A Brinckerhoff House at Lake Walton, East Fishkill

A couple of days ago, my director at the East Fishkill Historical Society emailed our Board about an old Brinckerhoff House at Lake Walton in East Fishkill, New York.  He encouraged us to take a look for ourselves because in a couple of weeks it wouldn’t be there.  We were warned that it would be the last opportunity to see another original house of East Fishkill, recorded under the same family which our historic site was named after, before being bulldozed.  This was routine for many of the Board members – for an historic house to be demolished by development companies – but for me – this was the first time when such a thing actually meant something to me.  I would always hear stories about buildings being taken down, but this time – I felt like I needed to see it and take notes.  I needed to take pictures of this Brinckerhoff house on Lake Walton because it wouldn’t be there again.

When I pulled up to the front, I immediately thought of Jumangi, but only the overgrowth was making its way inside the house through the windows.  Nature’s force made her way over time.  Before I even left from the East Fishkill Historical Society, I was warned from my director, who went the day before, to be careful of the poison ivy and ticks in the high grass.

Brinckerhoff House at Lake Walton 10

 

The East Fishkill Historical Society inquired about saving the house for the first time in 2009, and developers replied with all intentions of preserving the historic building.  However, after years of continued neglect, it seems as though this old house reached the point of no return.  I was recently just getting myself acquainted with the attempted preservation of Van Wyck homes in Wiccopee by the Board members in the 1960s and 70s, and now, even though I could not do anything to save this Brinckerhoff house, I felt like the least I could do was try to saw something left of the house, weeks before it goes.

When I first turned into the street off Lake Walton Road, I was immediately reminded of my mother’s house in New Windsor.  At the end of that street which I grew up on, there was a dirt path that went back into the woods, and as kids we would go back there to hang out.  I recently found out that the name of the street was named after the farm which used to encompass the whole development off of Union Avenue, and that the original farmhouse was deep into the woods, further than any of my friends ever travelled.  Much like the street my mother still lives on, this Brinckerhoff house was located past the dead end sign, and I continued to follow the dirt path until I parked in front.  Even though it was early in the morning, the silence in the deep woods made the whole experience of walking into this vandalized house very spooky.  I couldn’t imagine entering the house at night time, and I give credit to the many neighborhood kids who used to explore the interior before the porch collapsed over the front door.Brinckerhoff House at Lake Walton 2

I had to make myself a path around the house to see if there was another way to get in.  As soon as I walked into the door, I proceeded to the more modern kitchen and completely went past the stairs to the basement.  After I checked out the fire places and walls I realized that I needed to see the foundation; I wanted to try and figure out how old the house was.  It certainly was placed in a beautiful location, and from a window upstairs I reimagined a cleaner lake and a mowed lawn.  This must have been beautiful.

Brinckerhoff House at Lake Walton 8

On the phone with my director, he said that he didn’t go into the basement, but I needed to see it. Plus, its so cool to see an original foundation – one that has not even been cleaned up.  The masonry work on some of these old foundations is unbelievable.  Since it was built with stones, I figured that the house was probably erected sometime in the 18th century, but not the whole thing.  I was looking for a way to continue in the basement, but  there was no way to enter into any other part downstairs.  With a flashlight, I saw through some missing stones, and noticed that the rest of the foundation, which was inaccessible, was made out of cinder blocks.  This meant that most of the house was added onto and then maintained after the original foundation and house was already there (much like the Brinckerhoff House Historic Site).

Brinckerhoff House at Lake Walton 3

Exploring the house was an experience in itself, and my only regret is that I only found out about it less than a week ago.  What could have been on a list for one of my favorite places to bring someone interested in history will not exist soon.  Some more pictures:

Upstairs, Looking Down Three Rooms

Second Floor, Looking Down Three Rooms

Downstairs, Vandalism

First Floor, Vandalism

Downstairs, Fireplace

First Floor, Fireplace

Basement Entrance from First Floor

Basement Entrance from First Floor

View of House from Other Side of Lake Walton

View of the Brinckerhoff House from the Other Side of Lake Walton

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Baxtertown Road, Fishkill

Ronald Greene of Fishkill, NY

Last week I was invited to a dinner hosted by the Fishkill Democratic Commitee in honor and recognition of local Ronald Greene’s work in historical research on his property, located on Baxtertown Road in Fishkill, NY.  On his property, there is a foundation of an Zion Church which was probably used until the 1930’s.  What we have here is a history, that of which would have most likely been lost, but is now just starting to be uncovered.  Mr. Greene, however, has been working to get this foundation recognized by NY State Parks to be put onto the registrar of historic buildings. His main concern is having an historical marker placed which reads that “This was the Zion Church, and it was a stop on the Underground Railroad.”

The next day after the dinner, I met with Ronald Greene at his home, where the foundation lies, and learned that he was was a social worker who developed his skills by working for the state of New York, and now he his managing his own company.

I have been helping minimally with this project by giving reference to certain maps he was looking for, but after we talked that afternoon, I made it clear that my real work for Mr. Greene will be performing historical research on that road and around that area.

Nevertheless, I was very impressed with the amount of research he already did.  He showed me how he laid an old map onto Google Earth to prove that the dot on the old map lined up exactly with where the foundation is today.  Some other old maps, and engineering maps all made it clear that this foundation was indeed the foundation of the church in which other references read that members of this church conducted stops on the Underground Railroad. We walked outside on the property and he actually showed me the exact spot where the developers filled in the foundation.

I am sure that this year, Ronald Greene’s research will be recognized on the national registrar of historic places.  All of the awards that we was given and granted from leading politicians in Fishkill, Dutchess County, and the state of New York will definitely give the project more legitimacy, and it would be irrational for NY Parks to deny an historic place marker on Baxtertown Road.

Ronald Greene’s work is important and he needs as much help as we can offer. This foundation of a Zion Church which he located is just the beginning of including African American and Native American peoples and history into an historical narrative of the Hudson River Valley and New York City.

Newburgh Stuff

This last month, from April until now, a lot has changed in my life, in terms of finding my purpose and a professional outlet in which I am able to make myself legitimate. I am living and working in the East Fishkill Historical Society off Palen Road in the Brinckerhoff House Historic Site. However, I make my way to Newburgh at least once a week to help the historical society there.

I was working heavily towards conducting research on the Alsdorf’s, a Black family who lived in Newburgh from the 1830’s until the 1950’s, who taught the White youth and prominent citizens how to be musical. Their yet-to-be renown music business started in 1850 and was moved to Liberty Street, across from Washington’s Headquarters, in 1915. Everyone went to Alsdorf Hall if they were to learn how to play an instrument or learn how to dance. I am currently working on making important documents concerning this research more readily accessible.

Postcard #37 of 2009 Newburgh Postcard Set, created to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the first European settlers, the Palatines, arriving on the land now known as the City of Newburgh.

Postcard #37 of 2009 Newburgh Postcard Set, created to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the first European settlers, the Palatines, arriving on the land now known as the City of Newburgh.

In East Fishkill, I am taking on another project. The Historical Society recently was donated a journal of a Black soldier who fought in World War I.  He was a part of the Harlem Hellfighters. You can read more about this on the East Fishkill Historical Society’s blog.

Narrowing Down

Hello again.  Last week was very exciting.  I met with a local historian, an assemblyman, and member of the Beacon Historical Society.  Someone gave me a book about the underground railroad in Orange County, written by the late Richard A. King.  The book was written about fifteen years ago and was very informative about the area that I’ve lived in my whole life.

After reading the book, I decided to investigate some local Newburgh history of the Alsdorf family.  As of now the underground railroad topic is hearsay, but there are a lot of resources concerning the Alsdorf family.

The Alsdorf family was African American, and the last living Alsdorf passed away in the mid 1900’s.  They taught the White, privileged, well-off families of Newburgh how to dance, sing, and play musical instruments.  They were also involved in the AME Zion Church on Washington St.

I am very excited to continue this research, but unfortunately my updates on this topic will be minimal due to copyright laws.  If you have any questions about my research I encourage you to email me through WordPress.

Tentative Plans and Perspectives

My name is Michael Barootjian and I am an alum of SUNY New Paltz.  Welcome to my new blog!  Here you will be able to follow my weekly progress of research and progress in the reconstruction of history in the Mid-Hudson River.  I am currently planning on writing and telling a more diverse and inclusive story of Newburgh and the surrounding areas.  I am currently in the process of researching the racialized society in Newburgh.  This week I will hopefully narrow down the time period I will be investigating.  As of now, I am interested in time periods before the Civil War, but due to the lack of resources, it may be too difficult of a topic to research.

I have been reading On the Morning Tide written by A.J. Williams-Myers, my former professor of History and Black Studies at SUNY New Paltz.  Williams-Myers is one of the only scholars to ever publish literature about Africans and African-Americans in early Hudson River society and life.  There is a lot to learn about this area which I grew up in and I am very motivated to explore its history and bring something new to the discourse of social relations between Africans and European settlers.

Based in the David Crawford Historic House while working at the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands, I will start writing notes for a historical breakthrough which will change the way that residents of this area think about the past here.  At the David Crawford Historic House, I am also shadowing the Director of  the Historical Society, and learning how to run and organize a whole committee of Board members and volunteers.

This week I have a meeting with a member of the Beacon Historical Society and an Assemblyman who used to work at the Woodbury Historical Society.  I am trying to get in contact with my old professor to talk about my project.  Follow my weekly progress by checking back every Monday, or subscribe with your email address.  Feel free to write to me, and please leave comments!Image

On the Morning Tide, written by A.J. Williams Myers