Cemetery Tour Brings to Life Notable Figures of the Past

NEWBURGH, NY – Within the City of Newburgh’s historic district and around the corner from Washington’s Headquarters is the remarkable St. George’s Cemetery. Established in 1838, this burial ground that overlooks the Hudson River is filled with stories once lived by those interred, from the American Revolution through the present.

Both the Newburgh Historical Society and St. George’s Episcopal Church invites the public on a guided walking tour on July 12th starting at 2:00 p.m.

This half mile walk consists of 21 points of interest that includes a guard to General George Washington, a Medal of Honor recipient, a Newburgh citizen turned Confederate during the Civil War, a Southern born who fought for the Union, a doctor, entrepreneurs, religious figures, and many more.

St. George’s, a 7.5 acre cemetery, is a prize example of the 19th century rural cemetery style where the romantic practice of landscaping was essential to its design. Throughout this time period, cemeteries like St. George’s were often viewed as public spaces and lively destinations.

The tour keeps within this tradition by inviting the living to enjoy the stories of the deceased, just as was intended when the cemetery was founded 177 years ago.

Refreshments will be provided by the St. George’s Cemetery Committee. The committee will also raffle off a picnic basket filled with goods and sell other souvenirs to raise funds for the care of the historic cemetery.

The tour will start at the north gate on Washington’s Street at the S. Johnston Street intersection. Admission is $5 per person and reservations are suggested. Please call (845) 561-2585 or visit their website, http://www.newburghhistoricalsociety.com/, to reserve a place on the tour. Additional information about the event and parking may be found on the Society’s website.

 
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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Historic Huguenot Street Expands Popular Summer Camp

Summer Camp-Courtesy of HHS

NEW PALTZ, NY – Historic Huguenot Street has added an additional week in July to its summer Camp Huguenot schedule, which features week-long summer camps on archaeology and colonial history.Campers between the ages of 9 and 12 are invited to discover, explore, and experience the National Historic Landmark District, where they will learn about the site, its unique history, and the individuals who settled New Paltz over 300 years ago.

This year’s camps feature two themed opportunities. The popular Hidden History Archaeology Camp has been extended to include two week-long sessions; campers may register for one or both weeks. Campers work alongside trained archaeologists from SUNY New Paltz Professor Joseph Diamond’s Field School, conducting a live archaeology dig searching for artifacts left by the original settlers and the Native Americans who came before them. Through these activities, campers will learn the basic principles and practices of archaeology, as well as its modern day significance and relation to the understanding of past cultures. Archaeology Camp sessions run July 13 – 17 and July 20 – 24.

Launched last summer, Colonial Kids’ Living History Camp provides campers with the opportunity to spend a week with Huguenot Street museum staff and historic re-enactors learning about life in the 18th century and how it compares to our lives today. Campers will replicate games, chores, and activities from colonial times, experience an 18th century school lesson, try-on colonial clothing, learn about common occupations and trades, and much more. Living History Camp runs July 27 – 31.

“At Camp Huguenot, campers not only learn about archaeology and history, they get hands-on experience, interacting with museum professionals, archaeologists, and authentic artifacts,” explained Kara Gaffken, Director of Public Programming.

All camps run 9 am to 3 pm, Monday – Friday. After-Camp Care is also available until 4 pm for an additional fee. For more information, rates, and registration, see huguenotstreet.org/camp-huguenot. Registration is required as spots fill quickly.

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, Town/Village of New Paltz, Ulster County | Leave a comment

July 4 Revolutionary War Reenactment

NEW PALTZ, NY (June 19, 2015) – Historic Huguenot Street will host a Revolutionary War reenactment on July 4, “New Paltz in the War for Independence.” Featuring members of the 5thNew York Regiment (5thny.org), reenactors will camp on the DuBois Fort lawn (81 Huguenot Street) and perform a number of demonstrations throughout the day.

Image: Revolutionary War Money, Five Dollars. Holt, John. 1775. Held in the Historic Huguenot Street Collection

At the camp site, visitors will see wedge-style tents and a dining “fly” as they would have been used during the Revolution. Living historians will demonstrate marching and drilling, showing how arms at the time were handled and fired. An armament demonstration will display various types of muskets and weaponry while members of the regiment explain how they were used, fired, and maintained. Additional demonstrations and displays will reveal aspects of civilian life, including candle making, blacksmithing, woodworking, musket ball and cartridge manufacturing, and colonial cooking. Children can participate in reenactment military drills and various colonial games.

“The original 5th New York Regiment included many soldiers from Orange and Ulster counties,” explained Kara Gaffken, Director of Public Programming. “With the guidance of the living historians of the regiment, guests will have an engaging opportunity to discover how both soldiers and civilians from our own region actually lived during the Revolutionary War.

In addition to the reenactment, a new exhibit of Revolutionary War objects from the Historic Huguenot Street Archives and Permanent Collection will be on display in the DuBois Fort. The exhibit “’By the Grace of God, Free and Independent:’ The Revolutionary War in Ulster County” will be on display through Sunday, August 2. Both the reenactment activities and the exhibit are free and open to the public.

Guided tours and In-the-Moment tours of Historic Huguenot Street will be available throughout the day.

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, Historic Sites, Museums, Revolutionary War, Town/Village of New Paltz, Ulster County, Wars | Leave a comment

St. George’s of Newburgh

There is a frequently overlooked historic cemetery in Newburgh named St. George’s Cemetery. This cemetery, founded by the Dr. Rev. John Brown in 1838, “is bound by Washington, Federal, South William, and Clark Streets,” in the historic East End of the City of Newburgh. It was created in part because more burial plots were needed as the Old Town Cemetery was running out of space. Unlike the Old Town Cemetery, St. George’s is still an active burial ground. It belongs to St. George’s Church which has an interesting history by itself pre-dating the American War for Independence.

One of the reasons that Brown decided on this spot, where the cemetery is currently located, is because of the “prominent hill and wide sloping field” which overlook the Hudson River. Rev. Brown wanted to create a paradise for the both the living and the dead in St. George’s. It was to him a work of art putting together the grounds of the cemetery with, it is believed, Andrew Jackson Downing.

Histories of the burying ground describe a close friendship between the two men. Many trees were planted and carriage ways constructed in order to give the cemetery an inviting feel. It was hoped that it would also be a place that was almost park like and citizens of Newburgh might escape from the rigors of city life. This would also prove, in later years, to be problematic for the cemetery.

Frontispiece engraved portrait of Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-1852) from “A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening”-1853

The relative seclusion of the cemetery made it attractive to not only vandals, but interlopers who had no business in the cemetery after dark. St. George’s History is connected to the American Revolution even though it was not a burial ground at that point in time. It is also believed to be the final resting place of Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck when, according to late Newburgh City Historian, A. Elwood Corning, “Colden Street was extended southward through the eastern boundary of the Hasbrouck property.”

A Sunday Newburgh Telegram reported in 1899 that an individual, “George W. Shaw,” remembered work being done in the old Hasbrouck burial grounds. He also remembered that before the work was started attempts were taken to remove as many remains as possible from the Hasbrouck Family grounds. Those remains that were found were reinterred in the Old Town Cemetery. However, not until the work commenced were additional bones found by workers.

It was believed, at the time, they were the remains of Colonel Hasbrouck which were eventually reinterred “beneath a Sycamore tree on the south side of the cemetery.” Corning believed that it was prior to St. George’s being incorporated as a cemetery. Near the same Sycamore tree is also the final resting place of Robert Blair. Blair was one of General George Washington’s Commander- in- Chief’s Guards who acted as the general’s personal body guards accompanying him most places. According to Carlos E. Godfrey’s book on the Commander-in-Chief’s Guard, Blair, who was born in Ireland, was at many notable battles including “Yorktown and Monmouth.”

Once in Newburgh, he remained with the Guard in Newburgh until he was furloughed on “June 6, 1783.” Blair was finally discharged on” November 3, 1783.” He remained in Newburgh where he died on March 11, 1841, and buried in St. George’s Cemetery where he was “rediscovered” just prior to an 1899 Decoration Day ceremony. The cemetery also boasts a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient named Dennis William Hickey who served in as a sergeant in the Union Army. It was awarded to Hickey for his valor at the Battle of Stony Creek Bridge in Virginia. He was interred in the cemetery in 1908.There is also a United States Navy Rear Admiral buried in the cemetery.

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

Curiously enough these events connecting St. George’s with the history of not only Newburgh, but with the early founding of the nation, did not protect it even though it was, and still is, an active burial ground. In 1975 some 1,200 headstones were toppled by vandals. The paradise sought by Brown instead became the final resting place for old electronics and appliances. The caretakers hired by St. George’s were overwhelmed. Its seclusion also played a part in the problem plaguing the burial ground throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The Old Town Cemetery was visible from the road and authorities could see what was happening across the cemetery. However, at St. George’s it was less visible and hid the vandalism as well as drug use that plagued the cemetery after dark. It appeared that a special part of Newburgh’s valuable history might be destroyed forever.

About the same time there was renewed interest in the OId Town Cemetery, there was also renewed interest in St. George’s. A cadre of volunteers and paid workers from St. George’s church and the community slowly started taking back the cemetery. Increasingly, a new generation of residents in Newburgh who refused to allow a treasure to slip away. Students from nearby Newburgh Free Academy repaired its fences. Headstones long since toppled were righted and tours were even started in the 1990s. It was by the next century that the future was looking even brighter for both the Old Town and St. George’s Cemeteries. Both sites started hosting first person re-enactments of the lives of people who made the cemeteries their final resting place.

The worst days of St. George’s Cemetery appear behind it. This treasure is starting to become a destination for historians as well as tourists who want to immerse themselves in a slice of Newburgh History. Increasingly the cemetery is once becoming a refuge for city dwellers in the summer or those just wanting to lounge in the shade of mature trees planted so long ago by Brown. Recently West Point Cadets assembled in the cemetery to help clean it up. This included righting headstones that had been toppled. Once again it is a testament to what individuals, with a dedicated vision, can do when they decide to take action.

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Newburgh Illuminated at the Crawford House

A Majorette, the young woman leading the Newburgh Free Academy band along Broadway, during the Memorial Day parade of 1962.

NEWBURGH, NY – The Newburgh Historical Society will open the historic Captain David Crawford House during the June 20th city-wide event, Newburgh Illuminated. Between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. members of the public are welcome to join guided tours through the 1830 house, view a unique collection and the recently opened exhibit, “Growing Up In Newburgh.”

The third annual Newburgh Illuminated festival is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Newburgh’s incorporation as a city in 1865. Many organizations throughout the city will come together to celebrate all that is Newburgh through history, food, music and the arts.

The Crawford House, a history headquarters, offers a collection that represents a history from before Henry Hudson’s historic voyage along the river that would share his name through the 20th century.

Newburgh was incorporated as a village in 1800 and as a city in 1865. With its situation on the Hudson River, midway between New York City and Albany and its naturally deep port, Newburgh became a prosperous shipping, transportation and industrial hub.

Captain David Crawford, a civic leader and maritime entrepreneur, played a key role in the transition of Newburgh from a small riverside community to a thriving shipping and industrial city. His neo-classical home reflected his wealth and stature within the community.

Explore the new exhibit, “Growing Up In Newburgh.” This community exhibit features a variety of photographs showing families at Downing Park, during parades, socializing downtown and many others.

Admission to the historic Crawford House and exhibit is free during the festival. For more information please call (845) 561-2585 or visit their website.

 
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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“This Place Matters” Along the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway

A fun and easy way to promote favorite sites along the New York State Route 97 Upper Delaware Scenic Byway is by bringing the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “This Place Matters” campaign to the local level.

Luke Harrie of Tyler Hill, PA shows his support for the 1840 Ten Mile River Baptist Church located along the New York State Route 97 Upper Delaware Scenic Byway, five miles south of Narrowsburg. The church building, which is under the care of the non-profit Tusten Settlement Association, opens its doors at least once a year as the site of an annual Memorial Day service and is available for other special events. Donations to help with the restoration of the historic property are gladly accepted. Please call Board of Directors member Doreen Kraus at (845) 252-6653 for more information. Photo by Cindy Odell.

The Upper Delaware Scenic Byway parallels the western border of Sullivan County, along a scenic 70-mile stretch of the Delaware River. This unique highway of undulating hills and rock cut landscapes connects numerous landmarks, charming villages, and tourism attractions from the former railroad city of Port Jervis in Orange County to the historic timber rafting and bluestone village of Hancock in Delaware County.

Now the non-profit Upper Delaware Scenic Byway, Inc.  is encouraging residents and visitors to show their appreciation for these places that are important to them by posting photos online.

These places may represent historic properties, museum sites, interesting attractions, community scenes, beautiful vistas, bridges – such as the 1903 Pond Eddy Bridge, set for replacement despite being listed on the National and New York State Registers of

Historic Places – or any location with personal significance that one would like to bring to the attention of the world at large through social media.

Simply visit http://savingplaces.org/thisplacematters to download and print a sign reading “This Place Matters” (or make your own,) take a photo while holding that sign in front of the favorite place, and share it online with the hashtag #ThisPlaceMatters, with your explanation of its significance.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation spotlights favorite shots @SavingPlaces on Instagram and Twitter.

Any photos of sites taken along or near New York State Route 97  or the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River from Hancock to Port Jervis are also welcome to be posted at https://www.facebook.com/upperdelawarescenicbyway.

More information about this state-designated byway route and its amenities is available at www.UpperDelawareScenicByway.org or by calling the toll-free hotline at (866) 511-UDSB (8372) to request a brochure.

The historic Pond Eddy Bridge across the Delaware River, also known since 1963 as the All Veterans Memorial Bridge, is one of the few remaining examples of a petit truss bridge

 

A former Features writer/columnist for the Times Herald-Record newspaper and Director of Fort Delaware Museum of Colonial History in Narrowsburg, Debra Conway is currently Executive Director of The Delaware Company, an educational non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and preserving the history and heritage of the Upper Delaware River – and beyond – and supporting others who do. She can be contacted at debrarconway@hotmail.com   

Posted in Catskill Mountains, Cemeteries, Covered Bridges, Historic Sites, Landmarks, Lost Landmarks, Monuments, Museums | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Local Cider Market & Tasting, Introduces Historic Crab Apple Cider

Crab Apple Plate-HHS

NEW PALTZ, NY (May 29, 2015) – As part of both New York State’s Path Through History Weekend and Hudson Valley Cider Week, Historic Huguenot Street will host a local cider market and tasting on Saturday, June 20.

The market will feature 9 Hudson Valley cider makers, including: Hudson Valley Farmhouse Cider (produced at Breezy Hill Orchard and Stone Ridge Orchard), Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery (maker of Doc’s® Draft Ciders, Warwick), Glorie Farm Winery (Marlboro), The Standard Cider Company (owned by Brotherhood Winery, Washingtonville), Aaron Burr Cidery (Wurtsboro), Orchard Hill Cider Mill (located at Soons Orchard, New Hampton), Kettleborough Cider House (New Paltz), Pitchfork Hard Cider (Poughkeepsie), and Angry Orchard (opening a new facility in Walden).

As part of the market, Historic Huguenot Street and Kettleborough Cider House will be introducing a historic crab apple hard cider, brewed by Kettleborough in collaboration with HHS. The cider’s use of crab apples is true to how the early founders of New Paltz would have brewed their own cider, which was a popular colonial drink.

“We are so excited to offer tastings of our first Huguenot Street cider,” said Kara Gaffken, Director of Public Programming, who organized the market. “Kettleborough Cider House is one of the few cideries in the region that has planted and harvested the bittersweet and bittersharp apples that our ancestors would have used for cider making.”

Glynwood, the agricultural non-profit that created Cider Week, will be present at the market with information about their programs, including their Farm Business Incubator located on 323 acres near New Paltz. Cider Week, now in its fifth year, has been successful in driving market demand for regional craft cider and has helped to noticeably increase sales and profitability for apple and cider producers.

The market will take place on the Deyo House lawn across from the DuBois Fort (81 Huguenot Street) and will be open from 12 – 4 pm. Vendors will be selling ciders and other products from their farms, as well as offering tastings of their various hard ciders. Admission is $5 and grants access for the duration of the market. Guests tasting cider must be 21+ with ID.

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.

A.J. Schenkman, Historic Huguenot Street’s Consulting Historian, teaches history in the Lower Hudson Valley. He is the author of numerous books and articles. His most recent books include “Murder and Mayhem in Ulster County,” “Wicked Ulster County: Tales of Desperadoes, Gangs & More,” and “Washington’s Headquarters Newburgh: Home to a Revolution.”  A.J. has columns in both The New York History Blog, and is a history blogger for The Times Herald Record.He has been featured in numerous publications, venues , radio, and television.

Posted in Education, Historic Sites, Landmarks, Museums, Press Releases, Town/Village of New Paltz, Ulster County | Leave a comment

Roll up. Roll up for The Magical History Tour

In September of 1778, as the Revolutionary War raged throughout the colonies, and particularly fiercely in New York, there were several hundred volunteer Patriot militia stationed at a fort on Honk Hill near present day Kerhonkson. After hearing of a raid on a nearby settlement, in which a number of settlers were killed, the troop commander dispatched part of his men to intercept the raiding party at Chestnut Woods, near present day Grahamsville.

Volunteers were called for and an officer named John Graham stepped forward, offering to go with a sergeant’s guard, consisting of 18 privates and a sergeant and corporal. He was offered more, but refused to take them. These inexperienced men were ambushed as they stopped to eat, and most of them, including Graham, were killed. Although there was no actual battle in the strictest sense, the ambush has become known as The Battle at Chestnut Woods.

You can hear more on this story — and many, many others — during Sullivan County Historian John Conway’s and Liberty/ NYC architect Robert Dadras’ 20th annual historic/architectural bus tour on Saturday, June 20th, as part of the New York State Path Through History Weekend.

The Delaware Company is collaborating this year with the Liberty Museum and Arts Center and the Time and the Valleys Museum in Grahamsville for the 2015 tour dubbed “The Magical History Tour: Museum to Museum.” “The museums will be the bookends this year,” Conway says, “and the Celebrating Catskills Waters exhibit at Time and the Valley will certainly be a highlight, but there is much else to see and experience and learn about.”

For one thing, the tour will visit the Old Stone House in Hasbrouck, one of the most historically and architecturally significant buildings in Sullivan County. The Old Stone House was once the home of Anthony Hasbrouck, one of the county’s most prominent men during his lifetime. In fact, it was the home in which Hasbrouck met his untimely death in December of 1840, murdered in a most gruesome fashion at the hands of the unstable Cornelius Hardenbergh.

Hasbrouck was wealthy and powerful. He had been a member of the state Assembly for some years and had run for Congress in 1838, losing to the Fallsburg tanner, Rufus Palen. He lived in the comfortable stone house in the community later named in his honor, and was generally regarded as a warm and generous man.The Old Stone is the historic home (and murder site) of former NYS Assemblyman Anthony Hasbrouck”

He was also typically a good businessman, but he got more than he bargained for when he got involved with Hardenbergh, the great-great grandson of Johannes Hardenbergh, the original patentee of the Hardenbergh Patent, which had made him one of the largest landowners in all of North America.

Cornelius Hardenbergh and Anthony Hasbrouck were related by marriage.

A life of financial failure and debauchery that clearly led to mental illness, and a ghostly apparition fueled Hardenbergh’s blood lust. And after telling a neighbor that “Hasbrouck ought to be shot; he deserves to die,” he purchased from various merchants in Liberty a pistol, some powder, and a quantity of lead, as well as a Bowie knife.

He visited Hasbrouck at his home, taking with him not only those weapons, but a rifle, too. He confronted Hasbrouck in front of his family, the two men struggled, and Hasbrouck was shot in the abdomen, but that was just the beginning. You can hear more of the story during the bus tour, but suffice it to say that Hasbrouck finally died and Hardenbergh was arrested, tried and eventually became the first man hanged in Sullivan County.

Murder was nothing out of the ordinary for the ruthless group of Depression-era Brooklyn mobsters dubbed by the press as Murder, Inc. and Loch Sheldrake was once their vacation playground. Stories of their escapades there and around the county will be another tour highlight this year, and will include information about one of their victims still believed to reside at the bottom of the lake.

Additional places of interest include the old Brown’s Hotel which, despite NOT being the setting for “Dirty Dancing” or the hotel where Jerry Lewis got his start, as some believe, it is still a place of legend, some smaller, lesser known hotels of the region’s Golden Age, and tales of Liberty’s own harness racing track.

Despite the popular publicity myth, the Jerry Lewis Theatre Club at the former Browns Hotel is NOT where the famed comedian got his start.

“As always, we’ve got something for everyone,” tour narrator Robert Dadras promises. Dadras will be presenting the architectural highlights on his 20th consecutive tour, and thinks this will be one of the best ever.

This year’s Magical History Tour: Museum to Museum will leave from and return to the Liberty Museum at 46 South Main Street, Liberty. There are two identical trips, one in the morning, leaving at 8:30 a.m. (registration begins at 8 a.m.) and returning at 12:30 p.m., and one in the afternoon, leaving at 1:30 p.m. (registration begins at 1) and returning at 5:30 p.m.

Lunch will be served to all tour participants at the Museum in between the two tours at which time The Delaware Company will be presenting its annual President’s Award and James W. Burbank Memorial Award to recipients who have contributed to the promotion and support of local history.

The cost of the tour is $45, which includes the reception and museum admissions. Proceeds go to The Delaware Company and the Liberty Museum.

Although there are two tours, seating is limited and reservations must be made in advance. Contact The Delaware Company at jconway52@hotmail.com or 845-557-0851 for more information.

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Growing Up In Newburgh: Past Meets the Present

 

Nostalgia is something that we all experience. These pleasant recollections accompanied by moving emotions may affect us at random times. This was the case for me when I visited a local ninth grade classroom during a creative writing lesson plan this week. Sometimes, the feeling is so perfect I get the sense that nostalgia seeks us out. Other times, we seek out nostalgia, which is the case for a new exhibit by the Newburgh Historical Society titled, “Growing Up In Newburgh,” opening on Sunday, June 7th, between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.

 

A Bold Idea

“What’s that?” a young woman called out as I entered Mrs. McCartney’s classroom at the Newburgh Free Academy (N.F.A.). The lights were out, desks were arranged in a semicircle and the students were facing a film playing at the front of the room. On the screen were images from an older Newburgh. Students called out questions and were curious about what flashed before their eyes. Some images they recognized, some images seemed out of place, while others looked nothing like the Newburgh they’ve grown to know. “Was that house on Grand Street?” another student called out.

I was late. Of course, it was my first day back to school in quite some time and I was late. I had neither a good excuse nor a hall pass to present to Mrs. McCartney. “I’m only a visitor,” I thought to myself as I raced through the main entrance, “here to observe.”

Violet Hulse Fairbanks, skating at Downing Park, ca. winter of 1929-1930. Photo courtesy of Deborah Lanspery.

A week and a half earlier, Christine McCartney and I met at the historic Captain David Crawford House. She was very interested in using images from the Historical Society’s new exhibit in a lesson plan for her ninth grade students. Getting her the images was easy, but there was another layer to her request that I was happy to assist with. “Wouldn’t it be nice to allow the students to interview a person from these photographs,” she said, half serious.

Back in the classroom, I found an open desk among the nearly twenty seated students. I was overcome with nostalgia the second I sat down. It was cold to the touch indicating to me that I was the first to sit in it that day. It was just after 7:45 a.m.; first period. I placed my bag on the floor beside the desk, just as I used to, and pulled out my notebook and a pen. I was surrounded by inspirational posters. There was a familiar clock on the wall by the door. I hoped for the students’ sake that it didn’t run as slow as the one I grew up with. There was a blackboard on nearly every wall. The assignment and daily aim from the previous day was still chalked on the one at the far side of the room. “Get into groups of 3,” it demanded, ”What can we learn about the history of our school from primary source documents?” It was all too familiar.

 

The Forty Cent Rule

“Those buildings once sat on Water Street,” answered Mark Gamma, one of the two community members presenting their experience of growing up in Newburgh. Some of the buildings featured in the film were razed during the unsuccessful urban renewal projects in the 1970s.

Gamma is the owner of the Newburgh Actors Studio, since 2008. He served as a field producer for the controversial documentary, “The Newburgh Sting,” which premiered on HBO in 2014. Unhappy with how Newburgh was portrayed by the filmmakers, Gamma set out to make his own documentary, interviewing members of the community who could shine a light on a side of Newburgh he described as “a great city!” On the screen above our heads was a seventeen minute rough-cut of his film, “The Lost Cities.”

Newburgh basketball players Charlie Johnson, Alan Axelrod, Bill Neely, and Bobby Scott after a game. Photo courtesy of Alan Axelrod.

The second speaker was Alan Axelrod, a retired attorney who has lived in Newburgh most of his life. He joined Gamma in answering questions about the images from the film, pointing out buildings and some of the people he once knew.

Axelrod graduated in the Class of 1964. He humorously described himself as “a fat old bald guy, but I wasn’t then. Believe it or not, I did play basketball.” We all shared a laugh. He shared his fond memory of playing “ball” at N.F.A. The students were particularly interested in that story. One of the images that Axelrod allowed me to provide for the lesson plan was of him and fellow players, Charlie Johnson, Bill Neely, and Bobby Scott, taken in the winter of 1963 after a home game. Soon after, it was featured in the sports section of the Newburgh News. It’s been nearly 52 years since Axelrod posed for that photograph and the image still resonated with the students.

Axelrod went on to tell stories about growing up with the famed author, James Patterson. “We called him Jimmy then.” He mentioned that “everyone came to Newburgh to shop.” You could purchase anything in the shops along Broadway and Water Street. Axelrod and Gamma mentioned the great Newburgh roller rink, the Avalon. Then there was “Sam the Bookie” who posed as “Sam the Barber.”

The students seemed to enjoy listening to the two men describe their past. They engaged the speakers. Some raised their hands while others called out. I have to admit that I enjoyed every moment. Mrs. McCartney reminded her students to continue taking notes, “If I am writing, then you should be as well.” Although I was not her student, her words, like the classroom, were too familiar. I had to reminded myself, “she isn’t referring to you.”

Palatine Hotel opened it's door on July 6, 1893 and was claimed by its promoters as the most fabulous hostelry to hit the entire Hudson Valley.

One person interviewed in the film told the story of the luxurious Palatine Hotel that once stood on Grand Street. He held up a paper children’s menu. On the reverse side was a illustration of a clown that could easily be turned into a mask. Commotion started among the students as the camera revealed the low prices for full meals. “Sixty-five cents!” a student shouted in disbelief.

This reminded Axelrod of another memory. “Forty cents is something I think about. Lunch here at N.F.A was forty cents.” Sometimes he wouldn’t stay for lunch. He and his friends would venture out to Pete’s Hot Dogs. According to Axelrod, “a hot dog cost fifteen cents and it was ten cents for a flavored ice.” His friend, Bill Neely, always had a dollar and to his disbelief Axelrod witnessed him eat “six hot dogs and an ice” on more than one occasion.

“When my parents could scrounge up enough money for us,” referring to his brother, Carl, and himself, “we’d have forty cents to go to the movies.” It was an outing for the two young brothers. They promised their mother they would take the bus, but according to Axelrod, they usually didn’t. He had good reason not to. “It was twenty cents to watch a double-feature at any of the movie theaters” and it cost ten cents one way each on the bus. If they took the bus round trip, then there wouldn’t be any money left for admission. So they walked, saved money and had twenty cents more to spend at the concession stand. As an adult, Axelrod finally confessed to his mother. His conscience is now clear.

 

Why Newburgh?

It was mostly positive memories, but many of us couldn’t help but to make a comparison of Newburgh, then and now. Newburgh is not the same city that Axelrod or Gamma experienced. The idea that reports about Newburgh are mostly negative is something Mark Gamma would agree with. “Most documentaries have been negative towards Newburgh,” he said to the class, “and that is why we made this documentary.”

Coldwell Lawn Mower Co. factory on Newburgh waterfront, which later becomes Regal Bag after 1947. Collection of Newburgh Historical Society, Newburgh, NY

When Alan Axelrod was growing up, “we all had jobs when we were fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen.” There were a lot of factories in Newburgh, he said. He remembers working at a pocketbook factory on the other side of the city. His two sons worked at Regal Bag, another pocket book factory located on the waterfront. “The lack of jobs is why Newburgh is what it is today,” he claimed. “Now it’s more difficult for young people to find jobs during the summer.”

During a second session with a different group of nearly twenty students, Gamma was asked, “Why do you study Newburgh?” It was a bold question to ask considering Gamma gave his time to be there that morning and allow an early viewing of his film, but I thought it was fair. As Gamma pointed out to the previous group, there have been many reports about Newburgh with a negative lean and I imagine he gets this question a lot when he discusses his project.

He was quick to answer, “because it is one of the most beautiful and historic cities.” A city that he calls home.

 

Lesson Learned

Alan Axelrod, Christine McCartney, and Mark Gamma.

Judy Kennedy, the mayor of the City of Newburgh, is featured in Gamma’s film. Her interview looked as if it was done in a casual setting. She looked to be dressed plainly and her comments seemed candid and unrehearsed. One comment caught my attention and probably best explained the audacity by Mark Gamma in creating his film. It explained why Alan Axelrod took time out of his day to speak with the students. It explained what drove their teacher, Christine McCartney, to put together her lesson plan. Kennedy said, “I’ve never been in a city where the people were so passionate about their city.”

An important and near final question posed that day to Alan Axelrod was, “what has changed between then and now?” His answer was, “we are very similar.” He said he saw this in his grandchildren and students in the classroom. Some may hope that what Axelrod saw was the passion mentioned by Mayor Kennedy in Gamma’s film, one that may stem from the learned lesson of nostalgia.

 
 

Join members of the Newburgh Historical Society for the opening of a new exhibit,“Growing Up In Newburgh,” at the historic Captain David Crawford House on June 7th. A reception will take place between 1:00 p.m and 4:00 p.m. and all are invited to share in the nostalgia. This is a community exhibit featuring a variety of photographs showing families at Downing Park, during parades, socializing downtown and many others. All the images included have been donated by a supportive community and have never before been featured in a Newburgh Historical Society exhibit. Sixteen members of the community have contributed over 120 images captured from the late 19th century through the 20th century. One unique item provided is a 1960s film of a family ice skating on the frozen pond, known locally as the “Polly,” at Newburgh’s Downing Park. Refreshments will be provided. Admission is $5 per person. For more information please call (845) 561-2585 or visit our website at http://www.newburghhistoricalsociety.com/.

 

Top photo of Alan Axelrod, Mark Gamma, and Christine McCarthy addressing the students during a creative writing lesson plan about growning up in Newburgh.

Posted in City of Newburgh, Education, Orange County, Picturing the Past | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Cherry Trees, Takamine and Sullivan County’s Sho-Fu-Den

Jefferson Memorial-2010 National-CherryBlossom-Festival

If you have ever been awed by the cherry blossom trees in Washington, DC or New York City, then thank a former Sullivan County resident.

Japanese-American Dr. Jokichi Takamine, was already a wealthy chemist in 1901 when he became the first to isolate and purify the hormone adrenalin, the first effective bronchodilator for asthma. A few years prior, he had licensed production rights to his “Takadiastase,” (an enzyme that catalyzes the breakdown of starch that is used to make soy sauce and miso) to Parke-Davis, enabling him to amass $30 million and to turn much of his attention to his ongoing efforts to further friendly relations between his birthplace and his adopted home.

In honor of those efforts, the Meiji Emperor of Japan presented him with a model of the 1,300-year-old Coronation Palace that had been part of the Japanese exhibit at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Takamine had the elaborate building transported in sections from Missouri to his summer home in Sullivan County’s Town of Forestburgh. It was called Sho-Fu-Den, “Pine and Maple Palace.”

But it was his generous – and nearly anonymous – gift in 1909 of 2,000 cherry trees to First Lady Helen Herron Taft, who was working to beautify the Tidal Basin area around the Potomac River in Washington, DC, that sealed the friendship between “the People of the United States from the People of Japan.”

His gesture came after 24 years of relentless activism from Mrs. Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, a friend of Mrs. Taft’s, who had travelled to Japan in 1885 and witnessed the breathtaking and exalted flowering cherry trees, known as “Sakura,” a potent symbol equated with the evanescence of human life viewed by the Japanese as epitomizing the transformation of their culture throughout the ages.

Upon returning to Washington, Mrs. Scidmore approached the US Army Superintendent of the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds with a proposal that cherry trees be planted along the reclaimed Potomac waterfront. Her request fell on deaf ears, as it did with every new superintendent she approached over the years.

Finally in 1906, according to the National Park Service, she convinced Dr. David Fairchild, an official of the US Department of Agriculture, to import several varieties of cherry trees to test them for hardiness and suitability to the Washington, DC climate, which he did on his own property in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Pleased with the trees’ success, the Fairchilds joined the promotion of the flowering cherry trees, enlisting friends to order trees and distribute cherry saplings to school children for planting on Arbor Day.

In closing his Arbor Day speech in 1908, Dr. Fairchild shared Mrs. Scidmore’s vision that the area around the Tidal Basin be transformed into a “Field of Cherries.” Buoyed by the support, Mrs. Scidmore outlined a plan to raise money to purchase the cherry trees and shared the plan with her friend, Mrs. Taft, who had also lived in Japan and was familiar with the beauty of the trees.

Jokichi Takamine

Two days later the first lady responded that she had “taken up the matter…” but thought “it would be best to make an avenue of them, extending down to the turn in the road, as the other part is still too rough to do any planting.”

The very next day, Dr. Takamine was in Washington with Mr. Midzuno, the Japanese consul in Manhattan where Takamine operated his research laboratory and had founded the Nippon Club and the Japanese Society. When he was told that Washington was to have Japanese cherry trees planted along the Speedway, Takamine offered to donate an additional 2,000 trees to fill out the area. Mr. Midzuno thought it was a fine idea and suggested the trees be given in the name of the City of Tokyo. First Lady Taft agreed to accept the donation.

Around the same time in 1909, the Takamines moved into an elegant six-story beaux-arts townhouse on Riverside Drive in New York City, not far from Grant’s Tomb, where a succession of landscape architects – including Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux – had envisioned expansions of Riverside Park.  Wanting to support that vision, Takamine and a committee of Japanese residents gave 2,100 cherry trees and a memorial bronze tablet to the city to be planted at the park in commemoration of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration. (According to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the festivities included a naval parade — honoring the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s exploratory trip upriver as well as the 100th anniversary of Robert Fulton’s demonstration of steam power on the Hudson River– that left New York City from a location near Grant’s Tomb and sailed to Newburgh.)

In August, the Japanese Embassy announced that the City of Tokyo intended to donate to the United States the thousands of cherry trees for both locations, and the trees first arrived in Seattle, Washington in December. By the time they arrived in Washington, DC in January, however, there was a problem. A Department of Agriculture inspection team discovered the trees were diseased and infested with insects. To protect American growers, the department recommended the trees be destroyed.

A potential diplomatic setback was averted by letters from the Secretary of State to the Japanese Ambassador expressing the deep regret of all concerned. Japanese officials met the distressing news with determination and good will. Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki and others suggested a second donation be made (again anonymously funded by Takamine) and the Tokyo City Council authorized the plan.

The number of trees had now increased to 3,020 – of 12 varieties – for Washington alone, and when they arrived by ship in Seattle this time they were immediately transferred to insulated freight cars for shipment to Washington. D.C., arriving there on March 26th. The very next day, while several hundred trees were being planted at the White House, Helen Herron Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted two Yoshino cherry trees on the northern bank of the Tidal Basin, about 125 feet south of what is now Independence Avenue, SW. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the first lady presented a bouquet of “American Beauty” roses to Viscountess Chinda and what has become Washington’s renowned National Cherry Blossom Festival, formalized in 1935, grew from this simple ceremony, witnessed by just a few people.

(These two original trees still stand several hundred yards west of the John Paul Jones Memorial, with a   large bronze plaque at their base commemorating the occasion.)

Meanwhile, in New York, another 2,500 cherry trees (part of the replacement batch funded by Takamine) were quietly planted along Riverside Drive surrounding Grant’s Tomb, also in an area renamed Sakura Park, and along what became known as “Cherry Walk,” plus in Central Park. As an additional expression of gratitude to his American home, Takamine also sent 50 trees to the headquarters of Parke-Davis in Michigan for planting on its front lawn.

“The symbol of Japanese-American friendship has become a clichéd tourist attraction,” wrote Joan W. Bennett, Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology at Tulane University. “But almost no one remembers the man instrumental in making it happen.”

Sakura-Park

Ironically, another Takamine biography notes that his erstwhile Sullivan County home, Sho-Fu-Den, has also become a forgotten tourist attraction. So more on that connection next time.

Posted in Catskill Mountains, Hudson River, Landmarks, Lost Landmarks, Sullivan County | Tagged , | Leave a comment
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    AJ Schenkman

    A.J. Schenkman teaches history in the Lower Hudson Valley. He is the author of numerous books and articles. His most recent books Include Murder and Mayhem in Ulster County and Wicked Ulster County. He is Consulting Historian for Historic Huguenot ... 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

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    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

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    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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