Category Archives: History

New York History

Madison County Civil War Series Begins September 18th


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114th Recruiting Poster Greenhagen 8-28-14In recognition of the last year of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, Sue Greenhagen (Village of Morrisville Historian), Matthew Urtz (Madison County Historian) and Dot Willsey (23rd Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend committee member) are planning a Madison County Civil War Series of programs that feature New York State’s role in the Civil War with particular attention to Madison County’s connection to the War Between the States.

Called “The Banner County” in the mid-1800s because of its voting support of anti-slavery measures, Madison County was a hot-bed of activities that were critical to the outbreak of the war. Continue reading

Catskills Resorts: The Beginning of the End


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NewRoxy1964Many of the 75 or so people at the recent 13th Annual Catskills History and Preservation Conference at the Liberty Museum & Arts Center were shocked to hear that the Sullivan County’s heralded resort industry has been in decline since 1965.

That’s not unusual. Most newcomers– and even some old timers who should know better– find it hard to believe that the county’s heyday was over by the mid-1960s. Many cite the existence of dozens of hotels in the 1970s as proof that it couldn’t possibly be so.

And yet these days most historians who have done any research at all agree that the Golden Age of Sullivan County’s tourism industry, which began around 1940, came to an end around 1965, and they cite a number of reasons for choosing that particular year. Continue reading

Immigration: Where Do You Come From Art Exhibit


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Schenectady County Historical SocietyThe 2014-2015 series Exploring Schenectady’s Immigrant Past at the Schenectady County Historical Society will celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Schenectady County and will explore the history and significance of immigration in the region.

As part of the series, SCHS is has announced a Call for Submissions for its upcoming community-curated art exhibit, Where Do You Come From. The exhibit, made possible in part by a grant from the Schenectady County Initiative Project, will explore the wide range of cultures that makes up Schenectady County today. Community members, local artists, and students are all invited to submit their artwork, including but not limited to paintings, collages, photography, sculpture, or whichever medium best answers the title question. Continue reading

Sylvia Roth: A Nyack House Haunted by Art


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NSL155_Featured-ImageWhen printmaker Sylvia Roth moved into her home in South Nyack in 1977, she had no idea it was the birthplace of a major figure in American art, Joseph Cornell. This house on Piermont Avenue seems to have its own designs, selecting artistic occupants for over a century.

Emily Dickinson, Cornell’s enduring muse, wrote that “nature is a haunted house, but art is a house that tries to be haunted.” As Roth describes the creative output of subsequent generations of her family, one begins to suspect that this is a house haunted by art. Continue reading

Debunking The ‘French Fort’ On Albany’s Castle Island


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the 1614 Block mapThe 400th anniversary of Albany’s first documented European settlement gives us an opportunity to clear up some inaccuracies surrounding its history. In particular, it is time to roundly debunk the stubborn myth that the French built the first European structure in Albany.

Several Wikipedia pages—”Albany“, “Castle Island,” “Fort Nassau“—claim that Albany’s first European structure was a fort on Castle Island built by French traders in 1540. The “Castle Island” page calls it a chateau and claims that the Dutch rebuilt the French fort, “which they called a castle[,] giving rise to the name of the island.” This is silly. There is no credible evidence of a French fort on Castle Island or anywhere in the region, and any account of a structure resembling a chateau is particularly absurd. So where did this myth come from? Continue reading

Fort Ti Living History Weekend Features Hut Building


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Hut BuildingVisitors to Fort Ticonderoga this weekend can discover how soldiers of the Continental Army built huts at Ticonderoga in 1776 and try their hand at colonial construction techniques. This living history weekend, entitled “Lodging as the Nature of Campaign will Admit”, takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 13-14, 9:30 am to 5 pm.

The Ticonderoga peninsula was already an old battlefield and encampment site by the summer of 1776 when American soldiers began digging in to block a British invasion southward. For soldiers, such as the Fourth Pennsylvania Battalion, their first priority was to erect earthworks with which to hold this vital ground. Continue reading

Working the Waters: Maritime Culture of Long Island


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Joey ScavoneLong Island Traditions will present “Working the Waters: Maritime Culture of Long Island” in collaboration with the NY Marine Trades Association “Tobay Boat Show” in Massapequa, New York on September 26 through September 28, 2014. “Working the Waters: Maritime Culture of Long Island” will present to the public first-hand accounts about the contemporary and historic traditions of commercial and recreational fishermen, the factors affecting these traditions and their future on Long Island in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and the decline of the bays.

The program is the culminating event of ongoing documentation by Long Island Traditions folklorist and executive director Nancy Solomon. Since 1987 Solomon has been documenting the culture and traditions of Long Island maritime tradition bearers, ranging from decoy carvers and driftwood painters to trap builders, boat model makers and net menders. Continue reading

Historic Tax Credit Named ‘Threatened Resource’


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Franklin-Bldg_ExtThe Preservation League of New York State has named the federal Historic Tax Credit to its list of the Empire State’s most threatened historic resources, Seven to Save.

One of the most powerful tools in the preservation tool box, the federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit is at risk of elimination as part of an effort to cut federal spending. New York State needs this economic development and job creation incentive. Losing it would threaten more than $1.2 billion in historic property redevelopment projects pending statewide. Continue reading

New Book Traces History Of Upper Hudson Valley Beer


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9781626195127Since the 1980s, there has been a renaissance in Upper Hudson Valley craft brewing, including Newman’s, C.H. Evans, Shmaltz and Chatham Brewing. Beer scholars Craig Gravina and Alan McLeod explore the sudsy story in Upper Hudson Valley Beer (History Press, 2014).

The Upper Hudson Valley has a long and full-bodied brewing tradition. Arriving in the 1600s, the Dutch established the area as a brewing center, a trend that continued well into the eighteenth century despite two devastating wars. Continue reading

This Week’s New York History Web Highlights


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Waterford Tugboat Roundup Turns 15 This Weekend


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Ben TugIt’s been called one of the largest maritime festivals in New York State. For three days, September 5th through the 7th, the Waterford waterfront (just north of Albany) will host the 15th Annual Tugboat Roundup.

A gathering and show place of both working and historic tugs of the Hudson River and New York State Canal system, the Roundup has evolved into a festival of boating at the Gateway to the Canal System. More than 35 boats are expected to be along the wall in Waterford this year, according to Tom Beardsley, Marine Event Coordinator. Continue reading

This Week’s Top New York History News


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North Country Teacher Taught Southern Freedmen


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coitphoto2Back-to-school time perhaps brings back, for adults, the memory of a favorite teacher. But of those who are so warmly remembered, how many can elicit this wish by a former student of a 19th century teacher?

“If I could be permitted, how gladly would I again fill up the wood-box in your room and kindle the fire on your hearth…”

Those words came from the prestigious African American preacher, Rev. Daniel Webster Shaw (who, interestingly, was the son of a former slave, Harriet Shaw, with whom Solomon Northup was acquainted in Louisiana). “If I have done anything, or come to anything worth while, it is all mainly due to your timely helpfulness and godly admonition,” Shaw wrote. “I think of the school days on the Tache [Teche, a bayou in Louisiana], and all the kind ways in which you helped me to start out in life.” Continue reading

Staatsburgh State Historic Site Launches Blog


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Statsburgh SHSStaatsburgh State Historic Site has launched a blog about the mansion and estate, the Mills Family, their guests and staff, the site’s collections, and the Gilded Age.

“A tour of the house just scratches the surface of the rich history, the many personalities and fascinating events that occurred here,” says site manager Pam Malcolm. “Through the blog we can offer those interested in the site and the Gilded Age a closer look at the Mills Family and other members of New York’s turn-of-the-century elite society, Gilded Age life, and the work done behind the scenes by historians and conservators to preserve this history at Staatsburgh. We hope everyone will visit www.staatsburghstatehistoricsite.blogspot.com to take a look. We welcome suggestions from interested readers for future research and blog posts.” Continue reading

John Wolcott: Pinpointing Fort Nassau 1614


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dutchalbanymapFort Nassau: the first Dutch trading house built in North America, was constructed on Castle (Westerlo) Island on the Upper Hudson where Albany is. It was but a small redoubt, yet deemed the acorn from which sprouted the American Middle States. This trading post lasted only three years and was badly damaged by a spring freshet and abandoned. Eventually even its ruins were silted over and forgotten.

In 1796, Albany contemplated a plan to acquire patents for water lots and extend South End streets opposite the north end of Castle Island, out into the Hudson River. It was similar, on a smaller scale, to the way Manhattan expanded out into the Hudson and East Rivers. In the course of finally implementing this in the 1840s, dredging was found necessary to adjust the upper end of Castle Island and Island Creek to accommodate the plan. Continue reading

Nominations For Endangered Long Island List Sought


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First_National_Bank_and_Trust_CompanyHistoric properties spanning the length of Long Island are regularly threatened by a variety of complex issues that all point to a need for their greater appreciation and protection.

The Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA) launched its inaugural List of Endangered Historic Places in 2010 to broadly educate the public about the region’s wide range of historic environments and provide support and greater visibility to local efforts working to save at-risk resources. Continue reading

Revolutionary War Traitors, Spies, Focus of Fishkill Event


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Major John Andre“Traitors & Spies: An American Revolutionary War Experience” is the theme of a Sunday, September 14th educational program sponsored by the Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot at the Hyatt House in Fishkill from 2 until 4 pm. “This community program,” explained Lance Ashworth the Friends’ president, “will support our mission to keep the history of the American Revolutionary War alive in the Hudson Valley and to bring the heritage of the Fishkill Supply Depot to more and more people.”

Speakers include Stephen Case, author of Treacherous Beauty: Peggy Shippen, the Woman behind Benedict Arnold’s Plot to Betray America; Damien Cregeau, an independent historian, who will discuss spying in and around New York City during the war; and Rachel Smith from the State Historian’s office at the University of Connecticut who will shed light on Nathan Hale’s legacy. Moderator for the program is Dr. Colonel James M. Johnson from Marist College. Continue reading

2 Years Of Path Through History: Who IS In Charge?


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Path Through historyAugust 28, 2014, marked the two-year birthday of the Path through History. It’s pregnancy was a long and troubled one with a delivery date long after the original May target. I attended the birthing of the program. I still have the paperweight distributed at the meeting. I still have the two slick glossy pamphlets distributed at the meeting. I even still have an unused napkin from the Executive Mansion reception where I met the Governor and two of his daughters. Didn’t we all have such hopes for the project then!

Now at the two-year anniversary, who will blow out the candles on Path through History birthday cake on August 28, 2014? Logically one would expect the head of the project to do so. Who is the head of the project? Continue reading

The Hyde Receives Large French Print Collection


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Jules Cheret -, Les Tziganes (The Gypsies)The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, NY, has announced the gift of an extensive collection of nineteenth-century French etchings, lithographs, engravings, woodcuts, and books.

Donated by Tobin A. Sparling, in memory of his parents Leon H. and Marie Buttlar Sparling, the gift includes works by Pierre Bonnard, Félix Bracquemond, Jules Chéret, Eugene Delacroix, Maurice Denis, Henri Evenepoel, Jean-Louis Forain, Théodore Géricault, Henri-Gabriel Ibels, Alphonse Mucha, Paul Serusier, Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Félix Vallotton, among others. Continue reading