By MJ Hanley-GoffThey say the eyes are the windows into the soul, but to Reggie Young, owner of Newburgh’s Hudson Valley House Parts, the windows are the eyes into the soul of a home. It’s one of the reasons why he offers historic window restoration workshops, among his roster of craft classes, to homeowners and preservationists who want to learn how to repair and restore their home’s original “eyes.”
Reggie is a bit of a salvage connoisseur, not only collecting architectural treasures from old houses and selling them in his 2000 square foot warehouse on Broadway -- in the heart of the city of Newburgh -- but he’s been on the buying end of the salvage business for years while renovating Brooklyn Brownstones, and restoring an 1812 Stone Mansion in Athens, New York, where he also gave historic preservation classes.
There were twelve students at the recent window restoration class held in a neighboring shop, Newburgh Sash and Restoration, taught by Reggie’s friend Ben Brandt at his carpentry studio on Liberty Street. The two-day class brought in an enthusiastic crowd who’d carted their windows for miles, and from as far away as Delaware and Massachusetts where they learned how to properly scrape off years of paint, resurface the wood, repair broken features, and reglaze around the panels that hold the glass in place, making them water-tight. The class was so popular that Reggie had to start a wait list for the scheduled January class, which to date holds 30 names.
Wait…what? A window restoration class held in Newburgh was so popular that a wait list had to be created. But Reggie isn’t surprised.
Homeowners today, he explains, are more interested in the historic significance of the house, and want to keep it as original as possible, especially when it comes down to the windows. Rather than updating the house with modern windows that won’t fit as well, and lack the personality, they’re opting to be educated on how to fix and restore them. Much of this interest, Reggie says, stems from the internet, with all the “how to” tutorials on YouTube. Once the homeowner sees that it’s possible, they search out someone like Reggie. “This new generation of homeowners,” he says, “wants to keep things original, they want a more sustainable life using reclaimed products.”
When asked why he choose to set up in Newburgh three years ago, he’s eager to share his loyalty to the struggling Hudson River town. Not only is the city renowned for its significance in American history, he says, but it’s also a treasure trove of architectural homes, designed in partnership with who the NY Times considers the “19th century apostles of taste” -- Newburgh native, Andrew Jackson Downing and collaborators Calvert Vaux and Frederick Clarke Withers. The architectural ideas of Downing dominated home building in the United States, and the three would go on to popularize the Gothic revival style seen in the Jefferson Market Courthouse in Greenwich Village, Downing Park in Newburgh and Manhattan’s Central Park. It’s no wonder then, that those who wish to retain their home’s architectural integrity would gravitate to the place where it all began and where this type of craftsmanship is honored and kept alive.
This also explains an exciting trend in tourism, something that can have long lasting and positive effects on places like Newburgh. Historic tourism – whether it has to do with researching family history, visiting the places of historic significance, or learning how to perform century’s old woodworking – is a rapidly growing trend in the US thanks, in part, to Ancestry.com, and 23andme; the PBS-TV show, Finding Your Roots, Genealogy Roadshow; and TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are. According to a story in Conde Nast Traveler Magazine, “family history research in the US has grown fourteen-fold in the past decade.” The overwhelming benefit, according to the GlobalHeritageFund.org, is the economic boost to the historic site and surrounding communities, and subsequently the additional monies to fund these sites.
All of this puts Newburgh in the spotlight. With over 20,000 visitors a year coming to visit Washington’s Headquarters alone, and those who come for Newburgh’s Historical Candlelight Tours, the Tiffany Glass at St. George Church, the Crawford House and Dutch Reformed Church, now figure in the students of historic preservation from around the state, and around the country, who will need to find places to eat, get coffee, and sleep. One exciting project that will boost tourism to Newburgh – historic or otherwise -- is the Grand Street development where three buildings are to be renovated into an “urban resort,” and will feature an 80-room hotel, restaurant, bar and meeting and event space.
Whatever it was that inspired Downing, Vaux and Withers all those years ago is definitely still in the air.
Visit hvhouseparts.com/workshops - to learn more about upcoming classes, fees and sign up for Reggie’s newsletter. Upcoming classes include mortar restoration and how to use lime-based products.
Visit newburghpreservationassocation.org/walking-tours - for more information about the sites mentioned in the article.
MJ Hanley-Goff is an Orange County-based writer who particularly enjoys writing on Orange County history. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Historic Preservation Classes
Contact SUNY Westchester Peekskill Campus for information about the Historic Preservation Certificate Program