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

Trends in Heritage Tourism 
Image courtesy of Robert McCue & the O&W Railway Historical Society
The rece nt surge in popularity of heritage tourism has given the Hudson Valley a great opportunity to draw visitors (and their dollars) to our communities while strengthening our historical institutions.

Heritage tourism is a new name for an old concept. As an archaeology student in Greece, I remember seeing Lord Byron's name carved on the Temple of Poseidon. His mark among the hundreds of forgotten names reminds us of the well-established motif of traveling to the classical world as part of the Grand Tour. The German word "Bildungsreisen," used among the nineteenth century elite in Europe, described travel for educational and cultural enlightenment. And here in Orange County, N.Y., locals love to recall the heyday of the Day Line steamboats like the famous Mary Powell or the O&W and Erie railways that brought travelers to sites along the Hudson River and into the Catskill Mountains.

With the passing of the second half of the twentieth century, heritage tourism went out of fashion. Historic sites saw attendance decline and downtown businesses lost out to the big box options. According to a 2015 study by AARP, relaxation and visiting family remain the dominant motivators for travel for Baby Boomers (people ages 55-70) and Gen Xers (people ages 35-55) still lead the pack in seeking romantic getaways. These generations' travel habits emphasized the need take a break from their surroundings. But after fifty years with these modes entrenching themselves into the way that tourism is marketed, things are now changing dramatically. Since the mid-2000s, the trend to travel in search of "immersive" and "authentic" experiences has reinvigorated some local historical destinations and urban downtowns. However, museums have been slow to adapt and most small institutions struggle to innovate, then maintain consistency to attract the new audiences.

As a result, we have confusing statistics to unpack if we are to understand how to meet expectations in the market. According to a 2011 study by the American Alliance of Museums, 78% of leisure travelers are interested in participating in cultural or heritage activities while vacationing. These heritage tourists spend 63% more money than recreation or relaxation tourists. They stay longer, they go out of their way to support local businesses, and they are more likely to maintain connections to people they meet along the way.

Agents of Change

The maturing of the Millennial generation (people ages 20-35) is driving these trends. As Millennials settle into careers and start families, they are prioritizing travel. As the most college educated generation in American history, but strapped by school loans and slow starts in the job market, they are transforming the tourism market with expectations of local experiences that combine fun and learning ("experiential" or "edutainment"). They have less money to spend per person, less paid vacation time, and rarely have a personal savings, but they are choosing to spend their limited resources closer to home and in support of cultural heritage. It's important to note that the Millennials were educated at a time of a blossoming of Global Studies curriculum and international academic travel as standard hallmarks of the four-year experience. They are taking the critical thinking skills they developed while studying cultures abroad and turning them inward.

The Baby Boom generation is also having their affect: They are seeking volunteer positions and joining boards of historical institutions as they retire from the workforce. There's a renewed interest for empty-nesters to return to downtowns where they can be part of a walkable community and contribute to the institutions they remember from their childhoods. Their donations have a direct effect on what institutions are capable of implementing. And although many museum professionals are hesitant to talk about it, the biggest donors influence what kinds of programming and exhibits are created - and often what will be collected and who will be hired. Their impact as they take the helm of largely volunteer based sectors of society will have long-term implications on the revitalization or collapse of some of our nation's oldest (struggling) institutions.

Trouble in Transitioning

Overall the concept that historic sites and museums are now on the radar for two influential generations sounds very promising. A new audience and a new crop of volunteers have arrived to invigorate the sites just in the nick of time. According to an Institute of Museums and Library Sciences report from last year, out of the nation's 35,000 museums, approximately 60% have an annual income of less than $10,000 and 40% are staffed by one paid employee or none at all. A 2013 survey from the National Endowment for the Arts revealed that 83% of reporting institutions saw flat or declining attendance from 2009 to 2013. It's confusing and disappointing that with such a surge in the popularity and influence of heritage tourism that most historical institutions are not feeling revenue or visitation gains.

The small minority of museums using technology to showcase their collections, hiring professional staff, and responding to the visitation trends are seeing unprecedented success. The sites that are making it difficult for the public to have access to collections and are still rehashing the research from 30-plus years ago are seeing the lowest numbers regarding membership, attendance, and donations that they've ever seen. This is a crisis in historically based museums and societies today as the technology divide and differing opinions on how history should be experienced has left donors and volunteers (Baby Boomers) and the strongest audience (Millennials) in a situation where there is little understanding of each other's priorities.

Signs of What's to Come

Every time I look around and wonder why there's no one else under the age of 60 on a $4 group tour of my favorite historic site, I try to remind myself that Hamilton on Broadway packs a theater with 1,300 seats every night at $150 per ticket and there must be reasons why they have attracted a diverse audience. People of every generation care about preservation and history, but we need to find a way to make our programming accessible and relevant to all stakeholders. There are several examples at local sites that showcase how this can be done well. In 2012 Washington's Headquarters in Newburgh revamped their museum to be based around an open storage concept with kiosks set up for visitors to research the objects on display. Museum Village in Monroe has undergone a transformation over the past five years by professionalizing their collections staff and increasing visitation through thematic event days like the annual Great War Commemoration. In 2010 the Town of Deerpark Historian Lynn Burns and Assistant Historian Norma Schadt developed a bus tour that brings school children and adults along the route that Joseph Brandt traveled to raid the Neversink Valley in 1779. They string together landmarks like historical markers, cemeteries, and the Fort Decker historical site to bring the story to life. And over the past few years the Crawford House in Newburgh has embarked on programming that is aimed at multi-generational audiences, bringing groups on history hikes to places like the industrial ruins of the Quassaick Creek and into Downing Park to play croquet.

The Historic Tavern Trail of Orange County is a program through the Orange County Historian's Office that aims to bring economic development, local history and these trends in heritage tourism together. I hope to see you all along the route!


Johanna Yaun
Orange County Historian
Please share & support these local events
Healthy Happy Hour for Sands-Ring House in Cornwall

Thursday, August 27th from 6pm to 8pm

Sands Ring Homestead Museum in Cornwall, NY is in desperate need of restoration!

Come help support this historic property's renovation by mingling with locals as we awaken the desire to achieve long term health by discovering the tools offered by  Take Shape For Life

It will be a fun and electric evening of connecting with the community! Please share this event to support the health of Sands Ring and our town! Suggested entry fee is $20.

7 Center Street, Cornwall, NY 12518
Historic Tavern Trail at Schlesinger's Steakhouse in New Windsor

Friday, August 28th from 5:30pm to 7pm

Have a drink at t he Brewster House which was built in 1762 as a stone farmhouse. Brewster was a member of the Committee of Safety during the American Revolution. He is mainly remembered in local history as the owner of a saw-mill, a forge and an anchor shop. Brewster assisted in forging the chain which was stretched across the Hudson River in the hope of checking the movement of British vessels up that stream. Please make a reservation if you would like to stay for dinner.

475 Temple Hill Rd, New Windsor, NY 12553
(845) 561-1762

Orange County Historian's Historic Taverns of Orange County Series
April 24: North Plank Road Tavern,  Newburgh 
May 29: Limoncello at the Orange Inn , Goshen
Jun 26: Painter's Restaurant, Cornwall-on-Hudson 
Jul 31: Erie Hotel, Port Jervis 
Aug 28: Schlesinger's Steak House, New Windsor 
Sep 25: Chateau Hathorn, Warwick 
Oct 30: Ward's Bridge Inn, Montgomery
Reenactment Day on Constitution Island at West Point

Saturday, August 29th 9:30am to 4:30pm

The Constitution Island Association will be honoring Constitution Island's role in the Civil War and the American Revolution. Watch as soldiers fire muskets, rifles and cannons! See what camp life what like: we'll have inspections, drills, and tactical formations. The West Point Cadet Black Knights Drill Team will demonstrate their crack drill skills. Take a guided tour to the Island's redoubts and batteries. We'll have music from the West Point Band's Hellcats. Be prepared for the thrills of tall tales by Master Storyteller Jonathan Kruk. Hotdogs and drinks will be available, or pack a picnic lunch.

A boat will leave West Point's South Dock every half hour from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm. Last boat will depart Constitution Island at 4:45 pm - no boats leaving from Garrison Landing this year.
For those coming from the East side of the Hudson, vans from the Cold Spring Metro-North Train Station will begin taking guests to the Island at 9:30 am and will shuttle through the last schedule departure at 4:30 pm.  Please bring photo ID - driver's license or passport (16 and over).  Link to the Facebook invite.
Erie Railroad Lecture at the monthly meeting of the O&W Railway Historical Society in Middletown

Friday, September 4th from 7:30pm to 10pm

O&WRHS member and local historian Hans Segboer will be giving a powerpoint presentation on the Erie's Greenwood Lake Division at the Ontario & Western Railway Historical Society's September 4th meeting. If you have seen some of Hans' posting on this group and others dedicated to the history of this area, then I am sure you can expect this will be a great show!

O&WRHS meetings are held at 7:30 pm at the Middletown Senior Center (aka Mulberry House), 62-70 West Main Street, Middletown NY and are open to the public and admission is free. The O&WRHS is Dedicated to Preserving the Heritage of the New York, Ontario and Western Railway. For more information please visit

Mulberry House Senior Center
62-70 West Main St, Middletown, Orange County, New York 10940
Civil War Weekend at Museum Village in Monroe

Saturday September 5th and Sunday September 6th from 10am to 4pm

You will see representations of Federal and Confederate infantry, artillery and cavalry units. Medical demonstrations and civilian life are also a part of the scenery that the visitor will observe. During the weekend you will witness re-enactments of standard Civil War tactics and troop movements as the two armies meet in battle. Visitors can stroll through the camps, meet and talk with the troops and civilians, and shop at Sutler's Row, the civilian merchants who followed the Army.

1010 State Route 17M, Monroe, NY 10950
(845) 782-8248

Farther Afield
John F. Brown Day, From Slave to Mr. Brown at Mount Gulian in Beacon

Saturday, September 5th at Noon

On September 5th, we will celebrate the life of James F. Brown, an escaped slave from Maryland who made his way to freedom in New York. Brown was Mount Gulian's master gardener and maintained a unique journal of everyday life for almost 40 years. 

A fun and thought-provoking afternoon is planned including:  Gospel singing by Corey Dandridge and SALT,  A theatrical performance by Lynne McKenney Lydick about the life of female abolitionist Abby Kelly Foster,  And conversations with Professors of History Michael Groth, Wells College, and Myra Young Armstead, Bard College, author of 'Freedom's Gardener: James F. Brown, Horticulture, and the Hudson Valley in Antebellum America.' 
145 Sterling St, Beacon, NY 12508
(845) 831-8172
Local Opinion: What do you think is the most under appreciated historical resource in Orange County?

I truly believe that the beauty of this area is under appreciated. Everyone knows Orange County for its history and beauty yes, but the ones who live here take it for granted, and the ones that move here who didn't know the area before this can only scratch the surface of the history we have. And everyone is so busy just making a living these days that taking it all in again only touches the surface. History and beauty.

Robert McCue
Author & Historian
O&W Railway Historical Society
Trestle Morning: A Look at the Moodna Viaduct at First Morning Light
Trestle Morning: A Look at the Moodna Viaduct at First Morning Light

Please email your answer to this question to be featured in a future issue.
On the Scene: 
Historic Tavern Trail at the Erie Hotel in Port Jervis
The Historic Tavern Trail of Orange County visited the Erie Hotel on July 31st. Pictured here are Fullerton Cultural Center in Newburgh President Michael Green, Orange County Legislator Tom Faggione, the Town of Deer Park Historians Lynn Burns and Norma Schadt, Members of the Minisink Valley Historical Society including Executive Director Nancy Conod, Orange County Historian Johanna Yaun, and Program Director of the Gomez Mill House in Marlboro Richie Rosencrans.
The Historical Society of Newburgh Bay & the Highland's Annual Croquet Tournament at Downing Park
A team on the playing field during the Annual Croquet Tournament held this year on August 16th at Downing Park in the City of Newburgh.
History in the News

The Founding Father's and Presidents are trending this month. Mainstream media has been engaged in a conversation over how their policies and personal lives are remembered and interpreted by people today.

Helpful Links

"Museums have always struggled with an intrinsic conflict: how to expose their collections to the maximum number of visitors while protecting their priceless treasures." Here are some different perspectives on access.

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