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

Helen Wilkinson Reynolds: Our Patron Saint of Local History

Helen Wilkinson Reynolds: Our Patron Saint of Local History It has occurred to our personnel here in the Local History Room that not everyone knows who Helen Wilkinson Reynolds is. We feel like we need to change that, so we’ll start with a little blog post. For anyone who delves into local history, whether it's searching for information on your Dutchess County ancestors, or admiring an old Dutch house here in the area, Helen Wilkinson Reynolds probably had something to do with whatever information is available to you. She was well known in the area for her passion for researching, writing, and sharing whatever history she could find. Afterall, acquiring knowledge is useless unless you are willing to share it with the community, and Helen did that for over 30 years.   Helen was born at 341 Mill Street on December 9th, 1875, the daughter of John Richardson Reynolds and Jane Hewitt Wilkinson Reynolds. The home where she was born has since been demolished, but it had served as the home of her grandfather, George Wilkinson, the second mayor of Poughkeepsie. Today her obituary seems more like a nod to all of the history that she uncovered rather than a history of [...]

Helen Wilkinson Reynolds: Our Patron Saint of Local History2022-05-13T14:18:44-04:00

Doctor Sara Josephine Baker: Fighting for Life

Doctor Sara Josephine Baker: Fighting for Life In 1890, two men from the same household died from typhoid fever, only a few months apart. Sadly, this was not uncommon. What makes their deaths so special is that their loss of life inspired a young girl to change her goal of studying liberal arts at Vassar College, to going to medical school and becoming a doctor. In her mind she needed to do this as quickly as possible in order to financially take care of her remaining family, and to find a way to stop people from dying from useless diseases like the one that killed her father and brother. She was only 16 when she made this decision.  Orlando Baker was one of Poughkeepsie’s most prominent and respected lawyers. He had married Jenny Brown, one of the first students to enter Vassar College, and they lived at 31 South Clinton Street. Together they had three children, Mary, Sara Josephine (who everyone called Joe), and Robert. As Orlando’s practice was successful, life seemed to be going well for the family. The family was wealthy enough to have servants, and the children were all going to school. However, in March of 1890 the [...]

Doctor Sara Josephine Baker: Fighting for Life2022-05-06T11:26:33-04:00

Murder on Main Street – Part Two

Murder on Main Street - Part Two Last week we covered the abrupt shooting of a rigger named Henry Gagnon. He was shot to death in broad daylight on Main Street, right here in Poughkeepsie. His killer just happened to be his married lover, Fela Palick, local proprietor of the Red Rose Lunch Room, which she operated alongside her husband. We left off with Fela sitting in jail awaiting trial, accompanied by the infant she had named for the man she was accused of murdering. In February of 1929, a cell in the Dutchess County Jail was converted into a temporary nursery for the newborn baby, so that Fela could nurse him. Photos of Fela and the child with cell bars in the background could be seen in newspapers across the country, as people wondered how someone so lovely could commit such a brutal crime.  In March, Fela’s attorney, William Mulvey, brought in Dr. Clarence O. Cheney from the Hudson River State Hospital, to examine the mind of his client. The goal was to determine if she had suffered from a fit of “emotional insanity,” causing her to kill her lover when he refused to acknowledge that he was the father [...]

Murder on Main Street – Part Two2022-04-29T11:22:24-04:00

Murder on Main Street – Part One

Murder on Main Street - Part One If you watch the nightly news you are probably aware that there is a lot of gun violence out there. It seems like a regular occurrence in major urban areas like New York City. However, violence can happen anywhere and at any time. If we look back in history there have been plenty of vicious crimes that have taken place even in our neck of the woods. One need only scan through the rolls of microfilm within our collections to find mentions of shootings, stabbings, and unsolved ax murders that go all the way back to the 18th century!  Fela Palick was a woman who couldn’t seem to get what she wanted in life. Historical records indicate that she appears to have been married-off around the age of 10 when she moved from Lithuania to Russia in 1911. In that marriage she had two children, though one died in infancy. When her family came to America they moved to Chicago, and it wasn’t long before she divorced her first husband and moved to the East Coast. She moved around in the years surrounding World War I with a series of jobs and partners. She [...]

Murder on Main Street – Part One2022-04-22T10:21:30-04:00

More Long Lost Buildings of Poughkeepsie: The Reynolds Houses on Mill Street

More Long Lost Buildings of Poughkeepsie: The Reynolds Houses on Mill Street Thank you to all of the Local History Nerds who attended our program on the Long Lost Buildings of the City of Poughkeepsie, you were a lovely audience! In the presentation we discussed how much the city has changed over the years, and how many lovely buildings we have lost. Today, we are going to look at a couple of the ones we missed! You can find all sorts of great old photographs of Poughkeepsie’s buildings on our Main and Market Page, which is where we have two photos of the Reynolds family homes that once stood on Mill Street. Present day Columbus and Mill Streets would not be recognizable to the Reynolds family or anybody else who happened to be living in that neck of the woods over a century ago.  You may remember reading a little bit about the Reynolds family in a previous blog post, where we talked about the William T. Reynolds company. Well, it just so happens that we have a couple of photos of the homes where William and his family lived, which are now gone. Photo-01 shows two houses side by side. [...]

More Long Lost Buildings of Poughkeepsie: The Reynolds Houses on Mill Street2022-04-15T10:50:52-04:00

The Poet with the Annoying Husband

The Poet with the Annoying Husband Did you know that April is National Poetry month? It's a time to celebrate the great poets and poems that have left an impression on our minds. Did you also know that the woman who was once known as the “Poet Laureate” of Dutchess County, tried to have her husband removed from her farm for being an annoying squatter? (Seriously, we can’t make this stuff up) She wrote poems about America’s victory in World War I and about her very famous neighbors, the Roosevelt family, particularly President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Emma Victoria Pitkin Marshall was certainly a poet and a character worth remembering.  She was born Emma Victoria Pitkin in Brooklyn in 1866. She moved to Dutchess County in 1896 and purchased a farm in East Park with her uncle, Mr. Albert Simpson. They called their new homestead ‘Pinehenge’ and together they worked from the ground up on harvesting fresh vegetables and producing homemade cheese which was sold at the markets in Poughkeepsie. When she wasn’t working hard in the fields or milking cows, she somehow found time to write poetry. She produced her first pamphlet of poems in 1912 and was inspired to write [...]

The Poet with the Annoying Husband2022-04-08T11:26:09-04:00

April Fool’s Day in Poughkeepsie

April Fool's Day in Poughkeepsie We can probably all agree that today is one of the most annoying days on the calendar. April Fool’s Day is actually older than you’d think. There are references to April 1st being a day of fools that go back to the 12th century. The main goal of the day has always been playing tricks on people and otherwise making them look like fools. Searching through the newspapers, one can easily find tales of interesting pranks over the years, though not all of them worked out quite as planned. On April Fool’s Day in 1894, someone had spread a rumor in the Little Italy district near Dutchess Avenue that workers were needed at the bridge, and within “less than half an hour there were sixty Italians up at the bridge depot looking for work.” That same day, a helpless man who had been walking down Main Street with a large package under his arm did not realize that someone had placed a note on the back of his coat which read, “This man is going on a fool’s errand; that box is empty.” In 1900, someone decided to prank the local fire departments (which is not [...]

April Fool’s Day in Poughkeepsie2022-03-31T14:08:56-04:00

Sadie Peterson Delaney and the Work of Bibliotherapy

Sadie Peterson Delaney and the Work of Bibliotherapy As many of you have heard by now, we are opening a brand new branch on North Hamilton Street right here in Poughkeepsie. The Sadie Peterson Delaney African Roots Library will be located in the former Poughkeepsie High School/Our Lady of Lourdes building, now known as the Family Partnership Center. You might be asking, who exactly is this Sadie? And what in the world is bibliotherapy? Well, have you ever been under a lot of stress, or perhaps you felt depressed, but then you picked up a good book to read and suddenly things just felt better? Well then, you’ve been healed by bibliotherapy, and Sadie Peterson Delaney used that to help our nation’s veterans feel better again.  Sadie Johnson was born in Rochester on February 26th, 1889. She and her family moved to Poughkeepsie, where she studied at Poughkeepsie High School and attended church at Smith AME Zion Church. She wrote poetry and became active in the local women’s suffrage movement in her early 20s. Based on marriage records and newspaper reports, Sadie’s first marriage took place in Poughkeepsie when she was only 16. Unfortunately, this marriage was troubled from the start. [...]

Sadie Peterson Delaney and the Work of Bibliotherapy2024-02-05T12:38:44-05:00

The Famous Smith Brothers (and their famous beards)

The Famous Smith Brothers (and their famous beards) Imagine for a moment that your face is recognized by millions of people all over the country. These people trust the product that you have been producing for years. However, these same customers have been getting your name wrong for the same amount of time that they’ve been buying your product. ‘Trade’ and ‘Mark’ Smith, as they were wrongfully known, were actually brothers William and Andrew Smith. Their recognizable faces just happened to be sitting in the right (or wrong) spots, above the words ‘Trade’ and ‘Mark’ on their famous boxes of cough drops.   A Scottish immigrant by the name of James Smith began a sweet shop here in Poughkeepsie in 1847. His sons, James Jr. and Andrew, joined him in his endeavors and the store became known as James Smith and Sons. The shop was located in a building at # 7 Market Street, with the store being on the first floor and the family living on the second. In the mid 19th century, their business was well-known for their ice cream and confections, but that all changed in 1852. Around that time, it is said that James purchased a recipe [...]

The Famous Smith Brothers (and their famous beards)2023-06-15T13:17:54-04:00

Poughkeepsie Architecture: Academy and Old Ladies’ Home

Poughkeepsie Architecture: Academy and Old Ladies’ Home One of Poughkeepsie’s most distinguished buildings with an equally interesting history is the Vassar-Warner Home, once known as The Old Ladies’ Home. If we go back even further in time, the building also served as one of the first schools in Poughkeepsie, known as the Dutchess Academy. The space seemingly went from teaching the young to comforting the old in the course of almost two centuries. The unmistakable columns and Greek Revival architecture help it to stand out on beautiful South Hamilton Street and it has earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places.  In 1835, this space on the corner of South Hamilton Street and Hooker Avenue was occupied by the Dutchess Academy, which had previously stood at the corner of Academy and Cannon Streets. That school began back in 1792 and was the first private boys' school in Poughkeepsie for many years. Boys from some of Poughkeepsie’s most prominent families were educated there including the Cannons, Van Kleecks, Stockholms, and Barnes, to name a few. The three-story brick building that served as the last location for the school was built in 1835 and would continue to serve until the school [...]

Poughkeepsie Architecture: Academy and Old Ladies’ Home2022-03-11T08:29:05-05:00

Are You Insane? Common Reasons to Be Admitted to the Hudson River State Hospital

Are You Insane? Common Reasons to Be Admitted to the Hudson River State Hospital We can probably all agree that we live in some pretty chaotic times. The past few years have given us everything from a worldwide health crisis, political and racial tensions, to what appears to be another major war overseas. So, it comes as no surprise that folks are feeling stressed; more people are suffering from depression and therapists are in high demand. Thankfully, with advancements in mental health care and medicine, there are many ways to receive treatment and therapy now. A century ago, that wasn't the case. In fact, conversely, there were more reasons to be institutionalized than there were treatments that would result in patients being released.   Curious people searching for patient records from the Hudson River State Hospital mistakenly call us here in the Local History Room all the time, hoping that we might have some juicy records hidden away. While we do have some Annual Reports of the HRSH, these booklets do not contain any patient names or conditions. Some of these reports give lists of reasons why people were being committed. In the list pictured off to the right, we can see [...]

Are You Insane? Common Reasons to Be Admitted to the Hudson River State Hospital2022-03-03T13:29:14-05:00

John Van Benschoten: A Man on Wheels

John Van Benschoten: A Man on Wheels In the time period between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of World War II (less than 75 years), there were a crazy amount of new and life-changing inventions being made available to the public. From the bicycle, to the automobile, to the airplane, the advancements in technology were hard to keep up with: unless you were a visionary man like John Van Benschoten. In order to supply the demands of the modern world you had to be well read on the advancements that were being made in designs, engines, wheels, tires, tools, you name it! For half a century, Mr. Van Benschoten was the man to see if you needed servicing on any of these new machines.  The year was 1889 and a group of very athletic men charged their way down Albany Post Road from Poughkeepsie to Wappingers Falls. Leading the pack was a young man named John Van Benschoten, riding a 58-inch Expert Columbia high-wheeler bicycle (see image of him as an older man with his bike at right). John won that race and would continue to win many others over the course of the next few years. [...]

John Van Benschoten: A Man on Wheels2022-02-25T10:50:42-05:00

Black History is Local History: Theodore and Doris Mack

Black History is Local History: Theodore and Doris Mack As you may have read in one of our previous posts, Historical Views on Racism in Poughkeepsie, segregation and racism has existed here in the State of New York. However, we have also had some incredible people who lived right here in Poughkeepsie, who managed to overcome whatever barriers were put in their way while continuing the fight for Civil Rights. A couple who were raised and married in the South and made their way to Poughkeepsie just after World War II would find themselves on the front lines of it all. Together, they saw some interesting sights, made a difference in their community, and made a powerful friend along the way.  Theodore Lanett Mack was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1920 and was educated in local schools before heading off to college. While attending Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, he ended up pausing his studies to serve in the Navy as a musician during the war. In 1946, after he completed his service, Mack (as everyone called him) married Doris Holloway in Durham, North Carolina. Doris was born in Durham in 1922 and went to college to earn her Bachelor's [...]

Black History is Local History: Theodore and Doris Mack2022-02-17T13:06:07-05:00

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – The Old Post Office

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie - The Old Post Office Those of you who have lived in Poughkeepsie for a long time may remember a stately brick building that once stood on Market Street. Today, the land where this building stood is now a very modern-looking Dutchess County Office Building (home of the DMV and County Clerk offices). If we go back in time to the mid 19th century, there was a famous row of buildings known as Lawyers’ Row. If you happened to find yourself in trouble, you could simply shop for a lawyer conveniently located right next door to the County Courthouse. However, in 1883, this real estate would find a new purpose when the Federal Government decided that this row of old decrepit buildings was the perfect spot for a post office.  On March 23rd, 1883, the lawyers on what was known as “Jewett Block” on the corner of Market and Union streets were all in a flurry as they considered the futures of their dingy office spaces. The Federal Government was in town looking for land to build a new Post Office, and they had their eye on Lawyers’ Row. It's not like this line of [...]

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – The Old Post Office2022-05-11T12:33:29-04:00

“A dark gloomy day for Pokepsie” – The Destruction of the Henry Clay

“A dark gloomy day for Pokepsie” - The Destruction of the Henry Clay You may notice that the word "Poughkeepsie" is misspelled in our title. That is because it was spelled this way in an 1852 diary written by Matthew Vassar Jr., which is located here in our local history collection. He wrote these words to sum up the terrible news that he had just heard on July 31st, that the steamer ship Henry Clay had caught fire and crashed ashore near Yonkers. This year will mark 170 years since the catastrophe, and even though it did not take place near Poughkeepsie, it was certainly felt by many people within the city.  The Henry Clay was built by Thomas Collyer in 1851 and was known as a side-wheel paddle steamer. Her length was just under 200 feet and she (yes, boats are referred to as she/her) had the capacity to carry over 500 passengers and crew. In the 1840s and 50s, it was quite common for steam ships to race each other from New York City to Albany. Since there were many Steamer companies competing, it certainly looked appealing to paying customers if a ship could make the journey in seven [...]

“A dark gloomy day for Pokepsie” – The Destruction of the Henry Clay2022-05-11T12:33:52-04:00

The Gallows Tree: Executions or Legends?

The Gallows Tree: Executions or Legends? In the book “The History of Dutchess County” by James Smith, there is a passage that reads, "on the west side of the road, nearly midway between Kidney's creek and the Fallkill, on the old Thomas Nelson property, now the estate of Mr. Orrin Williams, stood the Gallows Tree." When we think of the term "gallows," we immediately think of people being hanged from a tall branch. The idea that a tree’s single purpose in history was for the hanging of criminals is certainly an ominous thought, but what proof do we have that a certain tree was used by the city of Poughkeepsie to conduct capital punishment? If indeed the tree was used for such things, how long did that go on before someone finally said “it's time to find a better way”?    On the 1799 map of Poughkeepsie in the area of what is now Pulaski Park there is definitely a very clear set of words: “Gallows Tree,” complete with a little drawing of a tree (in case future historians thought that might be the terrible name of someone’s estate or something). So we have concrete proof that there was certainly a tree [...]

The Gallows Tree: Executions or Legends?2022-05-11T12:34:12-04:00

The Poughkeepsie Savings Bank Building

The Poughkeepsie Savings Bank Building In our modern era, where we can do almost anything that needs to be done online, a trip to the bank sometimes feels like a thing of the past. Today if you need to deposit a check, you can take a picture of it with your phone. Or if you want to apply for some kind of loan, you can do that almost entirely online as well. So the idea of getting dressed up and making your way to a grand old building made of marble does have a touch of the old days to it. One of the earliest banking establishments for Poughkeepsie was none other than the Poughkeepsie Savings Bank, and though the institution itself is now a thing of the past, the grand old building is still here and is being repurposed. Originally chartered in 1831, this bank had some of the biggest names in Poughkeepsie’s history serving on the first board of trustees, including Matthew Vassar, Thomas Tallmadge, and William Davies, just to name a few. The first president of the bank was Colonel Henry A. Livingston, not to be confused with the Henry Livingston of “Revolutionary fame,” as Edmund Platt’s “History [...]

The Poughkeepsie Savings Bank Building2022-01-21T09:01:40-05:00

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – The Poughkeepsie Hotel

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie - The Poughkeepsie Hotel Every town that attracts visitors needs someplace for those visitors to stay. Even in Poughkeepsie's humble beginnings, people came into town in order to conduct business. Farmers had to travel from outside of town to buy and sell goods, which would sometimes mean an overnight visit requiring taverns and inns. Right in the center of things, the Poughkeepsie Hotel was one of the oldest and longest lasting hotels that the city ever had. The hotel operated for well over a century and hosted some interesting guests over the course of those years. Today, we only have a few pictures of what once was, but it gives us a glimpse of how the streets of Poughkeepsie have changed. The Poughkeepsie Hotel started off as the Baldwin’s Hotel sometime around 1803, though it is believed that there may have even been a hotel here as early as 1797. It sat on the north side of Main Street and stared directly down Market Street (essentially the top of a ‘T’). In 1804, members of the Republican party purchased the hotel from Robert Williams for the sum of about $9,000 to be used as a [...]

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – The Poughkeepsie Hotel2022-01-14T08:53:54-05:00

Poughkeepsie Architecture: The Poughkeepsie Station

Poughkeepsie Architecture: The Poughkeepsie Station We are quite lucky to live on this particular section of the Hudson River. We are at the center of it all when it comes to getting around. If for some reason you don’t feel like driving, and would much rather sit back and enjoy the scenery, taking the train is one of the best ways to do it. The station that we have in Poughkeepsie is the third station to have been constructed here and the entire area around it has drastically changed over the past 100 years, but the mission remains the same; catch the train on time. The railroad first came into town in 1850 and was known as the Hudson River Railroad in the early years. This was part of a line that stretched from Albany down to New York City. The land between Poughkeepsie and Columbia county along the river’s edge is quite rocky and interestingly, the original plan involved surveying land outside of Poughkeepsie and heading north into the countryside, as far as seven miles away from the river to see if the tracks should take that route instead. However, as we know, that plan was abandoned and the trains [...]

Poughkeepsie Architecture: The Poughkeepsie Station2022-01-07T09:23:21-05:00

Poughkeepsie Architecture: The Cast Iron Building

By Shannon Butler On December 26, 1870, a fire broke out in the saloon that had been operated by George W. Cannon at 301 Main Street. Within moments of the fire’s first sparks, an explosion occurred, sending flames, glass, and smoke almost to the other side of Main Street. The alarm was sounded and the firemen were soon on the scene but the fire was spreading quickly into the next place of business, a drug store operated by Morgan Farnum. What seemed like mere minutes later, the fire moved into the bookstore of Archibald Wilson. The flames ripped through the block so quickly that there was nothing the firemen could do except prevent the fire from crossing Main and Garden streets. The next morning, there was nothing left but a hole in the ground. That block on the corner of Garden and Main Streets, which was made up almost entirely of old wooden buildings, belonged to Mrs. Josephine Pardee (the widow of Enoch Pardee) and she had taken quite a loss. The reports from both the Poughkeepsie Eagle News and the New York Times showed that several of the tenants who owned shops in these buildings had lost a considerable amount [...]

Poughkeepsie Architecture: The Cast Iron Building2024-05-07T10:53:00-04:00
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