Tag Archives: Columbia County

Columbia County Magazine: The 1737 Van Alen House


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Columbia County History and Heritage MagazineThe Columbia County Historical Society in Kinderhook, New York has published the latest issue of Columbia County History & Heritage magazine. The Spring/Summer 2014 issue is subtitled “Celebrating Our Legacy The Luykas Van Alen House 1964-2014″.

In honor of the Van Alen House 50th anniversary, Executive Director and Curator Diane Shewchuk solicited articles from local authors and scholars Ruth Piwonka and Roderic Blackburn, who have been involved with the National Historic Landmark 1737 Van Alen House since the 1970s. Continue reading

Hudson Valley Heritage Area Awards Grants


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hudson river valley heritage areaThe Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area and the Hudson River Valley Greenway highlighted five National Heritage Area Heritage Development Grants awarded to historic and cultural institutions in the Mid-Hudson Valley last week.

The National Park Service calls the Hudson River Valley “the landscape that defined America.” These small National Heritage Area Heritage Development Grants are expected to support a wide range of historic and cultural projects, including installations, demonstrations, and public outreach and education projects that will connect more people with the rich tapestry of heritage and cultural experiences in the Mid-Hudson Valley. Continue reading

Copake Iron Works Tours And Talk Planned


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Copake Iron Works cart and horseHistorian Jim Mackin will present “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Copake Iron Works But Were Afraid to Ask” at a lecture and slide show on Saturday, June 21st at 2pm at the Roeliff Jansen Community Library, 9091 Route 22 in Copake, Columbia County, NY, followed by a reception and tour of the Iron Works.

Mackin will also host guided tours of the Copake Iron Works Historic District throughout the summer, beginning on June 8th as part of New York State’s Path Through History Weekend. Continue reading

Mount Lebanon Heritage Herb Festival Planned


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PostcardHerbFest copyThe third annual Mount Lebanon Heritage Herb Festival celebrates the illustrious past of herbs in town history as well as the Native American and Shaker traditions in the heart of the Lebanon Valley of New York, considered the birthplace of the herbal pharmacy in the United States.

The event takes place on Saturday, June 7, 2014 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the historic grounds of Darrow School, at Mount Lebanon Shaker Village.   More than eighteen talks, walks and workshops explore the role of herbs in food, gardens, medicine and health from the early days of the Native Americans to current practices. Continue reading

Mount Lebanon Shaker Museum Adds 61 Acres


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new lebanon shaker museumThe Shaker Museum – Mount Lebanon, in New Lebanon, Columbia County, NY, has completed the acquisition of 61 acres of land adjacent to its North Family site, part of the Mount Lebanon Shaker Society National Historic Landmark District.

The parcel, known as the North Pastures, was purchased from the Darrow School, whose campus consists of the former Church and Center Families of Mount Lebanon’s former Shaker community. The purchase was achieved in a partnership with the Open Space Institute, a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to preserving scenic, natural, and historic landscapes, and also with funding from a 2012 grant from New York State. Continue reading

Columbia County: A Lecture On Copake History


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Pelholm barn with Ezra PellsLocal historian and author Howard Blue will present talk on the history of Copake, Columbia County, at the Roe Jan Historical Society in Copake Falls on Sunday, May 18 at 2:00 pm. Blue’s program is based in part on interviews of local residents from whose family albums he was allowed to copy old photos.

The presentation will focus primarily on the town’s and county’s first settlers, the Mohican Indians, and the 90-year-long, sometimes violent conflict between the Livingston family which at one time owned almost all of Copake and the family’s tenant farmers. Blue will also discuss Martin Van Buren’s role in Copake’s anti-rent movement, Copake in the Revolutionary war years, the existence of slavery in Copake, and Copake’s Civil War era bond issue that helped buy out from the draft some of Copake’s young men. Continue reading

Hidden History of Columbia County, NY


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Columbia County NY HistoryBordered by the Hudson River and the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, few know Columbia County is noted for a mastodon tooth that rolled down a farmer’s hill in Claverack changing the world’s understanding of prehistoric times. President Martin Van Buren lost his wife, Hannah, in Kinderhook and hardly mentioned her again. Hudson’s gallows were the scene of New York’s last hanging, as hundreds of ticket holders looked on. “Pondshiners” in the hills of Taghkanic made fantastic baskets.

Local author Allison Guertin Marchese explores these little-known stories of people and places in
Hidden History of Columbia County, New York (History Press, 2014). Continue reading

Peter Feinman: Bring Back the Mastodons!


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Peale's Exhuming the MammothIt is time for New York State to boldly go where no state has gone before and go back to the future to resurrect the now extinct mastodon. The effort to bring the mammoth back from extinction recently was the cover article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Russia and Japan are working to create mammoths. New York should not be left behind in the de-extinction race. I hereby challenge Governor Cuomo to launch a new “Manhattan Project” so we are the first to bring the paleolithic era to life through the creation of Mastodon Park, our own Ice Age animal, the mastodon. Continue reading

American Revolution:
Trouble at Poughkeepsie and Peekskill


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American Revolution ShipsA loyalist is a man with his head in England, his body in America, and a neck that needs to be stretched.  – an anonymous patriot.

Late in June of 1776, the New York Provincial Convention (NYPC) received a troubling report from the Dutchess County Committee of Safety. It said that Poughkeepsie officials and patriot warships were being threatened by loyalists, so-called Tories. Continue reading

The Misnamed Columbia County ‘Battle of Egremont’


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MilitiamenA small, but important part of the American Revolutionary War took place during 1777 at Livingston Manor, Albany County (now Columbia County), New York. The few historical references about this event identify the event as the Battle of Egremont, implying that it happened in Massachusetts.

While it was customary to name a battle after its location, participants or some other feature, these conventions were overlooked in this case and the involvement of Egremont, Massachusetts militiamen seems to be the primary reason for the naming of the battle. However, many participants were from New York militia units, and the battle actually took place in New York. The battle was actually a series of four skirmishes that occurred over two-days. Continue reading

Program on History of Copake Nov 2nd


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Copake Railroad StationHistorian Howard Blue will do a repeat of his slide show presentation on Copake’s history (in Columbia County) on Sat. Nov. 2 at 4 P.M.

Blue’s program is largely based on interviews with local residents, many of whom shared old photos of the town and its people from their family albums. His talk will include such history gems as the 1840s agrarian revolt in Copake, the town’s unusual aeronautical history, three local former horse racetracks, and ice harvesting in town. Continue reading

Mount Lebanon Shaker Museum Preservation Reception


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DSC_0146On Wednesday, September 25 the Shaker Museum – Mount Lebanon will hold an open house and reception with the Preservation League of New York State to celebrate the collaborative restoration efforts of the two organizations.

The Shaker Museum recently received a loan from The Preservation League of New York State to support the preservation projects currently underway at the North Family. Continue reading

Mount Lebanon Herb Festival at Historic Shaker Village


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2nd annual mount lebanon herbfest finalThe Mount Lebanon Herb Festival will be held on Saturday, June 8, 2013, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m, rain or shine on the campus of the Darrow School in New Lebanon, NY, the historic grounds of Mount Lebanon Shaker Village.

New Lebanon has a remarkable history with herbs. Its famous warm spring feeds the Shaker Swamp in the village of New Lebanon, and that supported an extraordinary collection of wild herbs long used by Native Americans. The Shakers, who based their national headquarters in New Lebanon, expanded on the uses of these herbs and created an industry around their sales. In 1824, Elam Tilden (father of politician Samuel J. Tilden) put this knowledge toward the start of one of the nation’s first pharmaceutical companies, the Tilden Company, using herbal tinctures, extracts and compounds derived in New Lebanon that were eventually marketed around the world. Continue reading

New Project: Virtual Center for Prison Memories


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The Prison Public Memory Project, focused on making prison history relevant as a guide to the future, today launched a website and blog (www.prisonpublicmemory.org) featuring its work in Hudson, NY a small town that is home to an historic prison and the site of the Project’s pilot effort.

Hudson Correctional Facility, a medium-­‐secure state prison for men that opened in 1976, was originally built in the 1800’s as the House of Refuge for Women, the first reformatory for women in New York (1887 – 1904), and then transformed into The New York State Training School for Girls (1904-­‐1975) where famed jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald and other girls found to be delinquent by the courts were sent to be reformed.
Since 2011, Prison Public Memory Project founders and a growing team of contributors based in the Hudson Valley and around the state have been interviewing Hudson area residents including prison ‘alumni’; conducting research in local and state archives and libraries; and developing educational, interpretive and cultural activities to be offered in Hudson and on the website later this year and
next year.

Visitors to the website can view current photos of former prison workers and inmates and listen to audio clips from their oral histories; see old photographs and maps of the prison; and read prison documents and letters from the 19th and 20th centuries. Short articles tell about ordinary as well as extraordinary prison-­‐related events and people that influenced local, state, and national history. One section of
the website invites visitors to become history detectives helping the Project team answer questions and find evidence and visitors are encouraged to contribute in other ways.

Even before its public debut, the website-in-progress grabbed the attention of a few people who offered their own stories and questions and photos. One woman wrote in “My mother’s stories of the (NYS Training) school (for Girls) were brutal, I want to find out if I have another brother or sister. maybe someone has information to help me.” Another woman wrote ” i was sent too hudson in 1964. it wasnt a very nice place to be. but i made my bed so i had to lay in it… once you got use to being there it wasnt, a bad place… it made me a better person some of these young girls now should have a place like that it taught you respect for your self and others.”

Project founder/director Alison Cornyn anticipates more public input as the site is officially launched and word-of-­mouth spreads. “Prisons, especially old prisons like  the one in Hudson, have touched thousands of lives over the course of their history, in both profound and ordinary ways. Using history, art, dialogue and new communications technologies, The Project will craft safe spaces and new opportunities for people from all walks of life – including those who lived and worked inside the walls ‐ to connect with the past and each other and engage in conversation, learning, and visioning regarding the role of prisons in communities and in society today and in the future”, said Cornyn, a Brooklyn based
interdisciplinary artist and new media producer whose previous projects have garnered numerous awards.

Illustration: New York State Training School For Girls.

Peter Feinman: New York and the Civil War


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The Union may have won the war but the South has won Civil War tourism and its legacy. It’s an extraordinary fact of life that wherever the National Park Service has a site, a battle was fought there! And they are all in the South with the major exception of Gettysburg.

Time and time again presentations on life back then in antebellum (before the war) times begin with Gone with the Wind, still the box-office champion adjusted for inflation. What story does the North including New York have to tell that can compare with the pageantry of the South, the chivalry of the idealized plantation, and the glamour of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh? Freedom and preserving the Union that made the world safe for democracy in the three world wars in the 20th century should count for something, even for Confederates. Continue reading

Spring Walk at Olana Features Landscape, Wildlife


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Craig Thompson, director of Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, will host an outdoor foray to search for bluebirds, robin redbreast, white trillium and other colorful signs of spring on Sunday, April 1. An Olana educator will join the group to discuss the history of the landscape and carriage drives designed by Frederic Church.

Craig Thompson has been an environmental educator in NYS DEC’s Division of Public Affairs for over 30 years. Five Rivers, one of the state’s environmental education facilities, is a 445-acre “living museum” offering a comprehensive program of interpretive, education and information services year ‘round.

The Spring Walk will take place from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm, and is free and open to all ages. Meet at the Wagon House Education Center and dress for casual trail walking. Binoculars are helpful but not necessary. Space is limited, so please register by calling (518) 828-1872 ext. 109. In the event of inclement weather, the program may be canceled. (If in doubt, call (518) 828-1872 x 109 to confirm.) A vehicle use fee will be charged at the entrance to the site.

Forum: 1979 Hudson Valley Nuclear Decision


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In 1979, a nuclear power plant was nearly built on the Hudson River in plain view of Olana State Historic Site. The Olana Partnership is presenting a panel discussion on Saturday, February 25, about this little-known incident in Hudson Valley history.

For the first time ever, three key players in this debate will unite and recount this game-changing episode, and how each played an important role. The panelists, Carl Petrich, J. Winthrop Aldrich, and Richard Benas, will discuss the unprecedented and nationally significant approach of considering the visual impact of a nuclear power plant in a region. Dorothy Heyl, a member of Olana’s Landscape/Viewshed Committee, will moderate.

In 1977, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Power Authority of the State of New York held hearings on siting a nuclear power plant just south of Catskill in Cementon. The cooling tower, at a height of 450 feet, would have been visible for many miles. Thirty-five stories tall, it would have been 250 feet in diameter at its highest point and discharged a prominent plume. On some days, the plume would have obscured views of the Catskill Mountains from many locations, including Olana.

In the late 1970s, Carl Petrich, one of the panelists, worked as a landscape architect on the research staff of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Through an agreement with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Oak Ridge produced an Environmental Impact Statement for this project. Petrich immersed himself in Hudson River School history and the designed landscape of Frederic Church’s Olana. His conclusion—that the viewshed from Olana was of national importance and warranted protection—changed history. The resulting Environmental Impact Statement caused the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff to recommended denial of a construction license for the proposed nuclear power plant. This was the first and only time that such a recommendation had been made on any grounds—let alone environmental or aesthetic.

J. Winthrop Aldrich, a Hudson Valley resident and long-time public servant, worked with counsel for local groups opposing the siting of the plant in Cementon. He was a proponent of assuring that the impact of the project on historic and scenic resources would be formally weighed in the decision making.

Richard Benas, then at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, testified in hearings on the proposed plant. Based on this experience, Benas later developed visual impact guidelines which are now used to insure compliance with the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act, SEQRA.

Testimony at the hearings on the significance of the Olana Viewshed included some by David Huntington, who had earlier led the successful preservation effort that saved Olana in 1967. More than 30 years ago, Huntington testified, “Olana is a monument and site whose significance will be increasingly appreciated by the American people.”

The three panelists, Petrich, Aldrich and Benas, will share their memories of a crucial, but mostly forgotten chapter in the preservation of a national historic landmark and its spectacular viewshed. “It’s surprising how few people know about this episode in this region,” noted Mark Prezorski, Landscape Curator for The Olana Partnership. “In some ways, it’s similar to the Storm King Mountain preservation effort, with far reaching effects.”

“This discussion, while it addresses the prospect of a nuclear power plant, is not about nuclear energy,” commented Sara Griffen, President of The Olana Partnership. “It is the story of how the importance of the Olana Viewshed factored into the siting of a plant, and how this mattered on a national and regional level.”

“Olana is famous for its breath-taking panoramic views that draw thousands of visitors to this magnificent historic site every year,” said Kimberly Flook, Site Manager of Olana Historic Site. “It was Frederic Church’s vision that actively shaped his landscape to frame the Hudson Valley’s unique natural beauty.”

The panel discussion will begin at 3:00 PM on Saturday, February 25 in Hudson, NY, at Stair Galleries (549 Warren Street). A suggested donation of $10 can be paid at the door, and admission is free for all members of The Olana Partnership. A reception will follow. More information is available online at olana.org or by phoning The Olana Partnership at 518.828.1872. RSVPs appreciated.

Photo: View from Olana with Superimposed Simulated Nuclear Cooling Towers (detail), 1979, photograph #4363-77, Courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, US Dept. of Energy.

‘Keeping Up With the Schuylers’ Dramatic Tours


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Historic Cherry Hill and Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site present to the public, “Keeping Up With the Schuylers,” a dramatic house tour of both historic sites. It is part of the special series: Got Class? Status and Power in Early America presented by Historic Cherry Hill and Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site and funded by the New York Council for the Humanities.

The dramatic tour begins at Historic Cherry Hill in the year 1787. The public will meet the 18th century Van Rensselaer family inhabitants of the Cherry Hill home. The tour continues at Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site where visitors will find the Schuyler Mansion household preparing for the approaching nuptials of General Schuyler’s son, John Bradstreet Schuyler to Catherine Van Rensselaer.

This unique dramatic tour will explore the subtleties of class within Albany’s 18th century elite. The public will be able to compare the households of two of Albany’s prominent citizens and determine for themselves what it meant to be a gentleman in the founding era of the United States. Dramatic tours will be offered to the public on Thursday October 20th at 3:00pm and 5:00pm and on Saturday, October 22nd at 9:30am, 12:00pm and 2:30pm.

The dramatic tour is a ticketed event. The cost of tickets is $12.00 per person. To purchase tickets for this event please call Historic Cherry Hill at 518-434-4791 or email mary@historiccherryhill.org.

Historic Cherry Hill, located at 523 ½ South Pearl Street in Albany, NY, is a non-profit historic house museum built in 1787 and was lived in continuously by five generations of the same family until the death of the last family member in 1963. The museum is currently undergoing a large restoration project and offers a Behind-the-Scenes Restoration tour from April through December, on Wednesday afternoons at 1, 2 and 3pm and Saturday afternoons at 2 and 3pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and college students and $2 for children between the ages of 12 and 18. An Architecture Hunt for Families is also offered on Saturdays between 1 and 2pm at the admission price of $2 for adults and $1 for children ages 6-11. Visit Historic Cherry Hill’s website at www.historiccherryhill.org for more information.

Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site, located at 32 Catherine Street in Albany, NY, was once the home of Philip J. Schuyler, the renowned Revolutionary War General, US Senator and business entrepreneur. He and his wife Catharine Van Rensselaer descended from affluent and powerful Dutch families. Together they raised eight children in this home. Throughout the Schuyler family occupancy from 1763-1804, the mansion was the site of military strategizing, political hobnobbing, elegant social affairs, and an active family life. Guided tours are available mid-May through October 31st, and are offered on the hour, Wednesday through Sunday, 11:00am to 4:00pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and college students. Children under 12 are free. Visit www.schuylerfriends.org for more information about Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site.

Illustration: Schuyler Mansion.

Walking Tours of Olana Landscape


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The weekend of September 24 and 25 offers two unique opportunities to enjoy the landscape at Olana State Historic Site. On Saturday, September 24, author and geologist Bob Titus will lead a Hudson Valley Ramble Walk at Olana starting at 2 p.m. On Sunday, September 25, Lin Fagan will lead a walk starting at 9 a.m. Both groups will meet at the Olana Visitor Center at the top of the hill and continue their respective walks from that location. The tour on Saturday has a $5 vehicle fee per car as the cost of admission; the tour on Sunday is free of charge.

Professor Robert Titus has held several very popular Hudson Valley Ramble Walks at Olana. This year his walk entitled “Unplanned Views” will circle Olana looking at the dramatic views that artist Frederic Church took advantage of as he laid out his landscape. Titus will point out the views and then describe their geologic histories with a series of dramatic readings describing moments of time in the geological past that brought these views into being for Mr. Church. Reservations are required for this walk and it is limited to 20 persons; plan for two hours in the landscape with easy to moderate walking. Please wear clothing and shoes suitable for walking outside on shale paths and woodland areas.

On Sunday, Lin Fagan will conduct a tour with a focus on the landscape and the wildlife, particularly the bird populations. Fagan, an Olana volunteer for over 20 years, is a long-time member of the Audubon Society, an avid hiker and birder who has travelled all over the United States. She will bring to bear her particular expertise in looking at the landscape and enjoying all that surrounds you. When not travelling or volunteering at Olana, Lin can most often be found hiking and birding in the Shawangunks in Ulster County. Her tour will include the landscape, the gardens, and Ridge Road. A loop around the lake can be added to the walk for those who are interested. Wear clothing and shoes appropriate for walking outside.

For both walks, bring cameras, binoculars, sketch pads, water, and a pure joy for the landscape of the Hudson Valley. Reservations are required for both tours; please call 518-828-0135 between 9 AM and 5 PM Tuesday – Sunday to reserve a spot on one or both of these walks in the landscape.

Landscape Photography Workshop at Olana


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The Olana Partnership will host a two-day landscape photography workshop, Growing your skills beyond the snapshot phase, on Saturday, September 17 and Sunday, September 18 from 1-7:30 pm at the Wagon House Education Center at Olana. Photographer Greg Miller will teach participants how to blossom from a snapshot shooter to a photographer who makes compelling photos that elicit strong emotional reactions. Participants will learn about proper lighting, technical vs. artistic skills, composition, equipment, and technique, and will have an opportunity to shoot intimate scenes and vistas in Olana’s picturesque landscape.

Cost of the workshop is $75 for Saturday only or $125 for both days for non-members, and $50 for Saturday only and $100 for both days for members of The Olana Partnership. An additional $5.00 entry fee per vehicle will be charged (waived for members of The Olana Partnership). This fee may be credited toward a house tour as long as tickets are available. Register now while space is available. Contact Sarah Hasbrook, education coordinator for The Olana Partnership, at shasbrook@olana.org or call (518) 828-1872 x 109.

Greg Miller’s books include The Hudson River: A Great American Treasure (Rizzoli, 2008) which was selected for the “2008 Editors’ Favorite Books of the Year” list by The Bloomsbury Review. Miller’s second book, Panorama of the Hudson River (SUNY Press, 2009), was commissioned by Open Space Institute and the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz. His selected permanent collections include the Center for Fine Art Photography in Ft. Collins, Colorado, Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington D.C. (five prints), and Catskill Regional Medical Center (eighteen prints), to name a few. Miller was selected to be a 2009 “Artist in Residence” for Acadia National Park and was a finalist for the “2003 Photography Now” award from The Center of Photography at Woodstock. In addition, Miller is a workshop leader for the Center of Photography at Woodstock, and photography tour leader for the Adirondack Photography Institute. More information and photographs can be found on Greg Miller’s website

Wagon House Education Center programming is made possible in part through support provided by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency; the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation; the Educational Foundation of America; the John Wilmerding Education Initiative, and the members of The Olana Partnership.

Photo: Hudson Valley by Greg Miller.