Tag Archives: Rockland County

45 Years After Stonewall: Gay Pride Rockland

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Gay Pride Rockland CountyOver 1,000 people gathered for the first Gay Pride event in Nyack in 1999. As if to prove the positive force that this public affirmation of sexual identity can have, a Village of Nyack Trustee named John Shields, who would later serve four terms as Mayor, publicly came out of the closet that day.

In the late 1990s, if you lived in Nyack and wanted to attend one of the major Gay Pride celebrations that are held around the country each June, you had to travel to Manhattan. Phyllis B. Frank, Associate Executive Director of VCS, Inc. enjoyed the annual pride pilgrimage to the city, but thought aloud to others that “even if we had just a group walking behind one sign, we needed to do something for Gay Pride here in Rockland.” Continue reading

Civil War Politics: Rockland County Homefront Disputes

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Brian JenningsA evening lecture by Brian Jennings, History Librarian of the New City Library, will be hosted by The Historical Society of Rockland County on Thursday, June 12, 2014. “Civil War, Politics, and Peace: Disputes on Rockland’s Homefront” will include a discussion of the 1860 presidential election, as well as Rockland County’s response to the firing on Fort Sumter.

Jennings will discuss the early companies formed in Rockland County, as well as the response of citizens to support their soldiers and the controversial peace conventions in Rockland. His analysis will be drawn largely from the coverage of events in local newspapers and from enlistment records and census documents. Continue reading

Rockland County:
Thurgood Marshall’s 1940s Desegregation Case

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Brook students being turned away from the Hillburn SchoolDr. Travis Jackson often quotes this African proverb: “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

As one of the 49 children at the center of a successful desegregation case in Rockland County in 1943, Dr. Jackson will be a special guest at a ceremony in Hillburn, New York on Saturday, May 17. The event commemorates the 60th anniversary of a subsequent legal decision, the landmark Brown V. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The program will also remember the lawyer who was on the winning side in both cases, Thurgood Marshall. As an eyewitness to this epic hunt for equality, Jackson has become the historian for the lions. Continue reading

Notes On A High School Local History Conference

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SchoolThe high school local history conference is something I recommend every county should do. For the past two years, Rockland County has held such a conference. I attended both conferences and spoke briefly at the first one. This post is dedicated to some of the lessons I learned from the conference.

First, the Historical Society of Rockland County and the County Historian are to be congratulated for organizing the conference and for the people who did attend. The list includes the County Executive, the County Clerk, the County District Attorney, the County Legislative Chair, along with various town supervisors and municipal historians. One never knows where one will find history. For example the District Attorney, who in this case followed in his father’s footsteps, may have tales to tell about prosecutions which became part of the fabric of county history. Certainly the presence of these officials delivered a powerful message in support of local history. Continue reading

Mount Moor: Nyack’s Segregated Cemetery

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Mount Moor Historical MarkerCemeteries were segregated in America until the mid-20th century. Even black veterans of America’s armed conflicts were dishonored when buried. Today, Mount Moor Cemetery stands as a monument to the twisted logic of racial discrimination. But the cemetery of approximately 90 veterans and civilians also serves as a symbol of perseverance and defiance.

The gravestones at Mount Moor endure, despite the initial efforts of the developers of the Palisades Mall to obliterate the burial ground. Continue reading

Peter Feinman: The Rockland County State of History

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Rockland CountyRockland is a compact county located along the border of New Jersey to the south, and the Hudson River to the east. It broke away from the more sprawling Orange County to the north in 1798, in part due to the challenge of governing an area split by the Ramapo Mountains.

Over the years, the area has been home to various peoples who didn’t fit in with the larger Dutch and English populations. The county consists of five towns including one with over 100,000 people, more than one-third the county’s total population. There are 19 villages and numerous hamlets. Continue reading

Great Nyack House Tour: Houses with a Secret

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Watercolor by Beverley Bozarth ColganThe Great Nyack House Tour: Houses with a Secret, will be hosted by the Historical Society of the Nyacks on Saturday, May 3, 2014.

“Houses with a Secret,” the Society’s sixth biennial house tour, invites visitors  to explore houses that have mysteries hiding behind the doors. In case your speculation does not unlock the secrets in each amazing home, volunteer docents will be there to demystify the local history surrounding each property. Continue reading

Busing New York:
Field Trips and Local Paths Through History

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field-trip_students_busOn May 30, 2013, I wrote about a high school teacher who took a class to Greece and wondered how that teacher would go about creating a visit to New York State. He used a travel agent because multiple paths through Greek history exist and he could pick the one he wanted. One might think that something similar could be done in New York but consider the following examples.

The Historical Society of Rockland County has numerous bus trips throughout the year. They sell out and are well received. They also are mainly in Rockland County which the Society, of course knows well. After that post about Greece, I received a private email which I am authorized to share. The Society would like to expand its bus programs beyond the county but encountered problems. Continue reading

Rockland County’s High School Local History Conference

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Orange and Rockland County MapOn April 9 the Rockland County High School Local History Conference was held at the Comfort Inn in Nanuet. The conference was organized by Clare Sheridan, president, the Historical Society of Rockland County, Trustee Larry Singer, Trustee Judge William Sherwood and two local North Rockland High School social studies teachers, Kevin Metcalf and Steve Shepardson.

All the public school systems in the county participated as well as a private school. Also speaking at the conference (which I did attend) were Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef, State Senator David Carlucci, and Rockland County Historian Craig H. Long. During the conference the high school students present their research topics and received a certificate of achievement from the Historical Society. Continue reading

Palisades Region’s River Parks Master Plan Meeting

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South_end_of_Rockland_Lake_c19090The NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) Palisades Region and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC) will hold a public hearing regarding the preparation of a Draft Master Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Rockland Lake, Hook Mountain, Nyack Beach, and Haverstraw Beach State Parks (The Park Complex). OPRHP and PIPC encourage the public to participate in the planning efforts for The Park Complex and welcome all comments related to the DRAFT MASTER PLAN and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). 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

Bridges And New York History

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New York State has approximately 17,000 highway bridges. They are essential for traveling around our state and connecting our communities. About 37% are “functionally obsolete” or “structurally deficient,” according to DOT, a reminder of the need for continuing investment to maintain valuable resources.

Bridges – old and new – are part of community and state history. The story of three historically significant bridges shows various connections to history. Continue reading

Rockland Lake Park Complex Master Plan Underway

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The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) Palisades Region and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC) will hold a public information meeting regarding the preparation of a Draft Master Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for Rockland Lake, Hook Mountain, Nyack Beach, and Haverstraw Beach State Parks (together, the Rockland Lake Park Complex) on the west bank of the Hudson River in Rockland County, New York.

OPRHP and PIPC encourage the public to participate in the planning efforts for the park complex and welcome all comments and suggestions. Developed and opened to the public in the early 1960s, the parks are part of the Palisades Interstate Park system.

The public meeting will be held at Rockland Lake State Park Championship Golf Course Clubhouse on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 7:00 PM. Park staff will make a brief presentation about the master planning process and the park after which the meeting will be open to receive public comments.

All persons interested in the Rockland Lake Park Complex are urged to attend; those who cannot may view the Public Information Meeting Packet on the OPRHP website.

Written comments and suggestions may be submitted by April 27, 2012 to:

Mark Hohengasser
Park Planner
Agency Building 1, 17th Floor
Empire State Plaza
Albany, NY 12238

Upon inclement weather conditions, please visit the OPRHP website for a meeting cancellation notice and updated information.

For additional information and directions to the meeting, contact the park office at 845-268-3020.

Bear Mountain Inn Reopening Saturday After Renovations

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The historic Bear Mountain Inn at Bear Mountain State Park, which had been closed for renovations for over six years, will reopen its lodging facilities to the public this Saturday, February 18, 2012.

Originally built in 1915, the Inn has been extensively renovated to include 15 luxury guest rooms and suites designed by Thomas Hamilton and Associates, and over 20,000 square feet of flexible event space. Room rates will range from $189 to $450/night. The Inn also welcomes guests to the 1915 Cafe, which features a local and sustainable menu, and the Bear Mountain Trading Company, where visitors can find park souvenirs, crafts, local food items, and jewelry.

Bear Mountain Inn is an historic landmark, listed on the National and New York State Registers of Historic Places. Upon its opening, The American Architect declared the Bear Mountain Inn to be one of the “finest examples of rustic Adirondack architecture in America.” Park employees constructed the Inn using natural materials, including stone and wood found in the park. The Inn’s interior is outfitted in the rustic style with handcrafted chairs, sofas, tables, light fixtures, and other accessories to complement the building’s design and woodland setting.

The Inn has hosted such dignitaries such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Madame Chiang Kai-shek, Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. It has also welcomed the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, New York Knicks, Green Bay Packers, champion boxer Jack Dempsey, and entertainment headliners Harry James, Tommy Dorsey, and Kate Smith to name a few.

Bear Mountain State Park is considered the flagship of the Palisades Interstate Park System. The park is 45 miles north of New York City, in the Hudson Highlands. Facilities include playing fields, picnic groves, rowboat docks on Hessian Lake, swimming pool and bathhouse, nature trails including the first segment of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, an ice-skating rink, basketball court, Trailside Museums and Zoo, Iona Island Estuarine Reserve and Bird Refuge, Perkins Memorial Drive and Tower, the Bear Mountain Merry-Go-Round and pavilion as well as four stone lodges, Cliffhouse and the Overlook Lodge.

Event catering is under the leadership of award-winning Executive Chef Michael Matarazzo. The Bear Mountain Inn is managed by Guest Services, Inc., of Virginia, a private hospitality company that has provided food, hotel, resort and leisure services since 1917.

More information about Bear Mountain Inn can be found online.

Photo: Bear Mountain Inn Dining Room, circa 1923.

Stony Point 18th Century Tavern Night

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Join costumed staff and visiting reenactors for a family program of music, games and story telling on Friday, July 15, 2011 at 7:00 PM. Performers Tom Hanford and Nancy Finlay will draw guests into the convivial world of an 18th century tavern, and host John Muller will share his expertise of the period at this unique event. Light period refreshments will be served. Note: No alcohol will be served.

Advanced reservations required. Please call the museum office at 845-786-2521 for reservations and further information. Adults $15, Seniors and Children $12.The historic site is located at 44 Battlefield Rd., accessed from Park Rd. off Route 9W in Stony Point.

Stony Point Battlefield 2011 Programs and Events

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The Battle of Stony Point, one of the last Revolutionary War battles in the northeastern colonies was where Brigadier General Anthony Wayne led his corps of Continental Light Infantry in a daring midnight attack on the British, seizing the site’s fortifications and taking the soldiers and camp followers at the British garrison as prisoners on July 16, 1779.

The site features a museum, which offers exhibits on the battle and the Stony Point Lighthouse, as well as interpretive programs, such as reenactments highlighting 18th century military life, cannon and musket firings, cooking demonstrations, and children’s activities and blacksmith demonstrations.

The Stony Point Battlefield State Historic site is located at 44 Battlefield Road, accessed from Park Road, off Route 9W in Stony Point. For more information and directions and to reserve your spot, call the site office at 845-786-2521.

Saturday, April 23rd at 7:45 AM: Spring Bird Walk
Spring Bird Walk with Della and Alan Wells of the Rockland Audubon Society. These experts will lead a walk through the diverse bird habitats found at the Stony Point Battlefield. First time birders welcome, and experienced birders will enjoy exploring the location of a wonderfully accessible birders paradise. Bring binoculars, or borrow an extra pair from the group. This program is free to the public. Site entrance gate will be open from 7:45 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. only to admit Birding Ramblers, so please be on time. No parking fee for this early bird special!

Evening Lighthouse Lantern Tours
Friends of the Stony Point Battlefield & Lighthouse present an evening lecture and slide show on the history of lighthouses along the Hudson River, followed by a lantern tour of the oldest lighthouse on the Hudson River. Reservations required for this program, due to space considerations, call the museum. Please bring a flashlight and bug spray. Admission $4.00 adults, $3.00 seniors and children 10 to 18 years. Program not appropriate for children younger than age 10.
This program will be offered on a TBD Saturday in June, July, and August.

Friday, July 15th at 7 PM: Tavern Night at the Battlefield

Join the Friends of the Stony Point Battlefield & Lighthouse, the site staff and visiting reenactors to celebrate the site’s anniversary weekend at the first annual Tavern Night. Get ready to travel into the convivial world of an 18th century tavern as performers Tom Hanford and Nancy Finlay lead the night with music and story-telling. There will be 18th century games to learn and play and light refreshments will be served, including delicious beverages from 18th century recipes created by Tavern Keeper, John Muller. This program offers entertainment for the whole family. NOTE: No alcohol will be served. Admission to this fundraising event is $15.00 for adults and $12.00 for seniors and children. Rain or shine – the event will be held in the picnic pavilion if inclement weather.

Saturday, July 16th and Sunday, July 17th (11 AM – 4 PM): Celebrate the 231st Anniversary of the Storming of Stony Point
Visit our 18th century military encampment as we commemorate American Brigadier General Anthony Wayne’s daring nighttime assault on the British fortifications at Stony Point. Battle scenarios will be re-enacted each day at 3:00 and a special
Saturday evening presentation on Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Watch as American troops advance on the British camp and experience what the soldiers might have felt in a midnight raid. There will be musket, rifle and artillery demonstrations, cooking demonstrations, blacksmithing, along with colonial games and wooden musket drills for children. $5.00 daytime parking fee. Rain or shine. Evening battle program is free.

Saturday, August 13 at 8 PM: Evening Battlefield Lantern Tour
Presented by the Friends of the Stony Point Battlefield & Lighthouse. Experience the story of the Storming of Stony Point as you follow in the footsteps of the American Light Infantry soldiers who captured the British fort. Tour the historic grounds with a guide by lantern light as the battle unfolds around you. Reservations required for this program, call the museum. Please bring a flashlight and bug spray. Admission $4.00 adults, $3.00 seniors and children 10 and older. Program not appropriate for children younger than age 10.

Sunday, September 17, 8 AM- 1030 AM: Hudson River Birding Ramble
Hudson River Birding Ramble with Della and Alan Wells of the Rockland Audubon Society. These experts will lead a walk through the diverse bird habitats found at the Stony Point Battlefield. First time birders welcome, and experienced birders will enjoy exploring the location of a wonderfully accessible birders paradise. Bring binoculars, or borrow an extra pair from the group. This program is free to the public. Site entrance gate will be open from 7:45 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. only to admit Birding Ramblers, so please be on time. No parking fee for this early bird special!

Saturday, September 17th & Sunday, September 18th, 1 PM and 2 PM: Hudson River Ramble Walking Tours
Enjoy a guided walk to the Lighthouse at 1 PM or a guided tour through the Battlefield at 2 PM- followed by the site’s artillery demonstration at 3 PM. This program is free to the public.

Saturday, September 17th at 11 AM: Historical Gardening Talk
Michael Hagen, Horticulturalist and 18th century reenactor, will give a tour of the new soldier’s scratch garden at the Battlefield’s living history camp area. Come and learn about planning, planting and growing food in an 18th century military camp. The garden is brimming with plants and our camp cook will prepare recipes from the period. This program is free to the public.

Saturday, September 24th, 12 Noon- 4 PM: Lighthouse Day
Celebrate the history of lighthouses on the Hudson River and their important connection to the maritime economy of New York State in the 19th century. Tours of the lighthouse will be given throughout the day along with talks on the history of lighthouses, the history of the economic importance of the maritime trade on the river, artists interpretation of Hudson River lights. 19th century maritime music and storytelling will be performed by Balladeer, Linda Russell and Storyteller Jonathan Kruk throughout the afternoon. A family arts and crafts area featuring lighthouse projects will be available.

TBA Saturday in October, 5-7 PM: Lighthouse Cruise
Spend an evening aboard the historic vessel Commander enjoying a two hour Cruise along the Hudson. While on-board, discover the fascinating history surrounding Haverstraw Bay, the Lower Highlands, Lighthouses along the Hudson and the Stony Point Lighthouse as told by local history narrator, Scott Craven. Enjoy spectacular views of the illuminated Stony Point Lighthouse as we sail along the river. The cruise departs Haverstraw Marina at approximately 5:00 p.m. Presented by Friends of Stony Point Battlefield and Lighthouse and Hudson Highlands Cruises, Inc. By advanced reservation, please contact the museum. Admission: $30 Adults, $25 Seniors (62+), and $15 Children (5-12).

Hook Mountain Saved 100 Years Ago

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One hundred years ago this month, less than a year after the Harriman gift of $1,000,000 and 10,000 acres was leveraged to raise an additional $4.5 million in private and state funds, the Palisades Interstate Park Commission began its purchase of the five quarries that were steadily eating away at the stately Hook Mountain ridge between Nyack and Haverstraw, New York.

The first quarry purchased belonged to the Manhattan Trap Rock Company. Its facilities, including the concrete power house used to crush the rock before being loaded onto barges from the wharf, were eventually dismantled or converted by the WPA to recreational facilities. The power house, a beautiful dutch colonial sandstone building that sits at the foot of the mountain, was transformed into a bath house when swimming in the Hudson was still permitted. This magnificent example of adaptive use is now experiencing a second wave of interest by the community as the anchor of Nyack Beach State Park.

The River Trail, one of the Hudson River Valley Greenway Trails, runs north from Nyack Beach for almost five miles. A magnet for runners, cyclists, bird watchers, fishermen, lovers, and artists, it is the only trail along the lower Hudson in New York that does not share its waterfront with a train line or highway. The Long Path parallels this trail high above atop the cliffs.

Rockland County: St. Johns in the Wilderness

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In a quiet corner of Rockland County, just a few miles from downtown Haverstraw, NY, stands St. Johns in the Wilderness Episcopal Church. Today it is a reminder that there was once a small but thriving community there, long since grown over.

Located near present day Lake Welch in Harriman State Park, St. John’s was constructed in 1880 through the patronage of Mrs. Margaret Zimmerman, a wealthy New Yorker, as a memorial to her husband John who had died suddenly while they were honeymooning in Palestine. Mrs. Zimmerman (who never remarried) had a retreat estate in Tuxedo Park and enjoyed hiking throughout the area, ultimately buying the land where St. John’s now stands.

In June of 1880, the cornerstone was laid and named for St. John the Evangelist and on November 23rd of the same year, the church was dedicated and officially opened for services. Three years later, Mrs. Zimmerman and Mrs. Carey, director of this church, founded a parish school for orphaned boys from New York City.

That Much Good Might Be Done: St. John’s-in-the-Wilderness, the Legacy of Ada Bessie Carey and Margaret Furniss Zimmerman, is a historical biography of these two 19th century women who devoted much of their lives operating the school and the chapel for the poor families of the Ramapo Mountains. The book details both their efforts and the history of the church.

The author, Odessa Southern Elliott, was caretaker at St. John’s for 30 years. She collected data locally and from around the world. She obtained the memoirs of Dora Ruth West, Mrs. Carey’s adopted daughter; and Sean Furniss, the great-great-great nephew of Mrs. Zimmerman shared his family research with her.

Copies of the book are available at the Harriman Park Visitor’s Center located between exits 16 and 17 on the Palisades Parkway for $15. For more information, call: 845-786-5003.

231st Anniversary of the Storming of Stony Point

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On the seemingly calm night of July 15, 1779, an unusual chill drifted through the summer air at Stony Point. The British garrison stationed there was confident in their position on the Hudson River and unaware of American plans to invade. Just before midnight, the stillness of the fort was broken as Brigadier General Anthony Wayne and his Light Infantry took the British by storm with a surprise attack. By 1 A.M., the garrison had surrendered, marking an important triumph for America and the last major battle in the north.

Visit Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 16th-18th, to celebrate the 231st anniversary of this bold victory as reenactors from British, American, and Loyal American regiments recreate soldier and family life during the Revolutionary War.

The Battlefield will come alive with demonstrations of 18th century warfare and performances of tactical demonstrations and mock skirmishes. Musket and artillery drills are planned throughout the weekend, showing visitors how weaponry was used in combat. Learn about the kinds of currency circulating through the colonies from our camp paymaster and witness a demonstration of the mail system by our colonial postmaster. Reserve a place on the Battlefield Lantern Tour Saturday evening and witness a recreation of the midnight assault while you take a guided walking tour through the battleground.

A range of activities are planned which will provide fun for the whole family. Children will love enlisting in Washington’s army at the camp recruitment table (where they will receive a certificate signed with a quill pen) and anyone can collect a reward for discovering the renegade hiding in the camp. Enjoy a Tea Party with staff dressed in colonial costume and learn about 18th century fashions and etiquette. Talk to our working blacksmiths to discover how tools were repaired or created to meet the needs of the army.

On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, Tom Hanford will present a family show of 18th century entertainment with music, stories and dramas from life “In the Good Old Colony Days.”

There will be a $5 parking fee. For more information and directions, please call the site office, 845-786-2521.

Illustration: Storming of Stony Point by J. Rogers (ca. 1770-ca. 1880).