On September 19th and 20th, Historic Huguenot Street will host a two-day Gravestone Preservation Workshop in its historic 17th century burial ground led by monuments conservator, preservationist, and teacher Jonathan Appell, founder of the New England Cemetery Service.
The goal of this hands-on training workshop is to educate attendees on the various challenges and techniques of gravestone, monument, and historic stone preservation via an interactive working experience. Continue reading
The campaign to save the historic Lent House in Orangeburg (in Orangetown, Rockland County) was lost on Saturday morning, April 4th. The decisive blow was delivered by a backhoe. The 263-year-old house was reduced to a pile of rubble in less than two hours.
Less than two weeks before, architect and preservationist Walter Aurell was optimistic that the house could be spared. After learning about the unexpected annihilation, Aurell wrote, “It is very upsetting that in a Town whose motto is ‘Rich in History’ we have lost another significant piece of that very history – and its replacement in the public realm will be another strip mall.” Continue reading
It’s remarkable how two unrelated historical events sometimes converge to form a new piece of history. In one such North Country connection, the job choice of a future president became linked to a famous encounter on Lake Champlain. The future president was Warren Harding (1921–23), and the lake event was the Battle of Valcour Island (1776). The results weren’t earth shattering, but the connection did spawn coast-to-coast media stories covering part of our region’s (and our nation’s) history.
In 1882, Harding (1865–1923) graduated from Ohio Central College. Among the positions he held to pay for schooling was editor of the college newspaper. In 1884, after pursuing various job options, he partnered with two other men and purchased the failing Marion Daily Star. Harding eventually took full control of the newspaper, serving as both publisher and editor. Continue reading
It is the Historic Districts Council’s firm belief, backed up by decades of observation, that the New York City Landmarks Law and the Commission empowered by it have enhanced and improved New York City. Landmark designation stabilizes neighborhoods, enhances property values, empowers communities and attracts private investment into the city. More importantly, landmarks and historic districts provide a physical continuity to our city’s past, enabling residents and visitors alike to physically experience New York’s history.
With all this in mind, it’s no mystery that the still unfilled de Blasio appointment for Landmarks Chair is a matter of great interest to us and we have thought a great deal about the type of person whom we’d like to see in the role. Continue reading
The Warrensburgh Historical Society (WHS), Warrensburgh Beautification Inc. (WBI) and Richards Library are co-sponsoring a monthly four part Historic Preservation Lecture Series beginning Wednesday.
The purpose of the series is to educate the community and its leadership to the benefits of historic preservation – the funding sources and financial incentive programs available, the advantages of adaptive reuse, and the direct correlation with economic development. Continue reading
In an important legal ruling, NYS Supreme Court Judge Donna Mills found that elements of the proposed New York University expansion plan would build on land which has long been used as public parkland, although not officially designated as such. The NYU project proposed between West Houston and West Third Streets, has, according to Sam Roberts of the New York Times “arguably generated more rancor than any other project in the neighborhood since the proposed expressway in the 1960s.”
It is only possible to build on parkland in New York State with the approval of the State Legislature. The legal action opposing the expansion which Justice Mills ruled on was brought against the City of New York by a coalition of community groups, neighborhood residents and NYU faculty. Continue reading
The New York State Division for Historic Preservation, including the State Historic Preservation Office, is updating the state’s historic preservation plan, which provides a blueprint for strengthening and expanding preservation efforts across the Empire State.
Public input is an important component of the planning process and they are taking a two-pronged approach. They have developed an online survey (available through the survey link) as well as a more in-depth questionnaire (see below). Those with an interest in New York’s history can take the public survey online here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NYSPreservationSurvey
A coalition of 10 New York environmental and historic preservation organizations yesterday urged the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not to take away the rights of state and local governments to regulate the size, shape and visibility of communications towers – especially in scenic and historically significant areas.
The groups sent a joint letter to the FCC, urging federal officials to recognize that scenic beauty and historic significance are the backbone of local tourism. They asked the FCC to reject the notion that expansions of 10 percent or more in the height or width of cell towers would have no impact on the environment or historic preservation. Continue reading
The High Bridge is scheduled to reopen. This bridge is not to be confused with the High Line in Manhattan which is not a bridge. The High Bridge is a closed pedestrian crossing connecting the Bronx and Manhattan. The 1200 foot span was built in 1848 and is the oldest bridge in the city. It was constructed as part of the Croton Aqueduct system which carried water from Westchester to New York City.
The Croton Aqueduct still functions in Westchester not as a water-carrying system but as an elongated trail somewhat paralleling the Hudson River from Croton to Yonkers. The Aqueduct has devoted followers and a friends group and always is being used by hikers, strollers, runners, and families. It forms a living thread uniting the communities of the county. Continue reading
Just 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
We are a story-telling species. Storytellers need an audience. Storytellers and the audience need a place to meet. The venue may vary, the technology may change, the message evolves, but somehow, in some way, we will tell stories. They define who we are as individuals and as members of something larger than ourselves, a family, a community, a county, a state, a country, or a religion.
How exactly would we celebrate Easter or Passover without a story to tell? Would we even celebrate them if there were no story? With these thoughts in mind, I would like to turn to some examples of the importance of storytelling and community which I have noticed. Continue reading
The New York State Board for Historic Preservation recommended the addition of 27 properties, resources and districts to the State and National Registers of Historic Places, including a Livingston County church where the American Red Cross got its start and a Rockland County complex that was central to the nation’s textile industry.
“The multi-faceted story of New York can be traced in its many distinctive buildings and unique landmarks,” said Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “It is an honor to help preserve these unique landmarks by listing them on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.” Continue reading
When I lived in Boston, I discovered that cemeteries are truly historical treasures to be protected and maintained. While living there, I spent many hours at the Park Street Burying Ground admiring the unusual headstones and looking at the old names which appeared on them.
Usually I was not alone, as other people, many of them tourists, were doing the same. Early on, Bostonians learned a valuable lesson that these final resting places could also be a source of tourist revenue. Continue reading
On New Year’s Eve the cigar smoke was thick on the sidewalk in front of the famed jazz club, the Lenox Lounge. Men in tuxes and women in clingy gowns stepped out of white stretch limos, three deep on Malcolm X Avenue, a.k.a Lenox Avenue in Harlem, as blue notes popped from the chromed doorway.
A huge bejeweled crowd could be glimpsed dancing and drinking through the wide octogon window. Continue reading
January is the traditional time for looking forward and backwards according to the two-faced Roman god Janus. In that spirit, I wish to start 2013 with a look back on some developments in local and state history by focusing on Westchester County both because I live there and because I happen to go through an old folder of Westchester material as I was cleaning up. Continue reading
The Old Town Cemetery is situated between Grand, Liberty, and South Streets, where it has sat for over two hundred years. It has borne witness to an ever-changing Newburgh, from a sleepy village to a bustling city. Many people are unaware of this gem in the heart of Newburgh and how close they came to losing it forever, but thanks to concerned citizens in Newburgh, its future is looking brighter. Continue reading
Four recent developments remind us of the opportunities to tie history to other initiatives here in New York. Doing that successfully will continue to require leadership, persistence, and imagination.
*New York pride…and history? The New York State Economic Development Corporation is running ads in business journals to attract businesses to the state. The ads link to the Development Corporation’s Web Site. The ads say, among other things: Continue reading
The Preservation League of New York State is seeking nominations for its 2013 Excellence in Historic Preservation Awards, which recognize significant achievements in historic preservation throughout New York State.
The postmark deadline for nominations is February 14, 2013. The awards will be presented during the Preservation League’s Annual Meeting on May 15, 2013 in New York City at the historic New York Yacht Club. Continue reading
One of my favorite movie scenes is from Working Girl when Melanie Griffith explains while riding up the elevator with Trask and Indiana, how she came up with the idea for the corporate merger. It wasn’t as if she had been thinking about anything even remotely related to it. Her insight derived from a chance juxtaposition perceived by a mind willing to learn and open to new possibilities. Continue reading
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