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Re-Remembering the Henry Knox Trail

This year seems to be the first in recent memory that the Hudson River froze solid. Two firm sheets of ice floated separately, split by a 250 foot wide seam ripped daily by the US Coast Guard Cutter Sturgeon Bay. The appearance of the River provided a chillingly accurate comparison to what the view may have looked like during Henry Knox’s journey from Fort Ticonderoga to Dorchester Heights two hundred and forty years ago. If in this last mid-February you overlooked the stretch of the Hudson spanning from the City of Albany to modern day Rensselaer and removed the narrow channel of slush and burnt orange road arterials, you could almost see Henry Knox’s envoy making the treacherous crossing with over fifty pieces of artillery, some weighing upwards of 4500 pounds.

Henry Knox’s famous winter trek from the southern end of Lake Champlain to the heights over-looking the British-held City of Boston became frozen in history as a symbol of American perseverance and ingenuity at a time when the cause for liberty from British tyranny needed it the most. Knox, a first generation Bostonian and common bookkeeper volunteered his service to General Washington in fortifying defenses for the newly formed Continental Army in the summer of 1775. Having not even received a military commission for rank (despite tireless lobbying) the civilian Knox volunteered his services to plan and execute a military mission aimed at the transport of vital artillery pieces captured at Fort Ticonderoga by the Green Mountain Boys earlier that year.

This journey is not to be underestimated. Knox returned to Dorchester Heights on January 25th, 1776 with fifty six pieces of artillery which included howitzers, mortars, and cannons. Along the journey he received the rank of Colonel, lost artillery through thin ice, and inspired countless towns of patriots who came out despite the bitter cold to witness the incredible feat of Revolutionary War transportation.

Researching the Henry Knox Trail today presents its own array of challenges, albeit dwarfed in comparison to those faced by the subject of the research. The sesquicentennial of the American Revolution was celebrated in New York and Massachusetts in 1925 by the creation of fifty six granite and bronze markers outlining the Noble Train of Artillery’s wintry three month route through the lower Adirondacks, Mid-Hudson Valley, and east through the Berkshires. At this point in time, the commemorative markers have entered into their own corner of history. They help convey the close connection that New Yorkers have with Henry Knox, even if that linkage only extends to the shared soil that we all drive over every day.

The locations of the stone markers present their own challenges insofar as how Henry Knox’s journey is remembered, and what areas (towns, cities, and historical sites) can claim with confidence a visit two hundred and forty years ago from the Boston bookkeeper. A broad school of research exists on the trail. Local historians provide evidence which contradicts what was previously portrayed as fact by 19th and early 20th century historians. In 1985, trail markers were moved in Columbia County to better reflect one local historian’s well researched argument demonstrating the existence of a road running northwest to southeast which would have provided an easier journey for Knox in the first weeks of 1776. Markers have been moved numerous times in order to make room for widening roads or redesigned traffic patterns. Even the origin of twenty nine pieces of the transported artillery from Fort Crown Point (a Revolutionary War fortification located north of Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain) presents the argument to create an additional stone marker to be placed within this Fort in commemoration of additional sacrifices and action taken to secure these vital pieces of artillery.

Research aimed at accurate placement of the roadside monuments only addresses half the problem. The New York State monument design is identical for all thirty markers and reads:

 THROUGH THIS PLACE PASSED

 GEN. HENRY KNOX

 IN THE WINTER OF 1775 – 1776

 TO DELIVER TO

 GEN. GEORGE WASHINGTON

 THE TRAIN OF ARTILLERY

 FROM FORT TICONDEROGA

 USED TO FORCE THE BRITISH

 ARMY TO EVACUATE BOSTON

No insight is provided into what events occurred nearest to a particular trail marker. The Riverside Park monument in Albany does not mention the dramatic recovery of a cannon which had broken through the ice. Important and dramatic events like this occurred at various locations along the Knox Trail but the ninety year old monuments provide no insight into such events. To fix this, and to educate the public about the incredible events which happened along the Henry Knox Trail, wayside exhibits should be installed alongside existing trail markers to offer a more in depth look at what happened there. With funding provided by the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership, this may soon become a reality.

Despite the debate, the Henry Knox Trail remains important in American History and more importantly the history of the Hudson Valley. Knox indeed turned east into Massachusetts just south of Kinderhook, but his journey from Worchester to Fort Ticonderoga to retrieve the cannons carried him through the Island of Manhattan, modern day Croton-on-Hudson, Poughkeepsie, and Livingston Manor. The Hudson Valley supplied Knox with livestock, manpower, and sleds, while the Adirondacks provided him with the artillery. Both were necessary to make Knox into the early American leader he became and this is important to remember and understand.

-Dave Marthy

map

The new route shows Knox turning southeast and moving through 18th century Renslaerwyck, now modern day Kinderhook.

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Top Ten Films Featuring the Hudson Valley

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Cold in July (2014)

This 2014 thriller starring Michael C. Hall was filmed in several areas in Ulster County including Woodstock, Kingston, and Esopus. Director Jim Mickle set the movie in East Texas, however he decided after visiting the Midwest that it looked very much like upstate New York-very close to where he and his film crew are based. He decided to film in Ulster County based off of its close resemblance to the scenery of East Texas with its wet, marshy look and tall pines.

Super Troopers (2001)

This comedy about the Vermont State Police was actually filmed largely in areas of southern Dutchess County including Beacon as well as areas of Rockefeller State Park preserve as well. Several other areas were included in filming as well. Also, several local business were used for filming including the Villa Borghese in Wappingers Falls.

Taking Woodstock (2009)

This comedy-drama starring comedian Demetri Martin used several areas in the Hudson Valley to add authenticity to this film. Areas included Schodack as well as Hillsdale which were used to help recreate the scenery of the actual Woodstock venue. The film is based off of Elliot Tiber’s memoir about how he helped set the venue for the famous festival as well as his experiences there.

The Road to Wellville (1994)

This film was largely set in the Mohonk Mountain House located in New Paltz. Director Alan Parker realized that the Mountain House was the perfect place to recreate John Harvey Kellog’s sanitarium located in Battle Creek, Michigan. During filming, over 150 of the hotel and resorts rooms were used and staffers of the hotel were also used as extras when needed.

Niagara, Niagara (1997)

This film chronicling a young woman with Tourette syndrome and a male accomplice’s journey through New York towards Niagara Falls was filmed heavily in the Town of Lloyd area. A local auto repairman from the West Park Service Center helped filmmakers get their tow truck to do what it needed to do in one particular scene where the two main characters crash their vehicle.  Additionally, the Poughkeepsie Galleria is scene towards to end of the movie and is used as a stand in for the Toronto Mall.

The World According to Garp (1982)

This Robin Williams movie used Millbrook Private School for filming. The school was used as “Steering School” where Williams’ character spent his formative years.

Regarding Henry (1991)

Starring Harrison Ford and Annette Benning, this film also used Millbrook Private School for filming. Additionally, the Burke Rehabilitation Center in White Plains was used for much of the shots as well. Being a Medical-Drama, the Burke Center was a large part of the setting for the film.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2009)

Shot largely in Poughkeepsie, this Slasher film was shot in the “Blair Witch” style. Looking like a real documentary, this film used footage of the Poughkeepsie area that seems to look like authentic home video to help give this fictitious horror film an element of realness. In widely distributed trailer for the film, several shots of the Poughkeepsie area are shown as well as a street sign marking where these supposed killings occurred around.

Sisterhood of Night (2014)

This film which has been recently picked up by Freestyle was shot entirely in the Kingston area. Kingston High School was a massive part of the film production as well as the movie centers around the formation of a group titled “The Sisterhood of Night” by a group of teenage girls. In the trailer for the film one can see shots of the Kingston area readily as well as inside the halls of Kingston High School.

Higher Ground (2011)

This film was the directorial debut of Vena Farmiga, an Ulster County resident. Farmiga also starred in the movie (and other more well-known movies like The Conjuring) which was filmed in the Kingston, Kerhonkson, and Ellenville areas. The film opened to largely positive reviews and film critic Roger Ebert even said about the setting: “Ask yourself during the film where you think it takes place — which American state? I looked up the locations on IMDb and was surprised. Its location doesn’t fit regional stereotypes.”

The main resource I used for compiling this list was http://www.hudsonvalleyfilmcommission.org/ which has a wealth of information about films that were set in the Hudson Valley. It was very difficult to decide which films to include in this list and which to leave out, however I felt as though these films represented a wide variety of genres and styles. This goes to show the versatility of the Hudson Valley landscape and region and how it can serve so many different purposes. Whether it be a “Mockumentary” such as the Poughkeepsie Tapes, or a teenage comedy like Super Troopers, the Hudson Valley and it’s various towns and locations have been utilized for several popular films throughout the years, and the list continues to grow.

-Ben Smith

 

Researching a Riot, an Amusement Park, and the Hudson River Valley

          newspaper

Between 1927 and 1941 Woodcliff Pleasure Park occupied the northern section of the Marist College Campus in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. At the time of its operation, it hosted one of the largest outdoor public pools, and the fastest roller coaster in the United States. It was a large and well-functioning amusement park that held attendance of many thousands of people each weekend during its years of operation.

            However in the 1940s, Woodcliff faced many struggles. After being hit by effects from the Great Depression it also faced a large riot on August 10th, 1941. Following the riot, the park closed to make repair to damages that were incurred at the park. However, due to safety concerns from the Poughkeepsie public, the park was never reopened.

I began researching the details of the Woodcliff closure earlier this January. Ultimately, the riot was the reason for Woodcliff’s demise, and I began to question how any why the riot occurred. There is a clear indication that the issues of race acted as a catalyst for the ensuing riot. It is cited in the August 11th, 1941 Poughkeepsie Eagle issue that the riot was sparked after an African-American was denied a beer at the park’s main inn.

Collecting information and gathering research from an event that occurred almost seventy years ago is challenging. My initial collection of information brought me to the Poughkeepsie Public Library where I found several articles that reported the events that occurred at the Woodcliff Pleasure Park riot on August 10th, 1941. By finding information from these articles, I hope to try and uncover other records that may exist from governmental sources. There should be historical police records that reference the Woodcliff Incident, and at this point, my focus will now be to dig a little further to find such records.

-Dan McHale

A. J. Downing Symposium: October 24th, 2015

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The Worlds of Andrew Jackson Downing:

A Bicentennial Celebration 

Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015

8:00     Registration, coffee and pastries

9:00     Morrison Heckscher, Fleischman Chair Emeritus, American Wing, Metropolitan Museum of Art, symposium chair (pending availability)

9:05     Introductory Remarks: Thomas Wermuth, Dean of the Faculty and Director, Hudson River Valley Institute, Marist College

9:15     Downing and American Culture:  Aaron Sachs, Cornell University

9:55     The Social History of the Hudson Valley during Downing’s Lifetime: Thomas Wermuth

10:35   break

10:55   Downing’s Newburgh: William Krattinger, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation

11:35   Downing and the American Home: Caren Yglesias, architect and author

12:15   lunch

1:15     Downing and the American Landscape: David Schuyler, Franklin & Marshall College

1:45     Matthew Vassar’s Springside: Harvey Flad, Professor of Geography Emeritus, Vassar College

2:25     Downing’s Legacy: The Careers of Calvert Vaux, Frederick C. Withers, and Frederick Law Olmsted: Francis R. Kowsky, SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Buffalo State College

3:05     break

3:25     Honoring A. J. Downing: the Downing Monument by Withers and Downing Park by Olmsted and Vaux: Arleyn Levee, Independent Scholar

4:05  The View from American Art: Downing’s Importance Into the Twentieth Century: Kerry Dean Carso, SUNY New Paltz

4:45     Closing Remarks: J. Winthrop Aldrich, New York State Office of Historic Preservation, emeritus

5:15     Reception: Marist College Boat House

Participants

Morrison Heckscher is the Lawrence Fleischman Chair of the American Wing emeritus, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Thomas Wermuth, Vice President for Academic Affairs and director of the Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College, is author of Rip Van Winkle’s Neighbors: The Transformation of Rural Society in the Hudson River Valley, 1720-1850 (2001).

Aaron Sachs, associate professor of history at Cornell University, is author of The Humboldt Current: Nineteenth-Century Exploration and the Roots of American Environmentalism (2006) and Arcadian America: The Death and Life of an Environmental Tradition (2013).

William Krattinger, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, is coordinator of the National Register for northern New York.  He wrote the National Landmark designation nomination for A. J. Davis’s Dutch Reformed Church in Newburgh.

Caren Yglesias, an architect, is author of The Complete House and Grounds: Learning from Andrew Jackson Downing’s Domestic Architecture (2012) and teaches in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

David Schuyler, Arthur and Katherine Shadek Professor of the Humanities and American Studies at Franklin & Marshall College, is author of Apostle of Taste: Andrew Jackson Downing, 1815-1852 (1996) and Sanctified Landscape: Writers, Artists, and the Hudson River Valley, 1820-1909 (2012), among other works.

Harvey Flad, Professor of Geography emeritus at Vassar College, is co-author, with Clyde Griffen, of Main Street to Mainframes: Landscape and Social Change in Poughkeepsie (2009).  He has written extensively on Springside, Downing’s most intact landscape design.

Francis R. Kowsky, SUNY Distinguished Professor of the Fine Arts at Buffalo State College emeritus, is author of The Architecture of Frederick Clarke Withers and the Progress of the Gothic Revival in America after 1850 (1980), Country, Park & City: The Architecture and Life of Calvert Vaux (1998), and The Best Planned City in the World: Olmsted, Vaux, and the Buffalo Park System (2013).

Arleyn Levee, a landscape designer and landscape historian, is completing a biography of John Charles Olmsted.

Kerry Dean Carso, associate professor of Art History at SUNY New Paltz, is author of American Gothic Art and Architecture in the Age of Romantic Literature (2014) and is working on a second book, Landscapes of Nationalism: Garden and Park Architecture in America, 1776-1876.

  1. Winthrop Aldrich was for many years deputy commissioner for historic preservation in the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation.

Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015

Tours of landscapes and buildings designed by A. J. Downing and his partners Calvert Vaux and Frederick Clarke Withers…

Check out these events happening this Spring in the Hudson Valley!

“A Hard Knox Life”

at the New Windsor Cantonment Site

Saturday, March 7, 2015 from 2:00pm to 3:00pm.

 This event will explore the intricate relationship between a Revolutionary War power couple, Henry Knox and Lucy Flucker. Despite their unlikely wedding in Boston in 1774, Henry and Lucy remained devoted to each other throughout Knox’s service during and after the American Revolution.

This event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required. The New Windsor Cantonment Site is located at 374 Temple Hill Road in New Windsor NY.

Call (845) 561-1765 ext 22 for further information.

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“Hudson Valley Reading Festival”

at the FDR Presidential Library Henry A. Wallace Center

Saturday, April 18th, 2015 from 10:00am to 3:00pm.

 The third annual reading festival is being presented by the FDR Presidential Library and the Friends of Poughkeepsie Public Library District. The event will be comprised of four sessions where authors of Hudson Valley books will talk about their books. Each event will be followed by a book signing. Copies of books will be for sale in the New Deal Store located in the Wallace Center.

This event is free and open to the public. The FDR Presidential Library is located at 4079 Albany Post Road (Route 9) in Hyde Park NY. Call (845) 486-7745 for more information.

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“Triple Play: Baseball at the Albany Institute”

at the Albany Institute of History and Art

This event runs from February 7th, 2015 until July 26th, 2015.

 This five month event involves three exhibitions about baseball! Showcased throughout the event is baseball memorabilia borrowed from regional fans, collectors, and museums. Also on display is “Play Ball! A History of Baseball in the Capital Region” which examines this Hudson Valley community’s tie to America’s Pastime

This event is on display until July 26th 2015. Regular admission rates do apply and can be found here. The Albany Institute of History and Art is located at 125 Washington Avenue in Albany NY. Visit albanyinstitute.org for more information.

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“Maple Sugar Tours Opening Day”

at the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum Outdoor Discovery Center

Special Event Opening Day Fun is on Saturday, February 28th, 2015 from 10:30am until 3:00pm.

 Roam the forest of Cornwall NY with museum educators and learn about maple sugaring now and in the past. Maple products and hot beverages will be for sale. New this season are adapted tours that run closer to museum buildings. Dress warmly. Please no dogs.

This event will occur regularly every Sunday and Saturday of March beginning on Saturday, February 28th.  Tours are 60 minutes long and begin every half hour. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for children. The Outdoor Discovery Center is located at 174 Angola Road in Cornwall NY. For more information call (845) 534-5506.

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“New York’s Civil and Uncivil War”

A lecture by Dr. Robert Speigelman

at the Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 at 7:00pm

 Robert Spiegelman of Real-View Media LLC will discuss the intimate history and connection that the Hudson Valley – ranging from New York City to Upstate New York – has with the Civil War. Dr. Speigelman, a professor at various CUNY campuses, will re-examine the sometimes overlooked Civil War history that surrounds residents of the Hudson Valley.

This event is free and open to the public thanks to the support of the New York Council for the Humanities’ Speakers in the Humanities Program. The Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site is located at 29 Warburton Ave in Yonkers. Call (914) 965-4027 for more information.