The Poughkeepsie Seer – Andrew Jackson Davis

by Shannon Butler Do you ever question why we are really here? What is the meaning of life? (Not the famous Monty Python film, we mean the actual meaning of life!) Have you ever tried to connect with the spirits of those who have passed on? Have you ever been hypnotized? Have you ever just spaced out for a bit and felt like perhaps you've seen the future? Or have you heard voices that seem to come from nowhere that offer you guidance? We could go on and on asking such questions, but who really has the answers that we're all looking for? Historically, many odd characters have come along with claims of great otherworldly powers, and we had one right here in Poughkeepsie who amazed some and irritated others. It didn't take long before he earned the nickname "The Poughkeepsie Seer." Andrew Jackson Davis (not to be confused with the prominent architect Alexander Jackson Davis or landscape architect Andrew Jackson Downing) was born on August 11, 1826 just across the river in Orange County. In his autobiography "The Magic Staff," he remembered (perhaps more than anyone could possibly remember of their childhood) growing up in a fairly poor household with [...]

The Poughkeepsie Seer – Andrew Jackson Davis2023-12-05T11:25:12-05:00

The Poughkeepsie Community Theatre

by Shannon Butler As far as recent memory can serve, there has always been a bit of a separation between Vassar College and its hometown of Poughkeepsie. However, there have always been endeavors that connected the college with the community: for example, the students who created and volunteered at the Lincoln Center many years ago and, more recently, the Poughkeepsie Farm Project. Back in the 1920s, another organization made its way from the Vassar campus into the local community, and the relationship benefited both sides for many years. The Poughkeepsie Community Theatre brought Vassar creations to life with the help of local Poughkeepsians, and it was a beautiful sight. Over a century ago, Gertrude Buck was an English professor at Vassar College, where she worked since 1901. She was considered to be one of the best rhetoricians of her day. By 1916, she was working with her students in a playwriting course, which led to the creation of The Vassar Dramatic Workshop. There was no drama department on campus at the time, so this workshop provided the first chance for students to write, produce, and act in their very own creations. Buck, who lived off-campus in a house on Market Street, [...]

The Poughkeepsie Community Theatre2023-10-19T15:38:59-04:00

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – Putnam Hall School

by Shannon Butler As we have mentioned in previous blog entries, Poughkeepsie was once known as "the City of Schools." There were lots of schools around the area that are now simply lost to time. We will go into these schools in an upcoming program in August entitled "Local History Presents: Schools and Seminaries of Old Poughkeepsie." Brooks Seminary for Girls began right around the same time as Vassar College in 1871. It was located where Bartlett Park is today, exactly where a parking lot now sits! The school was originally started by Mary Johnson, and when she married her husband, Edward White, the two built a large building on the corner of Hanscum Avenue and what is now Hooker Avenue. In one of the school's brochures, it proclaimed "Brooks Seminary is located at Poughkeepsie New York, justly styled the City of Schools." The brochure went on to proclaim that the grounds and the building were fit for "any gentleman’s mansion." When one entered the school, you would find not a principal's office, but a fancy parlor, just like one would find inside a mansion, and art on the walls created by the female professors. The school claimed that they did [...]

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – Putnam Hall School2024-05-10T12:09:40-04:00

The Poughkeepsie Yacht Club

by Shannon Butler The weather is steadily improving, making the river look more and more appealing. If you have even been sailing, you know how lovely it can be and how it almost transports you back in time. If we go back to the early days of New York, sailing was the fastest way to get from one place to another along the Hudson River and it was the main source of transportation of just about all materials. Today, we certainly have faster ways of getting goods and people around, so for the most part, sailing is a hobby for most and a passion for a few. In 1892, a few workers from Poughkeepsie were sailing a sloop named Beatrice when they decided to create a club that focused solely on the sailing of yachts. During this particular river outing, the Poughkeepsie Yacht Club was born. Within months of creating their club, the men established themselves on a dock that was owned by the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, which they leased for $25 a year. They built the first clubhouse near the site of what was once a shipyard during the American Revolution. Races and regattas were becoming [...]

The Poughkeepsie Yacht Club2024-05-10T12:04:38-04:00

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – 140 Academy Street

by Shannon Butler For those of you who missed our recent program on historic houses of the Hudson Valley: fear not! You can find it on our YouTube page, along with many of our other programs and documentaries. For this week's local history blog, we will discuss one of the houses from the talk that has been lost to history. When we first came across this unmarked photograph in our collection, we didn't think that it was from Poughkeepsie at all. It looked like something out of an English countryside. But as it turns out, this house once stood alongside the other great and unique houses that line Academy Street. This estate started out as the home of New York Supreme Court Justice Joseph F. Barnard. Joseph was born in 1823 on a farm just north of Poughkeepsie. His father had been a whaler in Nantucket, but came to the Hudson Valley in the early 1800s. By 1836, his father sold the farm and moved the family into the City of Poughkeepsie, where they lived at #47 Cannon Street. Joseph prepared for college at the Dutchess County Academy and went on to graduate from Yale in 1841. He was admitted to [...]

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – 140 Academy Street2024-05-10T12:02:39-04:00

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – Glen Eden School

by Shannon Butler As you might have read in previous blog entries, lots of interesting buildings that once stood in Poughkeepsie have now been lost to time. You are most likely also aware of the fact that Poughkeepsie had several schools and seminaries. (Heads up: we'll run a program about that later on this year, stay tuned!) Just a few weeks ago, we looked at the Lyndon Hall School for Girls. This week, we will examine yet another: the Glen Eden School. Dr. Frederic Martin Townsend served as a principal for a school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and wanted to continue his work under the auspices of the Episcopal church. He made his way into Poughkeepsie, where he expressed interest in purchasing Miss Eleanor Shackleford's school known as St. Faith's School. Miss Shackleford had transformed the mansion of John F. Hume, which was located on Washington Street, into a school back in 1904. By 1910, Townsend came in with his own idea for a school which he called the Glen Eden School. As with many of the local girls' schools, this institution was designed to serve as part finishing school and part college prep. The school offered classes in the major languages [...]

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – Glen Eden School2024-05-10T12:01:06-04:00

Poughkeepsie Architecture: The New York State Armory

by Shannon Butler We've all driven or walked past it: a giant red castle that appears on top of the hill as you enter the city of Poughkeepsie from the west. It looks like something from another century, and like many of the old buildings of Poughkeepsie, it is! The New York State Armory was once the starting point for soldiers who were heading off to war. Over a century after its construction, it now serves as a place of worship, but the building has witnessed and hosted various occasions over the years, from sporting events to parties. The armory, as author Nancy Todd put it, "had three basic functions, they served as military facilities, clubhouses, and public monuments." Ours has gone on to do even more. The building was designed by Isaac G. Perry, who had quite the resume when it came to New York State architecture. Perry would ultimately be responsible for designing 27 armories, as well as the State Capitol in Albany. When it comes to State armories, they all tend to have a similar design: part drilling shed (where the soldiers do drills) and part administrative offices (where the paperwork gets done). They are meant to appear [...]

Poughkeepsie Architecture: The New York State Armory2024-05-10T12:00:03-04:00

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – The Pringle Home

by Shannon Butler This week, we investigate the Pringle Home as we continue to look at interesting buildings of Poughkeepsie that are no longer standing. Before we begin, let' s answer the thought that just popped into some of your minds by saying: no, it's not the home of the delicious potato chips (disappointing, we know). Actually, it has a much more sentimental value than a tasty sour cream and onion crisp. The home was the creation of a trio of loving siblings. They were devoted to each other and to the idea that men in their elder years should be able to retire in peace, comfort, and dignity. So began the story of "The Pringle Home for Aged Literary Men." Margaret, Samuel, and Mulligan Pringle all lived in New York City in the early 1800s. Margaret married David Fenton and the two had no children; they lived a very frugal life in Greenwich Village, surrounded by writers, artists, and musicians. Her brothers both worked hard in their lives and neither ever married or produced any children. When her brother Mulligan retired in his later years, he had no place in which to grow old, no one to care for him, [...]

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – The Pringle Home2024-05-10T11:56:52-04:00

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – Lincoln Center

by Shannon Butler How many of you remember spending a day at Lincoln Center? Perhaps you enjoyed playing basketball or cooling off in the wading pool? Did you attend any classes in woodworking or weaving? Or maybe you joined up with the drum corps or rhythm band? The south side of Poughkeepsie was quite fortunate to have a place where kids could go to learn, play, and connect with their community in a positive way. For over 40 years, Lincoln Center was a place that felt like home to many, and it inspired the young people of Poughkeepsie to be better and to do good works. The idea for such a place started off with the desire for students and staff at Vassar College to become more engaged with the community. It was 1917 when a group of students first created a play group for local children. The timing was right, as there was certainly a need for a safe place for children to be and the poor side of Poughkeepsie began to become more obvious and more defined. Within a year of its creation, the flu epidemic broke out and Lincoln Center (which was then renting a small space on [...]

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – Lincoln Center2024-05-10T11:53:48-04:00

Art in Poughkeepsie: The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

by Shannon Butler If you’re like us, you have seriously missed going out to museums and art galleries. However, things are slowly beginning to open up and we have a fabulous teaching museum/art gallery right here in Poughkeepsie that will both inspire and educate at the same time. They even have a wonderful new exhibit which showcases women in the world of art. “Women Picturing Women'' is currently on view at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, from now until June 13th, and as you may have read in a previous blog post, the gallery has a truly great history of collecting some amazing art. The museum began when Matthew Vassar purchased a massive collection from the Rev. Elias Magoon, in the 1860s. This collection focused on the works of the Hudson River School artists like Frederic Church and Asher Durand. This was long before the Metropolitan Museum opened its doors (which was in 1880, by the way). In the report of the committee on the art gallery made in 1864, Rev. Magoon, who served as the chairman of the committee wrote, "Art is diviner than science; the latter discovers, this creates." He went on to explain the [...]

Art in Poughkeepsie: The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center2024-05-10T11:29:38-04:00

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – Lyndon Hall School

by Shannon Butler Long before the opening of Vassar College, there existed a desire to educate young ladies in the city of Poughkeepsie. As a matter of fact, several schools popped up in the mid-19th century that strongly encouraged a proper education for girls. They included the Poughkeepsie Female Academy, located on Cannon Street, the Mansion Square Female Seminary, and the College Hill Female Seminary. The school we wish to examine today went by a few different names, but lasted longer than the others: the Poughkeepsie Female Collegiate Institute, a.k.a. Cook's Collegiate, a.k.a. Lyndon Hall School. The year was 1848, and small schools had been popping up all over Poughkeepsie. Dr. Charles H.P. McLellan was in the midst of creating a school dedicated to giving young ladies the knowledge to establish themselves as housewives or teachers (which were pretty much the only choices for females in the 19th century). McLellan wanted to create a school that was small and selective, with room enough for some students to live, but also able to cater to those who could commute. The school was located on the corner of Catharine and Mill Streets. It began as a small brick building, which opened in 1849. [...]

No Longer Standing: Buildings of Poughkeepsie – Lyndon Hall School2024-05-06T15:44:47-04:00

John Burroughs: A Hudson Valley Essayist

by Shannon Butler When the weather starts to warm up (like it seems to be doing right now), we head outdoors. We search for a trail to hike, a stream to fish, or a forest to watch for wildlife. It helps bring us back to life. There is something about the warmth of the sun in the wilderness that refreshes all of the senses. Nobody understood this better than John Burroughs, a 19th century essayist and a Hudson Valley native. Burroughs wrote over 25 books on topics ranging from nature to religion to camping with Theodore Roosevelt! His writing still continues to inspire us today, almost exactly 100 years after his death on March 29, 1921. John Burroughs was born in the Catskills near Roxbury, New York in 1837. It was to this modest farm that he attributed his love of nature. He began his career as a teacher before he published his first piece of writing in the Atlantic Monthly in 1860. By 1864, he found a job at the U.S. Treasury in Washington, D.C. and continued to write from his office there, but his cramped office in the Capitol was nothing like the freedom of the Catskills. In 1873, [...]

John Burroughs: A Hudson Valley Essayist2023-10-19T14:59:41-04:00

What’s in a Name? – Dutchess County

by Shannon Butler Ever wonder how we got the name Dutchess County? It would seem like it has something to do with all of those Dutch settlers based on the way it's spelled. However, as history would have it, the county, along with all of the original counties of New York, was named for the House of Stuart in the 17th century. All the way back in 1683, the legislative assembly of the Province of New York passed an act to divide the land into counties with names like Ulster, Albany, Orange, and of course the county that we are now located in "The Dutchess's County," now simply known as Dutchess County. Though they added a ‘T’ to Duchess in the original spelling (which we haven’t changed) the county was named in the honor of Mary Beatrice d’Este (aka, the Duchess of York, and later Queen Consort of England, Scotland, and Ireland). But why is this area named for someone who never even set foot here? Well, if you look closely at American History, it's quite common to see this. Many of the names of the colonies, like Virginia, named for the Virgin Queen Elizabeth (never visited), or Maryland named for [...]

What’s in a Name? – Dutchess County2023-12-28T15:17:00-05:00

Famous Local History Ladies: Madam Brett

by Shannon Butler “Who run the world? Girls!” as Queen Beyonce says, and who ran things in southern Dutchess county from 1709 until her death in 1764? Why, none other than Catheryna Rombout Brett. Her legacy and her home have stood the test of time, and it's hard to find someone in the Fishkill/Beacon area who doesn’t know that name. But do you really know who Madam Brett was? We don’t have a picture or a painting of her, but she left her mark all over the place. We know she was smart, business savvy, and she certainly must have been brave. We know that she spoke Dutch and English, as her writing tends to be a mix of the two. Let’s take a closer look at one of the area’s famous local history ladies. Most of Dutchess County was wilderness in the late 1600s, but a prosperous man by the name of Frances Rombout (along with two other partners) had managed to purchase a large chunk of land from a local Native American tribe, the Wappingers (about $1,250 for 85,000 acres, which is much more than the so-called $24 for Manhattan). Rumbout did well in trading and political ventures, serving [...]

Famous Local History Ladies: Madam Brett2023-10-19T14:58:18-04:00

An Actress in the Pest House

by Shannon Butler Nobody wants to be considered a pest, especially when your vocation is actually to entertain people with your talent for drama. So when a young actress found herself in the local “pest house” in 1895, newspapers made quite a fuss, and so did local authorities. First, we must determine what exactly a pest house is. To be clear, a pest house is not someplace to store an annoying neighbor or other random individuals. In fact, pest houses were a sign of humans beginning to understand infectious diseases and the need for proper quarantines. Here in Poughkeepsie, there was a pest house on the grounds of Vassar Hospital, where individuals diagnosed with infectious things like cholera or tuberculosis would be placed. 9 year-old actress Lillian Graham was part of the Uncle Tom’s Cabin Company, a traveling troupe performing the famous story in the 1890s. She played the role of Little Eva and was considered to be quite talented. Her mother had been traveling and performing with her, but she suddenly became ill and was left behind in Chicago to recover. When the company arrived in Poughkeepsie, Lillian complained of a sore throat which gradually got worse. Another female member [...]

An Actress in the Pest House2023-10-19T14:57:44-04:00

John Sickley: War Time Librarian

by Shannon Butler We all know the importance of having literary skills. Being able to read for both knowledge and pleasure is essential in our everyday lives. Sometimes, having a good novel to read is the greatest tool for opening our minds and imaginations, and escaping from the real world for a while. Libraries are the best places to go to satisfy our need for books, especially in tough times. In 1918, nobody understood the need for reading better than the head librarian for the City of Poughkeepsie, John Sickley. Sickley was originally born in New Jersey in 1850 and was the great-grandson of John Bradbury, a famous English botanist and travel writer. By 1870, Sickley and his mother had moved to Poughkeepsie. He graduated from Poughkeepsie High School in 1873 as valedictorian and went on to study law under Judge Nelson. Within a few years, he was admitted to the bar, but it soon became clear that he preferred the work of a librarian more than the work of the law. So in January of 1884, Sickley was appointed the librarian of what was essentially a fairly new collection. It was only a few years before, in 1881, when the [...]

John Sickley: War Time Librarian2024-05-06T15:17:50-04:00

The Blizzard of 1888

by Shannon Butler Have we had enough snow yet? It's only February, after all, but it does feel as if it wants to snow just a little bit everyday. We do have plenty of time left in our winter season for a storm to wreak havoc across our valley. Hopefully, it won’t be like the deadly blizzard of 1888. When it comes to which snowstorm is the deadliest on record, most people agree that it's the famous "Great White Hurricane of '88." In fact, if you Google the phrase "worst snowstorms in history," this one is on every list! Poughkeepsie certainly felt the power of this storm, so much so that it would be talked about for generations to come. (Hey, we’re talking about it right now!) The Blizzard of 1888 had everything that you could possibly hate about a snowstorm. Bone-chilling temperatures, hurricane-force winds, several inches of snow dropping per hour, and it raged on for about a day and a half. To make matters worse, there were no warning systems to speak of in 1888 (no radar or AccuWeather maps). Just a few days before the storm began, it had been mild and rainy. For mid-March, that would lead [...]

The Blizzard of 18882024-05-06T15:16:58-04:00

The Slow Death of Segregation in Poughkeepsie Schools

by Shannon Butler If you are a parent, then you know just how important it is that your child receives a proper education. Many parents are struggling right now with their children doing classwork from home, or limited schooling altogether. But what if you lived in a time or place where you child might be turned away from a good school, just because of the color of their skin? It should be noted that it wasn’t all that long ago that such concerns existed, and one parent, right here in Poughkeepsie, decided to do something about it. Joseph Rhodes made a good deal of money in his business of textile dyeing. It was estimated that he had an estate valued around $3,000 in the 1870s. He became a respected businessman within the city of Poughkeepsie as well as Middletown, where he extended his business. Joseph lived in a time when schools were still separated based on color; in fact, Joseph was born when the idea that blacks should be educated at all, in their own schools, was just coming into common practice. By the time he became successful, he joined the conversation of equality when it came to voting rights and [...]

The Slow Death of Segregation in Poughkeepsie Schools2024-05-06T15:15:47-04:00

Sailing on Ice

by Shannon Butler Do you ever head outside for a walk this time of the year and think to yourself, "Why do I live someplace where the air hurts my face?" You just want to quickly head back inside, live like a bear, and hibernate under some blankets until spring. The past few days have certainly given us some chills, but that’s all part of living in the Hudson Valley (and we still have February and March to get through). However, this time of year, when the snow piles up and bodies of water freeze over, some people get super excited at the notion of going outside and being sporty. One of the top winter sports in the 1800s (particularly if you were wealthy) was the fast-paced world of ice yachting. If you have never seen it before, just picture the top part of a sailboat (mast, mainsail, and jib), remove the bottom part (the hull), and replace it with a slab of wood on some ice skates (there are probably more technical terms for this, but you get it). Here in Dutchess County, there were several clubs dedicated to the idea of getting out on the ice and catching a [...]

Sailing on Ice2024-05-06T15:12:36-04:00

Whaling in Poughkeepsie

by Shannon Butler Everyone gets excited when they hear mention of a whale spotted swimming up the Hudson River. It doesn’t happen that frequently since the river is a mix of freshwater and salty ocean water. The salt line generally moves between Newburgh and Poughkeepsie, depending on things like the seasons, weather, and snowmelt. So when you read a title like "Whaling in Poughkeepsie," it makes one wonder: just how many whales did they catch around here? Well, none, actually. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, whaling was a big business, and one could easily find several ships on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans from major ports all over the world. Whale oil was used for making soaps, paints, textiles, and fuel for lamplight, while whale bones were used in the fashion world for things like hoop skirts and corsets. The major ports in the U.S. that saw the most action, and therefore the most profit, were places like New Bedford and Nantucket, Massachusetts, and New London, Connecticut. Those places were also home to the most experienced sailors and whalers. The idea of a place like Poughkeepsie (where the economy was mainly focused on agricultural goods) becoming a major whaling [...]

Whaling in Poughkeepsie2024-05-06T15:05:19-04:00

The Doctor Who Loved Baseball

by Shannon Butler It may be a little cold to think about baseball, but last night the classic film A League of Their Own was on TV, so why not? It reminded us of some photos that we have in our collections of the Riverview Baseball team from the 1890s (see image on right). Of course, it is very common to see organized teams of men in sports in the 19th century, but it is much rarer to see images of women, especially in baseball, from that time. It was even more rare to see a woman so concerned with women's place in baseball (but we’ve got a few pictures of her too!). Helen Worthing was born in Boston in 1837, and after studying at the New England Female Medical College, she became a doctor by the age of 25, one of the first female doctors. She ended up serving during the American Civil War, which is when she met and married another doctor, William Webster. Dr. Helen Webster eventually made her way to Poughkeepsie, where she was asked to serve as the Resident Physician and Professor of Physiology and Hygiene at Vassar College in 1874 (check out the images of [...]

The Doctor Who Loved Baseball2024-05-06T15:00:26-04:00

Vail Brothers

by Shannon Butler This week’s blog post is basically a cheap advertisement for our upcoming virtual program, "Local History Discussion: Vail Photography Studios." For several months now, we've been working on transcribing the ledgers that once belonged to the Vail Brothers studios. In that time, we learned the identities of well over 7,000 people in our collection of Vail photographs. Every once in a while, we got the urge to look into some of these individuals in order to learn something about their lives. (Oh, the rabbit holes!) On Wednesday January 13, beginning at 7:00 PM, we will dive into some of the stories we have uncovered. Some of them you've read about in previous blog posts, and some are brand new! We will cover the history of the company, which began in 1868 and ran until 1900, right on Main Street in Poughkeepsie. They photographed everyone, from the wealthy to traveling hobos, from incoming college students to Vassar professors. We are going to share with you some of the faces of the past, some of which we still haven’t been able to identify, but these faces are still fascinating to look at and it’s fun to ponder what was going [...]

Vail Brothers2024-05-06T14:58:22-04:00

Happy New Year’s!

by Shannon Butler Most of us have come to the conclusion that 2020 was a year for the books. For some of us, that book would be in the genre of horror, tragedy, and maybe even dystopian? Either way, the history books that will eventually be written about this year will be mostly hard to read. So we are all looking forward (perhaps nervously) to the new year and what possibilities 2021 might bring. Most of the celebrations for the coming of the new year are going to be cut-down versions of their former selves. So how have we celebrated New Year's Eve in the past? Big parties, dances, dinners, and a bit of drinking, right? As seen by the two newspaper articles on the right, it was a wild night on December 31, 1921, when everyone welcomed the new year here in Poughkeepsie. There were parties at various clubs, restaurants, theaters, and private gatherings. It should be noted that in 1921, the U.S. witnessed the beginning of the Prohibition era. This means that when people did manage to get their hands on some liquor, it was both illegal and not necessarily safe for consumption. Both of these articles are on [...]

Happy New Year’s!2024-05-06T14:49:15-04:00

Deck the Halls: Early Christmas Photos

by Shannon Butler It’s that time of year again, folks. Of course, this year has certainly been one for the books. It will be interesting to see what future historians have to say about the things we've done, or didn’t do. Some of our holiday traditions (like big family gatherings) will be put on hold for the sake of our own heath. However, there is one thing we can do (and clearly many of us have done) that will bring us some holiday cheer, and that is... decorating! Are you one of the many who decided to learn how to bake while on quarantine? Maybe you got super fancy with the sugar cookie designs? Or perhaps you decided to learn how to make your own ornaments, or take some extra time to wrap things up in order to make them look super pretty? Did you finally master the art of making a gingerbread house? Where does the desire to deck the halls and Christmas trees in our living room come from? It can be argued that the trend setter for this was none other than Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who first showcased their decorated tree in 1848. At first, decorations [...]

Deck the Halls: Early Christmas Photos2024-05-06T14:45:23-04:00

The Poughkeepsie Orphan House and Home for the Friendless

by Shannon Butler Growing up in the 19th century could be tough if your family didn’t have any money. It was even harder for those children who lost their parents either through death or just plain old abandonment. Before 1850, there was almost no place for an orphan to go to for safety, shelter, and food. Generally, they would end up in an almshouse (also known as the poorhouse) with adults who had also fallen on hard times. Ending up in a poorhouse meant no schooling or any kind of a proper education, at least until a group of concerned well-to-do women from the area decided to create an institution to house and care for children and homeless women (a.k.a. the friendless). It was in January of 1847 when a group of women - including local names like Adriance, Wilkinson, and Bartlett - got together and formed a society known as the Female Guardian Society. Their goal was to house, feed, educate, and care for children and women who were destitute. There was no real money to work with at first, other than what the ladies managed to contribute through donations, which remained the main source of income throughout their work. [...]

The Poughkeepsie Orphan House and Home for the Friendless2023-10-19T14:51:18-04:00

Benson Lossing: American History Nerd

by Shannon Butler If you've been reading this blog since the beginning, you know that when we use the term "History Nerd," we mean it with the highest possible respect. To be a true history nerd, you must love the study of history. You read about it all the time, you brake for historic site signs along the road, you partake in watching documentaries on TV (love me some Ken Burns!), you might even volunteer some of your time and/or money to a local historical society. One of the area’s earliest history nerds would go on to become a nationally known historian and illustrator, a man of many talents: Benson John Lossing. Lossing was born in Beekman in 1813 and was orphaned at a young age. He did not receive much of a formal education (unlike modern-day historians), but instead, he was a quick learner and eager to take on different projects and skills. At the age of 13, he made his way to Poughkeepsie and began an apprenticeship with Adam Henderson making jewelry and watches. He entered into a partnership with Henderson within a few years. He then moved on to the printing business under the guidance of E.B. Killey, [...]

Benson Lossing: American History Nerd2023-10-19T14:50:40-04:00

The Whitehouse Factory and Saga

by Shannon Butler Historians have a habit of randomly researching something that sparks our interest. You discover something you didn’t know and soon find yourself going down a rabbit hole, searching for clues that give us answers which only lead to more questions, and finding lots of dead-ends. This leads us to this week’s Local History Blog post and a maddening series of discoveries and mysteries (ah! the joys of being a historian). Walking down Main Street in Poughkeepsie today, one would never know that a massive factory once stood on the northeast corner of Main and Cherry Street. Well over a century ago, the building you see on the right (image from the collection of the Library of Congress) was the workplace of over 400 men, and almost everyone in the city would own a pair of shoes or boots made by J.O. Whitehouse and Company. John Osborne Whitehouse was born in Rochester New Hampshire in 1817 and worked on a modest farm until he was 18 years old. He then made his way into Brooklyn to begin his business career and he appears to have succeeded rather quickly. By the early 1860s he began the firm of J.O. Whitehouse [...]

The Whitehouse Factory and Saga2024-05-06T14:42:59-04:00

Exploring Old Cookbooks

by Shannon Butler Do you enjoy cooking and baking? Are you getting ready to make some old favorites for Thanksgiving? Or are you looking to try something new this year? Many of us are rethinking the way we celebrate this old holiday in a new way because, well... 2020 (need we say more?). Here in the Local History room, we decided to dig into some of our collections of cookbooks and menus to see if we could find some inspiration. The cookbooks that we have stretch back to the early 19th century and some of the recipes sound quite familiar, while others have fallen out of fashion. Typical items on a Thanksgiving menu included turkey or ham, potatoes, green beans, rolls, and pies. The first menu on the right from the book Recipes of Yesteryear, compiled by the Antique Study Club of Poughkeepsie, shows a pretty standard Thanksgiving in the early 20th century. Flipping through a cookbook from 1913 published by the Ladies Aid Society of the First Baptist Church of Poughkeepsie, we find how to properly roast a turkey and a recipe for Oyster Dressing (see right). Interested in trying something new (but actually old?). In our collection is the [...]

Exploring Old Cookbooks2024-05-06T14:40:32-04:00
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