Urban Renewal In The Pruyn Collection of Albany History


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xfn00032Albany Public Library joined New York Heritage, a statewide digital library, in the spring of 2014 to raise awareness of its collections. The library’s Pruyn Collection of Albany History is a treasure trove of information about the leaders, citizens, buildings, governments, events, and history of New York’s capital city. The collection includes documents about urban renewal, the South Mall construction, city and state government, and African American history.

Albany Public Library’s digital collection on New York Heritage contains a small sample of our local history holdings. The full Pruyn Collection includes thousands of books, photographs, city directories, newspapers, documents, census records, city council minutes, maps, and more. We invite you to visit the Pruyn Collection of Albany History, which is housed at Albany Public Library’s Main Library at 161 Washington Avenue. Continue reading

Washington’s Headquarters:
The Death of Jonathan Hasbrouck


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George Washington-Library of CongressThere are many stories circulating about Newburgh’s Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck (better known today as Washington’s Headquarters). Some are believed true, such as Tryntje Hasbrouck sitting in “sullen silence” when told that her home was chosen as Washington’s Headquarters, and some are simply made-up. One such story involves Washington’s stay at the house from 1782-1783.

General Washington loved horses. In fact he loved to go for rides on his favorite mount whenever possible. The story told to me, after a lecture, involved General Washington, Col. Hasbrouck and Hasbrouck’s sons. They would sometimes go horseback riding together. A favorite stop was the vast Hasbrouck family orchards. Washington, the story goes, loved peaches. Hasbrouck, his sons, and Washington spent hours picking peaches. When enough peaches were picked the Hasbroucks and Washington delighted in feasting on them. This story is obviously false for one simple reason; Colonel Jonathan Hasbrouck had died in 1780. Continue reading

Free Day At Vermont Owned Historic Sites


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Bennington1777MapAugust 16th is a Vermont State Holiday commemorating Bennington Battle Day and the victory over the British on August 16, 1777. To celebrate this Revolutionary War victory, admission to all the state-owned historic sites will be free on Saturday, August 16, 2014.

Pack the picnic basket, grab the kids, invite your friends and neighbors, and head out to enjoy the great Vermont summer at any of the state-owned historic sites. Continue reading

A Short History Of Serial Killer Lizzie Brown Halliday


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Lizzieyoung(1)There may be no more despicable person in Sullivan County’s history than Lizzie Brown Halliday. She was known to have murdered at least five persons, and was suspected of killing many more. When she died in 1918, the New York Times described her as “the worst woman on earth.”

And much of the country believed, at least for a short time, that she was the notorious murderer known as Jack the Ripper, responsible for the grisly Whitechapel murders in London. Continue reading

Chateaugay’s Historic Town Hall Theater


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ChatTheat2013A recent lecture I delivered on Prohibition in the North Country allowed me a closeup look at what community activists can accomplish. Among the historic buildings in many towns of northern New York are theaters that were once the center of social life. Many of these old structures have been refurbished as part of city or village revitalization programs. Reclaiming and reviving them is costly, requiring the efforts of dedicated, thoughtful, and energetic folks, mostly volunteers. Just as important is the work that follows—utilizing the facilities as self-sustaining ventures while bringing a community together. Continue reading

Remembering 9/11: From City on a Hill to Ground Zero


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9-11 museumWhen John Winthrop was setting sale for America, he delivered a lay sermon which would become a foundational text for the American Civil Religion. Drawing on the Book of Matthew, he spoke of a “city on a hill” that the eyes of the world would be upon.

There is a longstanding idolizing of the city in human culture. This exaltation derives from ancient Mesopotamia, the first builders of major cities. The famous Epic of Gilgamesh, begins with a paean to the walls of the city he ruled. At the end of epic, with Gilgamesh’s adventures completed and his quest for immortality over, he returns to those same city walls with the insight that while the body is not immortal, the walls of the city are. In this ancient epic, when Gilgamesh clicks his heels three times and realizes there is no place like home, it is to the city to which he returns. Continue reading

New Book Highlights Covered Bridges


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image001(11)Covered bridges are essential pieces of American and Canadian rural history, gracing the countryside from coast to coast and north to eastern Canada. In a new, small, but lavishly illustrated volume Covered Bridges (Shire, 2014), Joseph D. Conwill recounts the rich, romantic history of covered bridges as they developed from early timber examples, born out of the traditions of medieval times, into modern structures designed for motorized traffic in the early twentieth century.

Reflecting on the efforts to keep covered bridges in service as the face of the rural landscape is transformed, and the challenge of preserving their historic character while making them safe for modern traffic, Conwill guides the reader across the diverse range of covered bridges to be found throughout North America. Continue reading

Adirondack History And Campfire Stories


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Layout 1If you’ve spent any time rambling New York’s north country roads, you may have wondered how Eagle Lake got its name, or how little towns like Schroon Lake and Chateaugay and Redford came to be before the north became a tourist haven. Where is that Cold River hermit that your grandfather told you about? What about the weird beliefs of early Adirondack days? Maybe you’re still holding out for the possibility of a sea serpent in Lake Champlain, or hoping you’ll chance upon a legendary lost silver mine while you’re out enjoying a hike in the balsam wood.

This is the sort of interesting and sometimes unusual information that readers of Adirondack Memories and Campfire Stories (2014) will find fascinating. William J. “Jay” O’Hern has compiled first-hand stories from a series of little quarterly magazines that native Adirondack archivist, historian, and folklorist George Glyndon Cole published from 1946-1974. Few complete collections now exist, in less than a handful of North Country libraries, but back then readers eagerly anticipated each new issue. Some readers will remember reading North Country Life, later called York State Tradition, from cover to cover. It was exciting indeed to read about one’s own rural region, especially when the articles came straight from the pens and hearts of one’s neighbors. Continue reading

This Week’s New York History Web Highlights


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Stokely Carmichael: The Bronx to Freedom Summer


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Stokely CarmichaelFifty years ago, civil rights activists from across the country came together in Mississippi to fight entrenched racism and voter repression. To mark the anniversary of 1964’s Freedom Summer, the Museum of the City of New York will examine one of its key players at a talk titled Stokely Carmichael’s Journey: From the Bronx to Freedom Summer on Thursday, August 12 at 6:30 p at the museum, 1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, NYC. Continue reading

This Week’s Top New York History News


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13th Catskills Preservation And History Conference


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Conferencephoto2013The Liberty Museum & Arts Center has announced the schedule for their 13th annual Catskills Preservation and History Conference, to be held at the Museum in Liberty, Sullivan County, NY, on Sunday, August 24.

The theme of this year’s conference is “500 Hotels! Tourism in the Sullivan County Catskills: Past, Present and Future.”  The full day event includes a driving and walking tour in the morning, and programs and panel discussions throughout the day, culminating in the presentation of the Second Annual Catskills Preservation Award and the opening reception for the “Pollack’s Hotel Exhibit” at 7 PM. Continue reading

French And Indian War Event At Chimney, Crown Points


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DSCN0735On August 9 and 10, 2014, some exciting mid-1700s military activity will take place at the Chimney Point State Historic Site in Addison, as part of the annual Crown Point, NY, annual French & Indian War Encampment.  At about 10:30 am both days watch for French and British soldier reenactors to cross the Lake Champlain Bridge or travel by reproduction boats, weather permitting, from New York into Vermont.  By 11:00, if conditions allow, they will engage in a military tactical on the lawn and beach south of the Chimney Point tavern building. Continue reading

Festival to Commemorate Woman Suffrage Anniversary


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Susan B Anthony festivalThe 2014 Susan B. Anthony Festival will take place on Sunday, August 17, from noon to 5 pm in the Susan B. Anthony Park between Madison & King Streets in Rochester, NY. This annual event celebrates the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women throughout the country the right to vote.

Live music & entertainment will be provided throughout the afternoon in the Park. Local artists include 6-time Grammy nominee and 2012 Arts & Cultural Council for Greater Rochester  “Artist of the Year”, Chet Catallo & the Cats, who will perform at 3 p.m. Also performing are Cammy Enaharo, the Raging Grannies, and the Spiritus Christi Choir. Food vendors and unique artisans will also be on hand. Continue reading

Merger Recalls Nyack Medical History


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NSL150_Nyack-Hospital-Revised-397x600In June, Nyack Hospital and Montefiore Health System issued a joint press release announcing a merger. When the process is complete, Nyack will have a medical institution informed by over two centuries of history in health care. Will the philanthropic and progressive impulses that characterized the creation of nonprofit hospitals in nineteenth-century America endure?

A moment of reflection seems to be in order. Here’s a snapshot of the origins and early days of each health care institution that may provide some prologue and set expectations for what will follow. Nyack Hospital was incorporated in 1895. Initial funds were raised by an initiative called “Kirmess,” that drew inspiration from medieval festivals that used merrymaking to accomplish good. Continue reading

Downton Troy Courtyard Party August 12th


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RCHS Downton Abbey EventThe Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) is hosting a Downton Troy Courtyard Party on Tuesday, August 12th from 5pm to 8pm.

Inspired by the popular television series, Downton Abbey, RCHS will be hosting a summer evening party in the courtyard of the Historical Society in Troy, NY. Attendees are invited to adopt 1920s attire and/or accessories for the evening to complement the theme of the party. Continue reading

Revolutionary War Photographs Linked to Fort Plain


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SamuelDowningThe Fort Plain Museum has announced that researchers have located several early photographs (called a carte de visite or CDV) of two Revolutionary War soldiers who served at Fort Plain.

Private Samuel Downing of Captain John Dennett’s Company, Colonel George Reid Commanding, 2nd New Hampshire Regiment, was stationed at Fort Rensselaer/Fort Plain from February 20, 1782 until September 20th that same year when the regiment was transferred to Johnstown. Downing had his picture taken in 1863 as one of the last surviving veterans of the war for American Independence, a time when the American Civil War was at its height. Downing, who had made Edinburgh, NY his home after the Revolution, passed away there three years later in 1866 at the age of 105. Continue reading

Peter Feinman:
Unexpected Deaths and Historical Memory


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The General Slocum disaster memorial in Tompkins Square Park, Manhattan, New York City, which was once in Little GermanyHow should we remember 9/11? I began to think about this more as the date for the opening of the 9/11 Museum neared. By coincidence, I was invited by City Wonders to take one of its tours and I chose the 9/11 Memorial Tour. This was just prior to the opening of the museum in May.

9/11 and that tour are responsible for the recent series of posts on remembering the dead. For me, it is important to understand 9/11 in context. That means not only the historical context in which the event occurred but the historical context in which we remember historical events. Our Thanksgivings, Christmases, and Passovers aren’t the same as our ancestors, nor is Memorial/Decoration Day. As a result, I began to write about different ways and circumstances in which we remember those who have died. Continue reading

C.L. Churchill Named ‘Tug of the Year’


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Churchill from lcmm 4 without railingThe C.L. Churchill, a 50 year old wooden tugboat, has been named Tug of the Year for the 2014 Waterford Tugboat Roundup.  The Roundup is an annual three-day event in Waterford, NY highlighting the area’s heritage of waterborne commerce.

The C.L. Churchill is the accompanying tug to the Lois McClure, a replica canal schooner of the type which operated on some of the canals of New York State and Lake Champlain in the 19th century. The Roundup bestows the honorary Tug of the Year title to a different tug each year, typically one that brings its own unique history to the event. Continue reading

World War I And The End Of The Gilded Age


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image001(10)To mark the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I in 1914, Staatsburgh State Historic Site will debut a new tour, “World War I and the End of the Gilded Age.”

Staatsburgh was the home of prominent social hostess Ruth Livingston Mills and her husband, financier Ogden Mills.  The 79-room mansion showcases the opulent lifestyle enjoyed by the wealthy elite of the early 20th century.  This special tour will explore how the cataclysm of World War I brought an end to the extravagant excesses of the Gilded Age. Continue reading