William and Sarah Osterhoudt

The-Osterhoudt-house

The Osterhoudt house, located on a dead-end street in Lake Katrine, NY, is one of the oldest in Ulster County. It’s about five miles from the Stockade District of Kingston where Sarah’s eldest brother Abraham Hasbrouck lived. A considerable amount of information is known about the home Osterhoudt, but little is known about the lives of the occupants themselves, most notably Sarah.

Sarah was born on February 21, 1709 in Guilford, NY, just outside of New Paltz. Roughly eight months after she was born, according to records of the Dutch Reformed Church, she was baptized in Kingston. Sarah was the oldest sister of Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck (1722-1780). Sarah’s grandfather, Abraham Hasbrouck, was one of the founders of New Paltz known by local historians as “Abraham the Patentee.” His first son (and Sarah’s father), Joseph Hasbrouck, married Elsie Schoonmaker in 1706, shortly after he secured a large grant of land in Guilford.

As I noted in the Trials and Tribulations of Abraham Hasbrouck, Joseph died in 1724 after a short illness when Sarah was only 15 years old. He was interred in the New Paltz burying grounds on Huguenot Street in New Paltz. The year Joseph died, locusts swarmed over the farm. His son Abraham wrote in his diary:

“And in the month of June 1724, there was a tempestuous shower, attended with a great wind, thunder & lightning, rain & hailstones, as large as a small pullets egg. And very suddenly that fields with in a short time was overflown with water and hailstones destroyed all the grain of rye & apples and severall other fruit-bearing trees about Guilford and Schwawangonck (Shawangunk) in a short time was overflown.”

In the will of Joseph, which was transcribed by Kenneth E. Hasbrouck, Sr. (but not probated), he mentioned his wife: “[She would be] in full & ample possession of my whole Estate both Reale & personal & have the issues and Proffitts thereof so long as she Remains a widow.” If Elsie remarried, she would continue to remain in control of Joseph’s estate until their youngest child turned sixteen years of age. Their oldest son received his father’s farm and Sarah, along with her remaining siblings, was bequeathed 500 pounds. She would also receive a share of her father’s personal estate, including slaves. Elsie did not remarry and thus retained control of the entire estate until she sold the home and lands to her son Abraham on in 1754.

Sarah was the third daughter in her family to be married. Her husband, William, was a widower who had been born in January 1703 (he had been previously married to Jannetje Traphagen in 1733). The couple wed in October 1737 in Kingston in a ceremony performed by Domine Mancius. William’s new bride was described by her brother Abraham as “well shapen, good features full visage or face, blue eyes, brown hair.” She took after the rest her family, most notably her mother, who was quite tall. In fact, her brother Jonathan was over six feet tall.

Shortly after exchanging vows, the couple moved into the home which is today Lake Katrine, where their initials can still be seen today. It’s generally believed that the dwelling was much smaller at the time. According to William B. Rhoads, the original part of the house dates to circa 1691 and is believed to have been enlarged in 1740. According to Helen Wilkinson Reynolds’ Dutch Houses in the Hudson Valley before 1776 the home originally consisted of “one room, attic and chimney” and was enlarged “by the addition to the eastward first of one room, then of a hall and a room.” Reynolds reported that no date had been attributed to the middle portion of the home, however, in 2004 , the owner of the house claimed to have located a date under the whitewash.

The couple spent their first winter in the house in 1737-1738. Sarah’s brother Abraham, recorded that this was a notable season, as a particularly bad ice storm had struck the area. When the rain came down, it “fell upon the threes as thick that thousands of trees broke in pieces.”

The Osterhoudt’s first child was born four years later, in April 1741, just after one of the worst winters in recent memory. As late as March, sleighs were still crossing the Hudson River and at times. The snow was four to five feet deep and drifts were so high that they needed to be shoveled away periodically. A second Osterhoudt child was born sometime around 1746.

In October 1760, Elsie, the first of the couple’s children to get married, was wed to Thomas Jansen. The couple’s ceremony was also presided over by Mancius. According to Kenneth E. Hasbrouck, Sr., they relocated to Shawangunk shortly after the birth of the first of twelve children, in late December 1760.

When Sarah was notified by her brother Abraham that their mother Elsie was very ill, she made the journey to Guilford. After an illness lasting about a month, Elsie died in July 1764 with all of her children surrounding her (except Rachel died in 1756). A service was held at the Guilford home and Sarah made the trip to New Paltz; her mother was laid to rest there next to her husband, who had died some four decades earlier.

June 1770 was initially a good year for the Osterhoudt Family. William, who had suffered a stroke (a “numb palsy”), which had paralyzed the left side of his face the year before, appeared to be recovering. His only son Joseph married Sarah VanGaasbeck in Kingston, but the family suffered a setback during those same months when “worms, which destroyed a great deal of wheat, rye, barley, and grass, [so] that no great burden of hay was cut, [it] being devoured by the worms.” Then, an early snow contributed more damage in October 1770. Perhaps the hardest blow to the family was when William died in the early morning of April 18, 1772. He was buried at the Dutch Reformed Church graveyard in Kingston.

In May 1779, Sarah’s brother Abraham noted that she started to suffer from “a hysterical disorder in short, [she] had a complication of disorders.” She would remain confined to her bed for the next eight months. She was visibly uncomfortable with pain in her “breast or stomach.” Abraham described his sister’s “legs, left hand and feet as swollen” for much of January. If she was corpulent later in life, her illness left her very gaunt. She died at two o’clock in the afternoon on Monday January 24, 1780.

Sarah was buried on Wednesday in the graveyard of the Dutch Reformed Church in Kingston. She was interred next to her husband. Abraham wrote of his sister that “she was a kind and loving wife unto her husband, a tender mother toward her children, a loving sister unto her brothers and sisters, an obedient child to her parents, a good neighbor, a hospitable woman, a good industrious householder or housekeeper, charitable to the poor and indigent and a good liver.”

Regarding the Osterhoudt’s home, Reynolds wrote that it remained in William’s family until 1796, eventually ending in the possession of a relative, Peter Osterhoudt. By the 1920s the home was no longer in the Osterhoudt Family.

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A ‘Solid’ Experience: 3D Tours at Washington’s Headquarters


 
Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site is once again offering 3D tours of the historic headquarters on August 22nd. The program, “Through Different Lenses: Two Views of Headquarters,” was first offered during the site’s Fourth of July programming and the tours quickly sold out. Applying 3D technology to a museum experience seems like something made for the twenty-first century, but upon further investigation, the technology is older than the historic site itself, which opened 165 years ago.

 
An Unusual Scene of Card Stock Explorers

Anyone stumbling upon a group mid-tour during the special Fourth of July program would have been faced with an unusual scene.

Fifteen visitors held up pieces of cardboard to their eyes while standing in the section of the Old Hasbrouck House that was erected in 1750, according to the original date stone above the east entrance. This home was used by General George Washington as a military headquarters towards the end of the American Revolutionary War. In the next room is where the General slept. Through two more doorways is where he worked. And his accomplishments were significant. According to the site’s rack card he “rejected the suggestion of an American monarchy; created the Badge of Military Merit, the forerunner of the Purple Heart; and announced the cease-fire that ended the Revolutionary War.”

Their eyes were covered? But there is so much to see.

“The initial offering of this program was well received,” said Elyse Goldberg, Historic Site Manager. “The visitors enjoyed looking at the site in a different way.”

Looking through a modern cardboard stereoscope.

It turned out that “different way” was not staring into the backside of card stock. Those were modern stereoscopes that the visitors were holding up to their faces. Through plastic lenses, they viewed three dimensional images of Washington’s Headquarters originally captured in the late 19th century.

Although the site’s main interpretation focuses on Washington’s stay in Newburgh, another claim to fame is that it is the first publicly owned historic site in nation. “Its history, both as a historic site, and its role in the country’s preservation efforts, is very important,” Goldberg expressed.

“In the mid-19th Century, our young country was going through many changes and conflict. This was during the time building up to the civil war. The nation, which was struggling, looked back to its roots, its heroes, its initial values for stability,” she continued.

The American flag was first raised over the new historic site on July 4, 1850 after a procession of thousands marched through Newburgh and onto the “hallowed ground.”

Much has changed through the century with regard to historic preservation, what a visitor may have expected from a visit and how they experienced the house. To assist visitors with realizing this, the site is using the stereoscope and its capability of producing immersive three dimensional illusions.

Thora Sotiridy, a resident of the Town of Newburgh, was one of those July 4th visitors and said the stereoviews were a good supportive measure. “It really helped to bring the presence of mind and being of that time.”

 
How Does it Work?

One year before the first photograph was captured on a sensitized plate in 1839 by Louis Daguerre, the stereoscope was introduced to the world. Yes, producing the illusion of the third dimension is also older than photography itself. It was ushered in by Charles Wheatstone, a professor of experimental philosophy in London, after he published his paper on the physiology of vision in 1838.

Earliest form of Charles Wheatstone's 1838 stereoscope. The mirrors (A) reflect the perspective drawings (E) in the the retina of the user to create the illusion of depth.

Wheatstone was the first to propose the theory that the human mind perceived a three dimensional world by combining two dissimilar 2D images sent to it by a pair of monocular receivers – human eyes.

There’s a simple exercise to demonstrate this. All you need is a pair of eyes and a pen. Holding the pen a few inches from your nose and viewing it with one eye at a time should produce two different views. The pen appears on different sides of your view depending on what eye, the right or the left, you are using. This exercise proves that your eyes, which are inches apart, are capturing two images of the same scene set at different angles.

A quill pen held a few inches from my nose appears on different sides of my view while looking at it with my only my left eye versus the right.

But why don’t we see separate images at the same time while both eyes are open? Wheatstone suggested in his paper that your mind fuses the images, which creates the illusion of depth in three dimensions. To prove this, Wheatstone created what he called the stereoscope to reproduce the way vision works. This device used mirrors to project dissimilar perspective drawings of cubes onto each eye, which resulted in the perception of a three dimensional cube.

Drawings would later be replaced with photographs.

The term “stereo” is derived from the Greek word for “solid” and a stereoscope, like the cardboard versions used by Washington’s Headquarters’ visitors, creates the illusion that the stereoview’s subject appears solid, or 3D.

 
Seeing Double in Time

For many today, the stereoscope may not be the first thing that comes to mind at the mentioning of 3D technology. Over the years it has taken many forms and names. It was also referred to as a stereopticon and the photographic views it requires can be called stereoviews or stereographs. Variations like the perspectoscope and telestereoscope soon found their way to the market. Ring any bells? Probably not. Thora also admitted she had no idea about the stereoscope before going on tour.

For most, 3D technology is experienced through entertainment. We are exposed to it at the movies, in video games and it has also generated new interest in the area of virtual reality. Although the technology has been around for many years there has been a resurgence in popularity within the last decade. To support this idea many have pointed to the success of “Avatar,” a 3D movie by director James Cameron, which is one of the top grossing movies of all time. Since, it seems that the 3D option is overtaking movie listings.

Google is also experimenting with stereoscopic technology. Their product, Google Cardboard, allows users to use their smartphones to immerse themselves in the virtual reality experience. On there website they offer downloadable instructions to build one yourself.

The world’s favorite deep pocket social network, Facebook, also joined the industry of 3D entertainment when it paid 2 billion for the virtual reality startup company, Oculus Rift, in 2014.

Many skeptics of the technology’s popularity believe it’s just a fad that will be over soon. What’s interesting is that a similar fad took place once before and the stereoview was at the center of it.

Stereoscope design made popular by Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes. Collection of Newburgh Historical Society, Newburgh, NY.

The popularity of the stereoview in America spanned from the 1860s to about the 1920s and it also had its share of critics and supporters. In England, the stereoscope had already taken on popular significance. It inspired widespread discussion in newspapers, magazines and journals. Robert Hunt, a British photographic chemist, offers one of the first references to its popularity. He noted in 1856, “The stereoscope is now seen in every drawing room; philosophers talk learnedly upon it, ladies are delighted with its magic representations, and children play with it.”

Due to its entertainment value, the stereoscope was classified as a “philosophical toy,” but like other similar toys, including the kaleidoscope and zoetrope, it also illustrated scientific principles.

One avid promoter of the stereoview was the 19th century doctor, lecturer and writer Oliver Wendell Holmes. Not only did he invent a popular handheld version of the stereoscope in 1861, but defended the idea that the device was not a toy; it’s a tool for communication, education and art.

Stereoviews would eventually become helpful tools in the sciences, record keeping and references. Early on, writers suggested that stereoviews could be used to surpass the limitations of unaided sight; an enhanced perspective. This attention to detail provided by the stereoview assisted scientists in observational research.

The first successful stereoview of the moon was captured using enhanced perspective in 1858 by Warren De la Rue in a New Jersey observatory. The images revealed details in the moon’s surface that were previously unrecognizable.

Stereoview of the moon, ca. 1896. Library of Congress.

There are supporters today who believe in an intellectual and medical significance to this technology. Virtual reality has already been used in psychological analysis to treat anxiety disorders and phobias. Some believe that virtual reality is an empathy machine as scientists experiment with how the virtual world can influence our behavior. It’s also been used to distract patients in dentistry. One game developer, James Blaha, has claimed to use the technology to cure those suffering from amblyopia, also known as a lazy eye.

 
19th Century Tourist

The staff at Washington’s Headquarters are concerned with creating an opportunity that allows the visitor, like Thora Sotiridy, to virtually see what a 19th century tourist might have seen. Elyse Goldberg said, “images were chosen to create the best visitor experience possible.” Using computer technology they created stereoviews from images in their collection.

Stereoview of Washington's Headquarters, Newburgh, 1897. Collection of Newburgh Historical Society, Newburgh, NY.

Using images to create an experience falls in line with the ideas by one professor of American Studies, Steven Hoelscher, who claimed that in the 19th century, “photography’s apparent transcription of reality proved to be an immensely valuable asset for one enterprise in particular: tourism.” Photographs gave shape to travel by informing the viewer what should be seen, how it should be seen and when it should be seen.

“Visual images,” he noted, “assume an active role in the creation of place.”

Join Washington’s Headquarters as they take an active role in recreating a 19th century visit through the historic headquarters. Each visitor gets a set of stereograph images of the interior of the Hasbrouck House, showing both now and then interpretation and a stereoscope to view them. They can take them home to remember their visit. The special tours will be held at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., on August 22nd, at a cost of $5.00 per person. Space is limited for the special tour, so please reserve your spot by calling the site at 845-562-1195.

 
Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site is a registered national historic landmark. It is located at the corner of Liberty and Washington Streets within the city of Newburgh’s East End Historic District. The site is one of 35 historic sites within the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and is one of 28 facilities administered by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission in New York and New Jersey. For further information contact: (845) 562-1195. For more information about New York State Parks, please visit our website at www.nysparks.com. For more information call 845-562-1195 or visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/washingtonsheadquarters.

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Tap into History

Lager Beer Library of Congress


NEW PALTZ, NY (August 14, 2015) – Historic Huguenot Street is pleased to announce the debut of “1677 Huguenot Wheat,” a strong wheat ale inspired by the beers of the early 18th century. Brewed by The Gilded Otter brewmaster Darren Currier, the ale recipe was researched by beer scholar Craig Gravina, co-author of Upper Hudson Valley Beer and one of the founders of the Albany Ale Project. Historic Huguenot Street will host a keg tapping and tasting of the historic ale on the DuBois Fort lawn (81 Huguenot Street) Saturday, August 29, 1 – 3 pm.

“We’re pleased to introduce 1677 Huguenot Wheat to the public,” said Kara Gaffken, Director of Public Programming. “Darren and Craig are very knowledgeable about Hudson Valley brewing, and we know this historic ale will be both authentic and delicious. Partnering with a local business makes so much sense for New Paltz, and it reinforces our special, small-town feel.”

Following the tasting, Gravina will speak about the 1677 Huguenot Wheat brew and sign copies of Upper Hudson Valley Beer ($19.99 + tax). The talk is free and open to the public.

Beer bloggers Craig Gravina and Alan McLeod founded the Albany Ale Project in 2010 to research and preserve the history of Albany’s brewing past, a history spanning nearly 400 years. Along with history, Gravina also writes about beer culture and the state of brewing and beer making in the U.S. and around the globe on his popular blog Drink Drank (drinkdrank1.com).

Local award-winning brewmaster Darren Currier started his career in 1998 as a home brewer. He attended The Siebel Institute for Brewing Technology in Chicago and has been responsible for the beer-making process at The Gilded Otter for 15 years.

Tasting tickets are $20. The first 50 guests will receive a free tasting glass. Twisted Jeanne’s of Accord, NY, will be on hand selling home-made pretzel rolls and croissants accompanied by special sauces.

A National Historic Landmark District, Historic Huguenot Street is a 501(c)3 non-profit that encompasses 30 buildings across 10 acres that was the heart of the original 1678 New Paltz settlement, including seven stone houses that date to the early eighteenth century.  It was founded in 1894 as the Huguenot Patriotic, Historical, and Monumental Society to preserve the nationally acclaimed collection of stone houses.  Since then, Historic Huguenot Street has grown into an innovative museum, chartered as an educational corporation by the University of the State of New York Department of Education, that is dedicated to protecting our historic buildings, conserving an important collection of artifacts and manuscripts, and promoting the stories of the Huguenot Street families, from the sixteenth century to today.

 

Posted in Education, Hudson River, Landmarks, Museums, Town/Village of New Paltz, Ulster County, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Newburgh Challenges the Hudson Valley to a Game of Croquet

2014 Croquet Tournament at Downing Park.

NEWBURGH, NY – The Hudson Valley tradition of croquet continues on August 16th between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. with the annual tournament at Newburgh’s beautiful Downing Park. Registration opens at 12:00 p.m. and players are encouraged to come in pairs or be paired upon arrival.

The game of croquet migrated from Europe to America in the late 19th century and rose in popularity. Associations soon formed that encouraged playing the game and rules were rewritten into an American variation of the game. The tradition of backyard croquet took hold and is well documented through print and photography.

One 1940s image of Franciscan Friars shows their enjoyment through smiles as they played on the grounds of Graymoor Franciscan Friars of the Atonement in Garrison, New York. Hearing about the Newburgh tournament, Father John Keane continued in this tradition and joined players last year.

Another surviving image was captured across the Hudson River on Denning’s Point about 1865 and shows a croquet match between women. It also gives us a view of the pristine Denning Mansion, which deteriorated into a ruined shell by the 1920s.

Playing croquet at Denning Mansion, 1865.

Print advertisements by the Newburgh lawnmower manufacturing company, Chadborn and Coldwell, featured in their backgrounds familiar scenes of citizens enjoying rounds of croquet.

The tournament is sponsored by the Newburgh Historical Society, the Newburgh Preservation Association and the Downing Park Planning Committee, who’ve found the event to be a successful way of promoting outdoor recreation, history and preservation.

The tournament also falls in line with how the influential landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing, Newburgh’s famous son, felt about public spaces. Downing’s influence led to the 35 acre urban park becoming a memorial to him in 1889.

19th century Chadborn and Coldwell print ad detail.

In an October 1848 issue of the horticultural magazine Downing edited, he wrote, “these great public grounds are the pleasant drawing-rooms of the whole population; where they gain health, good spirits, social enjoyment, and a frank and cordial bearing towards their neighbors.”

Admission is $5 per player and spectators are welcome. Refreshments will be available to purchase. Money raised will benefit future tournaments.

Please call (845) 561-2585 or visit the Historical Society’s website, http://newburghhistoricalsociety.com/, for more information, including directions and parking.

 
The Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands was launched unofficially when the Hasbrouck House (Washington’s Headquarters Newburgh) was in danger of demolition after the Revolutionary War. The current Society, incorporated in 1884, has always been an advocate for Newburgh’s history. The Society’s headquarters, 1830 Captain David Crawford House, was purchased in 1954 to save it from demolition and symbolizes their dedication to preserving and protecting Newburgh’s assets.

The Crawford House, a historic house museum and Society’s headquarters, located at 189 Montgomery Street within the City of Newburgh’s Historic District is open for tours on Sundays between 1:00 P.M. and 4:00 P.M. or by appointment. View the “Growing Up In Newburgh” exhibit, a community exhibit featuring the photographs and memories of Newburgh from the 19th century through the 20th century. For more information about admission, tours, or programming please call (845) 561-2585.

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Spring in Balmville

The blog post below first appeared in 2014 and I thought it fitting to run it again today, August 5, 2015, as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation takes down the damaged remains of this historic tree. (See today’s related article by Michael Randall and video regarding the removal at  http://www.recordonline.com/article/20150805/NEWS/150809741/-1/breaking_ajax)

 

(April 18, 2014) Balmville is known for its dramatic landscapes – from its impressive river views to its sprawling mansions and sculpted properties, but the Town of Newburgh hamlet is also known for one of its most diminutive features, as it is home to New York’s smallest state forest – a forest comprised of a single tree.

A 1908 postcard view of the Balmville Tree. Author's collection.

The Balmville Tree at the junction of Balmville and River Roads and Commonwealth Avenue is believed to be the oldest Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) tree in North America; samples taken from the tree during the 1950s suggest that it began growing around 1699. One of several historic markers beneath the tree notes that when the tree was in its infancy, “Bach was a 14-year-old enraptured by the music of Vivaldi, who was a young man of 24, and Shakespeare had been dead for only 83 years…33 years before [George] Washington and 9 years before the birth of his mother Mary Ball Washington.” The same sign notes that the tree was nearing the end of its normal life expectancy around the same time that George Washington would have ridden by it on his way to and from his headquarters in Newburgh.

At its peak, the tree reached more than 110 feet high, with a circumference of 25’, but storm damage brought it to its current height of about 85 feet tall. It was once thought to be a Balm of Gilead tree (a form of poplar), which provided the hamlet of Balmville with its name. The Balmville Tree was a popular gathering spot in the late 1700s, owing to a nearby tavern whose patrons would enjoy their purchases outside in nice weather.

Another postcard view of the tree. The young girls may be the daughters of Samuel C. Whitlow, who operated a hotel on Balmville Road. The family often posed for pictures near the tree. Author's collection.

By the early 19th century, the tree had become a well-known destination, as Newburgh residents would walk to it on Sunday afternoons – a tradition that became known as the “Balmville Promenade.” Poems were written about the Balmville Tree, including one in 1902 that suggested a limb of the tree was removed in order to construct a violin.

By the following century, however, the tree was gaining a reputation as an eyesore and efforts were begun to cut it down. Local newspapers report that the first surgery to the tree was in 1906, when it was about two centuries old; numerous surgeries have followed. Colonel Frederick A. Delano, uncle of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was one early champion of the Balmville Tree. He lived on an estate in the area that is now Susan Drive in the hamlet, and petitioned the Newburgh Town Board to save the tree by boring holes in the ground beneath it to aid with water seepage. Other preservationists came to its rescue and have fought for the tree’s survival to the present day.

Three metal markers beneath the Balmville Tree tell of the history of the site. The markers were erected by the Goudy Wildlife Club of Newburgh in 1959. Photo by Elizabeth Werlau.

 

A group of Balmville residents and well-known activists including Pete Seeger led the charge to save the tree during the 1970s and raised funds, attracted volunteers and garnered publicity that led to the most concerted efforts to preserve the tree. In 1976, it became the first tree to be individually protected by New York State. A permanent easement was designated around it, which prohibits any excavation work within 150 of the tree. In 1995, a stone wall was built to encircle the tree and a wooden walkway was constructed along the wall to allow for viewing of the historic markers, while cabling and guide wires help keep limbs in place.

The Balmville Tree, April 2014. Photo by Elizabeth Werlau

Today, the tree and the land it sits on are considered protected, having been placed on the National Trust of Historic Places in 2000. (It is one of only three trees in the United States that are federally protected.) The area, at 348 square feet, is actually preserved as a state forest, making it New York’s smallest. It falls under the jurisdiction of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Despite its poor health – the tree reportedly is sustained by less than 12 inches of live wood in its center – the Balmville tree still stands tall as a symbol of Hudson Valley history and the dedication of those who strive to preserve the past. In turn, it offers Hudson Valley residents a unique way to mark the arrival of spring. One characteristic of the eastern cottonwood is the “flowers” or long, finger-like catkins that it produces in early spring and, after an undeniably long, difficult winter, the Balmville Tree’s catkins have emerged once again, welcoming spring to the Hudson Valley just as it has for the past three centuries.

Posted in Historic Sites, Hudson River, Landmarks, Lost Landmarks, Orange County, Town of Newburgh | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Historic Preservation Guide to Complete Streets

The central Post Office on Liberty Street was built in the 1930s as a federal W.P.A project.


The Newburgh Preservation Association’s event series, Past Forward, invites the public to reexamine the past to understand the uniqueness of Newburgh’s historic district. Since April, the Association has hosted a talk about the prominent Robinson Family, cleaned up Newburgh’s oldest historic cemetery and examined a historic water supply system and the threats of pollution it faces today.

The event series continues on August 5th with “Designing a Model Streetscape.” Architect Peter Smith will lead a discussion on how to integrate environmental and safety issues with historic preservation in Newburgh’s East End Historic District. Using spray chalk and flour to mark the pavement, the discussion will move to Liberty Street to test how a replanned intersection might look and work.

Nancy Thomas, President of the Newburgh Preservation Association, said the group is interested in inspiring action. “We would like to engage the public in understanding the uniqueness of our historic district while demonstrating you can be adaptable.”

 
Complete Streets?

Concept 4 of Broadway development project. Rendering by Newburgh Community Land Bank.

The discussion will center on the concept of Complete Streets. According to Smart Growth America, Complete Streets are streets for everyone. They’re designed and operated to allow safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicles.

Complete Streets have been boasted to promote safety, diversity, health, a positive environmental impact and business.

This concept isn’t a new one, but continues to gain in popularity among many communities and agencies across the United States. There are over 700 regional planning organizations, municipalities and counties in 30 states that have adopted Complete Streets policies.

New York State passed a Complete Streets initiative in 2011. Over 50 policies have been adopted and the number continues to grow. Although New Jersey is the national leader in policy adoption, with over 115, two New York communities of Troy and Ogdensburg have been recognized by the National Complete Streets Coalition as the best in the nation of 2014.

Locally, the conversation has been taken up in Port Jervis and the City of Newburgh. Ulster and Westchester Counties already have policies in place.

In May, the City of Newburgh was awarded a $250,000 grant by Central Hudson’s Main Street Revitalization Program assisting the city in implementing a complete streetscape enhancement. The City of Newburgh and the Newburgh Community Land Bank, partners in this project, have since unveiled design concepts for their Broadway Corridor Demonstration Project.

“The Importance of this Demonstration Project is tremendous,” said City Manager, Michael Ciaravino. “The project will focus on one of the prime intersections in the City of Newburgh for connecting the Waterfront to the rich heritage of the rest of the City.”

Looking west on Broadway at Liberty Street intersection. Image captured in the 1920s reveals a previous look and use of Newburgh's main street. Collection of Newburgh Historical Society, Newburgh, NY.

The design concepts transformed the heart of downtown Newburgh to include designated lanes for vehicles, buses and bicycles. They also show parking areas, green medians and resting zones labeled as “parklets.”

Broadway is by far the widest street in Newburgh making it an ideal location for such a project. Nancy Thomas was involved in the Land Bank discussions and later said, “How we use our streets has changed since they were first constructed.” Broadway was once known as Grand Avenue and previous to that labeled the “8 Rod Road” on a 1713 map by Sir Augustine Graham, Surveyor General of the Province of New York. One rod equaled sixteen feet!

 
What does this have to do with historic preservation?

Intersection of Broadway and Liberty from the southeast. 96 Broadway appears opposite the streetlight in the right of image.

In addition to redesigning Broadway, the project will create attractive, useful green space in two southern vacant lots and restore the facade of 96 Broadway, a chronically neglected building.

The City of Newburgh has one of the largest historic districts in New York State and the remaining streets are considerably narrow compared to Broadway. If this initiative expands into the rest of the city, then how might those streets look and will that have an affect on the visual fabric of the historic district?

Here’s where the Newburgh Preservation Association contributes to the conversation.

“It makes sense to modernize our use of them in a way that doesn’t have a negative effect on the architecture of the district,” said Nancy Thomas referring to Newburgh streets.

The Newburgh Preservation Association is a volunteer non-profit organization that started in 1978, but has its roots in the preservation efforts by local citizens that responded to “urban renewal” in the 1960s. The organization works to increase public awareness of Newburgh’s historic architecture and attract more residents and businesses to the older parts of the city.

Nancy Thomas said the Association’s interest in Complete Streets stems from the group’s advocacy of an urban design movement known as New Urbanism. “I think now is the time with the Broadway demonstration, that NPA might be able to engage people in the concepts of New Urbanism.”

According to the Congress of the New Urbanism, the movement’s organizing body, New Urbanists believe that diversity in use and population as the source to the revitalization of our central cities. Neighborhoods and public policy should be reshaped according to principles put forth in their charter. This includes designing communities for “the pedestrian and transit as well as the car, cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions, and urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history.”

 
Engage in the conversation!

Complete Streets come in all shapes and sizes. Designs respond to the context of the surrounding community. The variety of newly constructed streetscapes in neighboring cities and states offer a trove of information to those currently engaging in the conversation about how they might look within the City of Newburgh.

The Newburgh Preservation Association and Peter Smith are leading one such conversation as they consider the potential challenges a Complete Streets initiative may face expanding into the heart of the historic district.

Peter Smith, Architect. Photo provided.

Peter Smith is a graduate of Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture and a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome. He retired in 2014 after 42 years in private practice. His projects in Newburgh include the Lander Street Houses at Lander and South Streets, The Yellowbird building on Front Street and the Washington Heights Community Center. Presently he serves on the City of Newburgh Planning Board and is a member of the Quassaick Creek Watershed Alliance.

The discussion will start at 5:30 p.m. at the Newburgh Heritage Center, located on 123 Grand Street in Newburgh. Admission is $5 per person and free to members of the Association.

To RSVP please email info@preservenewburgh.org or call (845) 562-8076.

 
The Newburgh Preservation Association (NPA) is a non-profit citizens membership organization dedicated to rebuilding, preserving, and promoting the architectural heritage and historic viewsheds of Newburgh, New York. For more information, visit http://www.preservenewburgh.org/ or follow them on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/NewburghPresAssoc.

Posted in City of Newburgh, Orange County, Transportation | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

African Contributions to the Hudson Valley – A Bevier House Museum Lecture

(Marbletown,  NY) – Africans brought to the Hudson Valley as slaves played a significant role  in the development of this region, and their contributions continued as freed  people. This significant but classically neglected chapter in local history is  the subject of a powerful lecture on Saturday, August 15.

The lecture, titled “There is a River – A Mighty River: Social and Economic Contributions of Africans along the Hudson, from the Dutch Period to The American Revolution,” will take place at 3:00PM at Bevier House Museum, 2682 Route 209, Marbletown. The speaker is Dr. A. J. Williams-Myers, professor of Black History at SUNY New Paltz. The event is sponsored by the Ulster County Historical Society. There is a $7 admission fee, but entry is free for UCHS members.

In his lecture, Dr. A. J. Williams-Myers celebrates a personage chronically overlooked in our retelling of American history: the African, brought to our shores as a slave by the millions. Dr. Williams-Myers explores the contributions of enslaved and free Africans to the economic growth of Hudson Valley society, as well as their military role in the nation’s revolutionary struggle.

The story of the forcibly transplanted African people is intertwined with the saga of the Hudson River. Dr. Williams-Myers explains how colonists developed an economically and culturally flourishing society on the backs of the enslaved. He recounts the remarkable story of sacrifice and heroism by the Africans, who fought for freedom. Professor Williams-Myers gives this abused portion of the local population their due, citing the integral role that African Americans played in every aspect of life in the Hudson Valley.

Dr. A.J. Williams-Myers has authored a number of books, including Long Hammering: Essays on the Forging of an African American Presence in the Hudson River Valley to the Early 20th Century (Africa World Press, 1994) and On The Morning Tide: African Americans, History and Methodology In The Historical Ebb And Flow of Hudson River Society (Africa World Press, 2003) and has published extensively in national and international journals. He received his doctorate in history from the University of California at Los Angeles, with a concentration in African History. He was the historian involved with the ITT Construction Company in developing the Interpretive Center for the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan.

The Ulster County Historical Society (UCHS) was established in 1859 and thrived until 1862 until its founder, State Senator George C. Pratt, was mortally wounded in 1862 at the Second Battle of Bull Run. Revived in 1930 by Judge G.V.D. Hasbrouck, the UCHS has a twofold mission: to act as curator and collector of significant Hudson Valley artifacts, documents and cultural items and to educate the public on the pivotal role that Ulster County has played in the formation of the nation. The Bevier House on Route 209 in Stone Ridge serves as the UCHS museum space. UCHS sponsors numerous educational and cultural events from May 1 through the end of December.

For information on future UCHS events, visit www.ulstercountyhs.org.

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3rd Annual Artists on the Street Returns to Historic Huguenot Street

Kevin Cook-Courtesy of HHS

NEW PALTZ, NY (July 24, 2015) – Historic Huguenot Street has announced the return of Artists on the Street, an all-day plein air event showcasing the talents of over 20 renowned Hudson Valley artists. The annual event, which is taking place for the third time on August 8, is an opportunity for the public to watch and engage with local artists as they work, creating paintings and watercolors inspired by the landscape of the National Historic Landmark District.

A number of artists from previous years are returning for this year’s event, including Kevin Cook, Mira Fink, Jim Adair, and John A. Varriano. Maps will be available denoting the location of each artist across the site.  In addition, visitors will have the opportunity to view the Portrait Gallery in the 1799 House (54 Huguenot Street).

“We are proud to host this engaging event year after year,” said Kara Gaffken, Director of Public Programming at Historic Huguenot Street. “It is a testament to the exceptional and diverse talents of our local artists.”

At 4 pm, artists will bring their work to the DuBois Fort (81 Huguenot Street) to be displayed and made available for purchase during an hour-long catered reception, sponsored by Bridgecreek Catering, Brotherhood Winery, and True Value of New Paltz. The artwork will remain on display for purchase in the DuBois Fort for one month. This event is free and open to the public, rain or shine. Saturday, August 8, 11 am – 5 pm.

A National Historic Landmark District, Historic Huguenot Street is a 501(c)3 non-profit that encompasses 30 buildings across 10 acres that was the heart of the original 1678 settlement, including seven stone houses that date to the early eighteenth century.  It was founded in 1894 as the Huguenot Patriotic, Historical, and Monumental Society to preserve their French and Dutch heritage.  Since then, Historic Huguenot Street has grown into an innovative museum, chartered as an educational corporation by the University of the State of New York that is dedicated to protecting our historic buildings, conserving an important collection of artifacts and manuscripts, and promoting the stories of the Huguenot Street families, from the sixteenth century to today.

Posted in Education, Museums, Town/Village of New Paltz, Ulster County | Leave a comment

“Preservation of the Minisink Battleground in a Landscape of History Lost”

 

Today in Sullivan County history, 1779, one of the most deadly battles of the American Revolution, in terms of ratio of participants to numbers killed, took place on a hill overlooking the Delaware River just north of Barryville, NY.

 (Last week, I briefly summarized the battle, but a more comprehensive account can be found in the 2010 work “So Many Brave Men: A History of the Battle at Minisink Ford” by Mark Hendrickson, John Inners and Peter Osborne.)

Over the weekend, The Delaware Company, in conjunction with the Sullivan County Historical Society, commemorated the supreme sacrifices made right here on Sullivan County soil in our nation’s fight for Independence, sacrifices no less honorable nor heroic than those made at the more noted battles of Bunker Hill, Lexington and Concord.

Reenactors, clergy, veterans’ groups, scout troops, historians, representatives from several chapters of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, noted officials and many others climbed the hill to remember and pay special tribute to the fallen.

Among them was Kristina M. Heister, Superintendent of the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, who delivered the keynote address: “Preservation of the Minisink Battleground in a Landscape of History Lost.”

 Ms. Heister, whose previous assignment with the National Park Service was at Valley Forge Historical Park, paid tribute to the hallowed grounds themselves, pointing out the importance – even urgency – of continued preservation efforts for the Sullivan County-owned Minisink Battleground Park as well as other endangered battlefields.

Sullivan County (NY) Historian John Conway and living historian 9-year-old Elektra Kehagias listen as Kristina M. Heister, Superintendent, Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, delivers the keynote address at the 236th anniversary commemoration of The Battle of Minisink. (Photo by: Laurie Ramie, Executive Director, Upper Delaware Council)

Here are her words:

The nation’s historic and cultural resources are the spiritual and physical reminders of the decisive times, people, and places in American history.   Few events loom larger in American history than the Revolutionary War — the conflict that established our independence from Great Britain. Although many eras can be said to have shaped the nation we live in today, this uncertain time gave it birth.

Battlefields, such the Minisink Battleground, whether large or small, are iconic and indelible chapters in the American story. These battlefields are monuments to American valor, sacrifice and determination. They are truly hallowed ground, home to patriot graves both memorialized and long forgotten – and nowhere is that possibly more true than at Minisink where up to 50 men lost their lives, many of whose bones are still scattered on the landscape around us.

The National Park Service is one of the many partners dedicated to the protection of historic sites such as the Minisink Battleground. Our mission is to help preserve these places—both within the parks and in communities across the nation—as tangible, living contacts with previous and future generations. Of the 410 national park units, nearly two-thirds are historical parks, sites, monuments, or memorials.

However, we protect through ownership only a small fraction of the historic sites and resources in our nation. The State of New York protects and manages 173 state parks which include many historic properties as well as 35 state historic sites and 6 state historic parks. In Sullivan County, 5 of the 6 parks owned and maintained by the County are historical in nature including the Minisink Battleground Park.

2016 is not only the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service but also the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 is the fundamental charter of our national historic preservation policy. It is premised on an explicit choice by Congress that that the aim of the federal government should be to encourage the private preservation of “the Nation’s historic built environment”.

This program is implemented through partnerships with States, Indian tribes, local governments, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector. It is organizations such as the Minisink Valley Historical Society, the Sullivan and Pike County Historical Societies, and the Sullivan County Parks and Recreation Department that Congress envisioned as the “private” leaders of the effort to save our history.

The memorial monument, indicating the site of the militia's "last stand," was erected by the Minisink Historical Society on the centennial of the Battle of Minisink, 1879.

The National Park Service administers the federal component of many of these partnerships through programs such as the National Register of Historic Places. Through these partnerships, many historic and archeological sites have been provided recognition and some level of protection through a notice, review and consultation process.

Today there are more than 90,000 listings on the National Register of Historic Places across the country. 6000 sites are in New York and 71 are in Sullivan County. Although being on the National Register provides few protections on private land – it is an important protection for the future of the Minisink Battleground Park and other historic sites on public land.

Unfortunately, this and other protections for historic sites, don’t appear to have come in time or be enough to protect and tell the full story of the American Revolution.

As Jack Warren, executive director of the American Revolution Institute said in 2014, “Many of our Revolutionary War battlefields were lost long ago — buried beneath the concrete and asphalt of Brooklyn and Trenton and consumed by the sprawl of Boston, New York and Philadelphia. This statement was based in part on the findings of the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Historic Preservation Study (2007).

This report indicated that of 243 potentially nationally significant battlefields associated with the American Revolutionary, 141 – almost 60% – were lost or extremely fragmented. Although 100 battlefields retained important features and lands from the time of battle, on average, only 37% of the original historic scene remained.

Even when the battlefield itself is saved – much of its history and what that history can tell us remains underground. In 2013, the New York Times published an Op Ed called “Open Season On History” describing the fact that people with metal detectors who collect artifacts for profit or fun are erasing those stories that remain only in the soil. Removal of artifacts from their historical context causes serious and permanent loss of information and our historical data.

In 2012 at Richmond National Battlefield, for example, a relic hunter with a metal detector was finally caught after removing over 9,000 artifacts from the park. His finds included things like 5 buttons in one place – an important piece of historical data which suggests that a previously undiscovered body of a soldier had been buried there. If 4 of 5 buttons are removed our interpretation of that location may be much different. How many buttons in one place could be discovered at Minisink Battleground to identify the locations of lost patriots? How could the distribution of artifacts across the site contribute to our understanding of the battle itself? How many of these artifacts have already been removed? Sometimes protecting just the land itself may not be enough.

Perhaps less tangible than the threat of being paved over or the removal of artifacts by relic hunters, but I believe of equal magnitude, is what we call the “corrosion of neglect” as support for historical expertise itself has withered. Since 1997 there has been a loss of almost 30 percent of cultural resource management positions in our national parks. The result of not having enough well educated historians and other cultural resource staff combined with reduced funding to support cultural resource programs is that many of our cultural resources are in “poor” or “fair” condition.

A similar scenario exists within the New York State Park System which was described in the 2015 New York State Historic Preservation Plan as having “been gradually eroded by decades of neglect and decay.” This is likely the biggest threat to the Minisink Battleground Park as well. In 2015, the Sullivan County budget is over 201 million dollars. Of that less than 0.25% (< $500,000) goes to the Parks and Rec Department and of that amount <1% – a total budget of $4,160 – is dedicated to the Minisink Battleground Park. Additionally, very little funding goes to support County and Town historians in New York and throughout the country. How far can the existing funding and expertise go toward maintaining the Minisink Battleground  in “good condition” and have we defined what “good condition” is – an often undefined state in many parks but a critical element of obtaining sufficient resources and achieving successful long-term management.

Jack Warren also said that, “Those unspoiled landscapes that remain are precious reminders of the struggle to achieve independence and create a republic dedicated to the liberty of ordinary people,” Minisink Battleground is one of these unspoiled landscapes. One of the primary reasons this site is on the National Register is that the wooded and rock-strewn battleground retains a high degree of integrity and remains largely undisturbed. What does high degree of integrity mean? It means that today, over 230 years later, visitors can still stand at Hospital Rock and feel the agony of American militiamen as Brant’s forces overran and killed them. You can smell the smoke from muskets and hear the whinny of horses on the stone covered terrain in-between Hospital Rock and Sentinel Rock where the heaviest fighting took place. You still have an opportunity to experience an environment that is very similar to what the men who fought and died here would have experienced. It is this “sense of place” that helps visitors and future generations to understand and appreciate what happened here and to continue to want to protect it.

The need for protection of historic sites and commemoration of the valor and sacrifice of local patriots was recognized by the residents of Sullivan County long before passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966. In this case it was the efforts of County residents that led to Minisink Battleground being placed on the National Register rather than the National Register leading to its protection. It was never concrete and asphalt that threatened this site.  At Minisink it was the extensive bluestone quarrying operations that threatened the Battleground and it was the Minisink Valley Historical Society that initially established the park in the 1890’s and then turned over its care to the Sullivan County Parks and Recreation Commission in 1955.

Today, our population is aging, our local youth are moving away, understanding of the sacrifices made during the American Revolution is fading into textbooks, visitation to many of our historical sites is declining or is now for the purposes of walking the dog instead of remembering history, and funding and staffing may be insufficient to keep the relic hunters away, keep acid rain from degrading the 1879 monument, and non-native, invasive plants from taking over and obscuring the rock strewn battlefield – changing the ability of visitors to experience that “sense of place” that makes Minisink so special.

The best way to honor the men who sacrificed their lives at the Minisink Battleground and keep their memory alive is to make sure we care for and protect this site and to continue to educate this and future generations about what happened here and how it relates to the birth of our nation.

In the future we must continue to ask ourselves whether preserving the actual land associated with the Battle of Minisink, commemorating the sacrifices of the men here each year, mowing the trails and other activities are enough over the long term to ensure that this important piece of history is not lost or diminished. What are the threats to this site today and what does success look like? Only when we understand these things can we really understand what additional actions may be needed.

Members of the Navasing Long Rifles (Kai Moessele, left, Dan Hogue Jr. and Anthony Domingo) are among the living historians who pay annual tribute at the commemoration of the Battle of Minisink. On Saturday, they accompanied representatives of area chapters of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution who placed memorial wreaths at the monument , then read the names of the fallen patriots. (Photo by: Laurie Ramie)

With limited funding and staff available from the County, this effort must focus on maintaining and strengthening the partnerships between organizations such as the Sullivan County Historical Society, Pike County Historical Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, veterans organizations, the National Park Service, and others who coordinate and participate in this event each year on both sides of the river and provide interpretive programs and other services.

This effort must also include the residents of Sullivan and Pike Counties that both love history and that visit this site – folks who can let people with metal detectors know that activity isn’t allowed here, people who can volunteer to clear invasive plants from the battleground, historians and archeologists who are interested in discovering more about the stories in the soil, and people who remember and pass on the story of Col. Benjamin Tusten and the brave men who fought here.

Ultimately, in the same way the Minisink Battleground was initially saved we will be successful in making sure it’s history is not lost as so many battlegrounds of the American Revolution have already been.”

 

Posted in Catskill Mountains, Historic Sites, Landmarks, Monuments, Orange County, Revolutionary War, Sullivan County, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joint Program by the Newburgh Historical Society and St. George’s Church Continues with History Talk

Rev. John Brown Courtesy of St. George’s Cemetery

NEWBURGH, NY – During the first part of their partnership, over 100 members of the public joined the Newburgh Historical Society and St. George’s Episcopal Church for a tour through the historic St. George’s Cemetery, founded in 1838 by the subject of a new talk, the Rev. John Brown.

The second part of the joint program continues on August 2nd at 3:00 p.m. with the history talk titled, “A Man for Our Time: The Rev. Dr. John Brown, D.D.,” presented by Madelaine Piel, historian, genealogist and a Rev. Brown descendant.

The Rev. John Brown’s life spanned the birth of the nation and through the Gilded Age. He founded the Newburgh Horticultural Society, was involved in the founding of St. Luke’s Hospital, welcomed American Revolutionary War General Lafayette during his visit to America in 1824, and from his garden on First Street bloomed the historic neighborhood known as “Quality Row.”

Madelaine Piel is a member of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, served as its Vice Chair and as a member of its Board of Trustees. She is also a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists. While researching her own family’s genealogy, Piel discovered she is a descendant of the influential reverend.

Architectural drawing of St. George's Church. Photo provided.

The talk will take place in the John Brown Room of St. George’s Church, located on 105 Grand Street, Newburgh. Admission is $5 per person and money collected will be directed to the care of St. George’s Cemetery. Reservations are suggested.

Please call (845) 561-2585 or visit their website, http://newburghhistoricalsociety.com/, to make a reservation. Additional information about the event and directions may be found on the Society’s website.

Refreshments will be provided by the St. George’s Cemetery Committee.

 
The Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands was launched unofficially when the Hasbrouck House (Washington’s Headquarters Newburgh) was in danger of demolition after the Revolutionary War. The current Society, incorporated in 1884, has always been an advocate for Newburgh’s history. The Society’s headquarters, 1830 Captain David Crawford House, was purchased in 1954 to save it from demolition and symbolizes their dedication to preserving and protecting Newburgh’s assets.

The Crawford House, a historic house museum and Society’s headquarters, located at 189 Montgomery Street within the City of Newburgh’s Historic District is open for tours on Sundays between 1:00 P.M. and 4:00 P.M. or by appointment. View the “Growing Up In Newburgh” exhibit, a community exhibit featuring the photographs and memories of Newburgh from the 19th century through the 20th century. For more information about admission, tours, or programming please call (845) 561-2585.

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  • Blog Author

    AJ Schenkman

    A.J. Schenkman is the author of numerous books and articles. He is Consulting Historian for Historic Huguenot Street and Town of Gardiner Historian. Read Full

    Elizabeth Werlau

    Elizabeth Werlau is an English teacher in the Hudson Valley and is the historian for the Town of Plattekill in Ulster County. She has authored and contributed to several books on regional history, including her most recent publication, Murder and ... Read Full

    Debra Conway

    A former Features writer/Columnist for the Times Herald-Record and Director of Fort Delaware Museum of Colonial History in Narrowsburg, Debra Conway is currently the Executive Director of The Delaware Company, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ... Read Full

    Matthew Colon

    Matthew Colon is the Director of the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands. He has interpreted the American Revolution at Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site since 2009. He currently assists other history focused volunteer ... Read Full
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