Read Part One here.
Read Part Two here.
Read Part Three here.
We followed Dawn into Rhinebeck, where we left her car and drove to the next haunted location on the trip—Dutch’s Spirits at Harvest Homestead Farm in Pine Plains, Dutchess County.
The actual building is down a long dirt road and pretty much off the map until they officially open the distillery this fall. We have it on our trail as a place to ghost hunt—it’s NEVER been investigated, but there has to be a ton of activity here. Sherri, who took us around and gave us the history, won’t go in one of the bunkers because it’s too creepy.
The 400 acres came from a grant in the 1760s; the King of England gave it to wealthy Brit settlers in the area to use for farming. Before they occupied the land, it was used by Native Americans for the creek on each side.
A farm until the near-end of Prohibition in 1932, Patrick Ryan, a former NYC police detective, owned the farm and Dutch Schultz, a legendary mobster, was the main investor. The complex is extensive and intricate—four hillside bunkers, underground tunnels, false chimneys, and hidden pipes made up the mob-run moonshine distillery. Several coops and the barn kept up the appearances of it being a turkey farm. Workers building the complex were hired for short terms and then fired, so they never knew exactly what it was being used for. (Ryan told people the bunkers were garages for his cars …)
The complex was raided by Federal agents in October 1932, finding “two 2,000-gallon stills in operation, two high-pressure boilers, over 15,000 gallons of mash, 10,000 pounds of sugar, two Ford trucks, one Reo truck, and a Lincoln sedan,” according to the Dutch’s Spirits website. The agents came back two days later and destroyed all of the equipment and materials. Schultz and Ryan escaped the raid, and only two workers were arrested (who didn’t speak English—Ryan’s idea). It’s thought that Ryan’s history as a police officer (even though he was fired for bribery on police exams, Sherri told us) and being one of the developers of fingerprint-taking machines helped him avoid prosecution for his involvement in the distillery.
Ryan turned Harvest Homestead Farm back into a real farm until it was bought by WDAN, a German group who made it into a commune. It changed hands several more times until Charles Adams, who had actually worked for Ryan and Schultz, purchased the farm in 1969. It remains in the Adams family as it begins its next chapter. Charles’ grandson, Alex, and his friend Ariel Schlein, used the New York State Farm Distillery Act as motivation and made a business plan in 2008. Now, construction is almost finished for a (legal) distillery, tasting room, small museum, and farm-to-table restaurant. Built in the footprint of the barn that used to house the hooch, the complex has been added to the New York State Archaeological Inventory and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
After Dutch Schultz was gunned down in a Newark, NJ restaurant in 1935, reports of a buried treasure (some say $7 million) somewhere in the Catskills came about. To this day, it has never been found, adding even more mystery to Dutch’s Spirits.
Dawn, my dad, and I walked into the bunkers (Sherri came into a few—except one)—most of which are now being restored. The stone looks old, and most of it is being reinforced, but it is not hard to imagine a clandestine distillery operation underground there. The ceilings are WAY higher than I imagined—it’s not a cramped space, by any means (although we didn’t explore the tunnels—they haven’t been worked on, so who knows what’s in there!)
It was such a beautiful day and the new barn looks so modern, it was almost hard to be spooked when we got there. But learning the history of the property and then going deep into some of the bunkers certainly increased the spookiness level. Sherri said that people have heard voices and gotten the feeling that they aren’t alone when they’re in the bunkers … alone. It’s an untapped paranormal location, just waiting to be investigated! I’d love to see what some teams come back with.
(Side note: Dutch’s Spirits already has their Sugar Wash Moonshine along with other products, like a DIY Bitters Starter kit, on the market! Check them out and taste what Dutch Schultz and Patrick Ryan worked so hard for.)
Back to Rhinebeck we went, to have dinner at the fabulous Liberty Public House. The restaurant is inside the historic 1860 Starr Institute, which was the circulating library in Rhinebeck until 1975. Built by Mrs. Mary Miller, granddaughter of General Philip Schuyler and widow of the Honorable William Starr Miller, a New York Congressman, throughout the years the building was used by the YMCA, the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and the American Red Cross. After the library moved, the building was home to several businesses and restaurants before it became Liberty Public House in 2011.
Patricia Panarella, who owns the restaurant with her son, Sergia Rebraca, gave us a tour of the entire building. The main dining room inside has a huge United States of America flag, which certainly sets the tone for the rest of the decor. The pub has tons of interesting artifacts, staying in-line with the Americana theme. Patricia then took us downstairs, which used to be a bowling alley, and is now kind of a “night club,” she told us with a laugh. The dark colors definitely have an underground VIP feel. We followed her down a dimly-lit hallway, and then I couldn’t hold it back anymore: “Do you feel like it’s haunted?” I asked Patricia.
“Oh, absolutely,” she said, without missing a beat.
Her office is downstairs and she tells us she hears footsteps and voices when she knows no one is down there with her. But she’s not bothered by it one bit! She just shrugged and we walked back upstairs and sat on the patio to have dinner; before Patricia showed us their last unique gem. The bar outside, called the Boat House, is a 1976 Coronado sloop that once sailed the Hudson River. Such a cool place!
The menu was interesting—part homemade/comfort food, part healthy, part traditional American food. And it was delicious! I ordered the grilled chicken that came over brown rice and some veggies with a great sauce on it. Dawn got the same and my dad ordered the fish and chips. Everyone was more than satisfied.
It started down-pouring just as we were about to leave, so we stayed under the awning until we could make a run for it. Running a bit late, we called and let Wing’s Castle know, and then traversed our way through the rain and the fog, up a mountain (it felt like) …