The first settlement on the site of Newburgh was made in 1709 by a band of German Lutherans led by Joshua Kocherthal in the vicinity of Quassaick Creek south of the present city center. As Scottish, Dutch and English settlers came to the western shore of the Hudson River the Germans drifted further inland. In 1762 the settlement took the name of a Scottish town on the River Tay.
Newburgh experienced a brisk river trade connecting wagon trails to Western New York until this business was diverted by the Erie Canal in the 1820s. But Newburgh’s prime location midway between New York City and Albany did not leave it at a disadvantage for long. Railroads connected the city to the Pennsylvania coal fields and in 1881 the city became the western terminus of the New York & New England Railroad and in 1883 the West Shore Railroad provided direct connection with New York City.
In the latter half of the 19th century Newburgh was firmly established as a transportation and manufacturing hub in the Hudson Valley. Pouring from the city’s factories were paper boxes, flannels, soap, iron and wire products, paints, ice machines, perfumes, carpets bleach, lawn mowers and more. The 20th century was not so kind to Newburgh. Trucks sucked up much of the shipping traffic on the Hudson River and in 1963 the final blow was landed when the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge opened destroying ferry traffic between Newburgh and the eastern shore and carrying automobile traffic past the downtown area altogether.
Newburgh has always been at the forefront of historic preservation. The town sported the country’s first state-acquired historic site in 1850 and its Historical Society was founded back in 1884 and has been rescuing threatened properties since the 1950s. Its historic district is the second largest in New York state. Despite that legacy urban renewal was eagerly embraced and voracious in its execution on Newburgh. In the 1970s the city’s historic waterfront area was completely demolished.
Our tour will examine the historic architecture remaining, standing in various states of repair. And we will begin at that very first preserved historic site, now a National Historic Landmark and a site that is depicted on the city seal, on which ground it was determined that the United States would not become a kingdom...
Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site
84 Liberty Street
George Washington used the house of the Widow Hasbrouck as his headquarters longer (almost 17 months) than any other building during the Revolution. Jonathan Hasbrouck, a prosperous merchant and colonel in the local militia, had finished the 1725 family home with a commanding view of the Hudson River in 1770. Hasbrouck died in 1780. Washington arrived in April 1782 and created a significant amount of American history here before leaving in August 1783. He flatly refused the suggestion that he ascend to the head of an American monarchy in the coming new nation; he stemmed a budding mutiny at the American camp at New Windsor; he celebrated the formal treaty ending the war on April 19, 1783; and he created the first American military award - the Order of the Purple Heart. Only three were known to be given out before the long-ignored award was revived in 1932. The Hasbrouck House became the first historic property ever purchased by a state when New York acquired the building in 1850. Constructed of fieldstone, it has been restored and furnished as a military headquarters. New York State erected the adjoining Georgian Colonial style two-story brick building in 1908 as a museum with artifacts from the Continental Army, including a piece of the boom used to protect the great chain that stretched across the Hudson River to hinder British access to West Point.
INSIDE THE GATE, WALK BEHIND THE HOUSE TOWARDS THE HUDSON RIVER.
Tower of Victory
Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site
84 Liberty Street
Overlooking the river is the massive 1887 Tower of Victory monument. Erected with four stone arches, the monument commemorates the disbandment of the army, under proclamation of the Continental Congress on October 18, 1783. It is nearly the size of General Washington’s headquarters. In the open section of the tower is a life-size statue of Washington copied by William R. O’Donovan from the great French Neoclassical sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. Houdon lived from 1741 to 1828, and was one of the most celebrated sculptors of his day.
WALK OUT OF THE HISTORIC SITE ONTO LIBERTY STREET IN FRONT OF THE HASBROUCK HOUSE AND TURN RIGHT. AT THE CORNER TURN RIGHT ON WASHINGTON STREET AND WALK ONE BLOCK. TURN LEFT ON GRAND STREET AND WALK DOWN THE HILL THROUGH A VICTORIAN NEIGHBORHOOD INTO THE CENTER OF TOWN. ON YOUR LEFT AT BROADWAY IS...
83 Broadway at Grand Street
Newburgh’s City Hall began life as a buggy-assembling factory operated in the 1880s by the Bazzoni Carriage Works. The City acquired it in 1893, and reworked it as a City Hall under the guidance of renowned regional architect Frank Estabrook. He adapted the roomy interior into a magnificent two-story City Council Chambers on the second floor.
TURN RIGHT ON BROADWAY.
Van Cleft Building
79 Broadway at Grand Street
Joseph Van Cleft constructed this building for his 30-year old hardware and agricultural supply business in 1893. The lower floors provided warehouse and selling space and the upper floors came to be used by the Spencerian Business College that specialized in preparing women for the rigors of the business world.
Brewster Hook and Ladder
The Clinton Hook & Ladder company organized in 1852 and was named after its long-time foreman Hiram S. Brewster in 1861. A year later the company settled into a this Italianate firehouse that remained in use until 1976. Most recently it has been used as a restaurant.
WALK ACROSS THE BRICK STREET TO THE OPPOSITE CORNER OF BROADWAY AND GRAND STREET AND CONTINUE WALKING NORTH ON GRAND STREET.
Columbus Trust Company
76 Broadway at Grand Street
The Columbus Trust Company was established in 1893 with the board of directors taking the name of the Italian explorer who sailed to the West Indies 400 years earlier. In 1902 the bank moved to this prominent corner and renovated a family grocery store by adding a stone Beaux Arts-style wrap around the first floor facade. The bank almost made it to the 500th celebration of Columbus’ first voyage but was absorbed by Key Bank in the 1980s.
48 Grand Street
The cornerstone for the mammoth 30,000-square foot Masonic temple was laid on July 10, 1914. The building blended design elements of the Georgian Revival style (corner quoins and roof balustrade) with the Neoclassical style (small pedimented entrance and massive fluted Ionic columns). It was completed at the cost of $160,000. The Masonic Fellowship of Newburgh sold the building in 1999 to A. Justin Sterling, a California relationship guru who used the facility for weekend retreats.
49 Grand Street
Newburgh architect Frank Estabrook outfitted this clubhouse for the city’s early bicyclists in the last days of the craze for Richardsonian Romanesque buildings in 1896. The architectural style pioneered by the celebrated Henry Hobson Richardson of Boston featured such elements as rough-faced stone and the broad, powerful entranceway arch seen here. From 1948 until 1969 the building was outfitted for use by St. Patrick’s Church next door as a high school. Most recently, in its third incarnation the building was restored by the Newburgh Architectural Conservancy and is used as apartments.
St. Patrick’s Church
55 Grand Street
Newburgh’s small gathering of Catholics began assembling in area homes around 1816. Ground for a permanent church was purchased here in 1838 and construction begun by the congregation that then numbered about 200. It would not, however, be until 1849 that the church would be formally dedicated. Only ten years later the town’s Catholic population had increased ten-fold and architect Rembrandt Lockwook gave the enlarged stone church a fully fresh appearance. The brick Second Empire rectory one lot to the south was completed in 1854.
54 Grand Street
In 1858, only seven years after the introduction of the Young Men’s Christian Association from England, Newburgh introduced a chapter and commenced meeting in a rented room at 78 Water Street. The group, 139 strong, didn’t take, however, and dissolved in March 1861. It reformed in 1868 and began a peripatetic existence around town before raising $17,000 to construct a handsome facility at the corner of Third and Smith streets. The YMAC moved into this spacious tan brick building that blends elements of the Georgian Revival and Neoclassical styles in 1912. They remained until 1996 and on the cusp of its centennial year the building houses part of the SUNY Newburgh campus.
73 and 85 Grand Street
At #73 the wooden Federal-style house was begun around 1840 and later picked up an Italianate square tower and detailing. It evolved into an upscale boarding house popular with widows and widowers known as the Oakley. Number 85 is a Second Empire brick home started by George Kerry in the 1860s but not completed until he sold the property to Dr. Smith Ely. Amos and Sarah Holden came to Newburgh in 1890 from Vermont where they operated several successful paper mills. They purchased #85 and renovated it as they expanded their paper empire into the Hudson Valley. They later acquired the Oakley as well, converting it into a nursing home. After the Holdens died in the early 1920s an endowment prepared both houses to become residential retirement homes. Recently the Holden Home did a star turn in the Hollywood production of The Return starring Linda Cardellini and John Slattery, standing in for a depressed Ohio River town.
TURN RIGHT ON FIRST STREET.
84-86 First Street
In the first decades of the 20th century civic leaders of small cities felt it imperative to have a grand hotel to impress potential business visitors. In Newburgh, the Hotel Washington was the result. Dedicated in June 1930 as the Hotel Newburgh, the name was switched to Hotel Washington after a public polling. The luxury hotel featured 148 rooms, now occupied by senior residents.
Ebenezer Baptist Church
76 First Street
In the 1800s, before watches and timepieces became available to the common man, one of the most important responsibilities of a town government was to provide a standard time. In 1871 the City of Newburgh spared no expense to fulfill that obligation. The city contracted with German-born watchmaker Charles Fasoldt of Albany to install one of his handmade clocks in the tower of the Union Church overlooking the Hudson River - the highest in town. The cost of the clock was $1,750 which was quite an outlay when the entire stone church cost $60,000. But the city got its money’s worth. The elegant Fasoldt clocks employed an ingenious mechanism that made them stand out among timepieces. Rather than have the hands of the clock perpetually in advancement the minute hands of the Fasoldt clocks remain frozen for 55 seconds and then snap ahead to the next minute. There are only four clocks of this type in the world, and this is the only one still in its original location. The Ebenezer Baptist Church was organized in 1908 and now occupies the historic property.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO GRAND STREET AND TURN RIGHT, CONTINUING YOUR TOUR OF GRAND STREET.
Associate Reformed Church
91 Grand Street at First Street
The Associate Reformed branch of the Presbyterian church organized in 1798 and settled into a church on a hill south of town. They built it but no one came - the town expanded northward rather than to the south. So the elders had the building dismantled and re-assembled on this lot that had been purchased for $900. The cupola for a church bell was added to the simple Federal-style church in 1834.
Newburgh Free Library
100 Grand Street
The first books lent in Newburgh came out of the Newburgh Academy library in 1815, considered the fourth oldest free public circulating library in New York. The Newburgh Free Library came into existence in 1852 with 2,001 volumes available; it was replaced by this ornate Victorian brick library in 1876. Busy Hudson Valley architect John A. Wood, known for his work on luxury hotels, put the decorative flourishes on the library, that wound up costing $30,000. When the library opened in 1878 one of America’s first lending card systems was put in place.
St. George’s Episcopal Church
105 Grand Street at 2nd Street
Reverend John Brown was called as church rector in 1815 and two years later he and members of his small parish laid out the ground and hauled more than 200 loads of stone to the site to construct the church that was consecrated in 1819. His hard work was not in vain - Reverend Brown would enjoy the fruits of the labor for another 60 years as head of the church. During his tenure the original square stone building picked up a gallery, an enlarged sanctuary and a Greek Revival bell tower. The iron fence was installed in the 1830s after being obtained from Trinity Church in New York City where John Brown had been baptized. Today St. George’s is the oldest church building in Newburgh and the four glass windows nearest Grand Street are original.
120 Grand Street
This brick house was constructed in the 1850s for William A. Culbert, a physician and cultivator of grapes. The design was a collaborative effort between Andrew Jackson Downing and Calvert Vaux who, in a two-year partnership, worked on many significant projects including the grounds of the White House and Smithsonian Institution. Downing, a native of Newburgh, is often considered the “Father of American Landscape Architecture” and was largely responsible for the development of the Hudson Valley as a fruit-growing center. The city’s major park, Downing Park, is a tribute to his pioneering efforts. Downing died during a fire in a steamboat accident in 1852 and this is one of the very few buildings that carries his fingerprints. Vaux included the house in his influential 1857 architectural pattern book, Villas and Cottages, as “Design #22.” In 1904 the Newburgh City Club acquired the property for use as its headquarters and remained until the club dissolved in the 1970s. The house was given a loving facelift in 1975 but was gutted by fire in 1981 and thirty years later the two-story hull of the house stands topless with its classical pilasters framing the windows, awaiting another restoration.
Courthouse/Newburgh Heritage Center
123 Grand Street
Upon its creation in 1798, Orange County courts were held alternately at Newburgh and Goshen, an arrangement that continued until 1972, when all courts were removed to Goshen. In 1841 both seats received nearly identical courthouses erected on plans by popular architect Thornton M. Niven. Niven was considered the town’s first architect and was a master stonecutter. The price tag for Newburgh’s Greek Revival court house was $13,000, the townsfolk raised the money for the surrounding open land. In 1998 the building was conveyed to the City which uses it for the Newburgh Heritage Center.
Dutch Reformed Church
134 Grand Street
On assignment from the Dutch Reformed Church in New York City, Reverend William Cruickshank arrived in Newburgh in 1834 to start a new church. Alexander Jackson Davis was hired to design a church for the fledgling congregation. Davis was to become one of America’s most influential architects of the 1800s but at this point was still early in his career and only a few years removed from being an illustrator. He delivered a monumental Greek Revival temple, the most popular style of the day, for the church that was situated on a bluff 250 feet above the Hudson River. The church served the congregation until 1967 when it was deconsecrated. The building soon faced the wrecking ball but efforts to save it kick-started the city’s modern historic preservation movement. The face-lift, with a price tag in the millions, is still on-going and its four fluted Ionic columns were recently restored in 2006. In 2001 the church was named a National Historic Landmark as Davis’ as the only surviving church in the Greek Revival style.
TURN LEFT ON CATHERINE STREET. TURN LEFT ON LIBERTY STREET.
First United Methodist Church
241 Liberty Street At 3rd Street
This supremely Gothic church sprung to life as the Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church and was dedicated on November 13, 1861. The middle tower and spire soar to a height of 180 feet and the side towers are 63 feet high. The heavily buttressed building cost the congregation, which traced its roots in town back to 1808, about $35,000.
United States Post Office
215-217 Liberty Street
The first post office was organized in Newburgh in 1795. This expansive nine-bay brick building was a Depression-era project shepherded to completion in the early 1930s by James Wetmore, supervising architect for the United States Treasury Department. The two-story Colonial Revival post office, capped by a cupola, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
155 Liberty Street
The Elks fraternal organization purchased this property in 1909 that once housed a hospital. In 1930 the Elks hired James Riely Gordon to design a new lodge. Gordon had been in practice for over 50 years at that point and had 72 courthouse designs, including a slew across Texas, to his credit. Here he delivered a distinctive Neoclassical building with a circular facade. The stone lodge features a rusticated base, a parade of pilasters and carved window hoods. Gordon passed in 1937; the Elks have also recently moved on but the building appears as fresh as it did 80 years ago.
Karpeles Manuscript Library
94 Broadway at Liberty Street
While at General Electric David Karpeles was a pioneer in artificial intelligence who created the first operating optical character recognition program and who developed a program that enabled the questioning of a computer using unrestricted English language. His successes helped fuel his passion for collecting historical documents. In 1983 the first Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum opened in California to bring these educational treasures to the public. Today there are Karpeles museums across the country that offer rotating exhibits designed to focus on no more than 25 documents at any one time. The Neoclassical building that houses the Newburgh collection was constructed for the Newburgh Savings Bank in 1923; the bank was chartered back in 1852.
TURN RIGHT ON BROADWAY.
This block-long brick structure was constructed in 1883 for the manufacture of overalls, plumbing supplies and cigars. In 1913 part of the factory building was converted into George M. Cohan’s Opera House and the greats of the vaudeville era appeared on its stage. In 1933 Eugene Levy purchased the theater and renamed it the Ritz. Along with first-run movies the Ritz hosted the biggest live acts of the era including Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. On December 17, 1941 Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz made their stage debut together at the Ritz with an act that would evolve into the world’s most popular television show, I Love Lucy. The Ritz would close its stage in 1969 and the house struggled on as a twin cinema for a dozen more years. The Ritz was renovated in the early 2000s and its renaissance is ongoing.
This fortress-like brick building was designed by John A. Wood and constructed in 1879. It served as an armory until 1931. After the guns and cannons were moved out it served as a supermarket, a billiard parlor and a bowling alley, among other uses.
TURN LEFT ON JOHNSTON STREET. TURN LEFT ON WASHINGTON STREET.
AME Zion Church
111 Washington Street
The Reverend George Matthews organized the church in 1827 after being sent upstate from New York City by his father. The first services were held in private homes and in the basement of the Catholic church on Liberty Street. This lot was purchased in 1833 and a church building was soon erected.
CONTINUE ON WASHINGTON STREET TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT AT WASHINGTON HEADQUARTERS STATE HISTORIC SITE.