Tag Archives: Architecture

‘Chairs of the Turnpike Tavern Era’ Exhibit at Nellis Tavern


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NellisTavern2013The historic Nellis Tavern museum on State Highway 5 east of St. Johnsville in Montgomery County will present “A Handsome Assortment: Chairs of the Turnpike Tavern Era,” an exhibit scheduled for September 21-22, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The “turnpike era” in upstate New York corresponded roughly with the first half of the nineteenth century. The exhibit will feature examples of the types of seating pieces which would have been found in common use in establishments like Nellis Tavern during its heyday between 1800 and 1840, when it faced the Mohawk Turnpike (present State Highway 5). Today, objects like these are regarded as distinctive examples of early American artisanship. They are often examples of early American mass production, as well. Continue reading

Montgomery County:
African Americans and Abolition Walking Tour


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CanajoharieMontgomery County Historian Kelly Yacobucci Farquhar will lead a walking tour in the Village of Canajoharie on Saturday, August 10th at 11am.  The tour will highlight various sites associated with the African Americans who lived in Canajoharie during the 19th century as well as potential abolitionist activity.

Brochures will identify the sites on a map of the Village of Canajoharie and the walking tour will include a portion of the sites.  The tour will meet at the NBT Bank parking lot on the corner of Route 10 and Mohawk Street (site of Hotel Wagner and the former drive-thru bank) at 11am.  There will some hills involved in the walking tour and it is expected to last approximately 1 hour.
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Preservation Failures: The Hardenbergh House


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Both photos appear courtesy of HABS/HAER-LOCMy previous post about Weigand’s Tavern was written about an historic structure, one of the oldest in Newburgh, which was in peril. Sadly, it is but one instance of many; there are too many cases in other parts of Ulster and Orange counties.

Another example is the Johannes G. Hardenbergh house, which was introduced to me by a fellow firefighter who explored its remains as a young child. This post will be about what happens when a local community does not, or can not, move fast enough to save a piece of history in time. Continue reading

17 Nominations for State, National Registers


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New York State ParksAt the end of June, the New York State Board for Historic Preservation recommended the addition of 17 properties, resources and districts to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

Listing these properties on the State and National Registers can assist their owners in revitalizing the structures, making them eligible for various public preservation programs and services, such as matching state grants and state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits. Continue reading

An Innovative 3D, Augmented Reality Shaker Village Project


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virtual-geShaker Heritage Society recently completed a dynamic on-line resource called Virtual Watervliet (VWV).  Virtual Watervliet provides a high quality experience via a website or mobile application that helps users better understand the significance and development of America’s first Shaker settlement.

At the core of VWV, is the digital reconstruction of all known Shaker structures built in the publically accessible areas of the Watervliet Shaker National Historic District since the late 18th century.  The digital reconstruction allows users to fly through the historic site and to rotate 3D models of historic Shaker architecture. Continue reading

Great Camp Santanoni Historic Restoration Tour June 28


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SantononiGreat Camp Santanoni in Newcomb was built for Robert and Anna Pruyn of Albany beginning in 1892. The estate eventually included 12,900 acres and nearly four-dozen buildings. Adirondack Architectural Heritage (AARCH) director Steven Engelhart and 2012 intern Charlotte Barrett will lead a tour of the site on Friday, June 28, 2013 that will feature the launch of a new guide to Santanoni, authored by Barrett. Continue reading

Opposition Vigil Planned at NYPL Fundraising Gala


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New York Public Library (NYPL)The Committee to Save the New York Public Library will hold a vigil in opposition to the plans for the NYPL’s  42nd Street and Mid Manhattan Libraries on Monday, June 3rd, from 6:00 to 7:30 PM at the 5th Avenue entrance to the 42nd Street Library.

The vigil will coincide with the New York Public Library Spring fundraising gala.  The event is co-sponsored by Citizens Defending Libraries, and will feature an appearance by Rev. Billy and his choir. Continue reading

Brooklyn Museum Renovations Continue


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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA major new first-floor Brooklyn Museum gallery opened in March with Fine Lines: American Drawings, which will remain on view through May 28. The new 6,000-square-foot space is the latest step in a phased renovation that will, within the next two years, dramatically alter the entire first and second floors of the Museum’s McKim, Mead and White building.

This new space, designed by Ennead Architects, incorporates both a larger and a smaller gallery and two vestibule areas. It is named the Robert E. Blum Gallery–as was the previous special-exhibition gallery on the first floor.
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Adaptive Reuse in Rochester: Bread and Water Theatre


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6a01157088010c970b017c387a3014970bWhat follows is a guest essay by J.R. Teeter, the founding artistic director of Bread & Water Theatre. Since 2000 Bread & Water Theatre has had as its purpose the development of new dramatic works and affordable arts programming for the public. This essay first appeared on the site Preservation News.

Rochester, New York has fallen on hard times, not unlike many of the cities across the nation. The Erie Canal, once a major shipping route, is now considered obsolete. The city’s biggest employer, Kodak, is now bankrupt. Major businesses have either downsized, moved out of town, or both. When a new company takes an interest in the city, the red carpet is rolled out and tax breaks are doled out, sometimes at the cost of the city’s legacy. Continue reading

Coldengham: The Colden Family Seat in Orange County


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Colden_Mansion_Ruins-Daniel CaseJust about any morning, cars as well as trucks race back and forth through the intersection of Stone Castle Road and Route 17K in the Town of Montgomery. Many of these commuters, shoppers, or moms driving their children to school are oblivious to the ruins that stand right off to the side, in a wood lot, of the rather busy part of this Orange County road.

Only while stopping along the road, some years ago, I happened upon the remains of what seemed to have once been a beautiful mansion. A blue New York State Education Department sign alerts people that this skeleton, almost lost in the woods, was the site of “the Colden Mansion built of stone in 1767 by Cadwallader Colden, Jr.” How many families, like the Coldens, can boast about having Royal Surveyors, Lieutenant Governors, Acting Governors of New York, noted scientists, and even one of the first female botanists in the Americas among them? Continue reading

An Ossining Castle: David Abercrombie’s ‘Elda’


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Elda in 1928 Photo by Douglas LeenSince the days of the Dutch to more recent times, Ossining and its neighboring areas has been the site of magnificent homes, estates and other properties that are or once were owned by prominent New Yorkers. Many of these people were attracted to Ossining for the relatively inexpensive cost of land, the commanding views of the Hudson River and the easy commute to nearby to New York City. However, because of reduced personal circumstances, as well as changing tastes and life styles, many of these homes and estates are just memories. Continue reading

Peter Feinman On New York’s ‘Ruin Porn’


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Ruin porn is in. Ruin porn is hot. Ruin porn is sexy. Ruin porn is the term coined by Jim Griffioen, who writes a blog about his life as a stay-at-home dad in Detroit.

As part of that effort he periodically posts photographs he has taken of the more than 70,000 abandoned buildings in his city. Such images included (as reported in the New York Times) “‘feral’ houses almost completely overgrown with vegetation; a decommissioned public-school book depository in which trees were growing out of the piles of rotting textbooks”. The term has become a familiar one in the city not without some misgivings by the locals as they watch tourists take souvenirs of their city back home. Continue reading

Kathleen Hulser: Hurricane Sandy And The NYC Waterfront


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As New Yorkers still struggle without power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it plunges us right into the heart of a discussion about the historic waterfront. Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Vision for the 21st Century, proclaimed in 2002, the crumbling infrastructure along the Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfront that once served the port of New York should be harnessed for a variety of development schemes. Continue reading

Tomorrow’s Houses: New England Modernism


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The Schenectady County Historical Society will host photographer Geoffrey Gross as he discusses his latest book, which features hidden jewels by the masters of twentieth-century modernist architecture in New England.

Tomorrow’s Houses is a richly photographed presentation of the best modernist houses in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, built during the early twentieth century through the 1960s. Continue reading

Roberta Brandes Gratz Recieving Landmarks Lion Award


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The Historic Districts Council, the citywide advocate for New York’s historic neighborhoods, buildings and open spaces, will present its annual Landmarks Lion Award on November 5 to advocate, author, journalist and urban critic Roberta Brandes Gratz.

Participating in the ceremony will be Ronald Shiffman, co-founder of the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development, Richard Rabinowitz, president of the American History Workshop, and Stephen Goldsmith, Director of the Center for the Living City. Since 1990 the Landmarks Lion Award has honored those who have shown outstanding devotion in protecting New York City’s historic buildings and neighborhoods. Continue reading

Thomas Symons: A Noted Western Engineer


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In 1847, Thomas Symons operated a book bindery in the village of Keeseville, offering ledgers, journals, receipt books, and similar products. Rebinding of materials was much in demand in those days, a service that helped expand his clientele. While Thomas, Sr., was successful in building a business, his son, Thomas, Jr., would play an important role in building a nation.

Thomas William Symons, Jr., was a Keeseville native, born there in 1849. When he was a few years old, the family moved to Flint, Michigan, where several members remained for the rest of their lives. His younger twin brothers, John and Samuel, operated Symons Brothers & Company, the second largest wholesale firm in the state. They became two of Michigan’s most prominent men in social, political, and business circles.

Thomas chose a different route, completing school and applying to the US Military Academy at West Point. After acceptance, he proved to be no ordinary student, graduating at the top of the Class of 1874. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant, Corps of Engineers, and served at Willett’s Point, about 50 miles south of West Point. After two years, he was ready for some field work, and his timing couldn’t have been better.

Symons was assigned to join the Wheeler Expedition under fellow West Point alumnus George Wheeler. The travels of explorers Lewis and Clark and Zeb Pike are better known, but the Wheeler Expedition is one of four that formed the nucleus of the US Geological Survey’s founding.

The engineers, Symons among them, not only explored, but recorded details of their findings. The land encompassing Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah was surveyed using triangulation, and more than 70 maps were created. Their studies on behalf of America’s government produced volumes on archaeology, astronomy, botany, geography, paleontology, and zoology. The possibilities of roads, railroads, agriculture, and settlement were addressed.

The experience Thomas gained during this work was invaluable. In 1878, he was promoted to First Lieutenant. In 1879, Symons was appointed Engineer Officer of the Department of the Columbia, and was promoted to captain in 1880. Similar to the work he had done under Wheeler, Thomas was now in charge of studying the area referred to as the “Inland Empire of the Pacific Northwest,” focusing on the upper Columbia River and its tributaries.

Much of the land was wilderness, and the job was not without danger. The American government was notorious for breaking treaties with Indians, and groups of surveyors in the region were driven off by angry natives who said they had never sold the rights to their land.

Symons was a surveyor, but he was also an officer of the military. Leading a company of the 21st Infantry from Portland, Oregon, into Washington, he faced off against 150 armed warriors. The situation was potentially disastrous, but Thomas listened to the concerns of the Indians, learning their histories and beliefs. Bloodshed was avoided as Symons skillfully negotiated a truce, allowing him to survey from the Snake River north to the Canadian border, unimpeded.

Much of the upper Columbia study was conducted in a small boat carrying Symons, two soldiers, and several Indians. His report provided details of the region’s geology and history, a review so thorough that it was published as a congressional document. Combined with his earlier surveys of Oregon, it made Symons the government’s number one man in the Northwest.

Whether or not his superiors agreed with him, Symons addressed the Indians’ issues in prominent magazine articles, sympathizing with their plight. Few knew the situation better than Thomas, and he freely expressed his opinions.

Besides exploring and mapping the Northwest, he chose locations for new army outposts, built roads, and carried out military duties. He also became a prominent citizen of Spokane, purchasing land from the Northern Pacific Railroad and erecting the Symons Building, a brick structure containing commercial outlets and housing units. (A third rendition of the Symons Block remains today an important historical building in downtown Spokane.)

Thomas’ proven abilities led to a number of important assignments. In 1882, he was placed on the Mississippi River Commission, taking charge of improvements on the waterway. In 1883, the Secretary of State asked Symons to lead the US side of the joint boundary commission redefining the border with Mexico. Surveying, checking and replacing border markers, and other work was conducted while averaging 30 miles per day on rough ground in intense heat. For his efforts, Thomas received formal thanks from the State Department.

He was then sent to Washington, D.C., where he worked for six years on city projects, principally the water supply, sewage system, and pavements. He also developed complete plans for a memorial bridge (honoring Lincoln and Grant) connecting Washington to Arlington, Virginia. (A modified version was built many years later.)

Symons’ next assignment took him back to familiar territory, the Northwest. Based in Portland, he was given charge of developing river and harbor facilities in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. He did primary engineering work on canals, including one in Seattle that remains a principal feature of the city, and planned the tideland areas for Ballard, Seattle, and Tacoma harbors. Seattle’s present railroad lines and manufacturing district were included in planning for the famed harbor facilities.

On the Pacific coast, Thomas’ work on the world-renowned jetty works at the mouth of the Columbia River was featured in Scientific American magazine. He also provided the War Department with surveys and estimates for harbor construction at Everett, Washington.

Next week: Even bigger and better things, including historic work in New York State.

Photos: Thomas Williams Symons, engineer; Modern version of the Symons Block in Spokane, Washington.
Lawrence Gooley has authored 11 books and more than 100 articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 24 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.

Glens Falls Talk On Changing Perceptions Suburbs


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The Chapman Historical Museum in Glens Falls, NY will host a talk on changing perceptions of the suburbs on Thursday, November 1, 2012, at 7 pm.

From Leave It to Beaver to Desperate Housewives, viewers have been presented with visions of suburbia that are simultaneously pastoral and gothic, nostalgic and repressive. Using still photos and video, Professor Keith Wilhite, Assistant Professor of English, Siena College, will show how popular culture constructs specific images of suburbia, as well as how those images change along with postwar suburban development. Continue reading