No matter how long a life lasts, the residue left behind is often fleeting, and within a generation or so, most of us are largely forgotten. But it’s also true that every life has a story, and many are worth retelling. I often glean subject matter from obituaries, or from gravestones as I walk through cemeteries. A tiny snippet of information stirs the need to dig for more, perhaps revealing unusual or remarkable achievements and contributions.
A fine example involves Benjamin Wood Haynes, a native of Westford, Vermont, who lived and worked in northern New York in the latter half of the 1800s. Intriguing to me was a reference to him as a “builder,” and so the digging began, yielding some impressive nuggets. Continue reading
What makes up Main Street, USA and where did the idea come from? The United States experienced an unprecedented building boom between 1870 and 1915. As people moved out of the hot and noisy cities, seeking a more peaceful existence in the countryside, construction for new housing and shops was needed for a burgeoning population. Continue reading
Once upon a time America was known for its building projects, for its infrastructure, for its vision of a better tomorrow. New York was in the forefront of such optimism and achievement. Think of the Erie Canal which helped make us the Empire State, the Croton Aqueduct, the Brooklyn Bridge, the skyscrapers from the Woolworth Building to the Empire State Building to the Twin Towers, and, of course, Robert Moses. Now the new Tappan Zee Bridge bids to join this pantheon of larger than life achievements made in New York.
Besides all the other concerns related to the bridge, there is the issue of tourism. Back in June, Mary Kay Vrba, tourism director for Dutchess County and leader of the Hudson Valley Path region, spoke to 50 people at “Destination Rockland: Blazing New Trails in Tourism.” Visions of jingling cash registers filled the heads of the participants who envisioned tourists by foot, bike, and later a revitalized bus system bringing people from the east side of the river to Rockland County. Alden Wolfe, chairman of the Rockland County Legislature convened the conference as a “launching point” for future discussion on this subject. Continue reading
The building in my sketch at left, located in Haverstraw NY and the subject of Edward Hopper’s 1925 painting, House by the Railroad, maintains its vigil on Route 9W. Hopper’s haunting depiction of the three-story house came to the attention of the cast and crew of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie classic, Psycho. The painting inspired not only the design of the Bates Mansion in the 1960 production, but the mood of the film as well.
House by the Railroad captures the fading elegance of this victorian-style home, located just south of St. Peter’s Cemetery. His composition shows a solitary structure, cut off from the world by a set of railroad tracks. Today, the building is still visually incarcerated by a heavily trafficked road, power lines, a chain linked fence and the railroad that gave the original painting its name and theme. Continue reading
The Western Erie Canal Alliance, in conjunction with the Landmark Society of Western New York, will present a conference, “Something Old… Something New”, in celebration of historic Main Streets as centerpieces of community economic success.
The conference will take place on Thursday, November 6, 2014 from 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm, at the Fairport Electric building in Fairport, NY, hosted by The Village of Fairport. Continue reading
The National Park Service has announced that it has listed the New York State Barge Canal on the National Register of Historic Places. The designation recognizes the New York State Canal System as a nationally significant work of early twentieth century engineering and construction that affected transportation and maritime commerce for nearly half a century.
The New York State Barge Canal National Register Historic District spans 450 miles and includes the four branches of the state’s canal system: the Erie, Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca canals– all much enlarged versions of waterways that were initially constructed during the 1820s. The nomination evaluated 791 features and included 552 contributing structures and buildings. Continue reading
To commemorate its 50th anniversary as a museum, Historic Cherry Hill will offer Behind-the-Scenes Restoration Tours free during the rest of the month of October.
Tours will highlight the ongoing restoration of the 1787 historic structure, including factors that contributed to the building’s deterioration and how the building is being stabilized. Guides will also discuss the house’s intact original fabric, its “layers of history,” and the Van Rensselaer family that occupied Cherry Hill from 1787 to 1963. Tours are offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00 pm. No reservations are required. Continue reading
The Annual Meeting of the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and Highlands will take place on Sunday, October 19th starting at 3:00 P.M. at their headquarters, the 1830 Captain David Crawford House in Newburgh. Members of the Board of Managers are to come together to review 2014.
Following the meeting a panel organized by Society member Tom Kneiser will discuss local buildings they have remodeled for vibrant new uses. Continue reading
After many thoughtful meetings and two site visits to The Frick over several months, the Historic Districts Council has determined that we cannot support the proposed institutional expansion at the individually landmarked Frick. Our thoughts are outlined in our statement below:
In a city of superlatives, The Frick is unique. One of the last remaining Millionaire’s Row mansions of the Gilded Age, The Frick residence was designed from the beginning to become a museum. Henry Clay Frick stipulated in his will that his home become “a public gallery of art to which the entire public shall forever have access…”and to this end, a separate Board of Directors for his art collection was established after his death in 1920. After the death of Mr. Frick’s wife Adelaide in 1931, architect John Russell Pope was commissioned to architecturally guide the mansion’s transition to a museum (described in its 1973 designation report as “sensitive architectural blendings of alterations and additions with the original mansion”). From its beginnings, The Frick has been a thoughtful, considered place. Continue reading
The now long defunct Flagler Hotel in Sullivan County’s Fallsburg had a rich tradition as one of the region’s premier resorts, and for decades was a trend setter in the industry.
In 1920, the Flagler introduced the distinctive stucco covered, parapet and Palladian window dominated architectural style now known as Sullivan County Mission. Soon, virtually every other Sullivan County hotel was following suit. Continue reading
The Landmark Society of Western New York has announced its 2014 Five to Revive – a list of historic sites it has determined to be in need of targeted revitalization. The announcement was made at the Landmark Society headquarters on Fitzhugh St. in Rochester.
“The preservation efforts of The Landmark Society of Western New York continue to be focused on community revitalization,” Executive Director Wayne Goodman said in a statement to the press. “This is the second year we are announcing a Five to Revive list to call attention to key properties in western New York that are in need of investment. We can’t stress enough that these are significant historic properties whose rehabilitations can become catalytic projects for the neighborhoods and communities that surround them.”
The 2014 Five to Revive list includes: Continue reading
Since acquiring the Van Alen House in 1964, the Columbia County Historical Society has sponsored many archeological investigations on the property. When Matthew Kirk, Principal Investigator and Vice President of Hartgen Archeological Associates, Inc. began work at the 1737 homestead, the archeological record was thought to be irretrievably lost after the 1960s, when the landscape was significantly altered with a bulldozer to create a pond. Despite the damage, significant archeological discoveries were made that helped to better understand the family that lived there. Continue reading
The Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) Awards Program annually recognizes exemplary historic preservation work throughout the Adirondack Park. AARCH seeks examples of sensitive restoration, rehabilitation, and demonstrated long-term stewardship.
Program Director Kate Ritter highlights this event as “a celebration of the work and care that individuals and organizations have put into a variety of historic resources throughout the Adirondack region.” Continue reading
The Historic Districts Council, the citywide advocate for New York City’s historic neighborhoods, will present its annual Landmarks Lion Award on November 19 to Andrew Scott Dolkart, the James Marston Fitch Professor of Historic Preservation and Director of the Historic Preservation Program at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP). Continue reading
Over the past few weeks, I have had two occasions to visit the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. The first was at the invitation of City Wonders Tours, a tour company seeking to promote its tour.
The second was following the memorial service to Alexander Hamilton by the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society at nearby Trinity Church, the final stop of the City Wonders tour. The following comments are based on these visits. Continue reading
Visitors 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
The 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
Historic 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
Imagine the stories that would be told if houses wrote autobiographies.
This stately structure on South Highland Avenue in Nyack could tell us if slaves were hidden here during the abolition movement. We would know about the political maneuverings and legal strategies of the successive generations of lawyers who called this place home. Or learn the downside of having a neighbor who owns a private zoo. The garden could share the secrets of what makes her bloom. But alas, buildings and garden beds don’t write books.
Fortunately for us, this house has a biographer, and her name is Judy Martin. Continue reading
A revised proposal for rooftop additions to the Apthorp was approved unanimously on August 12, 2014, by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The Apthorp is a NYC Individual Landmark, designed by architects Clinton & Russell and completed in 1908, and occupies a full city block between Broadway and West End Avenue and West 78th and 79th Streets.
The proposal was the third iteration of a plan first heard at LPC Public Hearing in November, 2013, which drew palpable opposition from elected officials, noted architects, community groups, neighbors and Apthorp residents. Continue reading