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.