BETHLEHEM —The Friends of the Slingerland Family Burial Vault wants to continue inviting the public on a walking tour and raise awareness of the hamlet’s history on Sunday, Oct. 6.
The tour will include local costumed actors, playing three long-gone Slingerland family members — Rita Machin, Peter Crouse and Bill Douglas will portray Leah Britt Slingerland (1776 – 1863), William H. Slingerland (1830 – 1910) and John I. Slingerland (1804 – 1861) respectively. These individuals, who made significant contributions to local and national endeavors, are now buried at the burial vault on 1566 New Scotland Road behind the former Mangia property. They also belong to a centuries-spanning bloodline that originated from Teunis Cornelisz Slingerland who left Amsterdam, Holland for Beverwijck, present-day Albany, in around 1650.
The burial vault, originally built in 1851, has suffered from deterioration through the decades like vandalism and inadequate maintenance. With the Friends’ overall goal of raising $100,000 to improve the entire state of the vault, the aforementioned walking tour is one way the Friends wants help in raising money to repair the vault’s entrance facade which would cost around $50,000 to $60,000, according to Frank Slingerland, a living indirect descendant.
Frank described himself as a fifth cousin to the aforementioned three Slingerland family members and being in the ninth or 10th generation of the Slingerland bloodline. He is also a member of the Friends of the Slingerland Family Burial Vault and will be assisting at the Oct. 6 event.
Besides the intimate portrayals of three Slingerland family members, the Oct. 6 tour will bring the public to a 1790s-era Slingerland home and the burial vault itself. Bethlehem Town Historian Susan Leath wrote in an email to Spotlight News that the actors have scripts to follow which will bring up each of their historic contributions to help further inform the public about the hamlet’s history.
The tour comes in three time slots — 3, 3:30 and 4 p.m. — and will run for 45 minutes each. Pre-registration for $20 a ticket is recommended and can be done on Eventbrite at slingerlandvault.eventbrite.com. If there is still any ticket availability on the day of, they will be $25 each. People would first meet, rain or shine, at the pavilion behind the Slingerlands Firehouse on 1520 New Scotland Road in Slingerlands 15 minutes before their scheduled tour begins.
In fact, a historic public walking tour already occurred back on June 28 which Frank said raised around $1,000 and attracted 50 people. “Events like this are great to raise awareness and funds to rehabilitate the state of the vault,” he said. “It’s important for a community to have a sense of who the main characters were in its development. It gives a sense places and makes you a more balanced community.”
Leath wrote that over the summer, the vault’s broken sarcophagus was repaired and new marble plaque was added, with the help of the June 28 walking tour’s raised funds. She added, “Also, this time around, the entrance to the vault will be open, so participants may take a look inside.”
When asked which late descendant he would hypothetically like to meet, Frank said, “That’s hard to choose, they’re all great. But I’d say John I. Slingerland because he really was instrumental in starting the movement for the Homestead Act and other important legislation. By second choice would be William H. Slingerland because he was an engineer and I’m an architect so it’s pretty similar.”
Saying that he first realized he belonged to a significant historic bloodline when he was in his teens, Frank added with a laugh that he is looking forward to how “my deceased relatives will be talking” at the Oct. 6 event.
For more information, contact the Friends of the Slingerlands Family Burial Vault at [email protected] or visit www.slingerlandvault.org.