Sometimes, I think there would be less interest in fiction, if we only knew more local history. Perhaps I have just been spoiled by the stories that keep bubbling up — as if emanating from the floorboards — in one 1868 house in Newburgh, New York.
Prior owners called it The Fullerton Mansion, although it’s somewhat undersized for a mansion and the original owner, the once-famous trial lawyer Judge Fullerton, is long forgotten. (The same goes for his composer son; see “Lost Newburgh Composer Willie Fullerton”, New York History Blog, June 20, 2017.)
Even less known are the Cathcarts, who owned the house from the first decade of the 20th Century until the depths of the Great Depression. Continue reading
Judge Fullerton’s brick, Italianate home has quietly presided over the northern end of Grand Street in Newburgh, New York, since 1868, but the once-famous trial lawyer has long since been forgotten. Visitors sometimes inquire about ghosts or secret passageways or buried caches of coins. I tell them all the same thing: the real treasure is in the history. In this respect, I have been richly rewarded.
Hidden away beneath the visible architecture was a cornucopia of stories. Some took place on the historical stage; others on theatrical stages; some were once known to the world at large, at a time when telegraph wires strung along railroad lines turned locally-printed newspapers into “mass media”; others are deeply personal, private stories of success, failure and loss.
But above all, I found Willie. Continue reading
The three-century-long ownership chain of the Gomez Mill House in Marlboro is a many-tiered, richly-textured layer cake of personal stories.
Specific historic periods lend unique flavoring to each personal history.
But in the case of the recently-rediscovered activist Martha Gruening (1889-1937), her early-20th dreams of a better, more just world have a distinctly modern resonance. Continue reading
Tucked away on the 4th floor of a much-repurposed 1850s school building in Greenwich Village, the LGBT Community Center’s National History Archive is a cultural and historical refuge-within-a-sanctuary.
The Community Center has been operating at 208 W. 13th Street since 1983. The entire building is intended to be a safe and welcoming place “where everyone is celebrated for who they are.” Today, the Center is an effervescent hub, and sponsors a broad-range of activities and programs for the lesbian, gay and transgender community, including health and wellness, arts and entertainment, and counseling. Continue reading