News and Event Updates from the Office of the Orange County Historian

Tower of Victory Roof Restoration Complete
A spiral staircase looming over a statue of General Washington leads to the top of the Tower.
Open for 63 years, closed for 68. The Tower of Victory is open once again thanks to the efforts of the Palisades Park Conservancy to raise 1.8 million dollars through private philanthropy and public grants.

In 1883, Newburgh was the site of a weeklong gala celebration to commemorate centennial of the end of the Revolutionary War. Over a hundred thousand people descended on the city from around the world to take part in festivities that included parades, military demonstrations, and patriotic speeches. Abraham Lincoln's son, Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln, announced plans to erect a monument at Newburgh to commemorate "the events which took place there a century ago." Four years later, this monument would be unveiled as the Tower of Victory.
The Tower roof complete thanks to the Palisades Park Conservancy's efforts.

When planning began for the centennial monument, it was originally envisioned as a statue of Washington that would "awaken increased interest and regard for the picturesque stone house now consecrated by so many memories of the past." By 1886, plans had expanded to enclose the statue in a stone tower that would "typify the rugged simplicity of the times and personages." Architects Maurice J. Power and John H. Duncan, who would later become known for their work on the 1892 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Grant's Tomb in Manhattan, and Prospect Park in Brooklyn, were commissioned to design the tower. By the end of 1887, the monument was complete and the idea for a simple statue had grown into an imposing structure that visitors could climb for a view of the vistas of the Hudson River at Newburgh Bay.
In 1950 a severe storm damaged the roof of the Tower of Victory and it was removed to prevent further damage to the base. For 68 years it was closed to the public.

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus (center) with Deputy County Executive Harold Porr, County Historian Johanna Yaun, County Tourism Director Amanda Dana, County Legislator Kevindaryan Lujan, Architect Lisa Easton and County Legislator Joseph Minuta (l to r) at the top of the Tower on Sept. 6th. 

Orange County Legislators review masonry study regarding the ruins of "Orange Mills" at Algonquin Park
On October 9th, a group of County officials toured the ruins of the gunpower mill at Algonquin Park. A masonry study was recently conducted to determine estimates on funding that would be needed to stabilize the structures. From left to right: County Legislator Rob Sassi, County Legislator Peter Tuohy, County Legislator John Vero, County Legislator Jim Kulisek, County Legislator Leigh Benton, Preserve Algonquin Park advocate Stephanie Lore, Former Town of Newburgh Historian Les Cornell, County Legislator Barry Cheney, County Parks Director Jim Brooks, County DPW Director Eric Denega. 

The group also examined the dams are scheduled to be repaired with FEMA funding next spring. 
Author of new historical novel featured on Prof. Richard Hull's WTBQ show

Local author and amateur historian Mike Matsler spoke about his new novel Broken Heart on Prof. Richard Hull's popular radio show History Alive! on Monday September 24th. 

Set against the background of war-torn 18th century Canada, New York and revolutionary France, the story follows the romantic, tragic and miraculous life of a French gentleman soldier settling on a farm in Orange County, New York's Blooming Grove but whose blissful life with American wife and children is brutally up-ended by the Revolutionary War.

The novel is based loosely on the real life adventures of Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur whose farm, Pine Hill, can be seen today on Route 94 near Roe's Orchards. Not wishing to take sides in the War, accused by both factions of being a spy, he is forced to flee Orange County, leaving behind his American wife and two of his children. Washing up on the shores of France, he undergoes a miraculous metamorphosis from unknown, broken man to famous author and royal diplomat, mingling with the likes of Benjamin
Franklin, Lafayette, Aaron Burr, Abigail and John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. He returns to New York in 1783 just in time for Washington's triumphant entry into the City, only to find tragic news awaiting him. But then another miracle occurs, and then another...

Orange County pioneers Sarah Wells Bull, sons Thomas and John and their wives and children play prominent roles in the novel, as do many other civic leaders in the Hudson Valley with names such as Moffat, Woodhull, Colden, Clinton and Ellison, just to name a few. Infamous characters of local lore such as the Tory outlaw Claudius Smith make an appearance as well.

Broken Heart is available on as a paperback, and as an e-book on Kindle. Prof. Hull's radio show is broadcast on Mondays at 11 a.m. on WTBQ 1110 AM and 93.5 FM. His interviews with authors, artists and other personalities over the past several years are archived at the Albert Wisner Public Library in Warwick, and can also be easily accessed through WTBQ’s website by clicking on Prof. Hull’s program listing.

By Joseph L. Geidel

How can we best preserve history? The digital revolution has many historians and students of history alike asking this important question. Should we ignore the great technological changes of our time and continue on with business as usual? Certainly not. This is why through the Office of the Orange County Historian I will begin to organize digital media that's been collected over the years. This approach will not replace the treasure trove of physical documents held in our archives, rather it will be a complementary effort.

Oral History interviews bring history to life. Witnessing an individual recount experiences from their life provides us so much more information than we would normally receive from reading their story in ink. During the tenure of Orange County Historian Ted Sly, work began on collecting oral histories from our neighbors in the region. Now that the 1841 Courthouse renovation is complete and work has been done to unpack the books that have been in storage, it is time to continue these efforts.

Voices of Orange County is a project spearheaded by myself, Joe Geidel, through the Office of the Orange County Historian to preserve Mr. Sly's interviews and record new interviews to make them publicly accessible online. If you or someone you know is interested in participating, please contact the Historian's Office with a brief explanation as to why you would like to contribute. There are no requirements, we believe that all lives are valuable and everyone has their own unique story to share. These interviews will provide a window into the living past for generations to come. Email Nicole Nazzaro for more information. 
Upcoming Events, Training & Conferences
Cemetery Care Workshop in Warwick

Saturday, October 13, 11AM to 1PM

The Office of the Orange County Historian is sponsoring this training program for 16 individuals. Email us at to let us know if you'll be there.

Event includes short lecture on the practice of cleaning and repairing stones, and then a hands-on cleaning workshop. Attendees are asked to come prepared to get down and dirty and educate others on proper cleaning methods. 

Moderated by cemetery preservation expert, Marianne Greenfield. 
She asks that participants bring a new plastic bucket, a new plastic bristle brush (like a dish brush) and a pair of clean chopsticks, which they can use for other gravestone cleaning projects. As well as your own drinking water and a snack.
This workshop will be held at the Old Baptist Cemetery located at 98 Galloway Road in Warwick. 
Preservation of Rest Haven

Saturday, October 13, 11AM to 2PM
Celebrate the restoration of the historically and architecturally significant "Rest Haven" in Monroe where Helen Keller was involved in providing services to the blind. Special guests" American Foundation for the Blind, NY State Division for Historic Preservation and Village of Monroe. 

Monroe-Woodbury Highschool, Central Valley
Morehouse Homestead Historic Marker Dedication & Open House

Thursday, October 18, 4PM
The community is invited to the unveiling of a new historic marker, ribbon cutting and open house for the 18th century Morehouse home at 11 Hathorn Road, Warwick.

The National Register of Historic Places property has been renovated to uncover its original Georgian architecture and provide modern day comforts.  It was for many years the home of the Raynor family and part of the extensive farm of Pierson Ezra Sanford in the late 1800s; part of it dates early as 1767 when Adonijah Morehouse settled here.  The interior design concept by Marina Case of The Red Shutters evokes that 18th century style and highlights the rare "Chinese Chippendale" stair banister and other original details.

The celebration is hosted by owners Arek Kwapinski and Sylwia Kubasiak and the Warwick Valley Chamber of Commerce. All are welcome to celebrate the opening of the town's new guest house, named "Warwick's White House" for its original formal appearance, now newly revealed.  For more information about the open house celebration contact Sylwia Kubasiak at
"City of the Dead" Story Tour of Warwick Cemetery

Sunday, October 21, 2PM
On Sunday October 21 at 2:00 at Warwick Cemetery, Village of Warwick Historian Ivy Tulin will lead a tour of the gravesites of some of Warwick's most interesting people and their stories.  Learn about the famous, the stalwarts, the unlucky, and the rabble-rousers that made our community what it is today. The event is sponsored by the Warwick Historical Society with the Friends of Hathorn House Living History Group, with thanks to the Warwick Cemetery Association.   The tour begins at the Hathorn Rd. entrance to the cemetery. For more information contact  or
Historic Blooming Grove Church Prepares to Celebrate its 260th Birthday with an Organ Recital by
Famed Local Musician Jonathan B. Hall

Sunday, November 18, 4PM
The Blooming Grove United Church of Christ will launch its 260th Anniversary festivities with a beautiful organ recital on Sunday, November 18, 2018 by Jonathan B. Hall, minister of music at the First Presbyterian Church in Goshen and professor of music at New York University. Mr. Hall, accompanied by renowned saxophonist Bill Powers, will perform a selection of classical and modern works. The program begins at 4 pm sharp and all are invited. A goodwill offering will be taken.Tuesday, November 20, 2018 marks the actual 260th anniversary of the conveyance of the land on which the historic Blooming Grove Church was raised. Originally a Congregational Church allied with the
Presbyterians, since 1957 it has been affiliated with the United Church of Christ. 

Reigning on a small rise above the old King's Highway, today's Route 94 just west of Washingtonville, the white-shingled church resembles an old-style classic New England meeting house, replete with fifteen arched Palladian windows shaded by centuries-old maple trees. Services are held every Sunday morning at 10:30, and it is not uncommon to hear the ethereal tones of the magnificent 1902 Hook-Hastings pipe organ resonating around those hallowed walls, a gift from native son David H. Moffat who also funded the construction of the Moffat Library in Washingtonville.

To walk inside the church is to stroll back in time. The original pine pews almost two hundred years old, painted white with dark cherry molding, descend the sloping floor towards the raised walnut-brown pulpit on which sits the majestic pipe organ, tall gray tubes pointing like gothic arrows to the heavens.  In the middle of the south wall is a stunning stained glass window glowing in the morning sunlight, radiating hues of gold, green, blue and purple. Purple, the color of honor, the memory of sacrifice. Athwart the arch of the window is the single word: Patriotism. At the bottom of the window in black lettering are the names of a dozen young men. No bridges are named after them. No cities, or highways or schools. They did not write magazine articles or books or make speeches. But they gave, each of them prepared to render that last full measure of devotion. As did countless more, in quiet anonymity. "It is our acts, not our words, that count", we can read above their names. One of those young heroes, Chadwick Gerow, only three months after the day the  Patriotism Window was dedicated on June 29, 1918, was to give up his life on the fields of France just six weeks before the Armistice. Saturday, September 29, 2018 marks the 100 th anniversary of Chadwick's death during the desperate but successful assault on the Hindenburg Line . On that day some 40 men from Orange County died in the fight to liberate France and to make the world safe for democracy, in the words of President Wilson. The Patriotism Window has a sibling gracing the east gable wall, another stained glass window dedicated in 2013 to all our nation's veterans serving in each of our armed forces. It's not for nothing that this venerable house of worship is known as the "Veterans' Church".
Orange County Historian | 101 Main Street Goshen, N.Y. 10924 |  845-360-6978 |  jyaun