'She's in dire straits.' Newburgh historians concerned 187-year-old church will not last much longer
Mar 31, 2023
By: News 12 Staff
The president of the Newburgh Preservation Association, Thomas Dodd, is concerned serious water damage to Newburgh's Dutch Reformed Church is going to bring it down before the city can save it.
It was built in 1835 and last used in 1967.
Historic preservation experts in Newburgh are concerned that an iconic 187-year-old building will not survive another year.
"She's in dire straits," Dodd says and adds that he received a call a few weeks ago from a local architect who was driving by and said somebody needs to check out the west wall of the building because it looked like it was about to go.
"The water penetration is causing the stone to break, and we're seeing the beginning, beginning-middle stages of wall failure," Todd explains.
Ever since the city bought the Dutch Reformed Church in 1974, a long line of mayors, council representatives and historians have made ambitious plans to restore the church into a museum or event center.
None of those plans ever worked out.
Orange County historian Johanna Porr showed News 12 fundraiser flyers and newspaper articles about the numerous failed attempts to renovate the building. She is worried the city could miss a big tourism opportunity.
All of these museums are anchor institutions that can bring economic development back. I want to see hotels. I want to see shops and restaurants open up," Porr says.
A city spokesperson told News 12 via email that the city's experts have not indicated any serious concerns regarding stability of the west wall.
Before any renovations can happen, a contractor has to do asbestos removal.
The city spokesperson says the city's latest application for a state grant to help pay for that was denied and the city is seeking other funding sources.
Dodd suggests the possibility of the city selling it to a developer or nonprofit.
He and Porr say they can help a new owner find grants and other funding to cover much of the project that could end up costing in all $20 million.
Johanna Porr Yaun appointed to Government Historians Committee of the National Council on Public History
GOSHEN, N.Y. – August 4, 2022 – Johanna Porr Yaun, Orange County Historian, has been appointed to the Government Historians Committee for the National Council on Public History (NCPH).
As a member of the committee, Porr Yaun will serve as a representative for practitioners working in government, advocate for the needs and interests of the group within the broader public history community, and recruit presentation proposals to highlight government history work at annual meetings.
Her two-year term will begin in September of 2022.
“With so much uncertainty about the future of history education in schools, it’s more important than ever to bolster public history initiatives,” said Porr Yaun. “I look forward to lending my expertise as a government historian to ensure that the National Council on Public History is successful in making best practices and professional policies available to practitioners in the field.”
The NCPH is dedicated to making the past useful in the present and to encouraging collaboration between historians and their publics. The council establishes professional standards, ethics, and best practices; provides professional development opportunities; recognizes excellence in a diverse range of public history activities; fosters networking and a sense of community among public history practitioners; and supports history education.
Porr Yaun has served as Orange County Historian since 2014. She is the chair of the Orange County Historical Collections Committee and the Orange County Semiquincentennial Commission, and is a member of both the Communities Council representing Orange County at Hudson River Valley Greenway and the Committee of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area. In addition to her work in Orange County, she also teaches Historic Preservation at SUNY Westchester.
IMAGE: Johanna Porr Yaun, Orange County Historian, has been appointed to the NCPH Government Historians Committee.
By Alberto Gilman
Newburgh residents gathered on Friday, April 29 at the Shelter House in Downing Park for the unveiling and dedication of a marker for Newburgh native Andrew Jackson Downing. Orange County Historian Johanna Porr-Yaun hosted the unveiling and dedication ceremony for fellow Newburgh residents.
“It’s really great to unveil the historic marker for Newburgh. It’s long overdue that we showcase the work of Andrew Jackson Downing and the influence that he had on architects and landscape all around the county,” said Porr-Yaun.
With clear skies and brief winds, residents had the opportunity to take home a brochure that highlighted the life, work and influence of Downing. The brochure features a list of 28 architectural sites located in the City of Newburgh, City of Beacon, Town of New Windsor and Town of Newburgh for residents and visitors to view. A Hudson River Valley Greenway Grant, through the Fullerton Center in Newburgh, helped in the creation of the brochure along with other partners, historians and educators who contributed to the project.
During the unveiling ceremony, Porr-Yaun also recognized her mother Joan Porr, for her work and commitment to bring this marker to the City of Newburgh. Porr, a Newburgh native, shared to the gathered crowd that she was born on nursery lands that were originally owned by Downing and his family. The nursery lands were 11 acres in size. Another marker in the City of Newburgh that recognizes Downing and his architectural work is located in front of the Crawford House on Montgomery Street in the City of Newburgh.
Downing Park honors the memory a Newburgh native who was known for his work in architecture, horticulture and writing. At the age of 36 in 1852, Downing was headed to New York City when an explosion occurred on the steamboat he was traveling on and a fire broke out. Downing, along with 80 other reported passengers, died in that steamboat accident on the Hudson River.
Though Downing had passed, his influence and work continued through the creation and completion of Downing Park by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted, who later on went to design Central Park in New York City.
Downing’s final resting place is in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Newburgh. On Saturday, April 23, the City of Newburgh also celebrated the 200th birthday of Olmsted in Downing Park.
“I totally applaud Joan [Porr] for bringing, doing her research and highlighting this additional part of the city that Downing had so much influence on,” said Kathy Parisi, President of the Downing Park Planning Committee.
The new historic marker can be found at 355 Grand Street. More information can be found at thefullerton.org.
The Times Herald Record Link: www.recordonline.com/videos/news/2021/07/26/newburgh-300-year-old-bits-history-unearthed-weigands-tavern/8071807002/
Spectrum News Link: spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/hudson-valley/news/2021/07/30/unearthed-artifacts-tell-story-of-newburgh-s-first-residents?fbclid=IwAR1DKXjk9Eu50ZPAAFObUuz8yzx2WZaGsEr-Hq44rJBqb2OSTpi6AtcpcSE#
CITY OF NEWBURGH - Every gravestone tells a story.
But over time, nature tends to cover the details of those stories with dirt, pollen dust, and other things that get blown onto the stone and obscure its message.
Sixteen area residents got a lesson in the proper way to clean and preserve gravestones on Saturday at a workshop offered by the Orange County Historian's office.
Their teachers were cemetery restoration experts Dale and Tina Utter from upstate Chenango County, and the location was Newburgh's oldest burying ground, the Old Town Cemetery, adjacent to Calvary Presbyterian Church on Grand Street.
CLICK LINK HERE for more information
August 11 marked the 150th anniversary of Frederick Douglass visit to Newburgh In honor of the visit to Newburgh in 1870 and his legacy of voter rights and civic engagement, the City held a special commemoration. The evening included the unveiling of a mural by artist Vernon Byron, an African American Spiritual Sing-A-Long, a re-enactment by Oliver King and a Proclamation for a Day of Civic Engagement by elected officials.
Stuck inside? Need something to read?
Johanna Porr Yaun, the Orange County Historian, has a list of books of local significance for you to cozy up to while staying safe in your house.
“A lot of people have asked what books I recommend now that they have extra time to read,” Johanna says. “So, I put together this list.”
1. Becoming German: The 1709 Palatine Migration to New York by Philip L. Otterness
The so-called Palatine migration of 1709 began in the western part of the Holy Roman Empire, where perhaps as many as thirty thousand people left their homes, lured by rumors that Britain's Queen Anne would give them free passage overseas and land in America. After facing many hardships, a group of these settlers were given land on the Hudson River and founded a village that has since become Newburgh.
2. A Crisis of Peace: George Washington, the Newburgh Conspiracy, and the Fate of the American Revolution by David Head
The dramatic story of George Washington's first crisis of the fledgling republic. Set in the final months of the American Revolution while George Washington and his troops were camped in Newburgh and New Windsor.
3. The Legacy of the Mastodon: The Golden Age of Fossils in America by Keith Stewart Thompson
A history of the early days of fossil hunting in America, replete with high adventure, ruthless competitors and amazing scientific discoveries. The discovery of mastodon bones in Montgomery is prominent in this story.
4. Sanctified Landscape: Writers, Artists, and the Hudson River Valley, 1820–1909 by David Schuyler
As the 19th century advanced and as landscape and history became increasingly intertwined in the national consciousness, an aesthetic identity took shape in the region through literature, art, memory and folklore - even gardens and domestic architecture. This book recounts this story of America's idealization of the Hudson Valley during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
5. Death Passage on the Hudson: The Wreck of the Henry Clay by Kris A. Hansen
A documented account of the worst steamboat disaster to occur on the Hudson River. Many lost their lives in the accident, including renowned landscape designer and tastemaker Andrew Jackson Downing.
6. Making Mountains: New York City and the Catskills by David Stradling
For more than two hundred years, the Catskill Mountains have been repeatedly and dramatically transformed by New York City. In “Making Mountains,“ David Stradling shows the transformation of the Catskills landscape as a collaborative process, one in which local and urban hands, capital and ideas have come together to reshape the mountains and the communities therein.
7. Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol by Nell Irvin Painter
Sojourner Truth: Ex-slave and fiery abolitionist born in Swartekill, a figure of imposing physique, a riveting preacher and spellbinding singer who dazzled listeners with her wit and originality. Straight-talking and unsentimental, Truth became a national symbol for strong black women - indeed, for all strong women.
8. Seward: Lincoln's Indispensible Man by Walter Stahr
As secretary of state and Lincoln's closest adviser during the Civil War, Seward not only managed foreign affairs, but had a substantial role in military, political and personnel matters. He spent his early life and career in the village of Florida.
9. Palisades: 100,000 Acres in 100 Years by Robert O. Binneweis
Beginning with the efforts of Elizabeth Vermilye of the New Jersey Federation of Women's Clubs, who enlisted President Theodore Roosevelt's support to stop the blasting and quarrying of Palisades rock, this book traces the story of the famous - including J.P. Morgan, the Rockefellers and the Harrimans - and not-so-famous men and women whose donations of time and money led to the preservation of New York and New Jersey's most scenic and historic lands.
10. West Point: A Bicentennial History by Theodore J. Crackel
Grant. Pershing. Eisenhower. Schwartzkopf. The United States Military Academy has shaped America's senior military leaders from the sons - and now daughters - of farmers and shopkeepers, laborers and bankers.