HHV Earns NEH Grant to Advance Irving’s Storytelling Legacy

Washington Irving's Study at Sunnyside

Washington Irving was a lawyer, an adventurer, and an international diplomat, but he is most remembered as a writer and master storyteller. His tales Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow are two of America’s most iconic and famous stories. They were instant hits when Irving published them in his collection of stories, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1819-20), and their popularity hasn’t waned since.

So, it is only fitting that Irving’s beloved home Sunnyside in Tarrytown reflects the author’s position as America’s first internationally known writer. The National Endowment for the Humanities agrees, and recently awarded a $30,000 grant to Historic Hudson Valley, which owns and operates Sunnyside, for the planning of new programs advancing “Washington Irving and the Art of Storytelling.”

HHV will use the funding to research ways to expand the Sunnyside visitor experience from “a great man lived here”-style tour into a dynamic, site-wide presentation of Irving’s literary and cultural legacies. Areas to be explored include adventurous new programming for the site, and events and workshops created in conjunction with Hudson Valley partner organizations.

Irving himself once found artistic inspiration during a visit to the hometown of a famous author. “[The poet] is the true enchanter, whose spell operates, not upon the senses, but upon the imagination and the heart,” he wrote in The Sketch Book, after a stop at William Shakespeare’s haunts in Stratford-on-Avon in England.

Perhaps Irving and his beloved Sunnyside will someday inspire budding storytellers to respond with tales of their own resonating with “imagination and the heart.’’