It was from the Hasbrouck House in Newburgh that General George Washington commanded the final 16 months of the American Revolution. And it was from that house that he set out to quell a mutiny that was brewing amongst his officers. He triumphed in both of those instances. Read more
It was long past the eleventh hour of my publication timetable and I still needed to get one last image to illustrate the article “‘-No Mortal Eye Can Penetrate’: Louis Ransom’s Commemoration of John Brown” which would be appearing in our Autumn issue. I turned to the Library of Congress’s website, found and saved the file along with the metadata in order to be able to cite it correctly, and sent the last of the material to our designer.
Six short weeks later, the Autumn 2012 issue of The Hudson River Valley Review was out to great acclaim, and just a few even shorter days after that I received my first correction. It was about that image, and it was from Jean Libby, who had been cited in the article as the curator and author of the John Brown Photo Chronology. It was clear that I had gotten something wrong. Read more
One of our contentions at the Hudson River Valley Institute has always been that you can go anywhere by starting exactly where you are. The closest I ever came to losing this argument was at a Teaching American History conference with a gentleman from New Mexico. “It’s easy for you – the Hudson Valley has nearly 400 years of colonial history and documented prehistory before that,” he said “all we have are aliens (Roswell) and those German POW scientists from WWII.” (He had just finished a presentation about the latter). But he went on to explain that even in that state’s most isolated towns, there was at least one war memorial with the names of local soldiers who served their country, and when they shipped out, they charted a course around the nation and the world leaving a path for students today to trace through history.
?In Poughkeepsie, the most elaborate memorial may be the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Little Market St. Across from that monument is Adriance Memorial Library, where two original cannon from the USS Monitor are on display. Most of us learned about the battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack in grade school. Some of us have learned since that the USS Merrimack was converted by the Confederate navy into the ironclad CSS Virginia. Larger than the Monitor and with more guns, it decimated the wooden fleet at Hampton Roads on the first day of the battle, March 8, 1862. But the Monitor arrived overnight and was able to use its shallow draft, low freeboard, and revolving turret to devastating effect the when the battle was rejoined the next day. It was a decisive victory for the Union and a turning point in naval technology.?
But how did we get from Poughkeepsie Library to Hampton Roads, Virginia, and why is Archeologist and conservator David Krop, of the USS Monitor Center, coming from the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia to Marist College to lecture about that battle on Thursday April 19 at 7:00 in our Nelly Goletti Theatre? [pdf]
?One of the four champions and financiers of the Union’s first ironclad was John Flack Winslow. At the time, he was co-owner of the Albany Iron Works, living near Troy, NY. Once he successfully obtained the approval of the President himself and a contract with the Navy, he and his partners oversaw an accelerated construction project and the launch of their unique ship on January 30, 1862. Years later, Winslow would retire to a sylvan estate on the banks of the Hudson, on the north end of present-day Marist College Campus. Once here, he got involved in local railroads and presided over the bridge company that would eventually construct the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge: today’s Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park.?
So here, amongst our region’s embarrassment of historic riches, is the nearly-lost tale of a local entrepreneur and patriot who was once heralded as a “benefactor of the nation.” All of it took to place Poughkeepsie at the heart of one of the most important naval battles in history was to read the plaque accompanying a cannon outside the local library.
It may be true that our past is behind us, but some of it remains nearer than the rest. Distance provides a remove from which to appraise the value of a person, thing,or event. The lack of such distance can limit our perspective on the nearer parts, and in some instances, might destroy our heritage before we have a chance to adequately consider it.
Consider two examples of Capitol architecture. The 1899 New York State Capitol is heralded as a triumph. The virtual tour proudly states that the building took 32 years and $25 million to construct. It highlights the “grand spaces” and extravagant details throughout the building such as its carved staircases, its paneled chambers, and the exotic materials used inside and out. I have visited it myself and would recommend the tour to anyone with an interest in architecture or government.
But I would also recommend another nearby capitol, the Orange County Government Center. Equally grand, drafty, challenging, and detailed, it was designed by Paul Rudolph and opened in 1970. It is the last remaining work by an internationally renowned modern architect in the county, but when the Government Center appears in the news, it is most often being condemned as outdated, costly, and impractical,an architecturally inappropriate eyesore. Rather than imported granite and marble, it was constructed of cast concrete. Where the State Capitol is celebrated for a 56 foot high Assembly Chamber, The Government Center is faulted for the wasted space around open staircases and the thermal loss of its clerestories and large windows.
Paul Rudolph was unique among modernists in successfully winning a number of public contracts, but the fate of his creations is typical. The ideological, aesthetic, and engineering chutzpah of these architects who advanced the art through the Twentieth Century is now derided as kitsch, impractical, or failed. And our historic preservation laws do not provide umbrage for such youngsters: not yet 50 years old, their buildings must fend for themselves against nature and man.
If a building falls down due to poor design in less than 50 years, so be it. But the backlash against modern architecture is often about creating a new legacy by removing a previous one. At Gettysburg National Military Park, the National Park Service tried to destroy celebrated modernist Richard Neutra’s 1961 Cyclorama. They replaced it with a new visitor center, built to look old, on previously undisturbed ground, claiming it to be more appropriate to the site.
Fortunately, while many fail to appreciate plywood, plate-glass, and concrete with the same fervor that they exude for timber, stained glass, and marble, there are a few organizations addressing the importance of our latest inheritance. Learn more about the Recent Past Preservation Network and their efforts to preserve the Cyclorama online
The RPPN’s blog post about the Orange County Government Center is located here
The mission of DOCOMOMO New York/Tri-State is to“increase public awareness and appreciation of Modern movement architecture,landscape and urban design- to identify and document local examples- and to advocate for the protection of those determined most significant.”
The social, political, and engineering context that these buildings represent is a significant part of our national identity. While the nature of the movement and its pioneering use of engineered materials may condemn some of its experiments to rubble, there are enduring examples as well. Take a moment to consider what you haven’t yet,maybe your children’s children will thank you one day!
Photo: Orange County Government Center. Courtesy the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, via the Recent Past Preservation Network.
Chris Pryslopski is Program Director of Marist College’s Hudson River Valley Institute and Associate Editor of the Hudson River Valley Review.
In my last post I discussed the variety of topics and writers represented in the The Hudson River Valley Review, but the issue I am most proud of is Autumn 2010 [pdf], dedicated to exploring our region’s role and legacy of Landscape Architecture. Included in the issue is an introduction to Andrew Jackson Downing (arguably its most influential figure in of regional and national import), an exploration of the creation of the Mohonk Mountain House and its network of carriage roads, the original call for the creation of an Appalachian Trail, Thomas Cole’s creation of his estate Cedar Grove, and a photo essay presenting Bannerman’s Castle. Read more
As Associate Editor of The Hudson River Valley Review, published by The Hudson River Valley Institute (HRVI), I get to explore the region that I call home and to share these finds with our readers. While our website allows us to be as expansive as our associates and interns are interested in being, it is the journal that I find most rewarding with its approximately 150 pages per issue that forces us to focus our interests and energies into a concise product every six months. The Hudson River Valley Review is published each spring and autumn, alternating between thematic and open issues.
Founded in 1984 at Bard College as The Hudson Valley Regional Review, it almost went out of print in 2001. HRVI negotiated to assume publication in 2002. We changed the name and added a number of features, but it continues in the spirit that it was founded. In addition to a wide variety of topics covered in the open issues, we have produced journals covering the American Revolution, the Civil War, Landscape Architecture, the recent Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Celebration, and innovation and commerce. We have also worked with guest-editors to produce issues dedicated to the writings of Edith Wharton and John Burroughs as well as to the legacy of Eleanor Roosevelt.
While the thematic issues stand well as overviews of certain aspects of the region, it is often more fun to assemble the open issues, comprised of those submitted articles that pass peer review on any variety of topics in a range of disciplines. Our Spring 2006 issue included articles that discussed the seventeenth-century Leislerian Rebellion, the nineteenth-century voyage of a Dutch visitor from Brooklyn to the Catskill Mountain House (including a portion of his translated journal), and the Twentieth-Century creation of Black Rock Forest as an educational preserve.
Whenever a new issue is released, we place a PDF of the introduction, History Forums, New and Noteworthy books, and full reviews on our website. We do not post the main articles until the issue goes out of print.
You can find a list of the last ten years of back issues online at: http://www.hudsonrivervalley.org/review/back_issues.html.
We have an online index of articles going back to 1984 which we update with every new issue that comes out as well: http://www.hudsonrivervalley.org/review/indices.html.
We also received copies of most of The Hudson Valley Regional Review when we took over publication, and have many of those as well as our own back-issues still available. There is a list of out-of-print issues on our subscription page: http://www.hudsonrivervalley.org/review/subscribe.html.
Please join us in welcoming our newest contributor, Christopher Pryslopski, Program Director of the Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College (HRVI) and Associate Editor of the Institute’s The Hudson River Valley Review, a peer-reviewed journal of regional studies.
Chris coordinates projects and programs associated with the core mission of the Institute, the “educational arm of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area,” and also coordinates the development of the HRVI’s Digital Library and Portal Site.
He is a specialist in regional studies and is the author of “Cultivating the Greenhouse Complex at Mills Mansion,” The Hudson Valley Regional Review, March 1999, “A Thoroughly Modern Conundrum: Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Governor Center” The Hudson River Valley Review Autumn 2004, and “Getting to “The Point-” Design No. 26: The L. M. Hoyt House at Staatsburg,” Dutchess County Historical Society Yearbook, 2009. He is co-editor of America’s First River: The History and Culture of the Hudson River Valley.
In addition to contributions from Chris, we’ll begin featuring highlights of new issues of the The Hudson River Valley Review here at New York History as they are released.