A Vacation at Mohonk Mountain House

A Vacation at Mohonk Mountain House Here we are at the beginning of August, and it is hot out there. Where do you go to get away from it all? Some people like to be by the shore, some enjoy a trip to an amusement park, while others would rather head deep into the woods for some hiking or camping. In the mid-19th century, two twin brothers came up with the idea that a vacation in the woods, with a shore, and some amusement (with a touch of luxury), was the perfect combination for the summer getaway. When Albert Smiley purchased a ten-room tavern on Lake Mohonk, he likely did not imagine that his vision would continue to prosper to this day, over a century later. Albert K. Smiley was a schoolteacher who, like many teachers in the summer months, wanted to find a place that would not only relax his body but also give some refreshment to his soul (he was a Quaker, after all). His brother Alfred had stumbled upon a small tavern by a lake in the Shawangunk Mountains and convinced him to come and see it for himself. Albert used all of his savings, some money from

A Vacation at Mohonk Mountain House2022-08-29T14:29:11-04:00

The Dutchess County S.P.C.A.

The Dutchess County S.P.C.A. Do you have a “fur baby” of your own? That could be a dog, cat, hamster, or even something that doesn’t necessarily have fur like a fish or a bird. Perhaps you raise chickens or you have a horse or a goat that means the world to you? Many people found their fur babies at the Dutchess County S.P.C.A. shelter. Did you know that the Dutchess County S.P.C.A is one of the oldest in the United States? Some of the leading figures of Poughkeepsie were members of the society and worked tirelessly to end cruelty to animals throughout the county.  The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (or S.P.C.A. for short) was the idea of a diplomat from New York City named Henry Bergh. He had once witnessed a man beating his horse that had fallen in the street and pleaded with him to stop. He decided to do more, and created an organization that fought back against those who mistreated animals of all sorts. This was difficult work in 19th century America, where people relied on their animals for work more than companionship. In many places, people considered things like dog or chicken fights

The Dutchess County S.P.C.A.2022-12-05T12:45:19-05:00

Pit Stop in Poughkeepsie: Glenn Curtiss and His “Hudson Flyer”

Pit Stop in Poughkeepsie: Glenn Curtiss and His “Hudson Flyer”            In today’s modern world, most of us have been in an airplane. Some people enjoy the thrill of a 747 taking off take-off down a runway and lifting steadily into the air, while others prefer to keep their feet squarely on the ground. The idea that something could weigh over 400,000 pounds and fly as high as 36,000 feet at a cruising speed of 500 mph would probably boggle the minds of early aviators. For Glenn Curtiss, the man who broke barriers and records in the new world of fast-moving machines, his flights may have been a little lower and a little slower, but they still boggled the minds of his contemporaries.  Glenn Curtiss was no stranger to speed. He raced bicycles in the 1890s, and after the turn of the century, he moved into the world of internal combustion engines. Curtiss set a land speed record in 1903 on his hand-built motorcycle, reaching a top speed of 64 miles per hour. He did it again in 1907 with a motorcycle that contained an eight-cylinder motor of his design; on smooth sand in Ormond Beach Florida,

Pit Stop in Poughkeepsie: Glenn Curtiss and His “Hudson Flyer”2022-07-22T10:11:44-04:00

Recent Acquisition: Poughkeepsie Bridge Building Photos

Recent Acquisition: Poughkeepsie Bridge Building Photos This past week, we received a small collection of photographs that show the building of the Poughkeepsie Bridge, known as the Mid-Hudson Bridge. What's so interesting about these images is that not only can we see the bridge’s construction, but we also have some amazing views of the City of Poughkeepsie. When we drive on the bridge today, we don’t take the time to think about what the landscape might have looked like a century ago (probably because we are so busy trying not to get ourselves killed in traffic). There are large parts of the city that were simply wiped away to make room for new buildings and roads.  As the construction of the bridge was underway in the late 1920s, everyone watched with amazement as the caissons were lowered into the riverbed and the towers began to rise. These photographs, donated by the folks at the Town of Hyde Park Historical Society, show the bridge just as the cables were completed, which would have been in 1930, as well as the beginnings of the construction of the road bed. We mentioned in a blog post awhile back that the bridge cost just under

Recent Acquisition: Poughkeepsie Bridge Building Photos2022-07-15T10:05:46-04:00

More Long Lost Buildings of Poughkeepsie: Cedarcliff

More Long Lost Buildings of Poughkeepsie: Cedarcliff More Long Lost Buildings of Poughkeepsie: Cedarcliff We have mentioned in previous blog posts how Poughkeepsie has lost a lot of interesting buildings and residences over the years. When it comes to this particular long lost building, which was part of a large estate, we don’t actually have a picture of it, but we know it was there. In fact, two structures are standing nearby today that represent different eras of the estate. The estate was known as Cedarcliff, and it is easy to locate it if you know the street names of Poughkeepsie. James Winslow was the brother of John Flack Winslow (who we talked about in a previous blog), and had ventured into the banking business with the Third National Bank of New York City. James and John were drawn to the beautiful scenery of the Poughkeepsie waterfront, and both brothers wanted to establish homes here. James was the first in 1857, when he built a home which he named “Cedarcliff” (about ten years before his brother built “Woodcliff”). The estate was bought and sold over the course of half a century and had several wealthy owners including Henry N. Curtis, the Taft Family,

More Long Lost Buildings of Poughkeepsie: Cedarcliff2023-01-10T14:26:54-05:00

Local History Discussion: Germond Family Murders

Local History Discussion: Germond Family Murders This is your friendly reminder that if you haven’t signed up for our upcoming Local History Discussion on the Germond Family Murders of 1930, what are you waiting for (we’re running out of seats!)? On Wednesday, July 6th at 6:30 pm, we will be listening to Dr. Vincent Cookingham discuss his new book The Germond Family Murders: A Forensic Conclusion to a Cold Case. This case has been on the minds of many Dutchess County residents for nearly 90 years, and yet no one seemed to have the answer to the question “who did it?” until now. On the night before Thanksgiving, in November of 1930, a silence fell over the Germond farm. On Thanksgiving Day, when James Germond did not show up for his milk delivery, folks thought it was odd as he wasn’t known for taking holidays off. Four bloodied bodies would be discovered the next day by a concerned fellow employee of Borden Milk Company. James, also known as Husted, his wife Mabel, and their two children, Bernice and Raymond, were all found stabbed multiple times. Within hours, the quiet farm was full of police cars, coroners, concerned neighbors, and the press.

Local History Discussion: Germond Family Murders2023-01-10T14:27:10-05:00

James Bowne: Mayor of Poughkeepsie

James Bowne: Mayor of Poughkeepsie The City of Poughkeepsie has had many different mayors over the years. Each one has left a mark on the landscape in some small way. In the early days of the city, mayors were elected to a one-year term until 1859, when it was changed to two years. That might not be a lot of time to get things done, but you’d be surprised. One of the earliest mayors of Poughkeepsie was James Bowne, who served his term during the early years of the Civil War. He was a man of principle and worked hard most of his life, so much so that his obituary is lengthy and speaks very highly of the man and his accomplishments. Bowne was born on Christmas Day, 1798, in Fishkill. His father died when he was very young, and he lived with his mother until he got the nerve to head North to Poughkeepsie in search of employment. With very little money, he found work in the hardware business. First with Albert Cox, and then by 1816, he started working with the firm of N. Conklin Jr.. Bowne stayed on for several years and eventually earned a partnership; by 1821,

James Bowne: Mayor of Poughkeepsie2022-06-24T10:20:31-04:00

Grandpa, Is That You? – Learning Your Family’s History (with Stories and Some Research Tips)

Grandpa, Is That You? - Learning Your Family’s History (with Stories and Some Research Tips) Have you ever taken the time to dig into your family history? Believe me, it takes time. Sometimes you find things that you didn’t want to know, for example, perhaps you find out that your grandfather did time in prison for stealing tires during World War II. Then there are moments when you find things to be proud of like your great-great-great-grandfather served in the Dutchess County Regiment during the Civil War. As a historian, I spend a good deal of time searching through other families histories in the hope of understanding historical events. Once in a while, I take the time to look at my family’s part in history (the good and the bad), and I’ve come to learn some pretty amazing (and absurd) things. When it comes to genealogy, you must start with your most recent relatives and build a tree backward in time. I began with my paternal (meaning father’s side) grandfather, Harry Butler. I discovered that when Harry was 19 years old, he was sent to Elmira Reformatory for stealing tires at Stanford. He wasn't alone; his brother Virgil would end up

Grandpa, Is That You? – Learning Your Family’s History (with Stories and Some Research Tips)2022-06-16T16:40:11-04:00

Andrew Billings: Silversmith

Andrew Billings: Silversmith Silversmithing is the art of taking silver and other precious metals and making them into objects such as jewelry and serving wares. The golden age for silversmiths is said to be the 17th and 18th centuries. Elaborate pieces were handcrafted by some of the greatest artists the world has ever known. In the late 18th century, Andrew Billings was Poughkeepsie’s own silversmith, and while his name is not as well-known as Paul Revere’s, his story has some similarities. Andrew Billings was born in Stonington, Connecticut in 1743. By 1773, he had established himself as a silversmith in what was then known as the Village of Poughkeepsie. Right about the time he had set up shop, Billings (like Paul Revere) became concerned with King George’s treatment of his Countrymen, and decided to volunteer his services in the Revolution. Billings signed up as a private and worked his way up to be Captain in a 2nd New York Regiment commanded by General Peter Gansevoort. He served throughout the war and even corresponded with the likes of George Washington and Henry Knox. When the war was over, Billings returned to Poughkeepsie to continue his silversmith business. He had also married into

Andrew Billings: Silversmith2022-06-13T13:39:45-04:00

Arnout Cannon, Jr. – Poughkeepsie’s Architect

Arnout Cannon, Jr. - Poughkeepsie’s Architect *Content warning-this post discusses an incident involving suicide. Several prominent architects got their starts here in Poughkeepsie, and we are fortunate to have benefited from their work. Notable figures like Percival Lloyd, William Beardsley, Jay A. Wood, and Arnout Cannon, Jr. left their marks all over the city of Poughkeepsie. Some of these buildings are long gone, some are standing, and others are being restored for future use. Arnout Cannon Jr. was one of the most well-known names in local architecture, and he created some beautiful pieces, even though his life was filled with pain. Arnout Cannon Jr. was born on August 3, 1839, in Poughkeepsie. He was one of five sons of the prominent builder Arnout Cannon Sr. He learned carpentry at a young age before heading off to New York City to study architecture under Frederick Draper. But before Cannon Jr. began his serious career in architecture, he served in the Civil War in the 128th NYS Volunteers. In 1862 he joined as a sergeant and two of his brothers also served in the 150th--also known as the Dutchess County Regiment. When he got back from the war, he was able to start

Arnout Cannon, Jr. – Poughkeepsie’s Architect2023-01-06T11:08:08-05:00

Carving Out a Legacy: George Edmund Bissell

Carving Out a Legacy: George Edmund Bissell Think about all of the monuments and statues you have seen in your life. Each one of those pieces had an artist that came up with a design and painstakingly sculpted it. Now ask yourself, how many of those artists can you name for those statues that you’ve seen? The City of Poughkeepsie had a resident artist who sculpted memorable pieces all over the world, and yet his name seems to be forgotten. His first statue is located at the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, and today you can find his works at auction for thousands of dollars.  George Edmund Bissell was born on February 16th, 1839, in New Preston, Connecticut. As he was preparing to enter higher education, the Civil War broke out and he enlisted with the 23rd Regiment of Volunteers in Waterbury, Connecticut. He served as a private until 1863 when he assumed the role of assistant paymaster for the US Navy until the end of the war. After the war, he returned home and married Mary Elizabeth Welton, and together they started a family. They traveled to Poughkeepsie, along with George’s father Hiram and brother Henry, where the family began a marble

Carving Out a Legacy: George Edmund Bissell2022-05-31T11:24:34-04:00

Smead Mausoleum: The House That Delia Built…and Rebuilt

Smead Mausoleum: The House That Delia Built...and Rebuilt  When we ask ourselves what we really want in this life, many of us can say we’d like to be independently wealthy (but let’s face it, that’s not going to happen). Unless you are lucky enough to have been born into a wealthy family, or marry into a wealthy family, or win the lottery, you’d better get used to working! For Delia Smead, she did manage to get this lucky, she got a job which led to a wealthy marriage and finally her own financial independence. However, she appears to have had a bit of a mental breakdown somewhere along the way because most of the articles that we can find about her concern her odd behaviors and brief stays in the asylum. Delia was born Delia Bridget Smith in Ireland on April 23rd, 1836. There doesn’t seem to be much information about her early life, and in later years it looks as if she changes her birth date on different passport applications and census records. It is difficult to say exactly when she was born and how she ended up here in Poughkeepsie. On her 1887 passport application, it says that she

Smead Mausoleum: The House That Delia Built…and Rebuilt2022-05-20T09:21:25-04:00
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