SLINGERLANDS — Did you know that the Slingerlands hamlet got its name from the historic Slingerland family who first settled into the Capital District back in the 1650s?
The Friends of the Slingerland Family Burial Vault is hoping to raise more awareness about the hamlet’s titular family’s history and contributions, with an evening walking tour of the vault on Friday, June 28. This vault, located on 1566 New Scotland Road behind the former Mangia property, was first built in 1851 and is the final resting place for several Slingerland family members of past generations, according to Bethlehem Town Historian Susan Leath.
Although it has fallen into disrepair in recent decades, especially due to vandalism before the 1980s and lack of regular maintenance, the Friends hope to raise around $100,000 to help stabilize and protect the vault, including its stonework, entrance pillars and more. One way to help reach that goal is with the upcoming “A Visit with Slingerlands’ Founding Family” event on Friday evening, June 28.
The public is encouraged to attend a walking tour around historic Slingerlands to learn about the hamlet and family’s history, as well as enjoy costumed actors’ portrayals of some former living Slingerland family members throughout the evening. Leath will begin the event with historical facts about the hamlet before letting the public go to the 1790s-built Slingerland family homestead and finally, the burial vault. Starting at the nearby picnic pavilion at the Slingerlands Fire Department on 1520 New Scotland Road, tours will be at 6, 6:30 and 7 p.m.
Advanced registration is required and can be done via Eventbrite at slingerlandvault.eventbrite.com. Tickets are $20 each; proceeds go to the vault’s overall restoration effort.
Sue Virgilio, a current descendant of former Congressman John I. Slingerland (1804 – 1861) and a member of the aforementioned Friends, said the event “is a wonderful opportunity, especially to learn about the history behind it. I’d love to have folks come and spark interest, even in the minds of younger people.” She added that she was “extremely involved” in the event’s planning, like setting up the Eventbrite registration page, getting publicity, and organizing the volunteers who are helping out.
Speaking of volunteers, Virgilio also explained that the costumed actors — Rita Machin, Brian Dollard and Peter Krause — are volunteer actors who will portray Leah Britt Slingerland (1776 – 1863), John I. Slingerland (1804 – 1861), and William H. Slingerland (1830 – 1910) respectively. Leath, one of many whom Virgilio also collaborated with for the event, said that she helped by writing the tour’s and actors’ scripts to try to keep them historically accurate and also play up their connections with one another and the town.
“We looked up newspaper articles and town archives of that time period about those people, and family incidents made the newspaper then,” Leath said. “We’re trying to play up their impact on Slingerlands and for example, it will be interesting to see how John [I. Slingerland] responded to the newspapers then, since he was a politician.”
Planning for this event took about three months, said Virgilio, and it is meant to be both an educational and fundraising event.
While requiring more funds, the family burial vault has been receiving gradual improvements already within the past two years. The most recent example was the donation of a new marble marker on June 6 by current Slingerland descendants to John H. Slingerland’s (1844 – 1914) sarcophagus, set to arrive in a few weeks. The sarcophagus’ original marble marker had been removed by vandals but it is unknown exactly when that happened.
“We are still working and making progress, but it’s important to preserve the vault, raise some money and continue raising awareness of it,” said Leath.
Virgilio said that this is the first time the vault is having a public walking tour and “any support we can gain towards the restoration is much appreciated. We want to get the front of the vault protected, for instance, as there are pieces missing.”
For more information, contact the Friends of the Slingerlands Family Burial Vault at [email protected] or visit its website at www.slingerlandvault.org.