Walter Allison, a graduate of Newburgh Free Academy probably did not know what hit him when wounded in the stomach on September 29, 1918. He lay in a shallow shell hole, bleeding, not far from where his commander lay mortally wounded. Two lieutenants urged the men of E Company of the 107th Infantry Regiment on, but they too were cut down, as bullets ripped through the air, shells exploded all about them wiping out an entire squad and Allison’s classmate Everett Baker. Smoke and chemical gas drifted through the air as the few remaining sergeants, corporals and privates carried on the fight, and the brutal battle to break the Hindenburg Line continued. Continue reading
On New York State Route 94, just north of the village of Chester, Orange County, cars and their occupants whiz past the homestead site of a once-famous pioneer and author, the site of a once locally renowned public house, and a resting place for local residents probably known only to loved ones.
The first two sites have only their historical markers to indicate what once was there, while the last has, I suppose one could say, historical markers of a sort, but also continued presence that evokes an image of past community and that gives poignant testimony to the way we have layered our world on top of it. Continue reading
When I began my term as Orange County Historian, Ted Sly was kind enough to go over some of his most memorable moments in the post.
On one occasion around 2010, he explained, he met with members of the Paul Rudolph Foundation and toured them through the Government Center where they encountered hecklers, one of which shouted out from the office, “Tear it down! Tear it down!”
It wasn’t my first inkling of the animosity that has persisted in the community regarding the Orange County Government Center since it was dedicated in 1970 but I appreciated his warning. Continue reading
Orange County Historian Johanna Yaun will host a trip to Belgium and France next year to honor the 40 Orange County residents who died on the same day in 1918 during the Battle of the Hindenburg Line.
The trip will take place from September 24th through October 2nd, 2018 and will explore locations that served as notable backdrops during World War I. Continue reading
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
The 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
This 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
If 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
In 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
There’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