Austerlitz, New York
Located in eastern Columbia County, the town of Austerlitz was named after the Battle of Austerlitz.
Austerlitz was called home by the Pulitzer-prize winning poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, who lived at Steepletop, a more than 800-acre property that had previously been a farm and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1973 a non-profit artist residency program, the Millay Colony for the Arts, was founded and a small portion of the land was deeded to the organization. In 1978, the non-profit Edna St. Vincent Millay Society was created to oversee the house and remainder of the property.
According to the town’s website, Austeritz was founded in the 1750s. “The streams of Austerlitz gave rise to industries such as farming, raising sheep, and mill operations. Saw mills, grist mills, mills for wool carding and the making of cider, shingles and planes enabled the settlers to make a living. Vestiges of old mills, early gravesites and historic buildings still remain.”
A beautiful 1850s church is the setting for the town’s Holiday Sing in December, and the schoolhouse is where local children participate in games, lessons and stories led by the school’s former students.
The area is known for its Blueberry Festival and Autumn in Austerlitz event. “Blueberries, prolific on Harvey Mountain, figured prominently in the life of earlier settlers, since the sale of blueberries helped them pay their taxes,” the town website notes. “Summer now brings demonstrations of early crafts, blueberry sweets, a puppeteer, hand-made products and music – all at the Blueberry Festival.”
At Autumn in Austerlitz, men, women and children dress in 1830’s period attire. “Games, stories, home baked goods, music, sheep-shearing, tinsmithing, and more add to a day of family enjoyment.” The town also promises the “re-creation of Old Austerlitz, a village which reflects the lifestyle of the 1830’s, is well on its way.” Two early buildings have been restored and serve as locations for exhibits and demonstrations of early craft making.
“The beauty of the setting will be preserved and enhanced with gardens and nature trails. These will reveal to residents and visitors the values, tenacity, ingenuity and energy of those who helped our town grow,” it says.
Photo Credit: Doug Kerr