From Collingwood to Bardavon: Poughkeepsie’s First Theater

by Shannon Butler Is it safe to say that we all miss going out to the theater? Whether it's going to see the latest blockbuster adventure film or that big hit musical, we are all looking forward to the day when we can buy a ticket to some sort of show. Americans have enjoyed the theater since the first one popped up in Philadelphia in 1809 (there were certainly plays being performed before that, but the Walnut Street Theater is the oldest structure meant for just that purpose). Here in Poughkeepsie, we have one of the longest running theaters in the country and the oldest continuously run theater in New York State. The Bardavon 1869 Opera House, once known as the Collingwood Theater, has a long history with some pretty famous performers in attendance. The Collingwood was originally the idea of Mr. James Collingwood, a Poughkeepsie merchant who made a good deal of wealth in the businesses of coal and lumber. The theater came of age when Poughkeepsie itself was in the process of morphing into a major hub for cultural activities. As most of us know, Poughkeepsie would soon be the home of several industries, as well as some prominent [...]

From Collingwood to Bardavon: Poughkeepsie’s First Theater2024-05-06T14:35:56-04:00

The Mid-Hudson Bridge – 90 Years of Crossing the Hudson

by Shannon Butler It's 8:30 AM, and you are trying to merge into the bottleneck that makes up the eastbound side of the Mid-Hudson Bridge. From the toll booths of four lanes, you manage to make your way into one of the two lanes that are open for the morning rush hour into Poughkeepsie. But along the way, you may find yourself saying things like, “Where did you learn to drive?” or “Get out of the way, grandpa!” or “It’s the pedal on the right!” You get the picture. When we are stuck in traffic in the middle of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Bridge, do we ever take the time to consider its history? The bridge is 90 years old, after all, and its construction is a work of considerable ingenuity. Even as automobiles became popular in the early 1900s, there were no bridge crossings over the Hudson between Manhattan and Albany, though there had always been a desire for such a project. In 1888, the Poughkeepsie Railroad bridge was finally completed, but it quickly became clear that this would not be used by the public, only for train crossings. As early as 1913, there were efforts led by politicians as [...]

The Mid-Hudson Bridge – 90 Years of Crossing the Hudson2023-10-19T14:46:40-04:00

Adriance, Platt, and Company

by Shannon Butler In the mid-19th century, the Adriance family rose to prominence with their mowing and farming tools business. Reapers and mowers made this family one of the wealthiest in all of Poughkeepsie. It all started with John Adriance Sr., who dabbled in everything from the Dutchess Iron Works, to jewelry sales, to working on a mowing machine called the “Forbush.” He did well for himself, but it was his son’s strong sense of business and his ability to see a good idea (and buy up the patents for it) that made the family truly wealthy. John P. Adriance was born in Poughkeepsie in 1825 and educated locally. First, he attended the Dutchess Academy, located at the time on the site of what is now the Vassar-Warner Home on the corner of South Hamilton and Hooker Avenue. Afterward, he attended the Poughkeepsie Collegiate School on College Hill. He started as a young clerk at Storm and Uhl’s hardware store, where he learned the art of running a business as well as understanding the needs of industrialists and farmers alike. Within a few years, he made his way down to New York City, where he became part of Sears, Adriance, and [...]

Adriance, Platt, and Company2023-10-19T14:45:54-04:00

Happy Halloween!

by Shannon Butler Halloween has become one of the most popular holidays on our calendar. Regardless of the pandemic, Americans are still forging ahead, finding new ways to celebrate an old Celtic tradition. As a nation, we still plan on spending a lot of money (only slightly less than we did before the era of Covid), about 8 billion dollars between the candy, the decorations, and the costumes (that’s more than twice the amount of the yearly budget for the National Park Service, just to give you an idea). We spend almost half a million dollars on costumes just for our pets (guilty). As a lover of Halloween, I personally added another $25 to my budget this year for materials to construct a candy chute on my front porch. This will help with the practice of social distancing for anyone who ventures out for trick or treating. Back at the turn of the last century, there were a lot more tricks going on than treats. If you look through the local newspapers in the 1890s and early 1900s, you will find that most of the articles about Halloween are concerning the local parties and pranks from the younger generations. In 1883 [...]

Happy Halloween!2024-05-06T14:34:03-04:00

Christ Church – Poughkeepsie

by Shannon Butler Step back in time for a moment to the 1750s. Poughkeepsie is a rather small village with only a few streets, but it is growing quickly. In this early time there was a Dutch Reformed church and a Quaker meeting house. It would seem that there was a desire from several English speaking residents in the area to establish a congregation on behalf of the Church of England. That is what the Reverend Samuel Seabury (Sr.) said as he traveled by horseback from Long Island into the Dutchess County area in 1755. He was a missionary who baptized several people along the way and wrote down his thoughts on the need for a church somewhere around Poughkeepsie or Fishkill. Though he had his own church to keep watch over in Hempstead Long Island, it does make one wonder what called him on such a long and rigorous journey? He traveled into Dutchess County several times over the next 7 years and preached in private homes in Poughkeepsie and Fishkill. During each visit, he continued to expand the population of baptized members for the Church of England, but never got around to building the foundations of a physical house [...]

Christ Church – Poughkeepsie2024-05-06T14:32:24-04:00

Bowne Memorial Hospital

by Shannon Butler Living in this Covid era, we are all concerned with sickness and health, perhaps more than usual. So let us take a moment to look at a hospital that has been somewhat forgotten, though it has been repurposed for educational pursuits: the Bowne Memorial Hospital. At the turn of the 20th century, there was another health concern that had no cure, and was transmitted through droplets. This disease was known as Tuberculosis (or if you want the romantic Victorian term, Consumption). Patients with TB who went untreated had a 50% chance of dying within several years of contraction. People tended to avoid those with TB, and there was certainly a need for places to house these patients while continuing to work on therapy and finding a cure. Samuel W. Bowne was a merchant and chemist from New York City, and by the late 19th century, he had managed to make a good deal of money selling Scott’s Emulsion, which was said to help the immune system, amongst other things. When Bowne died in 1910, his wife Nettie wanted to find a cause to contribute some of her husband’s wealth to. Nettie found inspiration from her cousin, prominent member [...]

Bowne Memorial Hospital2024-05-06T14:31:22-04:00

The American Fiat – Built in Poughkeepsie

by Shannon Butler Can you imagine a time in Poughkeepsie when you were more likely to see a horse and carriage go by than a car? That was the case at the turn of the 20th century. Buying an automobile was mostly reserved for the super wealthy, and even many of those individuals were reluctant to move onto the horseless carriage. However, by the early 1900s, a small group of Americans were interested in bringing the automobile to our town. Not just any car, but “The Master Car,” an Italian car, which would somehow be made into something distinctly American, The Fiat. In June of 1909, officials from the Fiat company were looking at property in Poughkeepsie to build their factory. The president of this American venture, Ben J. Eichberg, had been a diamond merchant and he had every intention of catering to the same sort of people who spent money on diamonds (the cheapest American Fiat ever listed was the 1914 Light Thirty at $3,600, that's about $92,000 today). The rest of the team was made up of men who knew a thing or two about cars, but they were certainly all American. “A royalty was paid to Fiat in [...]

The American Fiat – Built in Poughkeepsie2024-05-06T14:30:41-04:00

Dr. Clarence O. Cheney

by Shannon Butler Over the past few months all of us have watched with great interest as day by day bits and pieces of the Cheney Memorial Building at the Hudson River State Hospital came crashing to the ground. Clouds of smoke, piles of brick, and chunks of steel mixing together in a massive mess that has now all but disappeared from our landscape. The building took two years to complete, cost over $9 million in construction costs, and stood for less than 70 years. So now that it’s gone and new creations are forming in its wake, let us take a look at the man the building was named for, Dr. Clarence O. Cheney. Cheney was born right here in Poughkeepsie on July 10th 1887. His father Albert O. Cheney had served in the 5th New York Infantry during the Civil War and later established a grocery on Main Street here in Poughkeepsie. His mother, Caroline was from the Adriance family and they lived at no. 88 Garden street. Cheney was educated in local schools including Poughkeepsie High School where he served as the Class President for the class of 03’ and then he headed off to Columbia University. He [...]

Dr. Clarence O. Cheney2024-04-19T12:26:44-04:00

Suffrage Meetings in Poughkeepsie

by Shannon Butler This year (and we can all agree, it has been one heck of a year) we are called to perform our civic duty, and that is to vote! The Presidential election of 2020 may be one of the most important elections in recent history and we all need to get out there and do our part. Imagine, for a moment, that you were ready and willing to head out to vote, but you were barred from voting because you are a woman. Of course we know, this is not some imaginary tale, but in fact it is a major part of our history. For most of this country’s history, women were not allowed to vote, or really even interfere with politics. In fact, as of this year (2020) it has only been 100 years that women have been allowed to vote, and our country is much older than that! One of the organizations that was spreading the news about women’s suffrage was The Equal Suffrage League. In the early 1900s, the ESL had several important meetings right here in Poughkeepsie to discuss the efforts made by various women and the work that was still needed to win the [...]

Suffrage Meetings in Poughkeepsie2024-04-19T12:26:10-04:00

Hidden Mansions: Pelton/Hill House

by Shannon Butler Once in a while a historic house will suddenly pop up in the news and remind us all of just how much history we have in Dutchess County and right here in Poughkeepsie. There have been recent debates and discussions as to what should be done with the old house and grounds at Wheaton Park. There are plans for building several units for apartments that would have easy access to the train station. Even talk of keeping the old mansion and renovating it to also serve as housing. But what was the original use of this property? And what other purposes did it serve? What we now know as Wheaton Park today was once the formal grounds and mansion of the Pelton Family. Built around 1860, this home was lived in by brothers Charles and George Pelton. It sits high on a hill just across the Fallkill creek where their factory was located. The brothers operated their factory on Mill street that produced carpets and pins (the factory still stands today!). They did quite well for themselves despite suffering a massive fire in their factory in 1854 (seen in a newspaper article to the right). During the Civil [...]

Hidden Mansions: Pelton/Hill House2024-04-19T12:23:59-04:00

George Clinton’s Home

by Shannon Butler Everyone in the Hudson Valley has heard the name George Clinton (and no, I am not talking about the King of funk, sorry.) I mean the longest serving Governor of the State of New York (serving just under 21 years) and the Vice President of the United States under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. I mean the Revolutionary War General and one of the true Founding Fathers of our State and Nation. This George Clinton lived right here in Poughkeepsie, though there still seems to be some confusion over where his house actually was. Clinton was born on July 26, 1739, just across the river in Little Britain, what is now part of Orange County. By the time he was 18 he found himself doing a bit of privateering during the French and Indian War and later became a surveyor. In 1759 he became the County Clerk for Ulster County while studying law in New York City. By the 1760s he was learning the ropes of the General Assembly but also listening to the whispers of anti-Crown propaganda as many of his countrymen were growing tired of the King’s burdens on the colonies. After marrying Cornelia Tappen, he [...]

George Clinton’s Home2024-04-19T12:07:05-04:00

The Artist of the First PHOIS

by Shannon Butler The very first yearbook for the Poughkeepsie High School, known as “PHOIS” was produced in 1909. The students who created it were sure to inform the readers that this was the first of its kind in the preface, “In preparing this book, it has been necessary to work without the guide of precedent, for the school has not in the past years published an annual.” This class was still going to school in the original Poughkeepsie High School building which was once located at the northwest corner of Washington and Lafayette Streets (the building seen in the photo on the right, built in 1872). Flipping through this small book, it becomes very clear that the Senior class of 1909 (who put the yearbook together) had quite the sense of humor about themselves and not much interest in the lower classmen. Another thing one will notice is the vision of the book’s artist, Katharine Kelly. “Kittie” as her friends called her, was born in Poughkeepsie in 1892 and she lived with her parents at 40 Conklin Street. While attending PHS, her drawings became very popular among her classmates and she quickly earned a spot on the staff of the [...]

The Artist of the First PHOIS2024-05-14T13:37:57-04:00

Postcards of the Gilded Age

by Shannon Butler Our last entry looked at a grand house from the Gilded Age that is somewhat forgotten today. However, there are a couple houses that still hold their gilded shine and attract people from all over the world who come to see the remnants of that glamorous era. Vanderbilt Mansion and Staatsburgh (also known as Mills Mansion) are both local sites that focus on the architecture and lifestyles of the Gilded Age, and they also happen to have fantastic views of the Hudson River and pleasant paths for strolling, just like the Vanderbilts and Mills families would have done. Both of the properties have histories that go back long before the Gilded Age. Vanderbilt had once belonged to Dr. Bard in the 18th century, and later by Walter Langdon. The Langdon house and property was purchased by the Vanderbilts in 1895 but they had determined the home itself to be in need of too many repairs. The architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White was brought in to build a sturdier and much larger house which was based very similar to the design of the Langdon home. Many of the rooms, including Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom seen on the right, [...]

Postcards of the Gilded Age2024-04-19T12:03:19-04:00

Hidden Mansions: Crumwold

by Shannon Butler If you missed this week’s Local history presentation, Hyde Park in the Gilded Age, have no fear.  We thought we would share with you some history on some of the interesting mansions that were discussed. We will first take a look at a grand house that happens to still be standing. Archibald Rogers was a man who lived his life in a mix of grand comfort and rough backwoods adventure. Somehow he managed to combine it all at his grand estate in Hyde Park, Crumwold. Archibald Rogers had spent his early years growing up in Hyde Park, his grandmother took care of him for the most part and they lived in a house on Main Street that still stands today. After Archibald had studied at Yale he married Anne Coleman and it was her family’s money from the iron industry that helped the Rogers family build one of the grandest houses along the Hudson. First, Rogers needed to purchase enough land to pull off his vision. He no doubt had been planning such a property since his childhood, when he once roamed the grounds of Elias Butler’s estate, D.S. Miller’s land, and others, located just south of the [...]

Hidden Mansions: Crumwold2024-04-18T16:27:21-04:00

Charles Barnes and His Adorable Dog

by Shannon Butler While going through and transcribing the Vail Photography studio ledgers, it's fun to put names to faces. The name Charles Barnes has come up several times in the process and it turns out that there were actually two different men with that same name living here in Poughkeepsie, both born about the same time. One of these men had a wife and kids, the other had a beloved dog and enjoyed showing off his dog a bit like some of us obsessed pet owners today. At first, it was tricky to determine which of these Barnes was which and who actually owned the dog? Both were born in 1847 and both lived here in Poughkeepsie. One owned a furniture store on Main Street for many years while the other studied at Rutgers. One had a fabulous house designed by Arnout Cannon on Church street while the other lived with his brothers George and Maurice in a house on Cannon Street. After some digging I discovered that the first image on the right is Charles Haven Barnes and his wife Marianna. This Charles is the one who owned the furniture store on Main street and had two children, Gilbert [...]

Charles Barnes and His Adorable Dog2024-04-18T16:23:56-04:00

The Murder of Richard Wall – 1848

by Shannon Butler If you read the newspapers from 1848 you might start to believe that there was something in the water in Pleasant Valley that year. Or, at the very least, people were on edge for some strange reason. As we saw last week, a man named Wesley Pine shot Elizabeth Russell in the chest, rather abruptly. Well, not long after that, another murder took place where once again, a man shot someone (this time in the head) rather abruptly! Only this time, the court had a hard time deciding the verdict. On the morning of May 25th, 1848, Richard Wall and several other men were employed by John Newcomb of Pleasant Valley to build a stone wall on his property. His next door neighbor, Dr. Joel Divine did not seem to approve of the location. Witnesses claimed that Dr. Divine was angry of the placement of the wall, that it blocked a road that Divine had access to. Dr. Divine had gone out to speak to the workers several times the day before and informed them that if they knew what was good for them, they would stop building the wall. Divine’s own workers were out in the field [...]

The Murder of Richard Wall – 18482024-04-18T16:22:52-04:00

The Murder of Elizabeth Russell – 1848

by Shannon Butler In the Local History collection there is a document box marked ‘Miscellaneous Murder Cases in Dutchess County.’ You have to admit, it does sound kind of interesting (any Cold Case Files fans out there?) Well, within the box are a few documents which tell the story of a murder, a trial, and a sentence which all took place within a few months in the winter/spring of 1848. The murder took place in Pleasant Valley in January, the trial began on April 12th 1848 in the courthouse on Market Street in Poughkeepsie, and by May 26th the prisoner would pay for his crime! Mr. Wesley Pine was rumored to have been a man with some problems. At least that is what the defense would claim. While on the other hand, he may have been a jealous man who wanted money, or love, it's somewhat hard to say. On January 9th, 1848, Mrs. Elizabeth Russell was at her home, just north of Pleasant Valley, while her husband and sister went off to church. Mr. Wesley Pine entered her home and claimed that she owed him $200. She professed to be unaware of any money that she or her husband may [...]

The Murder of Elizabeth Russell – 18482024-04-18T16:21:05-04:00

Adriance Memorial Library

by Shannon Butler There is little doubt that the Adriance Memorial Library is a fabulous addition to the architectural landscape of the City of Poughkeepsie. Though this is not the first location of Poughkeepsie’s library. In fact, the library seemed to move around from place to place in its early days of existence without a home of its own. There appears to have been a library for public use in this area going back to the late 18th century when it was part of a local school. Sometime in the late 1830s, the library went from the Lancaster School which was located on Church Street to S. H. Bogardus’ harness store at 324 Main Street (that’s convenient, you could get a new harness for the farm and check out a book on plowing techniques!). It stands to reason that as the number of volumes grew, so did the need for space. After the act in 1843 which established the Board of Education and included the overseeing of libraries, our library moved again to a location near the back of the First Reformed Church on Union Street. Its next stop was the Court house building in 1862 where it remained for about [...]

Adriance Memorial Library2024-05-17T12:01:23-04:00

Springside: Matthew Vassar’s Home

by Shannon Butler For many hard working folks, it’s pretty common to dream of a piece of land to work with and a house to call your own. Many of us want something that we can build upon and improve with our creative visions and perhaps even pass it down to future generations. For most of us, this means a modest little house on a manageable piece of land with maybe a small garden. The days of grand landscapes and large mansions along the Hudson are mostly a thing of the past, but we are fortunate enough to benefit from some of those left behind. As we saw in our recent documentary on landscapes and gardens, there are plenty of places you can stop and admire. In my eagerness to showcase some of our old gardens and landscapes, I somehow neglected to mention one of the most historic landscapes located right here in Poughkeepsie, Springside. Matthew Vassar had been a pretty hard working guy most of his life. He made his way across the river when he was about 14 years old in search of some gainful employment. He worked for a merchant just north of Newburgh for a while before [...]

Springside: Matthew Vassar’s Home2024-05-17T11:10:51-04:00

Popular Ladies’ Hairstyles of the 1870’s

by Shannon Butler The Vail photography studio that once operated on Main Street took thousands of photographs of the people of Poughkeepsie. As we discussed in an earlier blog post, we have in our collection boxes and boxes of these photographs. However, until fairly recently, most of the people were unidentified. Not long ago, our local history librarian Kira Thompson discovered that some of the ledgers from our collection have names and numbers that match up with these photographs. So now we are endeavouring to transcribe these ledgers so that we can put the names to the faces. While going through these images you begin to notice certain trends in the hairstyles of women. Bonnets were out, and braids, curls, and buns were in. Victorian era women tended to keep their hair very long (very few trips to the hair stylist back then, sound familiar my ‘Covid-19 era’ friends?) though it was not respectable to have your long hair out loosely much past the age of 15. With all of that hair, ladies could get very creative with their up-dos. Generally, women would be inspired by looking through magazines like Harper’s Bazaar or Peterson’s Magazine (seen on the right). These publications [...]

Popular Ladies’ Hairstyles of the 1870’s2024-05-17T10:54:26-04:00

The Eccentric Patriot: Boots Van Steenburgh

by Shannon Butler Recently in the Local History Room we have been transcribing the ledgers of the Vail Photography Studios. These ledgers allow us to put names to faces in our collection of thousands of Vail photos that, until recently, have been unidentified. The ledgers are quite helpful with names and sometimes even addresses attached, but every once in a while, you come across something that makes you ponder. As seen in the image to the right, the ledger shows us mostly common names with the exception of one entry, #9577, simply marked “Boots.” At first, I thought perhaps this was the name of a pet, as Vail studios was known to photograph dogs and cats from time to time. So, being the animal lover that I am, I thought we would check the number and see who “Boots” was. As you can see from the photo, #9577 is no pet, but an oddly dressed man! For those of you researchers out there, you will know that putting a common word like ‘Boots’ into any search engine will give you a ton of results and wear down your patience but nevertheless, I persisted. A search in (narrowing my window to [...]

The Eccentric Patriot: Boots Van Steenburgh2023-10-19T13:07:02-04:00

Charles Gilbert Spross – Local Musical Celebrity

by Shannon Butler Located here in the Local History archives we have some of the music composed by local musician Charles Gilbert Spross. He was famous both for his music and for accompanying some of the great singers of the early 20th century. Spross traveled the world and played to thousands of people but he would always find his way back home to his beloved Poughkeepsie. Today, we are going to look at the life and career of a local musician who managed to gain fame but still stayed grounded in his roots. He was born to German immigrants Michael and Alouisa Spross on January 6th 1874 in the family’s home at 51 South Bridge Street right here in Poughkeepsie. As a child, he no doubt enjoyed listening to his father sing, as he was a member of the Germania Singing Society. Little Spross took after his father and began singing in the choir of the Church of the Nativity as a boy. He began his training in piano and organ with Adolf Kuehn and Helen J. Andrus (who is also the author of ‘A Century of Music in Poughkeepsie’). Later Spross would serve as the accompanist for the Germania Singing [...]

Charles Gilbert Spross – Local Musical Celebrity2024-05-17T09:52:02-04:00

Happy Father’s Day

by Shannon Butler The first time the phrase “Father’s Day” appeared in print in our local newspaper was in 1914 when the Presbyterian Church in Lagrangeville decided to pay tribute to dads on August 9th. There was no official holiday for fathers at that time but the idea for such a celebration had popped up in various places around the country. In 1918, a little blurb appeared in the Poughkeepsie Eagle News that said, “Why Not? We forget whether in this grand and glorious country of ours we ever had a fathers’ day. If not there ought to be one. Frinstance a nice big rally alongside some good fishing streams out in the country. Oh you fathers’ day!” A notice from Luckey, Platt & Co. reminded its customers not to forget their father’s on June 15th and this was in 1924 when there was still no official holiday to speak of. Wallace’s Department store also made the same reminder stating, “On Sunday June 15th, the whole world will be thinking of its own father. It's a day when we all like to make him a remembrance if he is still with us.” However, do you notice a trend in the early [...]

Happy Father’s Day2024-05-17T09:49:18-04:00

Historical Views on Racism in Poughkeepsie

by Shannon Butler One would have to be living under a rock (a really big one) these days to not know the importance of the current situation we find ourselves in. Protesting in large crowds, which is breaking down the barriers of our recent social distancing guidelines, parts of the country are rethinking their police forces, and racial tensions appear to be similar to those of the 1960s. All of this drives a history nerd to contemplate, what were the views of previous generations when it comes to racial equality in our area? You might hear people from the north (especially right here in our area) say things like, “well we fought on the right side of the Civil War,” or “we had a lot of abolitionists up here,” or “Ok so maybe we did have slaves, but they were treated better than the ones in the south.” All of this makes me think of an oral history that I conducted years ago with Mrs. Doris Mack, a volunteer from Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site. Doris (who was 92 when I interviewed her, and still going strong by the way) was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina. She and her [...]

Historical Views on Racism in Poughkeepsie2024-05-17T09:48:26-04:00

Letters to Home – Robert Verplanck in the Civil War 

by Shannon Butler Here in the Local History room we have some original letters from a soldier who saw action during the Civil War. Not only did he witness men fighting and dying but he also witnessed the breaking down of racial barriers for the benefit of the war effort. Robert Newlin Verplanck was born at Mount Gulian on November 18th 1842. Of course all of you local history nerds will know that Mount Gulian is a fabulous historic site located in Fishkill and well worth a visit (when the Covid 19 crisis is over that is). Verplanck was fortunate enough to be the son of William Verplanck and Anne Newlin Verplanck and was therefore a descendent of Gulian Verplanck, one of the Rombout Patent owners (in other words, they had some money). Young Robert was first educated at the Poughkeepsie Collegiate school before heading off to Harvard in 1858. During his time in college the Civil War broke out and he stayed long enough to graduate in 1863. Soon after leaving Harvard, he volunteered to join the 22nd Regiment of the New York State Militia but quickly made his way into a new and eye opening role. Just before Verplanck [...]

Letters to Home – Robert Verplanck in the Civil War 2024-05-17T09:47:39-04:00

Mustaches, Beards, and Sideburns!

by Shannon Butler Did you know there is such a thing as a National Mustache Day? Apparently we missed it back on April 9th (and to be quite frank, it doesn’t seem like a legit thing, more like a brief internet craze), but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a moment to reflect on this random subject matter just for the heck of it. While flipping through the photograph collection here in the Local History Room it dawned on me that there were some serious mustaches (and other various forms of facial hair) that were quite popular at the turn of the 20th century. Everything from the handlebar, the horseshoe, the walrus, wacky sideburns and so on. By the way, the last President to have a mustache was William Howard Taft, all the way back in 1909-1913. You can see from the display of photographs to the right that there were many different patterns that were used here in Poughkeepsie. Most of these images are from the late 19th century and these guys are considered very stylish for their day. John P. Adriance decided to go without a mustache or a beard and opted for mega sideburns instead (named after Civil [...]

Mustaches, Beards, and Sideburns!2024-05-17T09:47:00-04:00

Memorial Day

by Shannon Butler This Monday is Memorial Day! A.K.A Decoration Day, A.K.A the unofficial start of summer. Considering the strange new world that we live in, this memorial day will not look like the ones we are used to. Typically we would head over to a parade with marching bands, floats, and every organization taking to the streets to say thanks to all of our soldiers and sailors who died while serving in our armed forces. We might then head to any of our local cemeteries to place flags on their graves. And of course, as Americans, we then generally head to backyards, parks, or beaches for food and beer! Sadly, in the time of COVID-19, most parades and celebrations are canceled and our food consumption will be limited to our own personal households for the most part. Given these odd circumstances we should take a look at how our area celebrated this day in the past. As you can see from the newspaper articles on the right, here in Poughkeepsie Memorial day was particularly important to the veterans who served in the American Civil War (they refer to it as, “the late war of the rebellion”). Members of the local [...]

Memorial Day2024-05-17T09:46:21-04:00

Bicycles in Poughkeepsie

by Shannon Butler How many of you history nerds are also avid cyclists? It was certainly comforting to discover that local bicycle shops are considered essential during our current crisis (due to the fact that they service bicycles which are considered a form of personal and commercial transportation). There is nothing quite as freeing as hopping on a bike and heading out onto the open road or rail trail and going as far as you can (until your rear end starts to hurt and then you might question the length of the ride). Long ago in the days before automotive racing, football, and basketball, bicycle races were considered to be the premier sporting event watched by thousands. In 1883, local drugstore owner Frank J. Schwartz (seen on his Penny-Farthing Bicycle to the right) took first place at the major race of the Dutchess County Fair. Back then, bicycle races were the big attraction to see and just as popular as horse racing, perhaps because they could sometimes be more dangerous. Bicycle races at the Poughkeepsie riding park were a very common thing to see on summer nights (You can see the Poughkeepsie bicycle club’s 1893 photo on the right). For example, [...]

Bicycles in Poughkeepsie2024-05-17T09:45:31-04:00
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