Cedar Hill used the Hudson to keep cool

The history of the Hudson River along Bethlehem's banks is as rich as the men who once harvested its icy waters.

Converted into a museum by the Bethlehem Historical Association, the Little Red School House, which helped shape the once bustling hamlet simply known as Cedar Hill, now houses the very history that was once taught inside its single room.

There was no indoor plumbing in the school, and it was heated by wood stove when first built in 1859. The following year, its first schoolmaster was hired for eight grades and 24 students. The building was expanded and redesigned in 1907 with electricity and plumbing in two rooms for 40 students.

The school eventually closed in 1960.

The vast number of events, notable residents and famous visitors can hardly be contained in a single room, although the town's historical association certainly does a good job trying.

Cedar Hill's first famous visitor is thought to be the European explorer Henry Hudson, who came upon the area exactly 400 years ago. There is a marker in the town's park that bears his name to commemorate where he is thought to have pulled up on the Half Moon in 1609 on the very river that now bares his name.

Looking upon that marker is a bench that bears the name of a Cedar Hill resident who was a pioneer in his own right and helped build the nation's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Enterprise.

The late Parker Mathusa grew up along the Hudson banks and attended the Little Red School House before graduating from the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk School District.

A commemorative bench with his name on it faces the famous explorer's river, and although not an explorer himself, Mathusa's engineering work on the propulsion system for the first Mars space orbiter puts him on par with a different kind of exploration.

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