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
In a cemetery overlooking the Hudson River just south of the Tappan Zee Bridge, lies John C. Fremont, who’s contribution to the end of slavery and the Union victory in the Civil War was tremendous, though he is little-remembered today.
Most generally associate Fremont with the State of California. He is the namesake of Fremont, California, and in 1846 was court-martialed for leading a revolt of American settlers there against the Mexican government. He lived most of the latter part of his life in New York State however, in New York City, and Westchester and Rockland counties. He also played a critical role in shifting the focus of Abraham Lincoln’s efforts in the Civil War from a sectional constitutional conflict to a crusade to abolish slavery. Continue reading
The Historical Society of Rockland County is seeking nominations for the Rockland County Executive’s Historic Preservation Merit Awards, now in their 25th year.
The awards, presented during National Historic Preservation Month in May, recognize outstanding historic preservation efforts in Rockland County. Continue reading
The New York State Archives and the Archives Partnership Trust have announced the winners of the 2014 Archives Awards. These annual awards recognize the archives and records management work of individuals and organizations in New York State. Award recipients include a former member of the Board of Regents, local governments, a state agency, educators and students.
Regent Emerita Laura Chodos, under whose name three of the annual awards were given, received the 2014 William Hoyt Annual Archives Award for Advocacy. The award is named after the late Assemblyman William Hoyt from Buffalo, who was a supporter of archives and records management in New York State. Continue reading
Once upon a time America was known for its building projects, for its infrastructure, for its vision of a better tomorrow. New York was in the forefront of such optimism and achievement. Think of the Erie Canal which helped make us the Empire State, the Croton Aqueduct, the Brooklyn Bridge, the skyscrapers from the Woolworth Building to the Empire State Building to the Twin Towers, and, of course, Robert Moses. Now the new Tappan Zee Bridge bids to join this pantheon of larger than life achievements made in New York.
Besides all the other concerns related to the bridge, there is the issue of tourism. Back in June, Mary Kay Vrba, tourism director for Dutchess County and leader of the Hudson Valley Path region, spoke to 50 people at “Destination Rockland: Blazing New Trails in Tourism.” Visions of jingling cash registers filled the heads of the participants who envisioned tourists by foot, bike, and later a revitalized bus system bringing people from the east side of the river to Rockland County. Alden Wolfe, chairman of the Rockland County Legislature convened the conference as a “launching point” for future discussion on this subject. Continue reading
The building in my sketch at left, located in Haverstraw NY and the subject of Edward Hopper’s 1925 painting, House by the Railroad, maintains its vigil on Route 9W. Hopper’s haunting depiction of the three-story house came to the attention of the cast and crew of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie classic, Psycho. The painting inspired not only the design of the Bates Mansion in the 1960 production, but the mood of the film as well.
House by the Railroad captures the fading elegance of this victorian-style home, located just south of St. Peter’s Cemetery. His composition shows a solitary structure, cut off from the world by a set of railroad tracks. Today, the building is still visually incarcerated by a heavily trafficked road, power lines, a chain linked fence and the railroad that gave the original painting its name and theme. Continue reading
When printmaker Sylvia Roth moved into her home in South Nyack in 1977, she had no idea it was the birthplace of a major figure in American art, Joseph Cornell. This house on Piermont Avenue seems to have its own designs, selecting artistic occupants for over a century.
Emily Dickinson, Cornell’s enduring muse, wrote that “nature is a haunted house, but art is a house that tries to be haunted.” As Roth describes the creative output of subsequent generations of her family, one begins to suspect that this is a house haunted by art. Continue reading
The Association of Public Historians of New York State (APHNYS), Region 3, will hold its 2014 meeting on Saturday, September 20, 2014 from 9:45 am to 2:00 pm at the Westchester County historical Society, 2199 Saw Mill River Road, Elmsford, NY. Region 3 includes Dutchess, Putnam, Westchester, Rockland, and Orange counties.
Registration for the 2014 APHNYS Region 3 Meeting should be mailed to: Suzanne Isaksen, APHNYS Region 3 Coordinator, 10 Windrift Lane, Walden, NY 12586-1524. Include the names and titles (e.g. “Town of Montgomery Historian”) of attendees, along with telephone and e-mail contact information. A fee of $10.00 per person is being charged to help defray costs of lunch and refreshments. Make checks payable to APHNYS. Continue reading
Over 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
A 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
Dr. 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
The 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
Cemeteries 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
Rockland 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
The 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
On 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
On 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
The 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
On 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
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