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

Update on efforts to care for the
Algonquin park powder mill ruins
Masonry study to be compiled this spring

In the fall of 2017, consulting firm, Lacey Thaler Reilly Wilson Architecture & Preservation LLP, was selected through a RFP process to produce a report on the masonry conditions at the gunpowder ruins of Algonquin Park. Now that the snow has finally melted, they are able to begin their survey work on site in the coming weeks.
The masonry study is a part of a larger effort between the County Historian's office, Parks Department and Legislators Leigh Benton and James Kulisek, to develop plans and recommendations for the protection of the ruins and for better contextualization of the many layers of history that are visible to the public on a stroll along the park pathways. With the support of Matt Kierstead of Milestone Heritage Consulting, we are preparing to develop an interpretation plan that can be used as a foundation for shaping a future visitor experience.
Originally a sawmill in 1790, the site was converted to use in the production of black powder for rifles in 1815. The black powder was produced by mixing charcoal from willow trees grown on the property with sulfur imported from Sicily and saltpeter imported from India. All ingredients had to be refined and pulverized on site, then mixed and barreled. A narrow-gauge railroad with spark-proof wooden tracks carried the product throughout the complex. The completed powder was delivered via horse and buggy to a large magazine at Sherman's Dock - now the Newburgh Yacht Club site - where it was loaded onto four sailing vessels to be distributed.
The mill was owned by a series of companies for more than a century ending up under ownership of the DuPont family. Not long after they purchased the property, a pivot took place in the corporation's history as they were forbidden by the U.S. Government from maintaining a monopoly over gun powder production in the nation. As they diversified out of explosives, the head of the development department for the company, Irenee DuPont, sought new applications for the company's expertise in handling nitrocellulose. He purchased an existing Newburgh product line produced by the Fabrikoid Company and incorporated it as a division of DuPont in 1910. The merger cost the DuPont Company 1.2 million dollars and opened the door for their manufacture of artificial water-resistant leather for upholstery, luggage, book covers, automobile seats and convertible tops. During the World Wars they also experimented through military contracts with the production of clothing that might be resistant to mustard gas or helpful to keeping troops dry and clean in harsh conditions. The Fabrikoid workforce grew from 85 employees in 1910 to over 800 workers under DuPont's leadership up until they sold the plant in 1965.
The property and technology of "Orange Mills" was rendered obsolete when DuPont merged with Fabrikoid. They sold the property to Frederic Delano in 1919 who in turn sold the property to the City of Newburgh in 1934 for use as a public park. The property was christened Algonquin Park at that time to recognize the area's Native American heritage.
After falling into disrepair beginning in the 1960s, the park was transferred to Orange County's care in 1978. Since that time, silting in the mill ponds, erosion of the foundation mortar, and the effects of storm surges have taken their toll on the historically significant site. We hope our work in creating a mortar study and cost analysis, as well as an interpretation plan, will help inform the County's efforts to invest in the improvements that are needed at the park.
WWI Centennial Year
Special behind-the-scenes tour of the World War I collections at West Point Museum
Tuesday, April 10th at 4PM

If you are considering attending the centennial trip but want to meet some of the participants and hear more about our plans, please join us for a very special behind-the-scenes tour of West Point Museum's World War I collections! Meet the arms curator Les Jensen at 4PM, join us for dinner across the street at 5PM and stick around, if you'd like to, for a lecture about the 40 men who died at St. Quentin at the "Company of Military Historians" monthly meeting at 7PM. RSVP to Nicole in the County Historian's office if you plan to attend.


Centennial Trip to the Trenches of Belgium and France

September 24 - October 4, 2018

Be a part of the delegation following in the footsteps of the 107th Infantry Regiment which was comprised on many men from our region. Co. I was from Middletown and Co. E & L were from Newburgh. During this immersive history trip you'll learn about the American assault on the Hindenburg Line and be present for a memorial service at the location where 40 men from Orange County died together on the same field on September 29, 1918. The trip costs approx. $3,600 per person and includes airfare, hotels, ground transportation, many meals, museum admissions and a group of knowledgeable historians onboard. A $450 deposit is needed to reserve a place on this once in a lifetime trip.

How Did Urban Renewal Change Newburgh?

Independence For Newburgh, a Facebook page offering videos related to political and community news in Newburgh filmed a recent talk by City Historian Mary McTamaney. View it here if you have a Facebook account.
Association of Public Historians of NYS (APHNYS) Region 3 meeting

The APHNYS Region 3 meeting will be held in Carmel, NY on April 20th. More info will be in the next newsletter. 

Contact the Putnam County Historian Sarah Johnson if you are a municipal historian in Orange County and have not received the invite. 
Upcoming Events, Training & Conferences
Revolutionary War Living History Day at Locust Lawn (New Paltz)
Saturday, March 31st 11AM to 5PM

Living History Day featuring the  The Hearts of Oak Independent Militia Company

11 - tour of the Col. Josiah Hasbrouck House
12 - Music demonstration
1 - Hair and fancy dress presentaion
2 - Drill demonstration
3 - Tea (public is welcome to partake)
4 - Second our of the house

Ongoing throughout the day -- 18th century style cooking, children's toys and games station, and more.

Annual First War Commemoration - Centennial Year Event (RESCHEDULED DUE TO SNOW)

Sat, April 7th, 11 AM to 5 PM

A living history event showing many aspects of the conflict, both military and civilian though displays, demonstrations, and more throughout the day.

Scheduled presentations include -

At 11 o'clock - Sarah Wassberg, The Food Historian, will give a talk entitled - Preserve or Perish: The Orange County Food Preservation Battalion and Food Conservation Efforts in New York State During the Great War, 1917-1919

Noon will be Woodrow Wilson speaking on the armistice.

12:30 - John Van Vliet - Writer will speak on the Evolution of Chemical Warfare. This often misunderstood aspect of the conflict will be covered as a compelling presentation illustrated with the aid of replica equipment.

1:30 - Vivian Davis will ta lk about her research on the women's paramilitary venture Camp Hewitt and discuss how the contributions of women during the preparedness movement of 1915-1917 and and during America's involvement during the war paved the way to their own victory at the polls and beyond.

2:30 - Woodrow Wilson address

3 - Repeat of Evolution of Chemical Warfare

On going - Kevin Fitzpatrick signing his book "World War I New York: A Guide to the City's Enduring Ties to the Great War" (Globe Pequot Press) - a guidebook to the city during and after World War I.

Guest Bartending to Benefit Friends of the State Historic Sites of the Hudson Highlands 
Sunday, April 8th 1PM to 4PM

Join the Friends of the State Historic Sites of the Hudson Highlands for a foaming tankard of beer, a genteel glass of wine or a bubbly goblet of a soft drink in the taproom of the Newburgh Brewing Company, located at 88 South Colden Street, Newburgh, Sunday, April 8th between 1:00 pm. and 4:00 pm. 

Beer and wine certainly had their place during the Revolutionary War. Soldiers were promised, among other r ations, their share of it and sufficient rations were linked to the morale of the men.

Madeira wine always graced General and Mrs. Washington's dinner table at all their headquarters. By all means, carry on a fine tradition, imbibe in some spirits and become spirited with generosity in tipping those who will be serving up the craft beers that are becoming well known throughout the Hudson Valley region.

At this annual fundraiser, members will be meeting and greeting the public, manning the spouts and, maybe even waiting on tables! All CASH tips they receive for their efforts will be donated to the Friends in support of their endeavors for three local historic sites: Washington's Headquarters, New Windsor Cantonment and Knox's Headquarters. 

The supported sites gain from this organization's mission to increase public awareness of their significance and raising funds to support the educational, programming and collection needs of the sites.

For more information call (845) 562-1195.

The Real Continentals: Joseph Plumb Martin and His Comrades at Fort Montgomery
Thursday, April 12 at 7 PM - 8:30 PM

Private Joseph Plumb Martin left behind an invaluable memoir of his experiences in serving for several years in the Continental Army. This presentation by historian James Kirby Martin will explore the dangers, sufferings, and accomplishments of Martin and the other "real" Continentals, those who represented the backbone of the army that paved the way in bringing into being the new American republic between 1775 and 1783. 

Registration Required! Call 845-446-2134 to Reserve a Space for this Evening Lecture.

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.

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