Tag Archives: Orange County

A Visit to the Pergamena Tannery in Orange County

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Pergamena Tannery A walk around the Pergamena warehouse in Montgomery, NY in Orange County, is a step back in time. Rows upon rows of animal skins, of all kinds, are carefully laid on shelves, in piles and are in various stages of processing.

Some will turn into leather, some into parchment, some will become covers for drums and books, some will be made into shoes, handbags, dog collars, and the list goes on.

Pergamena – Italian for “parchment” – is a tanning business, and Jesse Meyer, co-owner with dad Karl and brother, Stephen, is providing this tour in a cold warehouse off of Montgomery’s Route 211. Continue reading

Warwick Valley Heritage Digital Collections Launched

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main street paradeThe Albert Wisner Public Library has launched a new local history site which includes text, images, videos, and audio files of the greater Warwick Valley area of Orange County, NY.

Using the Montage platform by Auto-Graphics, this new digital archive tool can archive and present materials that otherwise are difficult for small to mid-sized repositories to make affordably accessible and manage. Continue reading

Johanna Yaun: A Public History State Of Emergency

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New York State MapThis week I came across an article about Joe Bagley, the 31-year- old archaeologist who has been put in charge of one million mostly un-cataloged City of Boston artifacts. Underpaid and overburdened, he’s found ways to triage the projects that come at him each day. He has to be a historian, a fundraiser, a bureaucrat, a volunteer coordinator, a social media guru, an artifact guardian, a cheerleader for preservation, a meticulous registrar, and a broad minded strategic planner, all at the same time.

You’re not alone, Joe. This has become the narrative of the post-recession workplace. It’s like a reality TV premise: we give you poverty level pay and a mountain of responsibility, and expect you to turn this organization around with your hipster ingenuity. I see it so often that I’ve started to refer to it as the martyr-hero motif. Continue reading

A Visit To Orange County’s Gomez Mill House

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gomez houseIf the walls of the Gomez Mill House could talk, what a story it could tell.

Despite the hard stone construction of the building, the sentiment is gentle: “If you have a warm heart, you are welcome.”

The alert observer will see hearts in the designs around the home and grounds, and in the artwork. It’s a place that has been witness to over 300 years of history: not only of Orange County, but of the United States. It has seen days as a business operation, sending construction materials to New York City; it has overheard secret intelligence meetings during the Revolutionary War; it has also been a working farm growing fruit and breeding purebred animals. Built by Jewish businessman Luis Moses Gomez, it’s also the oldest known Jewish dwelling in the United States. Continue reading

Recent Lower Hudson Valley History Meeting Highlights

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hudson valleyIn recent weeks I have had the opportunity to attend and participate in three regional and county history community meetings. These included the annual meeting of the Greater Hudson Heritage Network; a meeting of Region 3 (mainly the Hudson Valley) of the Association of Public Historians in New York State (APHNYS); and the Sullivan County History Conference

These three meetings provided opportunities to meet with colleagues, discuss important issues, and learn what’s happening. What follows are some highlights from those meetings. Continue reading

The State of Orange County’s History Community

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Orange County NY HistorianThere’s a crisis in historical societies and historic house museums across the nation. Membership dues and visitation are in decline. The costs of maintaining buildings and collections is exhausting resources.

Volunteers are under pressure to digitize archives and make resources more widely available to the public without having the expertise or budgetary supports that would be necessary to do so. Exhibits and programming are stagnant while trustees work tirelessly to triage the symptoms. And the public is largely unaware of the treasures that these institutions have to offer. Continue reading

Johanna Yaun: Trends in Heritage Tourism

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eriehotelHeritage tourism is a new name for an old concept. As an archaeology student in Greece, I remember seeing Lord Byron’s name carved on the Temple of Poseidon. His mark among the hundreds of forgotten names reminds us of the well-established motif of traveling to the classical world as part of the Grand Tour. The German word “Bildungsreisen,” used among the nineteenth century elite in Europe, described travel for educational and cultural enlightenment. Continue reading

America’s Oldest Eastern Cottonwood Cut Down Near Newburgh

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Balmville Tree Newburgh Being Cut DownThe NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has cut down the Balmville Tree, a historic and unusually large Eastern Cottonwood tree that has been growing since before 1699 in Balmville, a hamlet in Town of Newburgh, Orange County. The tree sat at the intersection of River Road, Commonwealth Avenue and Balmville Road at a place commonly known as the Balmville Tree Circle. It was believed to be the oldest eastern cottonwood tree in America.

DEC issued a statement to the press saying the tree was deemed “an immediate threat to passing traffic” by DEC and Newburgh officials, “due to its deteriorated condition and a greatly expanded crack”.  The statement said DEC consulted with a professional arborist who inspected the tree and found it to be an extremely high risk to public safety and recommended removal. Continue reading

Historic House Demolition Spurs Film Project

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IMG_9264(1)Blink and another house is bulldozed. Most don’t even notice, so I’d like to tell you the story of what happened in my backyard. Unfortunately, it does not have a happy ending.

In Rosalie Fellows Bailey’s Pre-Revolutionary Dutch Houses and Families in Northern New Jersey and Southern New York, the Lent House (built in 1752) is linked to Abraham de Ryck, one of the earliest settlers in New Amsterdam. The house was built by or for Abraham Lent, who served as Colonel of the First Regiment of Militia of Fort Orangetown during the American Revolution. Continue reading