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

The Historic Tavern Trail, Orange and Dutchess Counties

Take a step back in time on April 29th with the 2016 Historic Tavern Trail of the Hudson Valley series, launching at the North Plank Road Tavern in Newburgh at 5:30 p.m. This year's program will feature seven historic eateries in Orange County and six in Dutchess County.

In collaboration with Milestone Heritage Consulting, a cultural resource and public history consultant, the Tavern Trail has been crafted to provide quality entertainment contextualized for each location. Invited speakers will give an overview of related history, restaurant owners will greet and mingle with guests, and members of the historical community will toast with the Tavern Trail cocktail of choice: the "Apple Jack Downing," named after noted pomologist A.J. Downing.

Municipal historians, County legislators, and historical societies are invited to represent their community at each venue. Additionally, in the hours before each event, we are arranging early-bird special access to area museums.

A big thank you to all of the partners on this project, especially Matt Kierstead at Milestone Heritage Consulting for handling the coordination of the series in Orange County, and to William P. Tatum III, the Dutchess County Historian, for arranging the events on the east side of the river.

We are indebted to Ellie Ohiso at Design by Ohiso for designing the logo, Stefanie Pearl at All Kinds of Signs for printing the bar posters, David Hayes-Cohen at FCC Gallery for creating the souvenir cocktail glasses, and Matt O'Rourke at American Icon for designing our tee-shirts. We couldn't be happier to thank Donnan Sutherland, mixologist at Soons Orchards, for designing our signature cocktail with local historical relevance to showcase the importance of agriculture in the Hudson Valley. Most of all, we couldn't offer a program like this if not for the restaurant owners who have maintained the historic charm of their inns and taverns for all of us to enjoy.

Having founded the program five years ago, I have appreciated seeing it grow from an informal happy hour amongst local museum professionals to this multi-faceted event series. Utilizing our historic venues to promote transportation and agricultural history, as well as tell the tales of great leaders who have traversed our County, proves just how successful a collaboration between historians and the tourism industry can be. Walking into a historic tavern transports visitors to a time when these locations served as the gateway to our communities, and in the process, it also enhances the region's economic development.

Events such as the Tavern Trail series wouldn't be possible without the exemplary support the Historian's Office has received in Orange and Dutchess County Executives Steven M. Neuhaus and Marcus Molinaro. In relying on the aid of professionals and volunteers, as well as providing a small budget to its historians, our County government officials and Legislators are demonstrating their commitment to enhancing both the historical community and the lives of their residents.

For more information about the Orange County events "like" the Tavern Trail of the Hudson Valley Facebook page or follow this link to t he press release.

                                                                                             Johanna Yaun
                                                                                             Orange County Historian

HOT TOPIC: The Search for a New NYS Historian

There's been lots of talk in the historical community about the role of the NYS Historian since Robert Weible vacated the position in July 2015. This debate has been dominated by a tremendous outpouring of interest in seeing the position restored to include greater resources and autonomy that it was granted in past decades. As the hiring committee interviews possible candidates this week, historians are hoping that the position will be f illed by an individual who is a true advocate for historical preservation and interpretation. 

Here's a recap of the public discussion that has been happening over the past several months:

To An Appreciative Home Time Crowd
To an appreciative home time crowd, Cornwall's own Johnny Gibbons, presented a historical lecture on the importance of preserving the stories and artifacts of the past. As press secretary for the Smithsonian Institute, Gibbons was guest speaker at the March 28th Cornwall Historical Society's monthly meeting and presented a talk on the importance of preserving history. I had the opportunity to sit in and came away with more goose bumps than I had anticipated.

After Gibbons gave a bit of his own history and journey from a Cornwall kid to his present post, he shared facts about the Smithsonian's beginnings (a donation by an Englishman, James Smithsen who believed that knowledge was a good thing and that it should be free to the public), the most popular items on display (Dorothy's shoes from The Wizard of Oz, the Hope Diamond, and the flag that inspired Frances Scott Key to compose The Star Spangled Banner), and the total number of items in the Institute's entire collection:  well over 138 million!

But, it's the small stories, the small items that draw us in, that give one goose bumps, in particular the stories that Gibbons shared about Abraham Lincoln.  Take the black and white, Matthew Brady photo of Lincoln in white suit.  Not the typical color for a new lawyer in New York City, but Lincoln was told that with his 6'6 frame,  he'd stand out already, so Lincoln thought he'd go all out; an example of Lincoln's sense of humor.   And the simple tea cup.  Before Lincoln met with the public, either one person or a thousand, he would ask for a cup of tea and a few moments to "meditate," his own term for time to get his head together for the meeting to come.  The cup that was found by a housekeeper was the one he was using just before the White House butler came to inform the President that the carriage that was to take him and Mrs. Lincoln to the theatre had arrived.  He placed the cup on a window sill, and the curtain had fallen over and hid it from view, not to be discovered until after all his items were hastily packed up and placed into storage.   There's also a handball that Lincoln, the competitive  handball player, used in the White House.  (Did you know that it was he that built the handball court in the White House basement?)

Gibbons explained that not everyone will get everything in an historic exhibit, but when there is a personal connection, like the tea lover who will remember Lincoln's cup of tea, or the athlete who is also competitive on the handball court, it makes history personal. 
As Gibbons said, it's the personal connections that inspire us to appreciate history, like the ties that Cornwall has to the Institute.  In a diary written by William Steinway, of the Steinway Piano company, he writes about spending the night in Cornwall, and what a great time he had.  Or the wooden statue of the figure Columbia, on display at the entrance to the Institute, that once graced a Hudson River riverboat.  And, when history is personal, it's remembered and appreciated, and revered.  As many artifacts and treasures are destroyed in countries around the world, it's good to remember this quote, the last slide in Gibbons lecture.  It's from a 20th century Czech historian, Milan Hubi, "The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory.  Destroy its books, its culture, its history...Before long, the nation will forget what it is, and what it was."


                                                                         MJ Hanley-Goff
                                                                         Assistant to the Orange County Historian
Upcoming Events
The Brigade of the American Revolution at Knox's Headquarters in New Windsor

Saturday, April 23 10am to 4pm

Revolutionary War historians, dressed in period clothing, perform military drill and firing demonstrations at 2pm. Tours of the 1754 Ellison House throughout the day. Website
The 6th Annual Volunteer Fair at Washington's HQ in Newburgh

Wednesday, April 30 11am to 3pm

Held at Washington's Headquarters, this event provides not-for-profit organizations an opportunity to raise awareness within the community of the important services they provide. These groups rely upon volunteers to assist in their endeavors. Representatives from these organizations will be available at the event to speak about their work and to sign up those individuals who wish to join them in their efforts.
Orange County Historian | Goshen, N.Y. |  845-545-7908 |  jyaun