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The “Genius Killer” Visits Poughkeepsie (Twice!)

By Shannon Butler How many of you love true crime (this historian raises her hand)? Well what if I told you that one of New York’s most famous serial killers stopped in Poughkeepsie, not once, but twice, and on both occasions he managed to fool everyone when it came to who he really was? This man managed to charm both criminals and academics alike as he strived for intellectual greatness in between his outbursts of anger and crime sprees. His brain is still considered to be one of the largest specimens to ever be studied, and scientists still stare into the giant glass container where it sits and ponder its relevance to this day. The man who studied and wrote about language while he murdered innocent people was none other than the infamous Edward H. Rulloff.  In a small book entitled Life, Trial, and Execution of Edward H. Rulloff, written in 1871, the question is asked right on the title page, “Was he man or fiend?” He was born in 1819 in New Brunswick Canada, and by the time he was 20 years old he had proven himself capable at both law and crime; having served in a law office as well [...]

The “Genius Killer” Visits Poughkeepsie (Twice!)2024-05-07T10:25:38-04:00

The Oakwood Friends School

By Shannon Butler One of the oldest schools in Dutchess County just celebrated its 100th anniversary right here in Poughkeepsie. It should be noted, however, that the school and its mission are actually older than that, but its relocation to Poughkeepsie occurred back in 1920. The school’s foundations are humble, its beliefs are based on faith, and its list of alumni is quite impressive. The school dates back to the 18th century and has not altered much from its original philosophy that children do best when they are challenged to push themselves beyond their academic comfort zones while being surrounded in a nurturing environment. Of course we are talking about none other than the Oakwood Friends School. The school began as a project of the religious group known as the Friends (a.k.a. the Quakers) who had settled in the Millbrook area in the late 18th century. When the school was officially created in 1796, it was inside what had once served as a store, not far from the main Meeting House used by the Friends. Since the Friends believed that both men and women could be moved by the Holy Spirit to speak in church, both sexes could also learn equally. [...]

The Oakwood Friends School2024-05-07T10:16:53-04:00

Ghost Stories in Poughkeepsie

By Shannon Butler It's that spooky time of year again: Halloween is upon us! What would the season be without a good ghost story? There are several books about various haunted sites in the Hudson Valley. From creepy old houses and theaters, to hotels and bars, there are supposedly several spooky spots that can be found (or investigated, if one believes in such things). One place that seems to keep popping up is that of the hauntings at Christ Church, right here in Poughkeepsie. Could there be something lurking in the pews of this historic building on Academy Street (other than the Holy Ghost)? Why would such a special place be haunted, you ask? Well, the land where the modern day Christ Church stands today was once a graveyard (strike 1!). If we look at the early maps of Poughkeepsie, you can see where it says “Episcopal Burying Ground” even as early as 1834, before the south end of Academy Street was established. About seven acres was secured by the Rev. Dr. John Reed, who was rector of Christ Church, for the use of a burial ground. Several burials took place there, beginning in 1828 and ending around 1866, when the [...]

Ghost Stories in Poughkeepsie2024-05-07T09:41:58-04:00

The Long-Lost Adriance Homes

By Shannon Butler The name Adriance is well known here in the City of Poughkeepsie. The family was once a major part of this city’s development, particularly in the mid to late 19th century. As we have discussed in a previous article, John P. Adriance made a large fortune in the farming equipment industry. It is well known that both his family and the surrounding community benefited from his wealth. For example, his money went into the creation of this library, as well as the building of Christ Church. By the end of the 19th century, the Adriance family had used this wealth to establish three large houses on the corner of Academy and Livingston Streets; only one of those houses is still standing. The first house in this area was built by John P. Adriance. He called it “Eden Hill” and is seen in the drawing on the right. The house was built in the Italianate style and was passed down in the family to one of the six sons, John E., who later remodeled it. Just north of Eden Hill was the home of Dr. Edward Clay Bolton, who established a house in 1865. William Allen Adriance purchased that [...]

The Long-Lost Adriance Homes2024-05-07T09:31:04-04:00

Hudson Taylor: The Retired Book Dealer of Academy Street

by Shannon Butler We have been preparing for our upcoming walking tour on Academy Street and have found some fascinating stories about the people who once inhabited these homes. Today we will share with you a story of an old book dealer who lived at #148 and who had experienced some amazing times and spent time with some of this country’s most famous citizens. Though it could be said that the more one reads about Mr. Hudson Taylor, and his various adventures both on land and on the river, the more it seems that he should be considered one of the country’s most famous citizens as well (certainly one of Poughkeepsie’s). Hudson Taylor was born in New York City in 1820, the youngest of Robert Taylor’s six children, a doctor from England (all of Hudson’s siblings had been born in England). The family had moved to Poughkeepsie after Robert’s brother John had established himself as a lawyer here. The family also lived in Tivoli for a time, before heading out west to Illinois, where Robert sadly passed away. Young Taylor made his way back to Poughkeepsie with his mother and some of his siblings, but by the age of 14 he [...]

Hudson Taylor: The Retired Book Dealer of Academy Street2023-12-28T15:35:25-05:00

Driving with Steam

by Shannon Butler In a world where we are slowly cutting our ties to fossil fuels and reaching out for new ways to propel us forward, imagine a time when the quickest way to get around involved steam. Sure, today steampunk may be all the rage when it comes to inspiring fashion, but back at the turn of the 20th century, steam was essential! Whether you were steaming down the river on a Day Liner ship, or steaming north on the New York Central line train, steam was the quickest way to get around. So it only made sense for early manufacturers of automobiles to put steam engines in their cars too. Right here in the City of Poughkeepsie, we had our very own manufacturer of steam-powered automobiles, but the company had been making machines and hardware for years. Today, the Lane Steam Automobile is practically lost to history. Lane Brothers began as a hardware business in Millbrook as early as the 1840s. By 1882, they had moved their operations to Poughkeepsie, where they purchased land along the river at the lower landing. They quickly became known for their coffee roasting machines, door hangers and tracks, and of course, their automatic [...]

Driving with Steam2023-12-28T15:34:46-05:00

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – The Exchange Hotel

by Shannon Butler Imagine it is 1873 and you are sailing up the Hudson on the steamship the Mary Powell on your way to Kingston. You find yourself making a stop in Poughkeepsie with money to spend, and you’re in need of a place to rest. You might think that the best option is the closest option, but that may not always be the case. Right there at the docks you find a large old wooden building known as the Exchange Hotel which had always been known as a grand place to stay. However, this particular year, it is in a rough (or shall we say, stinky) spot, and it’s beginning a gradual decline towards demolition. The Exchange hotel was built in 1834 at the base of Main Street on the river’s edge. It was the grand idea of three old riverboat Captains, Johnston, Rosencrans, and Vincent. In those early days, it was considered a resort and a great place to grab a meal, a room, and a game of checkers. After being built by old Captains, it was also almost always operated by Captains including Capt. Warren Skinner, who was said to have made a large fortune from running the [...]

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – The Exchange Hotel2023-12-28T15:34:05-05:00

The Wreck of the Isaac Newton

by Shannon Butler In the collections here in the Local History room, there is a pencil drawing of an old steamboat named Isaac Newton. The drawing (seen on the right) depicts the boat in its prime, right around 1847, and it was sketched by a young man named Henry R. Howard. This little drawing has once again sent us down the rabbit hole of historical research and opened up some new history and connections. The son of the man that made this drawing would go on to appreciate history and the importance of images as a photographer. The steamboat Isaac Newton was built in 1846, and was for a long time considered to be one of the largest and most elegant steamers of its day. It was not named after the famous English mathematician, physicist and astronomer, but instead, it was named for a New York Steamship builder and sailor. At the time of its original construction, it was 338 feet long; later, in 1855, it was extended to 405 feet. The ship consumed about four tons of coal an hour, which was more than any other ship at the time. The state room on board was considered luxurious and there [...]

The Wreck of the Isaac Newton2023-12-28T15:33:28-05:00

William T. Reynolds and Company

by Shannon Butler Very few businesses can say that they have lasted over a century. To hit the 100 mark on anything is a rather nice achievement. But one family here in Poughkeepsie stood the test of time and had good business sense to last as long as they did. In the beginning of the 19th century, a young man named James Reynolds traveled all the way from Rhode Island and somehow landed at the base of the Fall-Kill Creek. He saw the great potential for business that this location along the Hudson clearly had. He saw goods from inland farmers coming to the river and goods from sloops sailing on the river going inland to the farmers. He was right, and for well over a century, he and his descendants would continue it. At first, the shop along the creek was called Reynolds and Innis and opened sometime around 1819. Reynolds had met up with Mr. Aaron Innis and the two began meeting the needs of the “rising river-trade” with both the shop and a line of boats for transport. They had established themselves just as the small village was growing and new technologies were coming into play which included [...]

William T. Reynolds and Company2023-12-28T15:32:56-05:00

Poughkeepsie: “As a Place of Residence”

by Shannon Butler Richard E. Lansing was well known here in the city of Poughkeepsie. He had managed to make a name for himself first as a grocer and later as a real estate agent and insurance man. When he was 93 years old, the oldest man in the City of Poughkeepsie at the time, the newspapers asked him how he had managed to live such a full life; his answer was to work hard and never sit idle. Lansing made it his life’s work to sell Poughkeepsie in a time when the city was booming with opportunities in education, manufacturing, and construction. One of the pamphlets in our collection entitled “Illustrated Catalogue of Real Estate in Poughkeepsie, NY” was produced by him, and it’s a fun tool for looking back on some of this city’s great architecture. By the 1870s, R.E. Lansing (as his name appears in most advertisements) was busy showing and selling properties around the city. Anything from businesses to residentials, he was happy to show it. By 1888, he informed all sellers in the city, “I have several orders on my books for dwellings, from two to six thousand dollars, I wish that all who have property [...]

Poughkeepsie: “As a Place of Residence”2023-12-28T15:32:18-05:00

Labor Day: The Unofficial End of Summer

by Shannon Butler Here we are! We’ve made it to September and Labor Day weekend. Which also means that we have come to what is now known as the “unofficial end of summer.” Vacations are coming to an end, kids are getting ready to go back to school, and many of us will get a nice three day weekend (including us PPLD employees, as the library will be closed Saturday, Sunday, and Monday). The holiday is not terribly old, but it is still appreciated by working-class individuals throughout the country and right here in Poughkeepsie, it was seen as an occasion to not just close down for the day, but to have a parade! The organization known as the Knights of Labor gathered for a parade in 1882 and that small event would inspire the future Labor Day of the 20th century. This group had members not only here in Poughkeepsie, but all around the nation. At first, the organization was very secretive about where they met and who they were. It was claimed by the Poughkeepsie Eagle News that there were between 400 and 500 members of the Knights of Labor in the City of Poughkeepsie alone and that they [...]

Labor Day: The Unofficial End of Summer2023-12-28T15:31:35-05:00

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – The Columbus Institute

by Shannon Butler In 1882, a fraternal order known as The Knights of Columbus was founded on the idea of being a mutual benefit organization for working-class and immigrant Catholics. The order’s membership grew rapidly in the late 19th century, especially here in Poughkeepsie. The local council, known as the Florentine Council, decided that it had more than enough membership to warrant its own clubhouse. The building that would come to be known as the Columbus Institute was actually the first clubhouse in the entire country to be built by a local council for the Knights. In its somewhat brief existence, it was considered one of the towering beauties of the Queen City. Local architect William J. Beardsley had his plate full in the years between 1903 and 1905, both here in Poughkeepsie and in Hyde Park. He was designing firehouses, the new Dutchess County Courthouse, and the Knights of Columbus had hired him to build an elaborate hall that would serve as their club (but also house various other clubs and businesses). What Beardsley ended up creating was a multipurpose hall with just about everything one could want. The cornerstone was laid in October of 1904, and it took just [...]

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – The Columbus Institute2023-12-28T15:30:43-05:00

Historic Objects and the Rabbit Holes They Lead To

by Shannon Butler Did you know that we have a pair of Civil War drum sticks in our collection? They are on display in a glass case in the genealogy room. Somehow, wanting to know more about these sticks sent this historian down a rabbit hole which went from a major Presidential funeral, to the baseball diamond! Now it is very easy for us here in the Local History Room to take on a research request and find ourselves searching (for what feels like hours) for interesting stories. For this week’s blog, the pieces all seemed to come together pretty quickly and in the process, we have learned some cool history! Alonzo Daley was 18 (but more likely 15 based on census records) when he decided to join the Union army. He enlisted here in Poughkeepsie on September 29th 1862 as a private with the 150th N.Y.V. Dutchess County Regiment. In 1864 he was transferred to the 22nd Regiment V.R.C. Based on the pension records, he appears to have served for 3 years and was discharged in July of 1865. Apparently, the drumsticks that we have in the display case were used by Alonzo when Lincoln’s funeral train stopped briefly here [...]

Historic Objects and the Rabbit Holes They Lead To2023-12-28T15:29:59-05:00

The Poughkeepsie Bicycle Club

by Shannon Butler If you are anything like the majority of Americans, you probably tried a few new things to occupy your time during the past year and a half (thanks to the pandemic). One of the biggest trends was cycling. In fact, research shows that over $4.1 billion in bike sales occurred between January and October of 2020, a 62% increase from the previous year! There was a time in the late 19th century when a similar bike craze took hold, and a club was formed right here in Poughkeepsie that grew quickly, but ultimately faded away just as fast. The year was 1887, and bicycles were quickly taking over the streets. A group of 20 passionate wheelmen (the name given to cyclists at the time) founded the Poughkeepsie Bicycle Club on February 3rd, 1887, and began holding meetings in the Pardee building on Main Street. At the time, the roads were mostly filled with horses and carriages, and just a tad on the messy side, as they were mostly unpaved dirt roads (or worse, bumpy cobblestone!). Just a few years later, the club moved into new headquarters on Catherine Street, and the Poughkeepsie Eagle News was always sure to [...]

The Poughkeepsie Bicycle Club2023-12-28T15:29:19-05:00

Local History Presents: Schools and Seminaries of Old Poughkeepsie

by Shannon Butler Did you know that we have another interesting Local History program coming up? That’s right! Wednesday, August 11, 2021 at 7:00 PM, via Zoom, we will be talking all about schools and seminaries of old Poughkeepsie. During the 19th century, Poughkeepsie was a major destination for aspiring students, with a variety of schools to choose from. Young men and women came from all over the country, and in some cases, all over the world, just for the chance to better themselves with our resources and talented educators (and to be sure, going to school in the lovely Hudson Valley was a nice bonus). In our presentation we will look at some of the early forms of education and just how one’s church would play a role in learning. Then we will examine what the options were for schooling before the public school system originated, which took place in the years following the passage of a law in 1843. It took some time to get some public schools organized and running, but in the meantime there were plenty of excellent private schools to attend (if you could afford it). We will be looking at places like the Poughkeepsie Collegiate [...]

Local History Presents: Schools and Seminaries of Old Poughkeepsie2023-12-28T15:28:33-05:00

The Holland Society

by Shannon Butler If you have ever heard the saying “if you ain't Dutch, you ain't much,” then it is quite likely that you have Dutch in your blood (or at the very least, you have been heckled by a Dutchman). This saying is not terribly old, but the sentiment certainly is, and in the late 19th century there existed a group of men who wanted to preserve as much of their Dutch heritage as possible. In our collections here in the Local History Room we have a box of documents from the Holland Society (sadly not the cool early Dutch documents that they have collected). Inside the box are mostly dinner menus, as the Holland Society has become famous for their annual Dinners. However, these menus have inspired us to look into this society that still lives on today, with the same mission they have held for years. This society was formed in 1885 by several prominent men from New York City, all of whom had been able to trace their heritage to the original settlers of New Netherland. In the late 19th century, these men had noticed the rise in immigration into New York City, just as the Dutch [...]

The Holland Society2023-12-28T15:26:30-05:00

The Amrita Clubhouse

by Shannon Butler If you wanted to be a part of a social gathering (something outside of your immediate family), there were plenty of clubs to join in the City of Poughkeepsie during the 19th century. There were clubs with religious backgrounds like the Knights of Columbus or the Christian Temperance Union. There were clubs for the various sports, as we have mentioned before, like yacht clubs, golf, or tennis. How about the Rotary Club or the Oddfellows? Or if you really wanted to be all mysterious, you could be a Mason. All of these organizations had by-laws and constitutions, and of course you had to match the requirements to join each particular club. If you wanted to be a member of the Amrita club, you had to have some money. Now first of all, you are probably wondering, what exactly is Amrita? And why is it in Poughkeepsie? Interestingly enough, the Amrita club, which was formed in 1873, was a club created specifically by and for Poughkeepsians. The origin of the word appears to come from the Hindu tradition and means immortality, but why did a bunch of old white guys from Poughkeepsie decide to create a club with this [...]

The Amrita Clubhouse2024-05-10T13:05:53-04:00

Frederick Douglass Comes to Poughkeepsie

by Shannon Butler By now, you have most certainly heard of Juneteenth, our new federal holiday that celebrates the emancipation of African American slaves here in the United States. However, did you know that before there was ever a Juneteenth, there was another holiday based on the same idea, only for a different nation? Emancipation Day is a holiday that celebrates the end of slavery in the British Empire, which took place on August 1, 1833. It is still celebrated today all over the Caribbean, as slavery was such a large part of that area’s history. For abolitionists in 19th century America, they celebrated this holiday as a beacon of hope, no doubt convinced that if the British could do it, so could we. On August 2, 1858, Poughkeepsie was the site of a massive celebration and a speech by one of the greatest lecturers that the abolitionists had on their side, Frederick Douglass. Douglass had seen the evils of slavery firsthand. Who better to discuss the importance of emancipation than he? This was not the first time that Douglass would appear in the City of Poughkeepsie. His first visit and public lecture came in October of 1847, when he spoke [...]

Frederick Douglass Comes to Poughkeepsie2023-12-28T15:25:08-05:00

Take a Look Inside!

by Shannon Butler One of the requests that we get here in the Local History room sounds something like, “Hey, I just bought this old building and want to know if you’ve got any old photos of the inside of it.” For the most part, the answer is no. It is generally very rare for an interior photo to be kept unless it was deemed worthy enough to be a postcard or end up in someone’s family photo album. Think about it for a second; how many photos have you taken of the inside of your house? Today, we certainly take more pictures than say 100 or even 50 years ago, but generally, the only time we really try to get good interior views of our homes or buildings is when we are trying to sell them (i.e. Zillow, Trulia, and so forth). What few interior images we have in our collection are fun to see, not only because they are rare, but because they show how things have changed over the course of a century. So let’s take a look at some! The first two images on the right show us the inside of a building that is no longer [...]

Take a Look Inside!2023-12-28T15:24:27-05:00

Trolley Time!

by Shannon Butler The year is 1900, and you are sailing up the Hudson River on a dayliner steamship bound for Poughkeepsie. Perhaps you are on your way to one of the many schools to attend, or you wish to see a traveling play at one of the local theaters. The best way to make your way around the city as you step off the ship's docks was to hop on the Poughkeepsie-Wappingers Falls Trolley. The trolley system allowed for easy access to Vassar College, Wappingers Falls, and several different corners of Poughkeepsie (See map on the right). In the grand scheme of things, the trolley system didn’t last long (the bus system has been in operation longer at this point) but it still holds a bit of romanticism as a transit method of old. In 1892, the first mention of a trolley appeared in the Poughkeepsie Eagle News which read, “Keep still. Hold your breath. Poughkeepsie is going to have an electric street railroad - probably a trolley system.” The engineering firm of Lawlor and House built the system of rails and lines through the city in 1894, with crews moving fast enough to complete half a mile a day. [...]

Trolley Time!2024-05-10T12:44:53-04:00
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