Here's a repost from NewburghRestoration.com with photos from John G. Arnott
"For those of us born after the destruction of the Newburgh Waterfront, it is impossible for us fully understand the loss of something we never had to chance to experience. Looking at old photographs like the one above helps. We see a dense prosperous city, full of life. We can imagine all those chimneys puffing out smoke and families gathered around fires sharing stories. We can imagine what it was like to have a butcher, a baker, and a grocer at almost every corner who probably all knew your name and your mother’s name. It is a very stark contrast to what Newburgh has become today. Even so, there is still enough of the city left behind to re-urbanize it and make it prosper.
Newburgh historian, Mary McTamaney was kind enough to share some urban renewal statistics in a speech she gave a few years back. Looking at these numbers, Newburgh really was NYC’s 6th borough. The figures below represent what was lost during urban renewal.
Churches: 673,448 cubic feet
Retail: 7,510,260 cubic feet
Storage (“warehouses and commercial structures converted to storage”): 1,868,560 cu.ft.
Office Space: 871,650 cu. ft.
Factories: 670,810 cu.ft.
Other non-residential structures: 252,090 cu.ft.
“This report never included residential buildings. Yet, we know that well over 50 acres of Newburgh were cleared. Entire streets like Fourth, Fifth, Barclay, Hudson, Garner, Smith and High Streets were obliterated. Looking through city directories before the destruction began can help estimate the residential loss statistics by following the geography of the built environment now gone. It is easy to count over 1,300 now missing addresses.
Old directories in the library told me these sample things about Newburgh 50 years ago: Within the city limits, Newburgh then supported 5 theaters, 2 roller rinks, 20-30 apartment buildings, 15 automobile showrooms, 6 truly local banks, 30-40 barbershops and an equal number of beauty shops for women, 10bus lines, 4 bottling companies, over 50 clothing stores and over 25 clothing manufacturers, 20 drug stores, 6 appliance stores, over 70 homes renting furnished rooms, 12 furniture stores, 11 hardware stores, over 100 corner grocery stores, 5 ice cream manufacturers, 16 jewelry stores, 20 music teachers giving private lessons, 9 photographers, over 60 doctors who lived here in the city where they practiced,66 restaurants, 15 shoe stores, 20 shoe repair shops and 2 shoe shiners, 21 tailors, 6 upholsterers, 3window cleaners.
No era was more transforming to Newburgh than the half century since 1960″.
About the Preservation Mob
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.