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Historic Linwood

The Hudson Valley is overflowing with historical treasures and Linwood is one of them.

Of course, the land pre-dates human settlement. Like the entire Northeast, this area was created by continental shifts and glaciers, leaving Linwood’s riverside soil with a high concentration of clay.

Although we appreciate the metaphor of being molded by the creator, this is the reason for our poor drainage after rain or snow and why parts of the road out front are not paved despite numerous attempts. The pavement simply slides down the embankment.

The peninsula that Linwood Spiritual Center sits upon was shared by migratory tribes, the Mohican Nation and Lenape Nation.

The Lenape in the area spoke a dialect known as Munsee and are also known as the Munsee Indians. They most likely watched Henry Hudson’s Half Moon sail up the river which would become his namesake. The Lenape called it Mahicantuck, "river that flows two ways", because it is a tidal river. The Dutch called it the North River. Place names in the area still reflect the Lenape language such as Wappingers, "people of the eastern lands," and Esopus, " the small river."

Linwood looks out upon the Esopus Meadows Lighthouse.

At the end of a hiking trail at the nearby Wilderstein Estate is a cave where one can find a petroglyph, evidence of our earliest inhabitants. By the end of the 19th century, the European conquest was nearly complete in the Hudson Valley and sadly, most of the remaining Mohican Nation and Lenape Nation had been pushed west. Linwood Spiritual Center honors their heritage and our biblical commitment to stewardship of the land, evidenced by the creation of Sacred Circles throughout the property.

Why the name Linwood? The property has been named Linwood for centuries due to the majestic linden trees found throughout the grounds, notably in our cherry orchard near the entrance.  Although there are linden trees indigenous to the North American continent, they have an ancient European heritage. It is possible that seeds were brought over by the earliest settlers as the linden tree is very popular in Germany and Northern Europe. Their use is extensive. Its soft but tough wood is perfect for furniture-making and carving. From the Vikings to Native Americans, linden tree wood was used for drums, shields, statues, nets, ropes, chords, and in some countries, the linden tree is considered sacred. In medieval Europe, the wood was very popular for the carving of saints and icons. The honey from its flowers is renowned for its flavor and its leaves can be used for medicinal purposes. Some of Linwood’s linden trees may be centuries old and their massive branches provide arbors that continue to bring us shade, protection, and rest.


The first house on the property was the home of General Thomas Tillotson, surgeon

general of George Washington’s Continental Army. He married Margaret Livingston, the granddaughter of one of Rhinebeck’s founders who bought the land from the original Dutch settlers, the Van Ettens. 


The home was built in 1780 of imported English brick (ironically, just three years after the British Navy had sailed past the property to burn the city of Kingston in 1777).  Tillotson’s original house stood until 1883 when it was replaced by the sprawling 22-room Queen Anne style mansion of new owner Jacob Ruppert.  A New York City resident, Ruppert owned one of America’s most popular breweries, producer of Knickerbocker beer. Linwood was his summer home. His son, Jacob Ruppert Jr., inherited the brewery, Linwood, and then purchased the New York Yankees, built Yankee Stadium, and brought Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox to New York. Happily, our guests from Boston and New York find that Linwood has a way of melting such rivalries. 


The property was inherited by his nephew, Jacob Ruppert Schalk. Mr. Schalk developed parts of the property into a poultry farm. The New York railroad, which runs along the Hudson, stopped at  Linwood to pick up eggs for New York City hotels and in WWII for the military. Some original coops can be still be found on neighboring streets. Schalk had no heirs and wanted to leave Linwood to someone who would respect its beauty and use it for a good purpose. Rev. Robert Saccoman of Good Shepherd parish in Rhinebeck often visited Mr. Schalk. He introduced Mr. Schalk to the sisters of the Society of St. Ursula across the river in Kingston and Schalk arranged for the property to be transferred to the Society of St. Ursula at his death. Mr. Schalk died in October 1963. Some sisters came to Linwood the following year and lived in the Schalk house. The mansion was not suitable for the community or for the sisters' mission to educate and serve those in need, and so in 1967 the wood-framed mansion of 1883 was replaced by the retreat building, and the new structure was officially dedicated in 1969. In 1976, the Guest House, the Hermitage,

and the Pavilion were added.  A new residence for the sisters was built in 1998 and the Spiritual Center was also renovated at that time.


In the years preceding these additions, the sisters staffed the Linwood School: a nursery and kindergarten (1964-1981), Camp Linwood (summer 1964-1967), and started the retreat ministry. Linwood was the Novitiate of the Society of St. Ursula from 1964 – 1984. Today, Linwood’s pool, hermitage, and Anne’s house are all original to the Ruppert estate and are vital to the property.  The retreat ministry continues to thrive as more women and men find the peace of God in this beautiful place we still call Linwood.

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