Visitors will enter the press room of the barn and from there experience the immensity of the two kilns beneath the matching pyramidal roofs. This building was an emergency preservation project in a collaborative effort with volunteers from the Madison County Historical Society and Cornell University Historic Preservation Department. In 2006 the owner was awarded a NYS Barn Grant which provided a new roof for the building. The hop pickers’ sleeping quarters in the Victorian house have been become part of the Drover Hill bed and breakfast.
The tour will visit an unusual hop house with two kilns side by side under one roof. This structure, too, was restored with a NYS Barn Grant – and contributions of labor and funding by the owners, Donna and Keith Merkt. The hop house is located on Smith Road that has other hop houses as well.
The tour will travel cross Madison County to visit The Bineyard in the town of Cazenovia. Owner host Chad Meigs, who has been growing hops for nine years, will guide visitors through the hop processing stages of harvesting, drying, pelletizing, and packaging.
The tour will finish back at the Madison County Historical Society by 5 pm. Guides for the tour will be Carl Stearns, preservation architect, and Dot Willsey, founder of Hop Fest. Participants are advised to wear closed toe footwear.
The Madison County Historical Society is located at 435 Main Street, Oneida. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased online, or by calling (315) 363-4136 by September 6th.
Photo of Drover Hill bed and breakfast provided.