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

The Ugly Duckling of Orange County:
An Architectural Rescue
The Orange County Government Center designed by Paul Rudolph in the Brutalist style.
Brutalism, Still Controversial After 50 Years
When I began my term as 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.
In 2012, just a year after super storm Irene flooded the building causing the County to move all government offices to temporary locations, historian Cornelia Bush scoured the minutes of the Orange County Board of Supervisors to build a timeline of Paul Rudolph's relationship with the project. In her notes, she expanded on the discontentment expressed by local taxpayers due to cost overages and five years of legal battles with the construction company. The research in itself was necessary to dispel the misunderstandings that have been propagated over time by those who have advocated for or against the demolition of the building for almost 50 years.
I thank past County Historians Ted Sly and Cornelia Bush for compiling a body of research that I've been able to expand upon.

The 1962 regular session in which the task of interviewing architects was assigned to the "Buildings Committee" of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
Paul Rudolph's name first appears in Orange County records in 1963, a time when he had already established himself as a modernist home builder in Sarasota, Fla. and was serving as chair of the Yale Architecture School. The year before, he had completed the Temple Street Parking Garage, the first of two projects that, according to his 1997 obituary, would help "crystallize Mr. Rudolph's reputation in the 60s." The second of those projects, the Art and Architecture Building at Yale, would be completed by the time of his January 1966 appearance in front of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. A trip to New Haven by any of the Board of Supervisors would have demonstrated Rudolph's design capabilities and we can assume that they knew his design would be in a similar Brutalist style.
It is often asked why members of county government - seated in a traditional village like Goshen-chose to hire Paul Rudolph to design their new government center. And from what I've heard from the few officials who are still around today, it's because they bought into the 1960s idea of bringing modern efficiency to government through state-of-the-art design. The purpose of County Government was expanding at the time and the Board of Supervisors needed to consider bringing on a manager to centralize operations. As the first County Executive, Lou Mills, who took office in January of 1970, explained it during a 2006 interview, "there was a trend at the time for the State to push human service problems onto the Counties, but they didn't want to pass along funds" to provide for the added responsibilities. The Board of Supervisors brought in consultants and they recommended a new charter to create a County Executive and Legislature form of government.
In the spirit of what Lou Mills calls a "tremendous change in the way the County operated," the Board of Supervisors also decided to move from the 1887 building on Main Street to a new location. In 1963 the Board of Supervisors contracted the
The conceptual drawings presented to the Board of Supervisors in 1963.
two "associated" architects Paul Rudolph and Peter Barbone to create a design and provide cost estimates. The Board of Supervisors secured funds amounting to $4,410,000 through a bond resolution in March of 1964, revised the estimated funds to $4,600,000 through bond resolution in April of 1965, and voted unanimously (with one absent) in May of 1965 to proceed with the firm. On January 14, 1966, a special session was held for the architects to present their design to the Board of Supervisors. At the next regular session February 11, 1966, a discussion ensued in which John McMickle from Middletown asked questions about the cost of the building and Henry Parry, Jr. from Highlands "addressed the chair and asked if the design could be 'toned down' a little, but stated he was in favor of the proposed building." At vote, the resolution to approve preliminary sketches and authorize architects to "prepare working plans and drawings" passed with Ayes 31, Noes 4, Absent 1.
It's not known how much of the structure was designed by Paul Rudolph, how much of the detailing was provided by Peter Barbone, and most significantly, how much was improvised by the two construction firms who interpreted the plans. By 1970 additional bonds were needed to cover the cost of construction which had ballooned to $6,489,000 - and by the time the building opened, the cost was $6,899,506.73. As per the initial contract, Barbone and Rudolph received 7.5 percent of construction costs as their fee.
Photo by Joseph Molitor,1970.
Concerns about structural problems with the building and outrage over the cost increases cast a shadow over the opening ceremonies in December of 1970. Although when interviewed, Lou Mills stated that the building had "bad roofs and bad concrete" but added that to his recollection, "people enjoyed working there." Whatever the sentiments, what's clear is that the general construction firms Corbeau Construction Corp and Newman Construction Corp entered arbitration with Orange County which lasted for five years. During the time of arbitration, the County was not allowed to make repairs to the roof, exacerbating the leaks that had already started before opening day. During those legal proceedings, the construction companies claimed that Rudolph's blueprints were incomplete, requiring them to spend extra time and capital in designing solutions. The arbitration was eventually decided in favor of the construction companies.
Over the decades that followed, the need to maximize the use of the square footage, requirements for handicap access, and contracting for regular repairs through an RFP bid process took its toll on the architectural vision of the Government Center. In my first memory of the building as a child, the sweeping steps in the courtyard were cracked and blocked off by yellow caution tape and the second floor offices were uncomfortably drafty.
It wasn't until I saw the pictures so artfully taken by Joseph Molitor in 1
970 that I realized this was once an architectural masterpiece. 
But only a decade and a half had passed between that shabby appearance of my 1980s childhood and those beautiful photos. Members of the citizens coalition "Taxpayers of Orange County" that formed in 2011 to advocate for a full restoration of the structure allege that this deterioration of the building was avoidable, and furthermore that County officials were so embittered by the ballooned construction price and wasted legal funds that they rejected stewardship of the architectural signature elements.
The building was evacuated in 2011 after flooding and mold made the building hazardous for employees.

Paul Rudolph's body of work became the subject of controversy almost immediately after
construction. His Art and Architecture building at Yale was set on fire by student protestors
in 1969 because, according to his obituary, they regarded "the building's se
vere concrete design as a symbol of the university's antipathy towards creative life." Similarly, the Orange County Government Center was criticized for creating a cold
and stark institutional space that distanced the elected officials from the public. By 1970, the year that the Orange County Government Center opened, Rudolph's work was falling out of favor in the United States.
Gradually from the time of construction to the evacuation of the building in 2011, as the years took their toll on the structure's functionality, the attitude that the building should be demolished took hold amongst the County Legislators via public sentiment. Meanwhile in art culture there was a revitalization of interest in Paul Rudolph's work that began around the time of his death in 1997 and the building was featured on the World Monument Fund's "Most Endangered" for 2012. The renewed interest from the public came just in time for this particular building, with pressure from community groups and international cultural organizations, the most iconic part of Rudolph's design for Orange County was rescued and restored as part of the new construction plans. How this happened will be a topic for a future article.
If you are interested in the recent renovation of this Paul Rudolph masterpiece, visit Grit Works located at115 Broadway in Newburgh to view an exhibition of photos by Isaac Diggs. The show "Home Sweet Home: Paul Rudolph's Orange County Government Center" will open Nov 25th 6-9 PM and remain on display through Jan 7th 2018.

Initially commissioned to provide Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) documentation of the Orange County Government Center, Diggs&Co continues to photograph the transformation of one of Paul Rudolph's most significant projects.
Community Highlights
Newburgh Artist: Sidney Lazarus (1912-1973)

Self Portrait with Flower Arrangement, 1953

In 1947, after establishing a reputation as a versatile artist through magazine and comic publications, group shows and as an educator, 35 year old Sidney Lazarus settled his family into a home in Balmville. As the market for comics declined in the early 1950's Lazarus painted portraits of local subjects in the Newburgh area. In 1957, the trustees at the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands organized an exhibit at the Crawford House where the majority of works were sold on opening night. Some of the works were acquired by SUNY Orange and other by local patrons. 

Lazarus' wide range of stylistic talents makes it difficult to categorize his work. This may be why his name has faded from local memory even while his popularity in the art market has endured. 

A selection of his "Fantastical and Visionary Works" are currently on display at the Shepherd Gallery on 79th Street in Manhattan. Call ahead to arrange a viewing as the exhibit space rotates frequently. Contact David Wojciechowski (212) 861-4050
Modern day suffragettes celebrated the 122nd anniversary of the Newburgh convention and the 100th anniversary of NYS voting rights with a bike ride down Broadway. 
Upcoming Events, Training & Conferences
Home Sweet Home photo exhibit featuring Paul Rudolph's Orange County Government Center

Saturday, November 25th 6PM to 9PM

Join photographer Isaac Diggs for the opening of a photo exhibit that traces the renovation of Paul Rudolph's Orange County Government Center.

The work will remain on display until January 7, 2018.

Grit Works
115 Broadway
Newburgh, NY 12550
Annual Free Christmas Tea and Open House at the Jacob T. Walden House

Sunday, December 3rd, 1PM to 4PM

Begin the Holiday Season by visiting the Jacob T. Walden House for the Annual free Christmas tea and open house. At 2PM, local musician Kevin Cronin will provide Christmas music and a sing along. 

Sponsored by the Historical Society of Walden and Wallkill Valley.

Walden House
34 No. Montgomery Street
Walden, NY 12586
Peter Gansevoort's (Not-so) Unusual Regimental Coat

Thursday, December 7th 7PM to 8:30PM

Revolutionary War uniform expert Phil Weaver will discuss the regimental coat worn by the Colonel-Commandant of Fort Schuyler, Peter Gansevoort Jr. of the 3rd New York Regiment. Attendees will learn of this man's personal story and his regimental coat that many experts initially believed to be some sort of unknown oddball. Some even thought it was German. Using period documentation, photographs of surviving garments, pattern elements, and period portraiture, Mr. Weaver will demonstrate the coat is indicative of one of several styles worn during the period.

To Reserve a Seat, Call 845-446-2134

PLEASE NOTE: Thursday Night Speaker Series seating is by reservation only. Suggested Donation: $5, Members $3. The Series is proudly sponsored by the Fort Montgomery Battle Site Association.

The Historic Tavern Trail Returns for 1 Night!

Friday, December 8th 5PM-7PM

Follow the Historic  Tavern Trail of the Hudson Valley  to a "Winter Holiday Celebration" at  Baird's Tavern  in Warwick on Friday, December 8th. A "History Happy Hour" kicks off the event at 5pm. Sip the Trail's signature cocktail, the Apple Jack Downing. Hear about the fascinating history of the tavern as well as its current new life. Take a docent led tour. Early birds are also invited to tour nearby Ketchum House at 4pm, courtesy of the  Warwick Historical Society . Make optional 7pm dinner reservations at Baird Tavern's sister establishment,  Fetch Bar & Grill Warwick : 845-987-8200  Facebook Invite  for more information.

Baird's Tavern
105 Main Street
Warwick, NY 10990


Sunday, December 10th 12:00PM - 4:00PM

During this open-house, come visit the Hasbrouck house, decorated for the season, with live music and historic interpreters in every room to answer your questions! Also, stop by the outdoor fire for hot cider and cookies! The event is free thanks to support by Friends of the State Historic Sites of the Hudson Highlands.

Please keep an eye out for more information as the event gets closer, or call the site at 845-562-1195 for more details.
Annual Candlelight Tour of Newburgh Homes

Sunday, December 10th 12:00PM - 5:00PM

For the past three decades, supporters from all over have joined the Newburgh Historical Society in celebrating a treasured architectural history during the annual Candlelight Tour.

Join us for the annual Candlelight Tour that features a diverse assortment of public and private spaces within and beyond the City of Newburgh's East End Historic District. These include city and suburban houses homes in the rehabilitation process and some of Newburgh's most important landmarks. Neighbors will open their fascinating houses, showcasing their historic significance or their modern take on holiday expression.

The self-guided tour, as usual, will begin at the 1830 Captain David Crawford House, the Society's headquarters.

A guide booklet and a custom map will be provided to add historical context and enrich the visitor experience. More information on the website.

Starts at the Crawford House Museum
189 Montgomery Street
Newburgh, NY 12550
Christmas Candlelight Tours at Hill-Hold Museum

December 9th and December 16 2017 from 3pm till 7pm.

December 10th and December 17, 2017 from noon till 4pm.

Join the Friends of Hill Hold to celebrate a Colonial Christmas with the annual candlelight tours of Hill Hold - the 1769 Historic Homestead of Thomas Bull.

Every room in the charming stone house will be beautifully decorated for the holiday including the parlor with the traditional tree surrounded by an amazing collection of antique toys and the dining room set for a festive holiday meal.

Enjoy a story reading, some refreshments and a visit with Santa while you sit by the cozy fire in the basement kitchen. Then visit the Summer Kitchen for a demonstration of open hearth cooking and children will have an opportunity to make a craft in the One Room School House.

Admission is $3 for adults and $2 for children.

Located on Route 416 between Montgomery and Goshen. Flyer for more information.

Centennial Tour: The 107th NY Infantry Regiment in World War I

September 24 -October 2, 2018

Throughout Belgium and France, the influence of WWI can still be felt. As you visit memorials, trenches, and museums, you'll learn about the important role American forces played in the outcome of the war. Explore the locations that were the backdrops for pivotal battles and take time to honor the sacrifices made by the Allied soldiers.

On September 29, 1918, the 107th New York Infantry Regiment was ordered to attack the Hindenburg Line in an Allied attempt to pierce through the German's strongest defenses. They encountered fierce resistance and were engaged in the heaviest fighting on the line. The severe loss of men was compounded by the fact that, as a National Guard regiment, most of the men were from tight-knit communities back home. The impact of the Battle of St. Quentin Canal on Orange County specifically was so devastating, that the 40 men who died together that day are still remembered each year in a memorial service. For the centennial of this battle, join us as we travel in the footsteps of the 107th NY Infantry Regiment in Belgium and France.

Sign-up for the trip here. Space is limited.
History in the News
Women bike to remember suffrage struggle
Exactly 122 years ago this weekend, a pivotal women's suffrage convention was held on Broadway, and local activists took to their bicycles and pedaled a half-mile down Broadway to recall the event.

Young members of Science Club creating digital tour for Warwick Historical Society
WARWICK  - Members of a youth science club, all having various skills including writing code for computer programs, have answered a call for volunteers to create a digital walking tour for the Warwick Historical Society.

Orange County Historian | Goshen, N.Y. |  845-545-7908 |  jyaun