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. Read more
The State of NY History: The Westchester Experience
January is the traditional time for looking forward and backwards according to the two-faced Roman god Janus. In that spirit, I wish to start 2013 with a look back on some developments in local and state history by focusing on Westchester County both because I live there and because I happen to go through an old folder of Westchester material as I was cleaning up. Read more
Manumission Document Tells Story Emancipation in NY
The Jay Heritage Center (JHC) has announce the gift of an original manumission document for its African American History collection. The word “manumission” means to emancipate or free from bondage.
Manumission documents like this one issued by a New York slaveholder are rare. In this instance, the signatory freeing a slave known only by the name of “Lewis,” is identified as Richard Hatfield, Jr. Hatfield was the son of a leading lawyer, Richard Hatfield, Sr. (1750 -1813) a delegate to the NY State Convention that ratified the constitution. It is recorded that he inherited land (and presumably slaves) that stretched “from the Scarsdale or “Indian Line of Marked Trees” to, or almost to, the then Road to Rye Neck, (now Old Mamaroneck Road, Gedney Way and Mamaroneck Avenue). His property would have passed to his son, Richard Hatfield, Jr. who was an attorney as well.
Instruments like this one were often recorded in the Libers of Conveyances in the Recorder’s Office of the City of New York, usually at the request of the freed slave as an added protection. Another signature on the paper that merits interest is that of Richard Riker (1773-1842) who served as NY Recorder, prior to and after John Jay’s eldest son, Peter Augustus Jay.
But unlike Jay and Jay’s fellow members of the NY Manumission Society who actively fought to end slave trafficking, Riker is rumored to have been complicit in the kidnapping of freed blacks for purposes of selling them back into slavery. This document helps vividly narrate a chapter in African American history when freedom was not only hard won but also uncertain to last- even elected officials could not be trusted to abide by legal writs.
The document was donated by Carol Ubosi nee Smith of the Purdy, Bell and Potter families who have resided in Westchester County since the 1700s. It was found in the 1980s by Ms. Ubosi’s mother, May Potter Smith, amongst several nineteenth century items in the attic of their family home in Harrison. Although this important story was carefully preserved in a family bible, it is still not known how “Lewis” was connected to the Purdy/Bell family of Harrison. A search for further information and context is ongoing.
Last fall, after contacting JHC president Suzanne Clary for research help about the historic African Cemetery in Rye where her ancestors are buried, Ubosi expressed her interest in making the gift to JHC where it could be made available to area schools and scholars. Ubosi grew up in Mamaroneck and New Rochelle and lives in Silver Spring, Maryland. She attended Central State University in Ohio and has taught in White Plains and Silver Spring. She is presently working on a book about the genealogy of her family with Alesia McFadden, a historian of African American History. As an educator, Ubosi hopes this manumission document will shed some light on the rich history of African-Americans living in Westchester and inspire others to explore and share their own family heritage
The Jay Heritage Center is equally delighted that this primary source will be shared with the many middle school history classes who regularly come through its doors to learn about African American History in New York and Westchester. “When students ask us, ‘What does manumission mean?’ says Clary, “this remarkable document will tangibly show them one man’s transition from servitude to freedom almost 200 years ago. The mere fact of its existence demonstrates how precious this paper was to its owner and his descendants. For those families who will see it firsthand at our site it will prompt the necessary questions that are central to an ongoing discussion about the evolution of social justice in our country.” The Jay Heritage Center has been a member site of the African American Heritage Trail since 2004- John Jay and his family played active roles in abolishing slavery in New York.
Jay Heritage Center Awards First John Jay Medals
Jay Heritage Center (JHC) Founder Catherine “Kitty” Aresty and New York Preservation Advocate, Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel were recipients of the 1st Annual “John Jay Medal for Service” awarded at JHC’s 20th Anniversary Gala on Saturday, October 13, 2012.
In keeping with the legacy of one of America’s greatest Founding Fathers, the John Jay Medal recognizes individuals who demonstrate a selfless spirit of commitment and engagement with their community.
As an early member of the Jay Coalition, Catherine “Kitty” Aresty helped harness the energy of thousands of volunteers and citizens to save the Jay Property when it was threatened by commercial development in the early 1980s. She was one of 5 dynamic women who formed the vanguard for preservation of the site, finally securing a victory in 1992 but her total commitment to seeing the property restored for public use extends more than 30 years including 22 consecutive years on the JHC Board.
Similarly, Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel’s career spans more than 40 years. She has been a pioneering champion of preservation and the arts, credited with bringing the first public art to Bryant Park and the first public performance to Central Park. The first Director of Cultural Affairs for New York City, she was the longest term Landmarks Commissioner in the city’s history, spanning four mayoral administrations from 1972 to 1987. Her expertise and advocacy of historic preservation has garnered her countless honors and prestigious appointments from nor fewer than 4 US Presidents. Dr. Diamonstein-Spielvogel is the current Vice Chair of the New York State Council on the Arts.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino served as Honorary Co-Chairs of the evening which drew over 170 people from Manhattan, Westchester and Greenwich to the National Historic Landmark site. While the event also marked an important 2 decade milestone for the organization, adding to the festive feeling was the recent announcement of a public private partnership between JHC, New York State Parks and Westchester County to manage and restore the entire 23 acre Jay estate as a historic park and educational resource. The site has been a member of Westchester County’s African American Heritage Trail since 2004 and was added to the prestigious Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area following its nomination in 2008 by County Legislator Judy Myers.
JHC President Suzanne Clary commended the men, women and coalition of non-profits that first saved Jay’s home but also emphasized the “new coalition” they are forming with other museums and preservation groups like the NY Preservation League, The Landmarks Conservancy, Audubon NY, the World Monuments Fund and more. Congresswoman Lowey recognized the power of bi-partisan support that continues to guide JHC’s success.
Ken Jenkins, Chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators presented a proclamation to both honorees and added his strong words of support for the Jay Heritage Center’s mission to revitalize one of Westchester’s premiere heritage destinations. Steve Otis, former Mayor of Rye brought accolades from Sen. Suzi Oppenhiemer and personally congratulated the two medal awardees on their vision and tenacity- he reminded the audience how dilapidated the Jay site was when first acquired and how miraculous its transformation had been under JHC’s trusted stewardship. Both honorees gave moving remarks and thanks and underscored the continued need to stay “passionate” about preservation.
The theme of the night was Roaring 20s – guests dressed in everything from raccoon coats and spats to flapper dresses and boas made for an evening that was simply “the bees knees!” Proceeds form the event benefit JHC’s programs which benefit schools through Westchester and the Lower Hudson Valley region.
Learn more about the Jay Heritage Center at www.jaycenter.org
Jay Heritage, County Reach Agreement on John Jay Property
Responsibility for the full restoration and long–term maintenance of the historic John Jay property in Rye, NY, the boyhood home of a Founding Father and the nation’s first Chief Justice, will be turned over to the Jay Heritage Center (JHC), under terms of a license agreement announced late last week by Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino at a news conference at the site.
According to a statement issued to the press the agreement is designed to ensure the preservation of the nationally significant property and serve as a model of cooperative stewardship that can be emulated nationwide. “It will also advance shared goals of New York State, Westchester County and non-profits like JHC to promote heritage tourism by making historic resources more accessible to the public,” the statement said.
“It has been over 20 years since the county, working with New York State, came to the rescue of the Jay property, saving it from demolition,” Astorino said. “Now the county is stepping in again with an innovative public/private partnership to preserve it for future generations in a way that doesn’t fall on taxpayers. In these challenging economic times, these are the kinds of solutions that are essential.”
The property is located adjacent to the county’s Marshlands Conservancy. Westchester County and New York State jointly own 21.5 acres of the site- the Jay Heritage Center owns the other 1.5-acre parcel, which contains the 1838 Jay House, built by Jay’s son on the site where his father grew up.
The new license agreement will transfer oversight for the upkeep of the property and investment in significant capital infrastructures to the Jay Heritage Center, which will raise funds as a private 501(c)3 and also apply for grants. Tax deductible donations from individuals and corporations will be accepted to help restore the historic meadow, the gardens, the apple orchards and rehabilitate historic structures for public educational uses as lecture halls, classical music spaces and art galleries.
At a press conference at the site, Astorino was joined by Rye City Mayor Doug French and Suzanne Clary, president of the Jay Heritage Center (JHC), as well as New York State Parks Deputy Commissioner Tom Alworth to announce the agreement, which must be approved by the county’s Parks Board, the Board of Acquisition and Contract, and the State Comptroller’s Office.
The Jay Property was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1993 as part of the Boston Post Road Historic District. It was also named to the Westchester County African American Heritage Trail in 2004.
Most recently in 2009, it became 1 of only 100 Congressionally funded sites in the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area based on the importance of its architecture, its landscape and themes of freedom and dignity that its 10,000-year-old history embodies.
“This is an unparalleled opportunity for us to restore one of America’s greatest landscapes and open it to the public at a time when families are looking for places of beauty and history to inform and inspire their daily lives,” said the JHC’s Clary.
Deputy Commissioner Alworth also praised the agreement, saying: “Partnership agreements such as this one have been highly successful in enhancing the quality of parks and historic sites for the visiting public. The Jay Heritage Center has done an impressive job restoring the historic house, and I’m confident they will continue their excellent stewardship of the site. This public-private partnership will ensure the John Jay property remains a valued recreational and cultural resource for Westchester residents and visitors alike.”
The main terms of the agreement are:
· The county and state, as owners, will grant a 10-year license, which is renewable after the initial term, to the Jay Heritage Center for the use of the property. This will give the JHC the ability to raise funds to operate the park and make improvements.
· The county and state will have the right to approve or disapprove any physical alterations to the property.
· The property will continue to be operated and maintained as state and county parkland and will be accessible to the general public. The JHC may establish admission fees, subject to approval by the state and the county consistent with county fee structures.
· JHC will create and pay for a specific maintenance and restoration schedule detailed in the agreement, dealing with landscape, invasive plant removal and restoration of historic structures, among other things.
· The county will continue to police the property.
· The county will no longer spend approximately $25,000 annually to maintain the property, and JHC will be responsible for ongoing maintenance and the capital improvements that the property requires.
· The county will remain responsible for the costs of any environmental remediation that may be required on the property for conditions that existed prior to the license agreement. Any environmental remediation required as a result of JHC’s restoration work will be the responsibility of JHC.
Photo:Top Row: JHC Board members Emma Hanratty, Jim Kelsey (JHC Vice President,) Lauren Lambert, Michael Kovner (JHC Vice President)- Bill Mooney, Senior Assistant to County Executive, Joe Sack ,Rye City Council
Second Row: Deputy County Executive, Kevin Plunkett, Frank Sanchis, World Monuments Fund and JHC Advisory Board, JHC Board member Cathy Rosenstock, Julie Killian, Rye City Council and Tom O’Handley, Audubon NY
Third Row: JHC Board Member Charlene Laughlin, Anne Van Ingen, Preservation League of NY State, Patricia Mulqueen, Con Edison Community Relations Westchester, JHC Founder, Kitty Aresty, Steve Otis, former Mayor of Rye
Front Row: Tom Alworth, New York State Parks Deputy Commissioner of Natural Resources, Suzanne Clary, JHC President and Rob Astorino, Westchester County Executive.
Mid-Atlantic Assoc. of Museums, Oct 7-9, Tarrytwon
The Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums will host their annual meeting “Building Audiences” from Sunday, October 7th to Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 in Tarrytwon, NY.
A Monday night lecture and reception will be held from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm at Lyndhurst.
Overlooking the Hudson River in Tarrytown, New York, is Lyndhurst, one of America’s finest Gothic Revival mansions. The architectural brilliance of the residence, designed in 1838 by Alexander Jackson Davis, is complemented by the park-like landscape of the estate and a comprehensive collection of original decorative arts. Its noteworthy occupants included: former New York City mayor William Paulding, merchant George Merritt and railroad tycoon Jay Gould.
The conference will be held at the Double Tree Tarrytown Hotel, 455 South Broadway, Tarrytown. For more information phone 202-452-8040 or email: [email protected]
Jay Heritage Center Presents: Alan Taylors The Slave War of 1812
The Jay Heritage Center will offer its third program commemorating the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 this year on Thursday, September 6th with a new talk and book signing by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alan Taylor previewing his latest book project about the Slave War of 1812.
During the War of 1812, more than 3,000 slaves escaped from Virginia and Maryland by stealing boats to reach British warships in Chesapeake Bay, where they were taken on board and employed.
Alan Taylor, professor of history at the University of California, Davis, and the Robert C. Ritchie Distinguished Fellow, will discuss how their help proved essential to the British coastal raids, particularly the capture of Washington, D.C. Taylor’s previous books include William Cooper’s Town (Knopf, 1996), which won the Bancroft and Pulitzer prizes for American history. The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies (Knopf, 2010), was called “the most illuminating and original history of the conflict ever written.” Pulitzer-winning historian Gordon Wood, writing in The New York Review of Books, called it “remarkable and deeply researched,” adding, “Taylor masterfully captures the strangeness of this war.” Copies of Taylor’s books will be available for purchase and signing. Refreshments will be served.
The event, which is part of Jay Heritage Center’s 2012 Annual Meeting will be held on Thursday, September 6, 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM, at at the 1907 Van Norden Carriage House, Jay Heritage Center, 210 Boston Post Road, in Rye, Westchester County, NY.
The Annual Meeting will also include the President’s Report, the re-election of Trustees for the Class of 2015 (Emma Hanratty, Michael A. Kovner, and Thomas R. Mercein) and the Election of Trustees of the Class of 2015 (Samuel W. Croll III, Lauren Lambert, and Cathy Rosenstock).
Those who are unable to attend can sign and mail a proxy, or submit a proxy by e-mail. Contact [email protected] for more information.
Bridges And New York History
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. Read more
Woody Guthrie Centennial: Guthrie Archivist Interview
Music legend and songwriting luminary Woody Guthrie was born on July 14, 1912, and this year marks his centennial birthday. To celebrate, the Grammy Museum, the Guthrie family, Woody Guthrie Publications and the Woody Guthrie Archives have planned an international program of events, including tours, concerts, festivals, and conferences.
Ryan Anthony Donaldson of the Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York (ART) recently had the chance to ask Tiffany Colannino a few questions about the Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebration. Tiffany is the Archivist with the Woody Guthrie Archives, currently located in Mount Kisco, New York, as well as the newly appointed ART Advocacy Chair.
ART: How did the centennial partnership between the GRAMMY Museum, Guthrie Family/Woody Guthrie Publications, and Woody Guthrie Archives come about?
TC: The centennial partnership between the GRAMMY Museum and the Woody Guthrie Archives has deep roots. For starters, we are both non-profit organizations committed to the history of American music. The Archives’ mission is to perpetuate Woody Guthrie’s life and legacy through the proactive preservation of his Archival material, whereas the GRAMMY Museum’s mission is to explore and celebrate the enduring legacies of all forms of music. Although these missions differ, with the Archives’ focus on preservation and research, and the GRAMMY Museum on public programs and activities, our two organizations can work together to use these archival documents to bring Guthrie’s life to a broad audience.
But it’s more than just our missions that link us together: Robert Santelli, Executive Director of the GRAMMY Museum, is actually a former researcher at the Woody Guthrie Archives. Since 1990, Santelli has researched in the Archives in support of several Woody Guthrie book projects, including his 2012 work This Land Is Your Land: Woody Guthrie and the Journey of the American Folk Song. He has maintained an active working relationship with Nora Guthrie – President of Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc and Director of the Woody Guthrie Archives – for over 20 years.
In a recent press release, Nora Guthrie comments on this partnership, remarking: “Because of its deep enthusiasm for Woody’s creative legacy as well as the underlying influence he’s had on so many musicians and songwriters in all genres of American music, the GRAMMY Museum is the obvious choice to help us celebrate the legacy that he created.”
The centennial celebrations will include concerts, conferences, and exhibits across the United States, Canada, and Europe. We’ve launched www.Woody100.com as a one-stop-shop for all of our North American events, and www.Woody100.de for our European events. In addition to the events we are planning with the GRAMMY Museum, these sites also list the Grassroots events that Guthrie fans and supporters are planning across the world, including lecture series, concerts, hootenannies, and exhibits. In addition, there are many new releases – books, films, and musical albums – including many based solely on material from the Woody Guthrie Archives, set to launch in 2012 to help celebrate Guthrie’s centennial, and perpetuate his legacy.
ART: In terms of centennial celebrations for Woody in the New York area, there will be a concert at Brooklyn College as well as a conference at Penn State University in September. What topics relating to Woody Guthrie would you like to see explored at the conference?
TC: That’s a tough question, because there are so many facets of Woody Guthrie’s life yet to be explored! However, the great thing about the academic conferences being planned for this year is that rather than focus solely on a specific aspect of Guthrie’s life, each conference will use Guthrie as the starting point to open a discussion on a broader, contemporary theme. The theme for each conference will be selected by the host institution, allowing them to decide on a topic that is of direct relevance to their local community.
The 2012 Woody Guthrie Centennial Celebrations will include four large academic conferences: Tulsa, Los Angeles, Penn State, and Brooklyn.
The Tulsa conference, Different Shades of Red: Woody Guthrie and the Oklahoma Experience at 100, used Guthrie as a stepping stone to discuss Oklahoma politics. At the University of Southern California conference, Woody Guthrie’s Los Angeles: A Centenary Celebration, we’ll talk about Los Angeles in the late 1930s, where Guthrie worked for several local radio stations and wrote for various newspapers after fleeing the Dust Bowl. Woody At 100: Woody’s Legacy to Working Men & Women, the Penn State conference in September, will use Guthrie to focus on the labor movement and unions, while the theme for the Brooklyn conference, also in September, is yet to be announced.
ART: It has been announced that the research collection of the Woody Guthrie Archives will be relocating from Mount Kisco, NY, to Woody’s home state of Oklahoma in 2013. How is the planning coming along for it?
TC: In 2013, the Woody Guthrie Archives will relocate from Mount Kisco, New York to a permanent home with the George Kaiser Family Foundation in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As a native Oklahoman, this move will truly bring Guthrie’s life full circle!
The Archives will be located in a repurposed warehouse – the Tulsa Paper Company – along with other arts oriented organizations, and I have had the opportunity to walk through the building site several times. Work is already underway, and it is exciting to see the Archives’ new home come to life! I have had meetings with the building architects to review design plans and requirements, discussing the archival needs to be taken into consideration during the design phase. This relocation to Tulsa will ensure continued researcher access to the material in the collection, and the long-term preservation of over 10,000 pages of documents held in the Woody Guthrie Archives.
More information on Woody Guthrie centennial events is available online.
Downton Abbey and Hudson Valley Historic Houses
Many people are fascinated by the serial British drama “Downton Abbey”, currently airing on PBS. The Abbey is a fictional mansion in Yorkshire, the home of a fictional family, the Granthams, and their servant staff, during the early 20th century. It is an entertaining tale of love, intrigue, loyalty, betrayal, triumph, and tragedy! And it has generated, or at least been accompanied by, new books on the real history of the time, including Jessica Fellows, The World of Downton Abbey and the Countess of Carnarvon, Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey. Read more