Tag Archives: Orange County

Preservation Failures: Newburgh’s Weigand Tavern

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Weigand's_Tavern-AuthorOne of the saddest stories I have ever tracked in the newspapers is the Martin Weigand Tavern in the City of Newburgh. It is the story of a property allowed to deteriorate to a point where today it is almost beyond repair.

Located on Liberty Street, it is a relic of the American Revolution where many Revolutionary notables spent time. The tavern was also the center of political life in early Newburgh. It stands today at the Northwest corner of the Old Town Cemetery as it has for over two centuries. Continue reading

The Social Fabric: To Knit or Not to Knit?

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1885 Delaware River WatershedsThe Delaware Company’s president John Conway (Sullivan County Historian), invited me to speak at the newly formed nonprofit’s inaugural fundraising gala this week at the historic Ardmore Mansion/Mountain View Manor, in Glen Spey, the day after the NYSHA annual conference in Cooperstown ended.

The mission of The Delaware Company is to promote and support the history and historic landmarks of the Upper Delaware River Valley through education, outreach, and fundraising. Also speaking were U.S. Representative Chris Gibson and NYS Legislator Aileen Gunther. The audience consisted of various county and local officials, municipal historians, historic organizations, and at least one teacher, a true sampling of the history community in the region. 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

Place-Based Education and the New Windsor Cantonment

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New Windsor CantonmentRecently, I was appointed a THVIP with Teaching the Hudson Valley. The role of a THVIP is to “find new and better ways to help reach Hudson Valley children and young people with place-based education,” both in and out of the classroom.

I’ve been thinking about some of the great historical sites around Orange and Ulster counties. A personal favorite, and not just because I once worked there, is the New Windsor Cantonment. Continue reading

Newburgh: Cradle of the American Lawn Mower Industry

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mower ad Abraham Levitt, the man who arguably built more suburban homes in the United States than anyone else in the years following World War II once said that: “No single feature of a suburban residential community contributes as much to the charm and beauty of the individual home and the locality as well-kept lawns”

The ubiquitous American suburban lawn in America began 100 years before in 1841 when a 25 year old resident of Newburg New York named Andrew Jackson Downing published a landscape-gardening book entitled, “Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening.”

It counseled readers to improve themselves by improving their front yards and could well be the impetus of the self-help book craze of the later third of the 20th century. He believed that the perfect front yard had to have a large area of “grass mown into a softness like velvet.” Continue reading

Peter Feinman: A Fork In The Path Through History

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PathThroughHistoryOn January 25, I attended the Mid-Hudson regional meeting of the Path through History project. What follows is my report on the meeting which may, or may not, be the experience and take-away of others who attended (or what is happening in other regions). The Mid-Hudson Valley region includes the Hudson River counties of Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Ulster, Orange, and Rockland, along with Sullivan County in the Catskills. Continue reading

Orange County: St. George’s Cemetery in Newburgh

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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

Old Town Cemetery: Preserving A Newburgh Treasure

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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

William Seward Biographer Visting Seward’s Hometown

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Walter Stahr, author of a new biography on one of America’s greatest statesmen, William Henry Seward, will be visiting Florida, NY (Orange County) on October 14. The visit will include a lecture and book signing at the school founded by William Henry’s father, Samuel Sweezy Seward, which today still bears his name, the SS Seward Institute.

This will be Stahr’s third visit to Florida. His first two visits took place while he was researching his latest book, Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man, which took four years to complete. The biography, released in September, has already received highly favorable reviews. Continue reading

Forts Montgomery and Clinton: Twin Forts Day

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On October 6, 1777 an invading British Army assaulted Fort Montgomery and nearby Fort Clinton. Outnumbered 3 to 1, the defending Continental soldiers and militia held out as long as they could until at last the forts were overrun, the Continental ships burned by their own crews to prevent capture, and the Great Chain removed. Over half of the garrison was captured or killed.

Fort Montgomery State Historic Site in the Hudson Highlands on Saturday October 6th will commemorate the 235th anniversary of this bloody battle. Reenactors are portraying the American Continentals and militia as well as the British, their German allies, and the Loyalist Americans. There will be a reenactment of the battle on the actual battlefield of Fort Montgomery; cannon firings, including the fort’s 32-pounder “George” and military drill and living history demonstrations throughout the day.


10:00 AM – Camps Open. Living History Demonstrations and Military Drill throughout the Day
11:00 AM – Guided Tour of Fort Montgomery – Starting at the Museum
12:00 PM – Children’s Musket Drill – Reenactment Field
1:00 PM – Artillery Firing – Grand Battery
1:30 PM – Military Music Demonstration – Grand Battery
2:00 PM – Children’s Musket Drill – Reenactment Field
3:00 PM – “Soldiers of the Twin Forts” – Museum Terrace
4:00 PM – Battle Reenactment – Reenactment Field
5:00PM – Camps Close

Parking will be available off-site with a shuttle bus running throughout the day (follow the posted signs). Twin Forts Day is presented by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, the Fort Montgomery Battle Site Association, and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Fort Montgomery is located at 690 Route 9W, ¼ mile north of the Bear Mountain Bridge. The museum and grounds are open Wed. through Sun. 9 AM to 5 PM. Call 845-446-2134 for more information.

Touring Old Mine Road: The Esopus-Minisink Trail

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The other day, driving home from Kingston, I could not help but notice the sea of New York State Education Department signs (NYSED) that lined the roadside. The blue and yellow plaques are designed to alert those passing by of significant historic events that had occurred somewhere in the vicinity of the signs. These signs made me think about when I lived in Boston and followed that city’s Freedom Trail. Continue reading

Revolutionary War Camp at Night Event

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Saturday, August 11 from 7:00 to 9:00 PM, at the re-created huts, administered by the Last Encampment of the Continental Army, on the west side of Route 300 and on the north side of Causeway Road, at the New Windsor Cantonment & Knox’s Headquarters State Historic Sites in Vails Gate, NY (Orange County), interact with soldiers and their family members as they prepare, in the late spring of 1783, for the end of the encampment.

After 8 years of war, most of the army was finally be allowed to go home, but some soldiers had to remain under arms until the British evacuated New York City. There was tension in the air. Knowing that their time was short, soldiers lashed out at their officers. One, they hung in effigy. Causing further resentment, the soldiers would not receive their long overdue pay, only certificates for three months pay, redeemable in six months.

Tour the encampment grounds by the glow of tin lanterns. See military drills and musket firings, maybe even join-in a demonstration with wooden muskets. Following the capture of British forces by the allied armies of France and America, at Yorktown, Virginia, in the fall of 1781, the northern Continental Army returned to the Hudson Highlands. The destruction of the principal British field army in the south broke England’s will to continue the struggle. In the fall of 1782, near New Windsor, 7,500 Continental Army soldiers built a city of 600 log huts near New Windsor. Along with some of their family members, they braved the winter and kept a wary eye on the 12,000 British troops in New York City, just 60 miles away.

The event is co-sponsored by the National Temple Hill Association and New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site. The National Temple Hill Association administers the Last Encampment of the Continental Army for the Town of New Windsor and owns the historic Edmonston House. New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site is part of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission.

‘Who Do These People Think They Are?’ at Knox’s Headquarters

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General George Washington knew exactly what he was about, in the summer of 1781, by trying to convince the British and his own soldiers that he would attack New York City. Unbeknownst to all, but trusted officials, he had agreed to move with the French Army south to Virginia. In Virginia, a French naval force from the Caribbean would join them to complete the encirclement of the British Army at Yorktown. 

The soldiers of the 2nd and 3rd Continental Artillery Regiments, encamped at New Windsor, since the previous November, spent their time assembling and training on heavy siege artillery. Without the heavy guns to batter down the fortifications of British General Cornwallis’ Army at Yorktown, the decisive victory achieved there would not have been possible. On Saturday July 28 from 7:00 to 9:00 PM costumed historians will think and act like they were the actual participants, at Knox’s Headquarters, in New Windsor, in July 1781, making the final arrangements for the movement of the artillery to the south.

As the evening progresses, the masking darkness gives the grounds a surreal experience, adding significantly to the authenticity of the setting. The residents will beguile visitors with tales of past glories, suffering, and share their hopes and aspirations for an uncertain future. Tour the grounds and mansion by the glow of tin lanterns and experience the tense days before Yorktown with the soldiers and civilians, who once made their homes in the area. 

The “residents” have no knowledge of the fact that Washington wants to take them south instead of to New York. Visitors will meet few, if any, names that they recognize from history, but instead humble souls whose efforts combined with thousands of others, helped forge a nation. This type of presentation, called “first-person living history,” has developed into a very exciting way to make history more meaningful to visitors. This technique is used at Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts and Colonial Williamsburg, in Virginia. 
For more information please call (845) 561-1765 ext. 22. Knox’s Headquarters is at 289 Forge Hill Road, in Vails Gate, New York at the intersection of Route 94 and Forge Hill Road, four miles east of Stewart Airport and three miles from the intersection of I-87 and I-84.
Photo: New Windsor Cantonment Staff in Front of Knox’s Headquarters, the John Ellison House (provided).

Independence Day at New Windsor Cantonment, Knox’s HQ

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The New Windsor Cantonment and Knox’s Headquarters present a day of Revolutionary War activities. At New Windsor Cantonment, see a military drill and cannon firing at 2:00 PM, as well as blacksmithing and children’s activities throughout the day.

At Knox’s Headquarters, tour the 1754 Ellison House, the military command post for three generals. New Windsor Cantonment is open Monday July 4 10:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M. At Knox’s Headquarters see a small cannon fired at 12:00 & 4:00 PM. The house is open for tours at 11:00 AM & 3:00 PM.

On the 4th, at 3:00 P.M., New Windsor Cantonment invites visitors to help read the Declaration of Independence, the revolutionary document that started it all. Following the reading, the 7th Massachusetts Regiment will fire a “feu-de-joie,” a ceremonial firing of muskets in honor of independence.

Throughout the day authentically dressed soldiers and civilians will share stories of life from that exciting time. Knox’s Headquarters, the Ellison House, honors the site’s namesake General Henry Knox, Washington’s Chief of Artillery, with the firing of a 4 1/2 ” bronze coehorn mortar at 12:00 P.M. and 4:00 P.M. This mortar, designed to be carried by two men, fired a grenade size exploding ball. John and Catherine Ellison were gracious hosts to three Continental Army generals at different times during the Revolutionary War.

In addition to the special programs and activities, the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor and the New Windsor Cantonment Visitor Center are open. These buildings feature the history of the New Windsor Cantonment; Behind Every Great Man: The Continental Army in Winter, 1782-83, Revolutionary War artifacts, the exhibit The Last Argument of Kings, Revolutionary War Artillery and the story of the Purple Heart.

A picnic grove is available and there is plenty of free parking. Just one mile from the Cantonment is Knox’s Headquarters State Historic Site. Elegantly furnished by John and Catherine Ellison, the 1754 mansion served as headquarters for Revolutionary War Generals Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox, and Horatio Gates. Also be sure to visit Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh, a short drive from the New Windsor Cantonment.

Admission is free. For more information please call New Windsor Cantonment at (845) 561-1765 ext. 22. New Windsor Cantonment is co-located with the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor on Route 300 (374 Temple Hill Road) in the Town of New Windsor, four miles east of Stewart Airport. It is three miles from the intersection of I-87 and I-84 in Newburgh, New York. Knox’s Headquarters is located, a mile away from the New Windsor Cantonment, at the intersection of Route 94 and Forge Hill Road in Vails Gate.

Ulster County: The Many Lives of Selah Tuthill’s Gristmill

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In 1788, the same year as France was moving closer towards revolution and the United States Constitution was being ratified, a young man made his way to the area that would one day bear his name. His name was Selah Tuthill. He founded what would become known as the Tuthilltown Gristmill in Gardiner, New York. Once the mill started churning out stone ground flour, it would do so continuously for over two hundred years until its second life as a restaurant and distillery. Continue reading

Continental Army Encampment at New Windsor

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Sunday June 3 at 2:00 PM, in celebration of New York State Museum Week, a military drill will be held to honor the soldiers who secured our independence.

Surrounded on all sides now by housing developments and in certain areas completely built over, the Continental Army winter encampment, at New Windsor, in 1782-83, was, during its short existence, the second largest city in New York State.

Soldiers fashioned out of the ancient forest, approximately 600 buildings, arrayed in tidy rows, replicating battlefield formations. Though a mighty gathering, the effects upon the vicinity were fleeting. The army moved on in June 1783, leaving only a wife, abandoned by her ne’er do well husband, with two young children and quartermasters responsible for disposing of the encampment. Surplus army equipment, as well as nearly all of the log structures, were sold at public auction. Following the Revolutionary War, farmers cleared the land; making stonewalls out of the collapsed fieldstone chimneys of the huts. By the mid-19th century, except to the most discerning eye, all traces of the Continental Army had vanished.

Learn about the historical significance of the New Windsor Cantonment and the soldiers encamped there during the final winter of the war. At the time, the 7,000 soldiers at New Windsor, and a few thousand more in the vicinity of West Point, were the only force standing between the people of New York and New England and 12,000 British troops in New York City, just 60 miles away.

New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site is co-located with the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor on Route 300, 374 Temple Hill Road, in New Windsor, NY, just three miles south of the intersection of I-87 and I-84. For more information please call (845) 561-1765 ext. 22.

Lecture: Using Artwork in Historical Research

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Traditional historical research draws primarily upon the written word- such as letters, journals, memorials, official documents and historical publications. Historians have shown less interest in historical visual arts that are often as important as written ones. In a lecture entitled “A Striking Likeness: Using Artwork for Historical Research and Using Research to Study Artwork,” Saratoga National Historical Park Historian Eric Schnitzer will take a brief look at artwork focusing on themes related to the American War for Independence and how careful study of the visual arts can add new dimensions to our understanding of the past.

The event will be held at Fort Montgomery State Historic Site (in Orange County) on Thursday, April 26th at 7 PM.

PLEASE NOTE: Seating is limited to 50. You may reserve seats by calling 845-446-2134. Leave your name, phone number and number of people in your party.

Illustration: The Burial of General Fraser engraved by William Nutter, after John Graham, published by John Jeffryes, May 1, 1794.

Stella Bailey Honored with Woman of History Award

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On Saturday, March 31st, Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site honored Stella Bailey, the 2012 Martha Washington Woman of History Award during their annual program “The General’s Lady.” Bailey was selected for her dedicated service in preserving Hudson Valley history over fifty years. The ceremony was held in the Ritz Theatre lobby located on Broadway in Newburgh, NY.

Elyse B. Goldberg, Historic Site Manager, said in her welcoming address and conferring of the award, that though time did not permit her to list all the organizations and positions that Ms. Bailey has held over the years to be mentioned, Stella is at present the Executive Director and Financial Officer of the Fort Montgomery Battle Site Association, President of the Town of Highlands Historical Society, and the Highland Falls Town/Village Historian.

Tom Meyering, President of the 5th New York Regiment, James K. Burr, Adjutant, 5th New York Regiment, and Joseph D’Onofrio, Mayor of Highland Falls each independently nominated her for the honor and made remarks to commend Bailey for her commitment and dedication in preserving Hudson River Valley history.

Family and friends of Ms. Bailey were in the audience along with some previous recipients of the Woman of History Award. They included author/historian Patricia Favata, City of Newburgh Historian Mary McTamaney, City of Newburgh Records Management Director Elizabeth McKean, and community activist Mara Farrell.

Dressed in their Revolutionary War military attire, members of the 5th New York Regiment led the audience cheer at the completion of the award presentation and Bailey’s acceptance speech.

The event was sponsored by the Palisades Parks Conservancy and the Friends of the State Historic Sites of the Hudson Highlands.

Photo: 2012 Winner Stella Bailey, third from left surrounded by past winners Mary McTamaney, Elizabeth McKean, and Mara Farrell along with Historic Site Manager Elyse Goldberg (provided).

New Director for Newburgh Bay, Highlands Historical

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The Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands has announced that lifelong Newburgh resident Johanna Porr will serve as the organization’s new director. Porr assumed the position last week.

“To be able to study the largest historic district in New York State is certainly fun, but to be entrusted with a role to use that understanding to help rebuild this city is an honor,” she said in a statement release to the press.

As director, Porr’s duties include fundraising, directing future research and programs, overseeing the remaining renovations to the Captain David Crawford House, creating useful networks in the fields of public history and academic history and increasing membership within the group the statement said.

“The Historical Society has been and will continue to be a resource for people who want to learn more about Newburgh’s history or those who are interested in restoring homes here,” she said.

Porr “wants to establish an inspiring new direction for the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands while maintaining everything Newburgh has come to love about the organization. Her goals are to keep up with the current trends in the academic world, exchange information and ideas with other historical societies in New York and beyond and to use the society’s resources to make Newburgh’s history
more relevant to today’s citizens,” the press statement said.

“It’s important to find the academics who are already doing the research and connect them with the people on the ground who have a better idea of the questions the public is interested in,” said Porr. “I’d like to see more serious focus on scholarly research being done in the Hudson Valley.”

Porr has been an historical interpreter at Washington’s Headquarters, where she has both volunteered and been employed for nearly a decade. She attended Franklin College in Switzerland where she studied European history, earned an M.P.A. from Marist College and recently spent time in Virginia doing archaeology at Historic Jamestown and historic-trades research at Colonial Williamsburg.

“Newburgh is a fascinating place,” said Johanna, who grew up in city. “We call it ‘History City’ because you can take any major movement and tie it back here somehow; you can always find a way to understand the scope of American history through the narratives that are available in Newburgh.”

The new director is the daughter of former Newburgh city manager Harold Porr and Joan Mauriello, who volunteered as a preservationist and historical activist while Johanna was growing up.

“This society is one of the earliest and we’ve been building a collection and archive since 1884,” Johanna said. “I’m proud to be part of such a strong institution, especially since the viability of Newburgh’s future is inseparable from its legacy.”