Paul Bray: Help Abandoned State Heritage Areas


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Heritage Areas MapA few years ago a delegation of environmentalists and officials from the Adirondack Park visited Lake Baikal in Russia.  So large that it is often mistaken for a sea, Lake Baikal is the deepest and largest (by volume) freshwater lake in the world, and thought to be the world’s oldest as well. Famous for its crystal clear waters and unique wildlife, the lake is under threat by pollution, poaching and development.

An Adirondack lawyer on the trip told me that they had a boat ride with a group of Russians. One of the Russians said to him “Why are we wasting our time with Americans? Russia has a culture that produced great writers like Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Turgenev and Chekhov, great musicians like Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, and Rimsky-Korsakov and great dancers like Baryshnikov, Nureyev, and Nijinsky. What has America contributed to the world?” Continue reading

The Upstate Early American History Workshop


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Upstate Early American History WorkshopThe Upstate Early American History Workshop, hosted by Binghamton University, and under the supervision of Doug Bradburn and Andrew Fagal, invites graduate students and scholars to present work in progress on any topic in American history before the mid-19th century.

The workshop meets on Fridays four times per academic semester. Papers are pre-circulated and, if possible, a guest commentator with particular expertise will offer initial thoughts. The organizers invite anyone at all levels who would like to present an essay, dissertation chapter, or portion of a book manuscript for constructive feedback. Continue reading

New Netherland Seminar Set For September 20th


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2014 NNI SeminarThe New Netherland Institute and New Netherland Research Center have announced “1614,” the 37th New Netherland Seminar, which will take place on September 20th at the Carole F. Huxley Theater in the Cultural Education Center in Albany.

The seminar will commemorate the 400th anniversary of the construction of Fort Nassau—the first documented European settlement in New York state—on present-day Castle Island in the port of Albany. The seminar speakers and topics are listed below. For registration and additional details, visit the website of the New Netherland Institute. Continue reading

NYS Archives Consolidates Doc Heritage Program


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archives 2The New York State Archivist has announced that the State’s Archives Documentary Heritage Program’s (DHP) regional archival services are being consolidated in a move that critics say will diminish the effectiveness of the popular historical records program.

In a message sent in May, New York State Archivist Christine Ward announced the changes, which eliminated the DHP’s regional administrators at the end of June and will replace them with a single, statewide administrator under a five-year contract. Continue reading

Circle of Vines: The Story of New York Wine


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New York State Wine HistoryWinegrower and journalist Richard Figiel, who established Silver Thread Vineyard on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake in 1982, offers a short history of New York wine in Circle of Vines: The Story of New York Wine (SUNY Press, 2014).

Figiel follows the state’s wine industry from its turbulent evolution in various regions as it emerged as a dynamic player in the world of fine wine. He begins by examining New York’s distinctive viticultural roots and the geologic forces that shaped the state’s terrain for winegrowing. Starting with early efforts to grow grapes for wine in the Hudson Valley, the story moves west to the Finger Lakes and Lake Erie, circles around the state from Long Island to the North Country, and, finally, to contemporary New York City. Continue reading

A New Biography of Plattsburgh’s Smith Weed


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Smith Weed BiographyRouses Point businessman, Mark L Barie, has written the first biography of North Country politician Smith Weed. In The President of Plattsburgh, The Story of Smith Weed (Crossborder Publishing, 2014), Barie paints a portrait of Weed – six feet tall, with piercing black eyes – a man who was said to smoke nine cigars a day.

Smith Weed was instrumental in the establishment of the Champlain Valley Hospital, the YMCA, the Plattsburgh Library, and the Hotel Champlain, but was perhaps best known nationally for his central role in “The Cipher Dispatches” voter fraud controversy during the fiercely disputed presidential election of 1876. Continue reading

Lake Placid – North Elba Heritage Day Saturday


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hdayphotosThe Lake Placid – North Elba Historical Society has announced the Annual Heritage Day to be held Saturday August 16 from 10 am to 2 pm. This is the most important fundraiser of the year for the Historical Society and will feature a flea market, food, live entertainment, book sale, the ever popular bake sale, children’s activities and a silent auction.

The live entertainment includes the Adirondack Saxaphones at 10 am and the Pine Ridge Rounders at 12:00 pm. These local bands will play a variety of music and provide a focal point for the Heritage Day activities. Continue reading

This Week’s Top New York History News


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Latest New York History News

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Make a Contribution! The New York History Blog is supported by you. If you think this site provides a valuable service, please become a recurring contributor – or just make a one-time contribution at our Rally.org page. Questions about contributions should be directed to editor John Warren.

National Park Service Issues Heritage Tourism Report


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164th-anniversary-event-program-6-17-version-web_1A recent National Park Service (NPS) report concludes that 30,137 visitors to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in 2013 spent over $2.06 million in communities near the park and that spending supported 23 jobs in the local area. The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

Park Superintendent Noemi Ghazala says she anticipates increased visitation to the park in 2015 with planned enhanced programming for the 200th anniversary of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s birthday and in 2016 with additional special programming for the celebration of the National Park Service’s centennial birthday. Continue reading

Olmsted Exhibit Celebrates Utica’s Natural Landscape


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Fort-Proctor-Park-Staircase.-Photo-Richard-WalkerIn the early 20th century, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. (1870-1957) and Thomas R. Proctor (1844-1920) led the way in the transformation of the Utica landscape, creating beautiful and naturalistic recreational spaces that provided escapes from the city and enhanced the quality of life for its inhabitants.

“A Century of Olmsted: Utica and Beyond,” on view August 14 through January 4 at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, is the first exhibition to explore the creation of some of Utica’s most beautiful natural places. Continue reading

A Good Story: The Lifeblood of a Public Historian


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Tell A Good StoryAlmost everyone within sniffing distance of public history these days, in any capacity, is on the lookout for the silver bullet that will somehow “rescue” their particular site, or organization, or even the entire field, from the edge of a financial ruin.

For many boards and staff, technology has become the most sexy aphrodisiac around. Even though I haven’t yet seen it effectively used, partly because it becomes dated so quickly, museum and other sites continue to reach for phone tours, or apps, or touch screens, to add that extra element of engagement that will magically connect to those ever-elusive younger audiences that sites yearn to attract. Continue reading

Call for Entries: 2014 Erie Canalway Photo Contest


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ErieCanalwayPhotoContest_Fairport_KathyEichorn2013Entries are being accepted through August 30, 2014 for the 9th annual Erie Canalway Photo Contest. Winning photos will be featured in the 2015 Erie Canalway calendar, which will be available free of charge in December.

Amateur and professional photographers are invited to submit prints and digital images in four contest categories: Bridges, Buildings and Locks; Fun and Festivities; On the Water; and the Nature of the Canal. Images must be taken within the National Heritage Corridor, which is comprised of the Erie, Oswego, Cayuga/Seneca, and Champlain Canals, their historic alignments, and surrounding communities. Continue reading

Newly Discovered Livingston Manuscript Being Exhibited


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12UnitedColonies_Livingston_p01The New-York Historical Society is displaying an important, recently discovered handwritten document that sheds new light on the period leading up to the Declaration of Independence and the final break with Great Britain.

The manuscript was discovered last summer in the Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York City, which served as George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War, and was recently acquired by Brian Hendelson, a noted New Jersey-based Americana collector. Hitherto unknown and unstudied, the manuscript is on view at New-York Historical in the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library through November 7, 2014 and will remain on loan to New-York Historical for purposes of study and display for two years. Continue reading

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