America's First Preservation Mob,
Where It All Started: Newburgh, NY
Here’s an example of a structure that was “condemned” by the City in 1998 but it was saved and restored in 2010.
Here’s an explanation of the loss Newburgh suffered during Urban Renewal.
Newburgh’s historic district is New York State’s largest and contains a collection of structures which span four centuries of architectural history. In 1782-3 General Washington commanded the army from a farmhouse on the banks of the river and in 1850 it became America’s first historic site. Growing to prominence in the 1820s through river industry, the Empire State’s leading families built ornate mansions overlooking the waterfront there. In the 1840s, Andrew Jackson Downing created the first architectural collective in the American tradition by pioneering an integrated style landscape design and bringing the world’s most creative minds to the area to build their masterpieces. Newburgh’s innovative institutions and businesses flowered during the gilded age and that left behind a variety of preeminent public spaces. America’s first “garden city” was built here in the twentieth century and the walkable downtown areas boasted premier shopping and entertainment venues. Always at the forefront of historic preservation and green-space commemoration, it is a tragic reality that Newburgh suffered severely during Urban Renewal. Between 1970 and 1973, over two- thousand structures were senselessly demolished leaving fifty acres of waterfront property vacant for decades. Economic crisis and political instability followed this destruction and now a group of businessmen and artists fight to reclaim the downtown and restore the City’s vibrant traditions. In spite of the lessons learned from Urban Renewal, the city government continues to ignore the city’s greatest assets. We are demanding an end to this short-sightedness — we want our city to find better solutions, to uphold architectural protections and to market these properties with accountability to the entire fabric of our community.