Glinting brightly in the midday sun, this gilded rooster weather vane looks almost brand new. In fact, the cocky fellow has been greeting mid-Valley travelers along the region’s most popular north-south numbered route for nearly 220 years.
Perched 120 feet above the ground, the weather vane sits atop the steeple of one of the area’s first churches. The congregation was formed in 1716; in 1732, after seven years of using ox teams to haul field stone to the site, the congregants completed building the sanctuary. More than half a century went by before the steeple was added in 1785; 10 years after that, shingles were installed on the spire — along with this three-foot tall bird. A symbol of St. Peter’s renunciation of his association with Jesus Christ before the Crucifixion, the rooster was a popular topper on Dutch colonial churches — although this is one of the few that remain in our area.
The church on which our feathered friend perches played an important part in the American Revolution. In 1776, the New York Provincial Congress — which drafted the state’s constitution — met there. Delegates included Founding Fathers John Jay (our nation’s first chief justice) and Chancellor Robert Livingston (who also helped pen the Declara- tion of Independence). For a time, the building was also used as a prison by the Continental Army, where Enoch Crosby was famously held — and escaped. (Thought to be a Loyalist, Crosby was actually a Colonial spy. Read more about him in an upcoming issue.)
Made of copper, the rooster has come down from his sky-high lookout twice for re-gilding, in 1984 and “about two or three years ago,” according to church historian Willa Skinner. “That was some show here in town,” she remembers. “The steeplejacks are like trapeze artists.”
Think you know where this radiant rooster is nesting? Submit your answer as a comment in the box below; the first reader with the correct response wins a prize. Good luck!
» Give up? Find the contest answer in our April 2014 issue (published late March)