Find Your Park in Hyde Park

FDR-Library of Congress

On August 25th 1916 President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill creating an official agency that would “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for future generations.” This year the National Park Service is celebrating its centennial and this coming week will be a great opportunity to wish a happy birthday to some of the Hudson Valley’s very own National Historic treasures.

To date there are 59 designated National Parks but there are over 400 units in the National Park Service system including historic sites, monuments, battlefields, seashores, and reserves. Our Hudson Valley native President Franklin Delano Roosevelt added over 65 units to the parks system including his own home at Hyde Park. Even before his house opened another Hyde Park home was receiving attention thanks in part to FDR. In 1940 the president had encouraged Margaret Van Alen, a niece of the Vanderbilts to donate the lavish house and grounds in a time when no one could afford to live such an ostentatious lifestyle. Vanderbilt was the first National Park in Hyde Park but it would not be the last.

FDR’s home opened to the public on April 12th 1946, a year to the day after his passing. There were well over 5,000 curious tourists that day and there would be many more in the years to come. Like Vanderbilt, Roosevelt’s home is left intact with all of its original belongings as he requested. Both homes are like time capsules that were once living and have stopped in a place in time. Eleanor Roosevelt was on hand to welcome visitors into her family’s old home but she would never live there after 1945. Instead she retreated to her own little cottage Val-Kill which became the first National Park dedicated to a First Lady and opened to visitors many years after her death in 1984. The fourth and final National Historic Site in Hyde Park is Top Cottage, the president’s retreat.

All of these sites will be open and tours will be free during the National Park Service Founders Week, August 25th – 28th.
Know before you go….
- Since the tours will be free, no reservations will be taken
- Arrive early to sites as the tours will sell out.
- The FDR Presidential Library and Museum is not a National Park, they will be charging normal fees.

For more questions please visit us at

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The Guilford Church in Gardiner, New York

Guilford Church from History of the Town of Gardiner 100th Anniversary created for Town of Gardiner

Guilford was a hamlet that existed prior to the formation of Gardiner in 1853. It was named for the patent that had been granted to Graham and Delavel. Joseph Hasbrouck and his wife Elise Schoonmaker purchased 2,000 acres from James Graham and John Delavel in 1706. During this time if residents of Guilford wanted to go to church services their options were  New Paltz or Kingston. Towards the end of the 18th century those choices widened to include Shawangunk. Both churches were a considerable distance.

It was by 1832 that residents of Guilford wanted a church of their own. According to Kenneth E. Hasbrouck, Sr., and Ralph Lefevre, a meeting was held at the home of Jonathan Westbrook . The first order of business was to find land for a church.

The descendants of Joseph and Elsie Hasbrouck gave the land for the new church. Joseph and Jane Hasbrouck incorporated into the deed that the land was for the Dutch Reformed Church only. The land must always be used for a church or some other spiritual purposes. Finally, in 1833, the church was built. It was located, “on the right side if the road leading from New Paltz to Benton Corners, at the intersection of the four roads: New Paltz to Tuthilltown, Phillies Bridge and New Paltz to Benton Corners.” Residents came from as far away as Forest Glen and Kettleboro to attended services. In addition to a church, a parsonage was constructed in 1835.

Guilford’s Dutch Reformed Church was active for the next seven and a half decades. The beginning of the end for the church occurred on the morning of November 22, 1908. A local newspaper reported that Alonzo Lockwood, a local farmer, entered the church at 9:00 am to build a fire. This was in preparation for the services that started at 11:00 am. Around 10:00 am, Lockwood went to check on the fire. However, before re-entering the building, he noticed smoke coming from the area around the chimney. He ran into the church; the fire was spreading fast.

Lockwood looked around the building to see what he could save. The only objects he saved was the pulpit furniture. Later, it was believed that a defective flue caused the fire. Luckily there was an insurance policy on the building for $1500. Unfortunately, the damage was about $2500.

Rev. Lasher continued to preach from the parsonage as well as from the Tuthill Chapel. He did this until 1914 when he resigned. The congregation vowed to rebuild, but those hopes eventually died out. As one historian pointed out, the population of Guilford was declining. In addition, travel was becoming easier, and the “congregation soon dispersed to New Paltz and Gardiner where the Dutch Reformed Church of Gardiner was located. The church officially disbanded in 1930.


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Why the name Gardiner?

Addison Gardiner-Wikipedia

Since being appointed Town of Gardiner Historian, I have been asked many questions about Gardiner History. The most common question is, why the name Gardiner? Perhaps the second most frequently asked question is, when did Gardiner come into existence? Since Robert DeNiro moved to Gardiner, there have been few questions asking me where Gardiner is located.

According to Kenneth E. Hasbrouck Sr., before becoming Gardiner, the town was known as Church Corners. It was named after Samuel Church. This changed when the Seventy-Sixth Session of the Legislature passed an act “to erect the town of Gardiner in the county of Ulster on April 2, 1853.” Gardiner’s borders were based on a map drawn by Calvin McKinney. Gardiner was carved out of the towns of Shawangunk, New Paltz, and Rochester. The first town meeting was ordered to be held the, “third Tuesday of May next, at the dwelling house now occupied by Denton Smith….”  This still leaves the question, why the name Gardiner?

Addison Gardiner Grave, Mount Hope Cemetery Rochester, NY- Find a Grave

The town was named for Addison Gardiner who was a Lieutenant Governor of New York State. He was elected to Lieutenant Governor in 1844. Later, he sat as a Judge on the New York Court of Appeals from 1847 to 1855.  Although both a Lieutenant Governor, and Judge for New York, Gardiner was not born in New York State.

The New York Historical Society of the New York Courts lists his place of birth as “Rindge, New Hampshire on March 19, 1797″. He was the child of ”William Gardner, who served as a colonel of a local regiment and for three years as a member of the state legislature, and Rebecca (Raymond) Gardner.” The family left New England for New York after 1809. They settled in Manlius, located in Onondaga County. William Gardner quickly became ”a successful merchant and manufacturer.” It was while in Manlius, that the family “restored the original spelling of the family name, Gardiner.”

Addison Gardiner retired from public life in 1855. Although he still came out retirement for affairs of the court, he mainly spent time on his farm outside of Rochester where he died on June 5, 1883. The question that remains did Addison Gardiner ever visit the town that was named after him.

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Abraham Hasbrouck Daughter's Grave - AJ Schenkman

The Gardiner Library will be holding a free Ancestry Research Workshop on Monday August 1 from 7 to 9 PM. Pre-registration is required by July 25th. Led by Town Historian A.J. Schenkman, the workshop is geared for people who want to learn more about their ancestors but are not sure where to begin. This workshop will provide an introduction to the resources available and how to use them.

A.J. Schenkman is a History teacher in the Hudson Valley and is the author of several books and articles. He is a consulting historian for Historic Huguenot Street and is the Town of Gardiner Historian. A.J. has been on numerous radio shows and writes for The Times Herald Record History Blog, Orange and Ulster Magazines, as well as the New York History Blog.

The workshop will be held in the library community room, 133 Farmer’s Turnpike in Gardiner, NY. The community room is equipped with T-coil technology for those with compatible hearing aids and cochlear implants. For directions or further information call 255-1255 or visit or the library’s facebook page.

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The Slave Dwelling Project

Photo provided by HHS

Joseph McGill, founder of the Slave Dwelling Project, travels the country spending the night in historic slave dwellings to bring awareness to their existence, history, and need for preservation. On Friday, September 9, he will spend the night at Historic Huguenot Street in the Bevier-Elting House cellar, marking his first visit to the Hudson Valley. The following evening, Historic Huguenot Street will host a special reception with Mr. McGill, during which he will provide his initial thoughts about the previous night’s experience and touch on his mission to preserve historic slave dwellings across the country and particularly in places where traces of them have disappeared.

A descendant of slaves, Mr. McGill founded the Slave Dwelling Project in 2010, having worked for the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Charleston, South Carolina, and seeing the need for preservation of historic slave dwellings first-hand. Since 2010, Mr. McGill has spent the night in dozens of slave dwellings throughout the country, at times even in antebellum wrist shackles.

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A Great Resource for Maps of Ulster County

Map of Gardiner 1897 UC Clerk's Office

I receive many emails, by way of the this column, asking me for help on local history research. Many of the emails are just asking me for helpful resources they can use in locating long-lost ancestors or simply finding out more information about them. An often overlooked place is the map room in the Ulster County Clerk’s Office in Kingston, New York.

The map room is a vast archive containing everything from land divisions to patents. Their archive also includes what are known as Letters of Administration. This archive is great when you are looking for documents that are 1787 to the present, and in some cases earlier. If you are seeking earlier records you will need, in some cases, to go to the New York State Archives in Albany or the Ulster County Clerk’s Archive on Foxhall Avenue in Kingston, New York.  Many of the earlier records are kept in these two locations.

This archive also holds some surprises for the researcher. Newburgh, and several other southern Ulster towns, became a part of Orange County in 1798. The town of Newburgh was one of those towns. So sometimes when researching individuals one might be tempted to look for someone who lived in Newburgh in the map room, when in fact the records are in Ulster County.

There are some great finds among the many maps. One is the 1897 Map of Gardiner, New York. This map is mainly of the downtown. It is particularly useful because it lists names of individuals who owned business’s, as well as, residences. So if you are researching a family member it can be quite helpful.  Many individuals over look this valuable archive when conducting family research. These valuable documents are in most cases not only easy to access, but for a fee can be photocopied.

FW Beers Map of Gardiner (1875) is an example of the type of map found at the archive on Foxhall Avenue

The Ulster County Clerk’s Office is open five days a week. It is located on the 2n

d floor of the  County Office Building’s, at  244 Fair Street in Kingston.

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Newburgh, a Presidential City

JFK at Stewart AFB Courtesy of JFK Library

Newburgh, during its long history, has been the destination for the rich, famous and powerful. This has included future U.S. Presidents as well as past presidents. Some of these visitors have included George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, Gerald Ford, John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland, and most recently Bill Clinton.

Although he was not president in 1782-1783, George Washington made Newburgh his military headquarters. This future first president took the oath of office in 1789. During his two terms, as president, he did not visit Newburgh. Washington was not the only future president to visit Newburgh. Congressman Gerald Ford visited Newburgh for a “Gilman for Congress” dinner in September 24, 1972. Grover Cleveland was another future president to visit Newburgh. He was in Newburgh to celebrate its Revolutionary War past.

Grover Cleveland was Governor of New York when he attended the 1883 celebrations at Washington’s Headquarters. This centennial marked the disbandment of the Revolutionary Army.  He would become president two years later. Finally, a third future president, Andrew Jackson allegedly “received his first public nomination for President of the United States.” However, The Hermitage, the house where Jackson lived a good part of his life, has no records of this visit.

The first well-known president to visit Newburgh was the former Union General turned president, Ulysses S. Grant. He not only toured the city on August 7, 1869, but also toured Washington’s Headquarters before returning to West Point aboard the Steamship M. Martin. His trip was boycotted by a number of veterans who felt he was not being fair to some Civil War Veterans.

Theodore Roosevelt visited Newburgh both as a future and a past President of the United States. The first time was campaigning for Governor of New York on a 600 mile Whistle Stop Tour. Two decades later he would visit Newburgh again to boost the war effort. This time Teddy Roosevelt visited the Newburgh Shipyard Fabrication Plant in September 1918.

Roosevelt attended a ceremony commissioning the USS Newburgh. One of Roosevelt’s more memorable quotes from his speech praised the shipyard; “ I am convinced that generally speaking, there is a fine spirit of patriotism in shipbuilding labor on all parts of the country.” He did voice concerns, in the same speech, “that in certain yards men have loafed individually, and that in certain yards unions have actually limited the output.” He saw these men as traitors to the country. He continued, he would send such men to Europe into the most dangerous places without a rifle.

Teddy Roosevelt in Newburgh on a "Whistle Stop Tour" in 1898 Courtesy of the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands

Theodore Roosevelt was not the only Roosevelt to visit Newburgh. Teddy’s cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in 1944, also visited a Newburgh shipyard. In addition, he toured the upper part of Newburgh. The crowd was reported, in local papers, as larger than his first visit in 1940. The president noted his attachment to Newburgh because his mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, was from Newburgh.  Perhaps one of the more memorable visits was a young U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kennedy.

Senator Kennedy made a campaign stop in Newburgh in October 1959. He arrived at Stewart Air Force Base. According to the JFK Library in Massachusetts, Kennedy spoke in the Green Room in the Hotel Newburgh. James M. Landis in a letter to Joseph P. Kennedy reported that his son, “made a wonderful impression,” even though the weather was grim. He was not deterred by this though, and added that “the Bible says that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.” He continued that the rain also falls on members of both political parties.  Senator Kennedy departed Newburgh between 2:30 and 2:45. He would visit again in 1962, landing at Stewart Air Force Base on his way to West Point.

A former president who has visited Newburgh quite a bit is Bill Clinton as well as his wife. Hillary Clinton visited Newburgh in 1998 to tour Washington’s Headquarters, and did so again with her husband in the summer of 2008. As late as October 2015, former President Clinton dazzled local Newburgh residents when he walked into a Dunkin Donuts on his way to West Point.


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4th Annual Artists on the Street Returns to Historic Huguenot Street

NEW PALTZ, NY (July 15, 2016) – 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 takes place on the second Saturday in August each year, this year on August 13 from 11 am – 5 pm. It 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.

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. The artwork will remain on display for purchase in the DuBois Fort for one month, with a portion of the proceeds supporting Historic Huguenot Street. This event is free and open to the public, rain or shine, sponsored by Woodland Pond at New Paltz.

“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 joy to have glimpse at the creative process of such talented local artists at work.”

A number of new artists and returning artists from will participate in this year’s event, including Kevin Cook, James Cramer, Fran Sutherland, and John A. Varriano. Maps will be available denoting the location of each artist across the site. Curbside Cuisine will also be on-site for guests’ enjoyment, and will donate a portion of their sales to Historic Huguenot Street.

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.

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Top Cottage and a longing for Peace

Have you ever longed for a place of your own? A home away from home where you can live the way you want to live and get away from it all? If so, than you have something in common with our 32nd President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The man who brought this country through a Great Depression and a war certainly deserved a place that he could call his own. After all, what we as residents of The Hudson River Valley all know to be called The Home of FDR was in reality not his home at all but in fact belonged to his mother Sara for 41 years.

The big house on the Hudson that he had always returned to time and again had by 1933 become a mad house full of journalists, advisors, relatives, and of course his ever present mother. His open-door policy which allowed all sorts of people to come to his mother’s home for discussions ranging from the political to the satirical had backfired on him by the mid 30’s and he had grown tired of what he called “the mob.” FDR had been planning for years to build a small getaway on top of Dutchess Hill which was one of the highest points in the county. He had driven to the top many times with daydreams of what he might create there. His cousin Daisy Suckley, who also had a family home on the Hudson, had taken many rides with him in his Ford Phaeton convertible to the top of what they secretly called “our hill” and together they made plans for a cottage.

There are only two Presidents who designed and built structures on their estates while serving as President. FDR’s hero Thomas Jefferson had made additions to Monticello and started building Poplar Forest in 1806, and FDR built Top Cottage in 1938. The idea for the cottage was one thing, building it was another. He had already laid out plans with his friend and architect Henry Toombs who had helped him on previous projects, but there were some small issues to deal with. First, the land at the top of the hill did not belong to him, but purchasing land in Hyde Park had never been an issue for FDR and he was able to buy it by 1937 making his family’s holdings well over 1500 acres. Next, came the cost of building which would be rather more than he had expected.

He had planned to build his home for just about $16,000. However it would cost him more than $18,000 which included the contractors, plumbing, plasterwork, furnace, and of course the electric. He tried to save money where he could by using the fieldstone and local materials that were already available on his estate. He also used his own trees as poles for electric lines that ran up the hill from the main road. He used borrowed furniture instead of brand new pieces to fill and make it comfortable. He never had a phone line installed, this might have saved him a few bucks, sure, but he also didn’t want to be disturbed when he was enjoying what we now call “me time.”

The cottage was completed in 1939 and was the first home built by and for a disabled person. Many visitors made their way up the hill with FDR in his sports car including the King and Queen of Great Britain, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Princess Martha of Norway, Queen Wilhemina and Princess Juliana of the Netherlands. His confidante and cousin Daisy would tag along and listened to him as he “talked mostly about his hopes for future peace,” so would his secretary Missy LeHand. While both women had hopes of sharing the cottage with the President, and Hollywood would like you to think that they did in the Bill Murray film Hyde Park on Hudson, their hopes and a film maker’s fantasy would never come to pass. FDR’s home away from home would never be lived in by him or any of his friends. He died long before he was ready to retire and use the house on a regular basis. When he died in April of 1945, his son Elliott moved in with his wife Faye Emerson. The house was sold by 1952 and it wasn’t until 2001 when it opened to visitors as a National Historic Site.

One must see the cottage to understand how FDR felt about it and how it did give him some kind of peace, be it ever so slight. It is hard to properly express in words how such a lovely little place with intriguing views of the valley could make one feel let alone the President of the United States. But it could be infectious once you journey to the top of the hill and sit on his porch, you may want to go out and follow your dreams of building a home away from home too. You can visit it by shuttle bus from the Henry Wallace Visitor Center in Hyde Park three times a day, May through October. The shuttle bus departs from the visitor center at 11:10, 1:10, and 3:10. Or if you are feeling extra hearty you can hike up the hill from the mile long trail that begins at Val-Kill, Eleanor Roosevelt’s home, and goes up to the top of the hill.

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Plattekill Historical Society to Present Informal Antiques Appraisal on June 18, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: On Saturday, June 18, the Plattekill Historical Society will welcome back antiques experts Walter Marquez, owner of the Antiques Barn at Water Street Market and Sanford Levy, owner of Jenkinstown Antiques. Members and guests are encouraged to bring an item or two of interest for Mr. Marquez and Mr. Levy to informally appraise in an “Antiques Roadshow” style. The program will take place at the Plattekill Historical Society headquarters at 128 Church Street in Plattekill (former Plattekill Grange building). Doors open at 1 p.m., with numerous collections on display, including World War I and II items, quilts and classic cars. The antiques program will begin at 2 p.m. Admission is free, however there is a suggested donation of $5 to have an item reviewed by Mr. Levy and Mr. Marquez. Light refreshments will be served.

For more information, call (845) 883-6118, email or visit the Plattekill Historical Society page on Facebook.

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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

    Shannon Butler

    Shannon Butler is a Park Ranger of Interpretation and Education at Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Site in Hyde Park New York. She has also interpreted the Senate House State Historic Site in Kingston New York. Read Full
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