Spare Parts

Every now and then, we set out to research something, and while we may uncover some interesting facts and anecdotes, there isn’t enough to warrant an entire blog post.  So, we chuck what we have found into a folder and stash it, like a jar of old screws and bolts, on a shelf in our digital “garage.” You never know when something might turn out to be useful. This month, we decided to build a blog post out of these “spare parts.” Perhaps they will someday end up in a Hillsdale Trivia Night.

H. D. Harvey

(H. D. Harvey pops up from time to time in our research because of the Harbinger connection. Most recently, we mentioned him in our post about Hillsdale High School.)

Henry Dudley Harvey died in 1928, according to his extensive obituary, which was published on the front page of the Hillsdale Harbinger. That this grandiloquent account of Mr. Harvey’s life was so prominently displayed is not surprising since he was the founder and publisher of the Harbinger in 1887.

Volume 1, Number 1, Friday, October 28, 1887

Henry was born in Austerlitz in 1851. Harvey Mountain is named for his family. After graduating from Spencertown Academy, he attended Eastman Business College in Poughkeepsie. He moved to New York City and became a clerk at the Hygienic Hotel (and honestly, where else would you want to stay?) before moving to Florence, MA to become a bookkeeper for a large mercantile firm.  In 1879, he returned to the area and opened a jewelry store.  (It’s not clear how he acquired his jewelry repair skills, but that was the bulk of his business.)

The jewelry store and Henry and his wife, Abigal. Abigal (not Abigail) served as the Harbinger’s proof reader for more than 20 years. Just a small fragment of Henry’s effusive obituary.

In 1887, he acquired the assets of the two newspapers serving Hillsdale at the time:  The Hillsdale Harbinger and the Hillsdale Enterprise. He apparently felt that these two papers did not do an adequate job and he resolved to make an improvement. In October 1887, the first issue was published. Henry was the first to admit that he knew nothing about the newspaper business, but he hired an editor and typesetter.  Here’s a picture of Henry, age 36, leaning on a printing press he had no idea how to run.

Readers of this blog may recall that in our post about Hillsdale High School, we noted that Henry also had a franchise to sell high-wheel bicycles, sometimes known as penny farthings. Henry rode one himself and was often seen in the far reaches of Hillsdale, Copake, Ancram, Taghanic and Austerlitz, as well as Alford, MA and Egremont, MA. He sought to meet as many people as possible (and sign them up for a $1.50 annual subscription). It was also his way of gathering news for the paper. In the early days, he would often accept apples, potatoes and other commodities as payment, so the paper was not an immediate financial success. (How he managed a sack of potatoes on his high-wheel remains a mystery.)

Henry was a bit of a jack-of-all-trades.  To quote his obit, “There was scarcely a phase of human activity to which he could not turn his hand. He had been a carpenter and builder, photographer, jeweler, printer, and plumber. He has left a number of pen and ink drawings and several oil paintings which are prized by his family as showing the diversity of his attainments.”

He died at the age of 77, “having the respect of a community which had benefitted by his living in it.”

May that be said of us all.

Hillsdale Community Day

(Much of our research starts off by looking at old newspapers like the ones that can be accessed on the Roe Jan Library’s website. This was just an ad we spotted while we were looking for something else.) 

It’s always exciting when a new shop or restaurant opens in town but we’ve got a long way to go before we experience the greater Hillsdale business environment as it was not too long ago.  Here’s an ad from the July 29, 1993 Independent announcing Hillsdale Community Day. (Sorry the map isn’t more legible. You can see the full-page ad in situ here.)

It maps out 76 establishments, many of them retail stores. Today, most are just a memory. How many do you remember?

  1. Ultimate T’s
  2. Campbell’s Hillside Driving Range
  3. Cyn-Phil Craryville Inn
  4. Birch Hill Log Homes and Sunrooms
  5. Louvers Unlimited
  6. Random Harvest Farm Market
  7. Energizer Automotive
  8. Dutch Treat Restaurant
  9. Fado Associates
  10. L & M Masonry
  11. Taconic Telephone
  12. Hillsdale Country Realty
  13. Ed Herrington, Inc.
  14. Herrington Fuels & Service
  15. Country Collections
  16. Distinctive Metalwork
  17. Daley & Baldwin
  18. Kathy Quinby Unlimited
  19. Hillsdale Supermarket
  20. Gilbert & Dorman
  21. Washington House Hotel
  22. B & G Liquor
  23. Hillsdale Barber Shop
  24. Hillsdale House
  25. Main Moon Chinese Restaurant
  26. Hillsdale Electronics
  27. Watercare by Chambers and Sons
  28. Gardner & Gardner
  29. K & K Quilted
  30. Craig Norton Cabinet Maker
  31. Agway
  32. R & L Edelman
  33. The Independent
  34. Pax Antiques
  35. Carmen Barbato, Inc.
  36. P. Landscape & Nursery
  37. L & J Farm
  38. Countrytown Marble & Tile
  39. Hillsdale Farm Market
  40. Four Brothers Pizza
  41. The Creek at Hillsdale
  42. Berkshire Pottery
  43. Taconic North Superette
  44. Hillsdale Animal Clinic
  45. Audio Plus Electronics
  46. Sheldon Glass Service, Inc.
  47. Swiss Hutte
  48. Linden Valley Lodging & Tennis
  49. Catamount Ski Area
  50. Celerohn Motel
  51. Lucene’s Beauty Shoppe
  52. White Oak Farm
  53. Bridlewood Arabians, Inc.
  54. Scott Decker Construction
  55. Rodgers Book Barn
  56. Little Rainbow Chev’re Farm
  57. John Cottini Carpentry
  58. Hillsdale Tree Service
  59. Pine Lane Country Store
  60. The Inn at Green River
  61. Whitetail Sports
  62. Georges Auto and Truck Repair
  63. Cathy’s Yam Shoppe
  64. Taconic Beauty and Gift Shoppe
  65. Joel Weinberg
  66. Headhunters III
  67. Roeliff Jansen Ins. Agency
  68. Valentino Associates
  69. Pastrami’s
  70. JaLin Crafts
  71. Create-A-Book
  72. Underhill Inn Restaurant
  73. Herbert Schmeichel Electric
  74. Woods N’ Things
  75. D. B. Answering Service
  76. Little Schoolhouse

 

Ambrose Morandi

(Andy Morandi’s name pops up from time to time, most recently in our research for the post about the Village Scoop.)

Ambrose “Andy” Morandi was a serial entrepreneur who had extensive real estate holdings in Hillsdale and Valatie, and in Great Barrington and Alford, MA.  Born in Alford in 1911, Andy was working as the manager of the Great Barrington Coffee Shop in 1933, when he enlisted in the Navy.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Andy began acquiring property. In the mid-1970s, Andy built and operated the highly regarded Morandi’s Restaurant and Pub, which subsequently became the Hillsdale outpost of the Four Brothers chain of restaurants.  He then built an extension attached to the restaurant called the Morandi Shopping Center, attracting the Hillsdale Sport Shop, Roe Jan Insurance Agency and The Butternut Tree, which was, according to the Roe Jan Independent, “a specialty shop with a variety of apparel for misses and juniors.” In the early 1980s, Larry Weinrab moved his Step & Style shoe store from Great Barrington to the Morandi center because New York State law allowed him to be open on Sunday; Massachusetts law did not.

The Hillsdale Sport Shop before relocating to the new Morandi Shopping Center

Larry Weinreb at Step & Style

Andy also owned the Hillsdale meat packing plant, housed in what today is the office of Herrington Stone and Masonry, where he processed and sold a variety of aged and smoked meats. One of his best customers was the Hillsdale House — after all, for a while he owned that, too. Other land holdings included all of what became known as Pill Hill. When a friend wanted to buy a parcel of land from Andy, Andy told him that the parcel was already in contract with another buyer.  “But,” said Andy, “I suppose I could just not show up for the closing.” And that’s just what happened, and his friend bought the land.

Not all of Andy’s ambitions came to fruition.  At one point, he announced that he was going to open a drug store in the shopping center. It never happened. Neither did the bank branch or the grocery store.

In 1985, Andy moved to Meriden, NH, to be close to one of his daughters.  There he managed Garfield’s Smokehouse until 1996. In 2000, Andy died at the age of 89 from injuries sustained in a car accident.

And, of course, we all know what became of the former Morandi Shopping Center in 2020.

 

1957 Hillsdale Milk Strike

(When we stumbled on these photos, it was the first we’d heard of the 1957 Milk Strike, but there’s nice real estate surprise at the end that we wanted to share.)

There’s no question about it:  Dairying is hard work. Dairy cows need to be milked at least twice a day, 365 days a year. Dairy farmers have always been hard at work in the most frigid winter weather and on the hottest days of summer. And their reward for this toil often was selling their milk to a dairy co-operative for a break-even price or even a loss. Dairy farm failures were regular occurrences.

Milk is produced in two grades: the highest quality milk is Grade A and is sold as drinking milk.  Grade B is used to make other products like butter and cheese. In the 1950s, the dairy co-operatives like the Dairymen’s League Co-Operative Association had the power to set pricing. Farmers who delivered Grade A milk often did not get the stated Grade A price. Instead, they would get a “blended” price, essentially an average of Grades A and B. And because dairy co-operatives were known as monopsonies, the co-op was the only place the farmers could sell their milk.

Not surprisingly, from time to time a group of frustrated farmers would organize a strike by refusing to deliver their milk to the co-op and preventing others from doing so.  In August 1957, a milk strike was declared across a wide swath of the New York “milkshed,” including in Hillsdale.

“STOP HAULERS, TEAMSTERS, DRIVERS
RESPECT THIS PICKET LINE
DAIRY FARMERS ARE ENTITLED TO THE SAME
STANDARD OF LIVING
AS INDUSTRY AND LABOR”

The Dairymen’s League (which was eventually shortened to Dairylea, in case you remember that brand) crushed the strike in one day.

One columnist of the day summed it up succinctly: “[Dairymen] do not favor the strike method. But on the other hand, they face the need of higher prices for their milk if they are to stay in business.” The problem with strikes? “A machine or a production line can be turned off.  A cow cannot. In other words, a dairyman on strike does just as much work but can strike only by dumping his milk into the barnyard.”

The power of these dairy cooperatives has been challenged in court more than once, and the co-ops have paid big bucks to settle class action suits against them by their own members.  After decades of consolidation, the Dairy Farmers of America has emerged as the largest co-op and stands as the poster child for the movement to break up Big Ag.

One more strike photo:

This is a shot looking up Anthony Street.  That’s the old Hillsdale Mercantile building on the left (now the Roe Jan Brewing Company). Seems like everybody’s having a good time. But what captured our attention was the very top of the photograph.

This is the only photo we’ve come across of the two houses that sat at the intersection of Coldwater St. and Anthony St. The closer house was Vincent’s Printing.  According to Bob Hopkins, the Italianate house above Vincent’s Print Shop was long owned by George Porteous. It was a barber shop, antique shop, Doc Bowerhan’s office and finally an apartment house. The building was sold to James Fox and was vacant when it burned in the 90’s.

And for you car buffs, the tail of the car in the lower right of the photo is a 1956 Chevy Bel Air. Chevy only used that paint scheme in 1956.

Finally…NY Route 71

At 2.30 miles in length from Rt.22 to the Massachusetts state line, NY 71 is the shortest two-digit state highway in New York.

We hope you have enjoyed our tour of our digital garage. Enjoy the rest of your summer.

(Special thanks to Bob Hopkins, Lynne Colclough and Kelly Sweet for their corrections to our original post.)

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© 2021 Chris Atkins and Lauren Letellier

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Going Dutch in Hillsdale

In 2017 the Hillsdale Historians wrote about Hudson River School artist John Bunyan Bristol (1826-1909) and we included an image of his Hillsdale birthplace. The 1900 postcard shows a rundown farmhouse on Old Town Road, boarded up and covered with vines. It is a sad image of disuse and disrepair and made us wonder, why put a dwelling in such bad shape on a postcard? 

The Bristol House on Old Town Road as it appeared in 1900.

It’s 2021 and today we’re writing about that same house, but for an entirely different reason. In the process of renovating the building the owners made a startling discovery: the house turns out to be a Dutch structure dating to 1760.  To the best of our knowledge, it is the oldest house in Hillsdale.

Historic Preservationist Michael Rebic of Austerlitz was certain of it the moment he crossed the threshold. “The owner asked me to take a look at a deteriorating building on the property. We assumed it was a 19th century tenant building. It was in really bad shape — there was even a tree growing through the front porch! We walked carefully across the rotting porch floorboards, opened the door, and I immediately said, ‘This is a Dutch house.’ Structurally, it had the bones of a Dutch house. You can’t change the bones. Where I live, in Austerlitz, most of the settlers were English, but it was clear to me the house was not built by an English carpenter. As a historic preservationist, I knew right away it was one of the rare Dutch houses in eastern Columbia County.”

Dutch colonists started buying land as early as 1649 along the eastern bank of the Hudson River, where the soil was fertile and river access provided an avenue for commerce with New York City, but they found the hilly terrain and rocky soil of Columbia County’s eastern edge much less attractive. 

We can’t be sure that the little house was built by a Dutch craftsman, but we can be sure that it follows Dutch building styles. Hillsdale was a transitional area in the mid-18th century, a jumble of national origins and cultures. English Yankees from Connecticut and Massachusetts, priced out of farmland in those colonies, crossed the Berkshire Mountains to settle in the untamed hill towns straddling the MA/NY border and brought with them English building styles.  

In 1710, German refugees from the economically and politically unstable Palatine area arrived in southern Columbia County indentured to work at Livingston Manor “camps” manufacturing naval stores (e.g., pitch, resin, and turpentine) for the British Navy. The project failed almost immediately, and the camps were broken up. The Palatines spread throughout the Hudson and Mohawk River Valleys. Some of them became tenant farmers, leasing land from the Van Rensselaers and Livingstons and building homes in the Dutch manner, although on a more modest scale.  

The house’s deed history can be traced back only as far as 1822, when Andrew A. and Elizabeth Sharts sold their farm to David Wheeler, a miller, of Amenia. The Sharts descended from Palatine families arriving in East Camp (today’s Germantown) in 1710. They were part of an enclave of Palatine families, many of them with the Sharts surname, that settled in Hillsdale by the mid-1700s.  (Source: Neil Larson, Hudson Mohawk Vernacular Architecture) Whippoorwill Road was previously named  Sharts Street, and it appears as such on maps as recent as 1958.

Rebic’s ability to identify the house as Dutch was helped by the house’s interior renovation, which had stripped all 20th century alterations down to its wall framing. “If you look at the structural beams, they are about four feet apart,” he said. “In an English house, all the structural columns would have been on the corners. In the Netherlands, because the ground was so boggy, they had to distribute the weight of the house evenly or the house could sink. And even though this area doesn’t have the same boggy ground, those building techniques persisted in the New World with the Dutch builders.” 

 

Upright posts stand in the longer walls, every 4 feet or so. Heavy anchor beams run across the room to connect the posts and form an H.

The bottom part of the H is taller than the top part, so the downstairs room was one story high, but the upstairs was only half a story (except in the center). The upstairs space, called a loft, was used for storing food or belongings, or as sleeping quarters for children and servants.

In 2019 architectural historian Neil Larson, whose firm Larson Fisher had conducted the Historic Resource Survey and National Register nomination for Hillsdale Hamlet, visited Hillsdale to consult with the owners. Larson’s analysis determined the house was constructed using a post-and-beam system associated with the Dutch building tradition of H-bent frames, a style derived from the northern European medieval building tradition. The house had a two-room plan with a central dividing partition. Each room had its own door from the outside, but one had been covered up. Why, we wondered, would a house need two front doors?  

Rebic explained: “The Dutch had a linear way of building homes, with rooms connected end-to-end, a function of their traditional post-and-beam construction. English settlers would build a house stacked around a central chimney, adding onto it but keeping a single, primary entrance door. The Dutch always put in a second door, either to demarcate the utility of the rooms – one side as the parlor for public use, the other side as living space for the family and servants — or sometimes for mercantile reasons, for example, renting out a room.” 

The Luykus Van Alen House in Kinderhook has two front doors, a characteristic of Dutch house construction.

The house originally had two jambless fireplaces on its gable ends.  Jambless fireplaces are a defining characteristic of Dutch homes, and the Dutch held onto this building tradition through the first half of the 18th century, even after it became obvious that the English-style fireplace was more efficient. 

Traditional Netherlands jambless fireplaces were placed flush against the wall, surrounded with tile, and open on three sides to the room. There were hoods to collect heat and smoke, with chains to hang pots and grates. This is the 1721 Jean Hasbrouck House in New Paltz.

The ceiling beams on the first floor would have been planed smooth and left exposed to be admired, like furniture. Later they were hacked to increase headroom and be leveled for the addition of lath-and-plaster ceilings. A renovation that included adding upper story windows on the front and rear walls coincided with the early 19th century period when the Bristol family lived in the house. You can read Larson’s complete analysis here.

Pre-renovation view from the southwest. The window to the right of the door originated as a second entrance. The double window on the west end replaced a doorway linking the house to a previous wing. Photo: W. R. Wheeler, 2019

Back of the house view: windows in the upper story of the front facade are mid-19th century additions. Photo: W.R. Wheeler, 2019

The original house would not have had eyebrow windows at the garret level, as it was used for grain storage and sleeping quarters for servants, slaves, or children. At some point in the 19th century the owner replaced the roof with one with a much shallower pitch. Jack Sobon, an architect and builder specializing in timber frame buildings, uncovered an original mortise in the collar beam that indicated the original pitch. (His drawing is below). The owners restored the roof to the original pitch during the renovation of the second floor.

The original roofline was much steeper.

Determinative proof of the house’s age came from a dendrochronology test conducted at the Columbia Lamont Doherty tree ring laboratory. Dendrochronology is a fancy word for a technique we all learned in grade school — dating the age of tree stumps by counting the annual growth rings. In this case, core samples taken from the house’s pitch pine and oak beams made it possible to essentially do the same thing — count the tree rings. The lab dates the house to 1760.

Detail from the dendrochronology report.

 

“The most extraordinary thing is that a house was found that no one knew anything about, and it turned out to be an early Dutch house,” said Rebic. 

The renovation is nearly complete, two years after the house was identified as 18th century Dutch.

There are undoubtedly other Dutch/Palatine houses in Hillsdale, covered up with the accretion of 19th and 20th century alterations.  If your ancestors arrived in Columbia County with the Palatines and you live in an old house, you may be residing in a slice of 18th century history. You can search this site for Palatine names.

Sources:

Dutch Vernacular Architecture in North America 1640-1830 (The Society for the Preservation of Hudson Valley Vernacular Architecture, 2005)

Dutch Colonial Homes in America  (Rizzoli, 2002)

http://www.hmvarch.org

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© 2021 Chris Atkins and Lauren Letellier

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What Did High School Look Like Before Zoom?

Now that secondary education in the Roe Jan region by Zoom is becoming the exception instead of the rule, it’s worth remembering that for the first 114 years of its existence, Hillsdale had no high school at all. Until 1903, an eighth-grade education had been deemed adequate — the “Three Rs” equipped most people to enter the workforce of the day. But as the economy began to require more and more “white collar” workers, further time in the classroom became a necessity. 

In 1903, the New York State Legislature enacted the Compulsory Education Law which extended the age of mandatory school attendance from 14 to 16, where it remains to this day. In the process, “high school” as we know it was born. Prior to 1903, parents who wanted their children to obtain a secondary level education had to enroll them in private academies or institutes, such as the Hillsdale Classical Institute we wrote about here.

Hillsdale High School was located on the north side of the Columbia Turnpike (Rt. 23), approximately 200 yards west of the Civil War Monument. 

The first class to graduate from the high school did so in 1905. We know that because of this obituary of Ray Strever in the Hillsdale Harbinger

 

The Harbinger published a photograph of the Class of 1910 – all five of them.

In the days before school buses were a thing, HHS students often took the train from Copake Falls or Craryville to Hillsdale and walked up the hill to the school. 1n a 1990 Independent article, Mrs. Mildred Walter shared her memories of commuting to the school, noting that if one was lucky enough to have a boyfriend from Hillsdale, he would meet the train and carry her books to school.

Mrs. Walter did indeed have a boyfriend – Orson Pulver — but alas, these high school sweethearts eventually went their separate ways and Orson ended up marrying a different girl from Hillsdale High School, Helen Barclay.  Helen went on to teach at the school. 

Here is a photograph of the entire student body and faculty in 1928. 

Hillsdale High School was one of 29 school districts in the area, many of them being one-room schoolhouses. As the Progressive era emerged in the 1920s, many educators and politicians felt that these micro-districts should be consolidated into larger centralized schools. That led to the construction of the Roeliff Jansen Central School, which opened in 1932. With all 29 districts incorporated within it, the RJCS district became the largest in New York State.  

Roeliff Jansen Central School

We are told that during 1932, classes were held in the Mount Washington House, an interim move before the Roe Jan School opened. We have not been able to corroborate in news accounts and are not clear why this step was needed, but apparently it was. 

Mount Washington House

Whatever became of the building that housed Hillsdale High School?  

A man named Roy Van Deusen purchased the building and dismantled it. He used the lumber from the school to construct two houses near the corner of Rt. 23 and Brady Lane.  

A sidenote about Roy: Roy Van Deusen was born in 1878. Like so many people of his era, Roy had a lot of jobs over the years. He worked at Pulver’s store for a while, then moved on to be a farmhand. In time, he became a representative of the International Harvester Company, the remains of which are now owned by Volkswagen. He also built and sold houses – the two constructed from the high school, and one other. When he was a footloose 19 year old, he bought a Penny Farthing.  Here’s a picture of one: 

The name Penny Farthing comes from the big wheel in the front in relation to the small one in the rear. To some in England where the bikes originated, it looked like a penny and a farthing next to each other, like this (the farthing is on the right).

 A farthing was one-quarter of a penny, the smallest increment of British money. H. D. Harvey, publisher of the Hillsdale Harbinger, had a side hustle selling these bicycles, which were manufactured by the Hartford Bicycle company and commonly known as a “Hartford wheel” or sometimes just “wheel.”  Mr. Harvey published the sale of each one in his newspaper as a news item, possibly not the most ethical of journalistic practices.

Anyway, Roy married Edith Gilbert in 1900 and we’re betting his bicycle tomfoolery came to an end.

Back to the Roeliff Jansen Central School. In 1947, 15 of the 29 districts were hived off to form the Ockawamick Central School district, which included Philmont. Philmont’s most celebrated graduate is Lt. Colonel Oliver North (Class of 1961) of Iran-Contra notoriety and more recently  known for a power struggle at the National Rifle Association. 

Ollie North in July, 1987

In 1962, the Roeliff Jansen school completed an expansion (seen on the left side of the photo) that nearly doubled its footprint. Meanwhile, due to its academic rigor and high standards in general, RJCS graduates routinely attended Ivy League and other renowned colleges.

In 1970, the Taconic Hills Central School district was formed, leading to the reunification of the Roeliff Jansen and Ockawamick districts. In 2000, the Taconic Hills district moved into a $50 million campus in Craryville, and the Roeliff Jansen school was abandoned.

Taconic Hills Central School

Recent press reports suggest that the abandoned Roe Jan school building may find a new life as a resort, but if you look at this clandestine video of the building from a couple of years ago, those who would take that project on would have their work cut out for them. 

In the meantime, we send our heartiest congratulations and best wishes to the members of the Taconic Hills Class of 2021 for getting through the pandemic and moving into whatever the future holds for them.

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We’ve Got the Scoop on the Village Scoop

 

 

The building that houses the Hillsdale General Store was built in 1852.  The original part of the Hillsdale House dates back to 1797. And the Closson farm’s ice house that gradually evolved into today’s Passiflora was almost certainly a 19th century structure.  So it would be understandable if one assumed that the building nestled between the General Store and Passiflora – today’s Village Scoop – was of a similar vintage.

We were surprised to learn that the building hardly qualifies as historical, having been built in the early to mid-1950s by Pete Murdock. (If a building is about our age, we choose not to think of it as “historical.”)

Pete bought the land from Orson Pulver, who was the grandson of Freeland Pulver. Regular readers of this blog will recall that Freeland Pulver ran a store in what today is the Roe Jan Brewing Company

Pete, originally from Danbury, CT, worked for many years as a welder at General Electric in Pittsfield, MA.  In 1930, he married Florence Beck, a Hillsdale “local” who was the daughter of Fred and Anna Beck.  Fred Beck was a barber here in Hillsdale for many years, but by 1950, when he turned 75, he might have been thinking about retirement. Just a couple of years later, Pete Murdock built the building and opened a barber shop on one side and a hair salon on the other side.

Listing from an undated Chamber of Commerce brochure.

Side Note: At some point, George Avenia opened a barbershop across the street.  In the 70s, when longer hairstyles meant fewer haircuts, George  put a wall up to divide his barber shop into two spaces and with his wife, Betty, opened B&G Liquors on the other side. B&G? Betty and George, of course. It lived on until about 2016, when it was renovated and reopened as Casana Tea House (now gone).

Pete, who continued to work at GE until he retired in 1957, was a barber on the weekends, while his daughters Barbara and Pamela kept the salon open during the week. Pete died suddenly of a heart attack in 1958. Daughter Pamela continued to operate the salon for a couple of years but eventually moved to Pittsfield along with her mother Florence.

It is interesting that a welder at GE learned to cut hair.  Is it possible that Pete Beck taught him how?  They lived next door to each other. This is a screen shot of the map on the wall of Crossroads restaurant. Notice the names “P. Murdock” and “F. Beck.” Perhaps Fred taught the girls how to cut hair.

In any case, the shop sat vacant for a couple of years until the Murdock family sold the building in 1970 to the CW Bostwick insurance agency of Hudson, which had acquired the Roeliff Jansen Agency headed by Bob Hopkins. (Bob and Sally Hopkins are frequent and valuable sources for the Historians.)

Meanwhile, local entrepreneur Ambrose Morandi (who went by the more euphonic “Andy Morandi”) built the Morandi Shopping Center, better known more recently as Four Brothers Plaza.  Mr. Morandi was looking for tenants and Bob Hopkins saw a chance to move into bigger, newer space and took the plunge. Here’s a picture of Bob at his grand opening open house.

With no further need of the Cullin Square building, Bostwick sold it to Chris “Ozzie” Osswald, the only man who knows where absolutely everything is at Ed Herrington.  He undertook a major renovation of the building and eventually sold it to Russell Halley. Mr. Halley opened an advertising agency called Ralley Communications,

and in 1978 began publishing a newspaper called the Intermountain Express. The free weekly (what we call a “shopper”) lasted about a year before shuttering. In an article in the Berkshire Eagle, Mr. Halley’s lawyer, Philip Agard, said that he was handling all the details of shutting the paper down because his client was on vacation, which may be a clue as to the downfall of the Intermountain Express.

Russell Halley mounted an unsuccessful campaign for Town Supervisor as a Democrat.  He created quite a stir in town when he campaigned on horseback.

Mr. Halley was unlucky in business and unlucky in love.  In what appears to be part of a divorce settlement, Lynn Halley transferred her interest in the building to Russell Halley.  Both were living in California at the time, she in San Jose, he in Los Gatos.

They had seemed like such a happy couple in 1976.

The building sat vacant for a while until 1984 when Mr. Halley leased it to The American Tattoo Studio, run by Larry Romano. Mr. Romano bought the building in 1990. He already operated 12 other parlors around the country, including Peter Tattoo in Stockbridge, MA. (Don’t ask us what the name refers to, we don’t want to know.)

Mr. Romano was the subject of several long profiles in the local press. Here’s a good example from the Berkshire Eagle.

In this article (and another in The Independent), Mr. Romano feels compelled to point out that his customers were not the “the sailor, the jailbird and the hooker” he believed people associated with tattoos. Rather, he said, his clientele included captains of industry and fashionable women who drove up in Volvos to get Mr. Romano to cover up the name of an ex-boyfriend. Mr. Romano’s business may have been boosted by the fact that at the time, one could not legally obtain a tattoo in New York City.  They were banned in 1961 after a Hepatitis B outbreak and it would not be until 1997 that you could get legal ink in the City.

The American Tattoo Studio was in business until at least 2005, but in 2010, the building, by then a derelict, was purchased by Kevin Draves and Ken Davis, proprietors of Passiflora.

The derelict American Tattoo Studio in 2009. (Photo by Timheffernanphotography.com)

They, of course, converted it from a tattoo parlor to an ice cream parlor, which operated until the COVID shutdown. But like daffodils in Spring, up popped this new sign, signaling a reopening (window service) soon. Word has it, Memorial Day Weekend.  We can’t wait!

 

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On the Trail of Hillsdale’s Globe Hotel

Hotels and railroads have gone together for a long time. A train could get you to a place, but you would then need somewhere to sleep.  In some cases, railroad owners took it upon themselves to provide high-end lodging. Great examples are The Greenbriar in West Virginia, The Breakers in Palm Beach, and New York’s Hotel Pennsylvania. The Canadian Pacific Railroad built Quebec City’s Le Chateau Frontenac, the Hotel Vancouver and Toronto’s Hotel Windsor. 

Le Chateau Frontenac

But even if the railroad had no interest in getting into the lodging business, the need for hotels near the railroad still existed. That was certainly the case for Hillsdale.  

The New York and Harlem Railroad came through Hillsdale in 1852 on its way to Chatham. Naturally, the railroad caused a lot of changes, especially in the dairy business. Prior to the railroad coming through, the dairy business was strictly local. Because milk will spoil quickly without refrigeration, a given dairy could only serve an area of about four square miles. With daily service to New York City and the advent of ice-block refrigerated cars in the 1860s, the railroad gave dairy farmers a way to expand their market as never before. 

It wasn’t long before “Railroad Square” in Hillsdale became a bustling place. For one thing, the railroad increased the number of tourists coming to enjoy all that the Roe Jan area had to offer. But where were they going to sleep? There are accounts of several hotels and boarding houses lining the tracks, along with an iron foundry, a lumberyard and a milk depot. Of these, the only ones that  survived were the lumberyard (Herrington’s) and the  milk depot on Anthony Street Extension, which was converted to apartments that are still occupied today. (Neither is shown on the map below.)

Of the hotels on or near Railroad Square, the most prominent (and most convenient to the depot) was The Globe Hotel, seen here on a 1904 map. The hotel, and its livery and blacksmith shop, occupied the southwest corner of today’s Herrington’s parking lot. While not exactly “high-end” (for that you went to the Mt. Washington House), it was “clean.”

 

 

We have not been able to determine when exactly the Globe was built. The earliest reference to it we could find was in the Hudson Evening Register in 1877, but that’s 25 years after the railroad came through so it’s likely the hotel had been operating well before that. 

The Globe Hotel had many owners over the years – some of the names will likely be familiar: Brainard, Brusie, Haywood, Bliss, Decker, Scally, Drumm, Loomis, Sowek, and Glynn. The Brusie family operated the hotel for some 30 years starting in the 1880s, by far the longest-tenured owners. And Norman Haywood owned the Black Grocery before becoming a hotelier.

We believe that Franklin “Micky” Glynn was the last proprietor of the Globe, which by then was known as the Globe Inn. 

Micky Glynn was a railroad worker on the New York Central line.  He married his first wife, Helen Pectal, in 1928. Sadly, she passed away in 1940. Micky remarried, this time to Edith Reynolds. It’s quite possible — even likely — that Micky would have remained friends with his former in-laws. That’s why we found this document interesting. 

This tax stamp (probably for a pinball machine, discussed in detail below) was in a file of Globe Hotel artifacts at the Roe Jan Community Library, along with a sheaf of NYS annual liquor license Certificates of Endorsement. (Once you received a liquor license in New York State, it had to be “endorsed,” or re-approved, each year.) It appears that Helen Pectal’s older brother, Otis, operated the Globe as late as early 1950. By June of 1950, Franklin and a partner, Kenneth Hall, had received a license from the Town of Hillsdale to open a “Dance Hall” in the Globe. (Interestingly, other Glynn documents in the file refer to the Globe as a tavern, suggesting it was no longer a hotel.)

The partnership with Kenneth did not last long — the liquor license Certificate of Endorsement below shows Franklin as the “Remaining Partner.” 

Here is a photo of the Globe Inn.  

And here is a photo of the interior.

We also found these photos in the Roe Jan library’s “Globe Hotel” file.  Both were undated, but the interior shot gives us some possible clues as to the date. Let’s start with the pinball machine. It was built by a company called Genco and this table design and background were only manufactured between July and September, 1947. 

Notice it does not have flipper buttons on the side. That’s because flippers had just  been introduced for the first time that year, but not yet on Genco machines.

Sidebar about “Pinball Prohibition”

With no flippers, one simply pulled and released the spring launcher and the ball careened around the table with little guidance from the user. Because of that, in 1942 New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia decreed them to be games of chance as well as a magnet for school children’s lunch money and he banned pinball from the city – a ban that officially stood until 1976! On January 21,1942, at his command, NYC police squads began their raids, confiscating over 2,000 machines, smashing them to bits with sledgehammers, and dumping them into the Hudson River. (One source we found also noted that the machines were often controlled by the mob; it was by definition a cash business — aka tax cheat — that La Guardia had been trying to crack down on. Who can say? It has been estimated that Americans spent more money in the 40s and 50s on pinball than at the movies; the same is true today about slot machines.) 

New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia destroying a Bally pinball machine, which he believed “robbed school children of their hard-earned nickels and dimes.”

The ban ended when Roger Sharpe of the Amusement and Music Operators Association testified in April 1976 in a Manhattan courtroom that the addition of flippers had made pinball a game of skill. He had two pinball machines brought into the courtroom and proceeded to play. In a move he compares to Babe Ruth’s legendary home run in the 1932 World Series, he called out precisely what he was going to shoot for and then proceeded to do so.

Astonished committee members immediately rescinded the ban. (Sharpe later confessed that, like the Bambino’s, his shot was the luckiest “Hail Mary” moment he had ever had.)

Back to the Globe Inn

Next, scroll back up and look at the Schaefer Beer poster on top of the pinball machine.  It shows the actress Paulette Goddard waxing on about Schaefer. Here’s a similar image as a print ad, also featuring Goddard.  

 

The F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Company ran an ad campaign in 1947 and 1948 featuring stars like Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball.

Here’s Lucy!

The ads ran in magazines like The New Yorker. In addition to the ads, Schaefer created bar posters like the one in the Globe Inn photo. We deduced the approximate timing of the ad from the fact that it mentions “A Miracle Can Happen,” starring Paulette Goddard, which was released in 1948.

Finally, notice the sign on the wall to the left of the pinball machine, just below the plaque with the great-great-grandfather of Big Mouth Billy Bass. (If you don’t know Big Mouth Billy Bass, click on the link.)

It is an ad for Stanton Lager Beer. The Daly & Stanton Brewery of Troy, NY was in business from 1880 until 1920, when it was closed due to Prohibition.  It reopened in 1933 as the Stanton Brewery and closed for good in 1950.

Using those clues, we can surmise that this photo dates to the late 1940s, when Otis Pectal was running the show. We think the state licensing documents indicate that Frank operated the Globe Inn starting in July, 1950. It’s worth noting that at some point in its remaining 12 years of life, the Globe Inn came to be known to area residents as “The Bloody Bucket.” We’ll leave you to speculate as to why.

Whatever became of the Globe Inn? Well, thanks again to the Roe Jan Library file, we know that the last State Liquor Authority Certificate of Endorsement was issued on July 1, 1962. Micky Glynn passed away on November 8, 1962 and on January 3, 1963 the certificate was transferred to Edith Glynn as Administratrix of Franklin’s estate. It expired on July 1, 1963 and there were none to follow, and in fact the Bloody…er…Globe Inn closed for good in 1963. It may have had some fits and starts as a bar or as a residence in the 1970s, but eventually it was demolished — one of our commenters suggested in the early 80’s. We can’t disagree.  

We are thankful that there are still a few residents who have lived their entire lives in Hillsdale and have steel-trap memories. Without them, the trail would run cold here. Hillsdale’s local newspaper, the Hillsdale Harbinger, shuttered in 1943 and Hillsdale went without a town newspaper until the weekly Roe Jan Inquirer in 1972, which lasted only one year. We searched for references to the Globe in the Register-Star, but after it was acquired by HudsonValley360, its archives from before 2002 were discarded. In 1973 Elinor Mettler began publishing the Roe Jan Independent, too late for any news about the Globe Inn, and while The Berkshire Eagle sporadically covered Hillsdale — a notice for a 1952 wedding reception held at the “Globe Hotel” and Franklin Glynn’s 1962 obituary  — we found nothing else. If you have memories of the Globe, or tales from its years as “The Bloody Bucket,” we’d love to hear them. You can leave us a note in the comments section, below. 

We thank our “Chief Investigators” Sally and Bob Hopkins for tracking down some lifelong residents to confirm the very evocative nickname “Bloody Bucket.” Not a image we’ll forget soon. 

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Passiflora Pentimento

 

 

 

In November 2020 we wrote about the history of the Hillsdale Post Office in “Post Office Pentimento.” In painting, pentimento is defined as earlier images that have been changed or painted over and are no longer visible to the naked eye but still exist, under the surface, like ghosts.

Buildings also have these hidden elements and we are always on the lookout for clues in old photographs. Over the past two centuries many structures in Hillsdale have been added to, renovated, or reconfigured for modern use, yet retain elements of their original selves.

One of the buildings in the center of town – specifically 2638 St. Rt. 23 – is home to Passiflora, the unique gift shop opened in 2009 by Ken Davis and Kevin Draves. We were curious because someone recently sent us an undated photograph of a building in the same location that appears strikingly different from the building that is there today. We wondered if it is even the same building.

We started digging around old newspaper coverage, and deeds from the county clerk’s office (available online). Then we sought out some of Hillsdale’s lifelong residents for their recollections.  Eventually, we began to piece the story together. 

Around 1920, Arthur Closson uprooted the icehouse from his family’s farm and set it down next to the Hillsdale House. (By 1920, electric refrigeration was becoming widespread, making icehouses obsolete.) Arthur opened a small shop which can be seen in the picture below.  It was what we would now call a newsstand and sold newspapers, stationery, and candy. Arthur also acquired a supply of “popular fiction” — novels he would rent out for five cents per week.

Arthur also sold ice cream, as you can see in the photo below, which made the store a swell hangout for kids like the two schoolgirls posing at the door.

Arthur was also listed as the “local reporter” for the Hillsdale Harbinger, which he sold in his shop. (Today, we might question the possible conflict of interest:  the more sensational the news, the more papers are sold and the more money the news dealer makes.  But having spent many hours perusing the pages of the Harbinger, we can attest there was never anything sensational in that paper – ever.) Arthur died in 1922 at the age of 40. His widow, Lila, took over his local reporter role for the Harbinger.  

Lila sold the store to J. D. “Johnny” Quick, who owned and operated it for about 40 years.

 It appears the old icehouse was expanded to include a garret.  We don’t know when. Another big change from Closson to Quick was the proliferation of telephone wires traversing Cullin Square. Indeed, one can see the “Bell” sign on the Quick store indicating a public telephone inside, but not on the Closson store.

Johnny added a butcher case to his store.  It is said that Will Mallery, who had owned a foundry near the rail depot, would dispatch his dog, Jack, to Johnny’s store alone to fetch and return (uneaten) a pound of hamburger for Will’s dinner. That’s not the only trick Jack could perform. 

Will Mallery and Jack, balancing on Will’s foot while wearing a hat and clenching a pipe in his teeth. Who’s a good boy? (Photo: Lynne Colclough)

Jack on a less precarious perch.

Johnny Quick’s was also the location of the town fire alarm, which consisted of an old locomotive wheel and a heavy hammer like the one shown below. (Evidently, the use of old locomotive wheels as fire alarms was more common than we would have imagined and we had our choice of several pictures of immortalized examples.  Sadly, Hillsdale’s is long gone.)  

The sound of that gong drew the able-bodied out of their homes and businesses to help fight the fire. 

The Village Square Era

We have had some difficulty sorting out what happened in the store in the 1950s and 1960s, but we have uncovered some clues, if not a definitive timeline of this period.

We know that at some point, Johnny Quick’s store closed. We also know that in 1970, the Berkshire Eagle published an obituary of Edward Navin.

As you can see, it says that he and his wife ran the Village Square.  Did they buy it from Johnny Quick? Did they name it the Village Square? We can’t say. 

But in 1967, this classified advertisement ran in the Eagle.

Based on the timing suggested in the Navin obituary (“Until his retirement a few years ago”we surmise that the Navins placed this ad.  

We also know that Stuart and Marion Keough bought the Village Square because we know when they sold it.  Is it possible that the Keoughs responded to the ad in 1967, or perhaps later? We don’t know.

What we do know is that the Keoughs sold the Village Square to Jerry and Jeanne Chiavelli in 1974.  They owned it for just a year, and in 1975, Lyle and Louise Hatch bought the store. They then proceeded to provide Hillsdale with some drama we think of as the Great Coffee Cup Controversy. 

In 1975, Mr. Hatch erected a huge Coffee Cup sign on what is now Cullin Park.  He claimed that it doubled his business. The town cited him for a zoning violation. What ensued was a major battle with Mr. Hatch claiming the town was harassing him and the town claiming that he had erected his sign on town property, the aforementioned Cullin Park. 

Opinion in town was mixed: Some thought he was encroaching on town property and defacing the Civil War monument. Others thought he should be able to advertise his business. 

Hatch pointed out that his deed extended to Rt. 23 and that the State Highway Department had elongated Cullin Park by 50 feet two years earlier with neither permission nor compensation.  

As these things will, the matter went to court and in 1977, Town Justice Raymond Edwards ruled that the sign was not illegal. was not on public property, and did not deface the Civil War Memorial. The town vowed to appeal but the matter was rendered moot when Mr. and Mrs. Hatch sold The Village Square to Anna Salenovich in 1979 and the sign came down.  

Ms. Salenovich apparently ran The Village Square free of controversy and in 1985, she sold out to Diane Shadic.  Ms. Shadic operated the store until 1987, when she sold it to Peg and Brian Farratto. Ms. Shadic was gracious enough to purchase an ad in the Roe Jan Independent thanking her customers and wishing the new owners success.

The Ferratto purchase was notable for two reasons.  First, the couple changed the name of the restaurant.  The Village Square would now be known as Marguerite’s at The Village Square. (Marguerite was Peg Ferratto’s full given name.)

The second reason was that the Ferrattos, who ran Marguerite’s for three years, were the first owners to sell to a real estate investor instead of a restaurateur.  Edward Fanter of Tuckahoe, NY bought the building and after Marguerite’s decamped, leased the space to John and Tina Anderson, who opened Partners Restaurant and “Village Square” was relegated to the history books.  (Or blog post, if you prefer.)  

John and Tina Anderson

Partner’s was open until 1993, and that year, Hui “George” Chen opened the Main Moon Chinese restaurant, bringing Cantonese, Hunan and Szechuan cuisine to Hillsdale for the first time.

Main Moon operated for several years before closing around 1998, and for a number of  years, the building sat empty.  Then, in 2004, it was purchased from Edward Fanter by an architect named Julius Traina, who promptly transferred the title to an entity he owned called Yodi LLC in Bedford Hills, NY. According to lifelong Hillsdale residents, Traina Architectural Associates undertook a major renovation that transformed the old icehouse into the building that Passiflora occupies now.  

Quite a change, but the old bones are still there.

Mr. Traina passed away in 2008, but according to the Hillsdale tax rolls, Yodi LLC still owns the building to this day. 

As we noted in our Post Office post, towns change, buildings are built, and businesses open and close in them. But you don’t have to look far to find bits of the past, like pentimenti, still present in the space between old and new.

The Historians of Hillsdale are grateful for the assistance provided by Scott and Regina Cooper, Lynne and Jim Colclough, Sally and Bob Hopkins and Craig Norton.  If you know anything that would help us fill in any blanks, please comment in the box below.

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© 2021 Chris Atkins and Lauren Letellier

 

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Close to Home: Slavery in Columbia County

Black History Month spurred us to investigate the institution of slavery in the Hudson Valley and, more specifically, Hillsdale.  Like most Americans, we’ve been inclined to think of slavery as largely a Southern institution. But it was hugely important in the colonial North. From the earliest days of Dutch occupancy right up to the Civil War, much of New York State’s bustling economy benefited directly from traffic in enslaved humans.

In the 17th and 18th centuries New York was second only to the southern states in its number of enslaved people. In 1703, 42 percent of New York City’s households had slaves, much more than Philadelphia and Boston combined. Among the cities of the original 13 colonies, only Charleston, South Carolina, had more. 

In the Hudson Valley, the first enslaved men were brought to Fort Orange (Albany) in 1626, only two years after it was settled, by the Dutch West Indies Company. By the mid 1600s Dutch ships were bringing thousands of men, women, and children in chains to New Amsterdam, many of whom were sold to upstate landowners to work on the vast farms and manor holdings of the Anglo-Dutch elite.  Enslavement was not only a source of cheap labor (since settlers were hard to come by in the Hudson Valley) but also cheap capital. 

In colonial Columbia County, the majority of enslaved people were concentrated in the older river towns of Kinderhook, Clermont and Claverack, held for the most part by the Dutch, the Germans, and Anglo-Dutch landholders. In Kinderhook, roughly a quarter of the white households owned slaves in 1790. Robert Livingston, the third lord of the Manor, ruled a literal plantation, with some of the forty-four slaves working at his ironworks at Ancram. In 1786 there were more than 1300 slaves in Kinderhook, Claverack, and Clermont, comprising 10 to 13 percent of those towns’ total population. 

In sharp contrast, the Yankee-settled hill towns of Hillsdale and Canaan along the Massachusetts border had far fewer enslaved people. In the first Federal census of 1790, enslaved Africans counted for less than one percent of the population of Hillsdale and Canaan. It is tempting to imagine that the hill town Yankees – emigres from Massachusetts which had abolished slavery in 1784, and Connecticut, which had passed an act for Gradual Abolition in 1784 — were more high-minded than their riverfront neighbors. But more likely they were just poorer, working as tenant farmers on the Livingston or Van Rensselaer manors, a condition of servitude unlikely to enrich them to the point where they could afford to buy enslaved people. Those who weren’t tenant farmers were considered “squatters” by the Van Rensselaers and Livingstons and were in constant danger of being chased back over the border by British troops at the behest of the great landowners. 

Americans won their freedom from Great Britain in 1785 but did not extend that freedom to people of color (or to women, for that matter). The first halting steps toward abolishing slavery in the state were being taken in New York as early as 1785 but were heatedly contested. Columbia County was split on emancipation. The anti-abolitionists were rooted in the riverfront Dutch/German communities where slavery was a fundamental part of the agricultural economy. The pro-abolitionists encompassed both the thriving city of Hudson, settled by Quaker whalers from New England, and the populist Baptist militants of the eastern hill towns of Canaan and Hillsdale, where slavery was much less entrenched. 

That is not to say that there were no enslaved people in Hillsdale. The 1790 census shows a total of 66 enslaved people in Canaan and Hillsdale, compared to 978 in Kinderhook and Claverack, and 386 in the south-county Livingston towns. Charles McKinstry, a prominent Hillsdale figure and member of the NY State Legislature, held five, and Ambrose Spencer (of Spencertown) held three. But both men, conscious of evolving anti-slavery sentiment, voted against their financial interests to support the abolishment of slavery in New York. 

After nearly 15 years of State Legislature squabbling, New York passed a gradual emancipation act in 1799. It freed no one immediately; only children born to enslaved people after July 4, 1799 would be liberated, and only after they served a lengthy indenture for many years. Practically, the system amounted to a form of remuneration for lost slaves, since freed children were often bound back to their former masters. An 1817 law went further, freeing slaves born before July 4, 1799.  But it did not go into effect until July 4, 1827. And children born to enslaved mothers before July 4, 1827 would be indentured for 21 years. These two laws reflected compromises with pro-slavery financial interests and were intended to protect slave owners by drawing out emancipation over generations.

Still, New York became a haven for slaves escaping from Mid Atlantic and Southern states. The militancy of the hill towns may have helped shaped the operations of the underground railroad in Columbia County, where stations in Hudson, Chatham, and Austerlitz hid fugitives coming up the river from New York. Advertisements offering rewards for escaped slaves tell a sad story.

 

 

 

Then came the federal Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, which nullified New York’s personal liberty laws and required state officials to help slave catchers and punished those who helped escaping slaves. Free blacks had to be on guard against gangs of kidnappers who would seize free men and women, falsely claim they were escaped slaves, and ship them south to be sold.

As pro- vs. anti-abolition sentiment roiled the country in the run up to the Civil War, Columbia County stayed largely in the anti-abolition column. Kinderhook native Martin Van Buren, the 8th President, was called the quintessential “northern man with southern principles” by a Black newspaper correspondent passing through Kinderhook, with Washington allies who were on a par with “the sultan of Constantinople, or the autocrat of St. Petersburg.” More interested in holding on to power than in resolving the question of emancipation, Van Buren lasted only one term in office. By 1840 the black communities in Hudson, Troy and Albany began to publish publications like the Northern Star and Freeman’s Advocate, the National Watchman and the Clarion, mobilizing African Americans in New York State galled by their nearly total disenfranchisement.

The Black population in Columbia County was stable or declining between 1820-1860 as freed African Americans left farms for cities or struck out for more fertile western lands when the Erie Canal opened. When the Civil War finally came, Columbia County was ambivalent, and efforts to raise a regiment failed in 1861. But Blacks in the county took the first opportunity to join the fight against slavery. Early in 1863 Colonel Robert Gould Shaw of Boston raised the first regiment of Black soldiers for the Union Army, the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, largely from Berkshire County. All told, twenty-five Black Columbians served in the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts.

Hillsdale has a somewhat tenuous connection with one of the founders of the NAACP. Thomas Burghardt (born in West Africa around 1730) was held in enslavement by the Dutch colonist Conraed Burghardt in the Housatonic Valley. Thomas briefly served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, which may have been how he gained his freedom during the 18th century. His grandson Othello in 1811 married Sarah Lampman, who was remembered by her grandson as “a thin, tall, yellow and hawk-faced woman” originally from Hillsdale. That child, born in 1868 and brought up in his Burghardt grandparents’ Great Barrington household, was William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (W.E.B. Du Bois), the famed civil rights activist, prolific writer, scholar, sociologist, educator and a co-founder of the NAACP. 

On Dugway Rd. in Austerlitz, a marker denotes the approximate location where Peter Wheeler settled circa 1825. Born into slavery in 1789 and freed as a child in the will of his owner, Wheeler was re-enslaved at age 9 and endured unimaginable brutality until escaping in 1806 for a life at sea. He wrote his autobiography, Chains and Freedom; or, The Life and Adventures of a Colored Man Yet Living, a Slave in Chains, a Sailor on the Deep, and a Sinner at the Cross, in  1839. You can read it online here

Peter Wheeler, author of Chains and Freedom; or, The Life and Adventures of Peter Wheeler: A Colored Man Yet Living, a Slave in Chains, a Sailor on the Deep, and a Sinner at the Cross.

 

References:

https://humanitiesny.org/people-not-property-exploring-the-legacy-of-slavery-in-new-yorks-hudson-valley/

New York State Museum http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/research-collections/archaeology/historical-archaeology/research/archaeology-slavery-hudson-river

Columbia Rising: Civil Life on the Upper Hudson from the Revolution to the Age of Jackson, John L. Brooke, University of North Carolina Press, 2010

© 2021 Chris Atkins and Lauren Letellier
 
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The Possible Origin of Anthony Street

One of the things we really enjoy about being the town historians is finding a particular facet of Hillsdale history and learning everything we can about it, and then sharing it with you. We select our topics in either of two ways: we see something and wonder about it, or someone asks us about something and we try our best to answer the question.

Susan B. Anthony

Not long ago, a reader speculated that Anthony Street was named for celebrated abolitionist, temperance crusader and suffragette Susan B. Anthony. We have often wondered how Anthony Street got its name and set out to see if we could make the SBA connection.

First of all, things get renamed all the time. Idlewild became Kennedy. Waterloo, Texas is now Austin. And Railroad Street in Hillsdale became Anthony Street. But who was Anthony?

A warning: the rest of what follows might be described best as “informed speculation.” “Informed” because we have spent quite a bit of time delving into the matter, and “speculation” because we can’t provide definitive proof of the hypothesis. Carry on.

In November 2018, we published a blog post called “What’s In a Name” that traced the source of some of the more interesting names of streets and roads in and around Hillsdale. In researching for the post, we did our best to identify Hillsdale residents through the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries named Anthony who might have been prominent enough to deserve such an honor and came up dry – no farmers, merchants, politicians or preachers. (The one person in Hillsdale named Anthony — George Anthony — did jail time in 1903 for stealing chickens, so it is unlikely that he was honored with a street name.)

Then we started looking into the history of Susan herself, to see if there might be a connection. And, well, there just might be.

Susan Brownell Anthony was born in Adams, MA, in 1820. She was the second of seven children. When she was six, the family moved to Battenville, New York, not far from Saratoga Springs. When they lost the Battenville house during the Panic of 1837, they moved to Rochester, where in time they purchased a 32 acre farm along the Erie Canal.

The Anthony farm in Rochester, NY

The Anthony farm became known as a meeting place for anti-slavery activists (we don’t know specifically why), and Susan met a number of prominent abolitionists, including John Brown, Horace Greeley and Frederick Douglass. In 1851, she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was already emerging as the leader of the women’s rights movement.

There is, of course, much more to say about Susan B. Anthony, but for our purposes what is notable is that both she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton crisscrossed New York state for several years, arguing for women’s rights and in particular women’s suffrage. Jim Benton, librarian of the Columbia County Historical Society, confirmed that Susan B. Anthony spoke at least twice in each New York county during the suffrage campaign.

We also know that Anthony was mentioned in the pages of the Hillsdale Harbinger, in some cases with no explanation of who she was – an indication that she was well-known in the area.

“Susan B. Anthony is a vegetarian.”

 

“Miss Susan B. Anthony advises young women to study law.” (The next item notes that 23 states allowed women to practice at the bar.)

Susan B. Anthony died on March 13, 1906. Here is a portion of her obituary as it appeared in The New York Times.

Susan B. Anthony’s New York Times obituary

Our last two pieces of circumstantial evidence are a Sanborn Map Company fire insurance map of Hillsdale, dated 1904. It clearly shows that today’s Anthony Street was then called “Railroad.”

Sanborn Map Company fire insurance map showing a street named Railroad.

The Sanborn Seal

Finally, here is another clipping from the Hillsdale Harbinger, dated January 3, 1908. It is the earliest reference we have found to “Anthony street.”

The earliest reference we have found: “Clyde Harvey removed his household goods to his new home on Anthony Street this week but will not occupy it permanently for a couple of weeks yet.”

It should also be noted that due to the sometimes emotional response to the causes she championed (Abolition, Temperance and Suffrage), for much of her adult life Anthony was reviled by many.  However, by the end of the 19th century, her reputation had been rehabilitated and she became a revered figure who in 1900 celebrated her 80th birthday with a dinner in the White House.  Less than two months after her death, she was the subject of a glowing tribute at a meeting of the Columbia County chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union Institute. And 13 years later, Anthony was still so beloved that the 19th constitutional amendment granting woman the right to vote came to be known as the “Susan B. Anthony Amendment.”

One more consideration:  Railroad Street was called that because it stretched from the Columbia Turnpike (aka Main Street, aka Rt. 23) to — you guessed it — the New York and Harlem Railroad, which was still making daily trips between New York and Chatham.  If the name change had occurred in, say, 1974, it could be explained by the fact that rail service north of Dover Plains was abruptly terminated in 1972. But Railroad was changed to Anthony sometime between 1904 and 1908 while there was still rail service, so to us it seems likely that something of significance happened that people felt should be commemorated.  Could that be the 1906 death of Susan B. Anthony? 

Our circumstantial evidence says it is certainly possible. Meanwhile, we haven’t found any evidence that it’s not true.

What do you think? Let us know in the “Leave a Reply” section below.

© 2021 Chris Atkins and Lauren Letellier

 

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And Now, For Your Holiday Shopping Pleasure…

The Historians of Hillsdale spend quite a bit of time delving into old newspapers to research people and places.  A great resource is the Roe Jan Community Library website, which offers the digitized issues of the Hillsdale Harbinger, Hillsdale Herald, and the various incarnations of the Independent. Unfortunately, there are gaps — the 1960s are nowhere to be found. Nevertheless, it is a treasure trove of Hillsdale history. Often, we set out to find something specific and look up two hours later having lost ourselves in stories and advertisements from the 70s and 80s. If you — like us — did not live here in those decades, it’s hard to picture Hillsdale as the bustling hub of commerce it was.  

This first batch of ads is from the December, 1984 issues of the Roe Jan Independent.  Do you remember any of these stores?  Did you ever wear a dirndl next to a gargantuan wheel of Swiss cheese? How about that Hot Lips sweater from the Hayloft? 

Step back through the mists of time and look at the December 1974 issues of the Independent.  And consider the likelihood of cramming a refrigerator-freezer into a Christmas stocking.   

        

Finally, we venture into ancient history.  As you can see from this advertisement from a December 1896 issue of the Harbinger, Freeland Pulver turned his dry goods store into a Christmas emporium.  

 

But by 1910, as children were writing notes to Santa, Mr. Pulver claimed to have received a message from the big man himself. Apparently, St. Nick, in a nod to modern times, ditched the sleigh and reindeer in favor of an airship for his journey to Hillsdale.  Must have been a sight to see.

This Historians of Hillsdale wish you the very best of holiday seasons in this most unprecedented year. Stay healthy and safe.

© 2020 Chris Atkins and Lauren Letellier

 

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From Solstice to Santa Claus: How Christmas Became Christmas

Tomorrow, December 21, is the Winter Solstice, the longest day of the year and a holiday observed since the late Neolithic and Bronze Age. The Winter Solstice was immensely important in agrarian societies. In December, farmers enjoyed a period of leisure. The harvest had been gathered, the deep freeze of midwinter had not yet set it, and most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter. It was almost the only time of year when a plentiful supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking. It was a time to let off steam, and to gorge.

Although the Bible nowhere mentions the date or even the season of Christ’s birth, Solstice celebrations were so entrenched that early Christians opted to celebrate the Nativity at the same time, in the hope of attracting converts. Celebrating, lubricated by alcohol, could easily become rowdy troublemaking and in medieval and early modern Europe Christmas was a season of “misrule,” a time of raucous excess, flouting norms, aggressive begging and home invasions of the well-to-do by the poor. Celebrants often elected a “Lord of Misrule” to preside over these annual revels. In 1637 England, a crowd gave the Lord of Misrule a wife in a public marriage service conducted by a fellow reveler posing as a minister. The affair was consummated on the spot!

The Lord of Misrule


How this celebration of excess evolved into the domestic, family-centered tradition we know today is an interesting story of how a bawdy bacchanalia was tamed by 19th century Victorians.

In The Battle for Christmas (1996, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.), Stephen Nissenbaum writes that during much of America’s 400-year history, Christmas was observed as a holiday of misrule, a time of raucous excess.  God-fearing New England Puritans set about trying to suppress this wickedness, declaring celebrating Christmas to be a crime in 1659 and “purifying” 17th century New England almanacs of any mention of the holiday.

“The Observation of Christmas having been deemed a Sacrilege, the exchanging of Gifts and Greetings, dressing in Fine Clothing, Feasting and similar Satanical Practices are hereby FORBIDDEN with the Offender liable to a Fine of Five Shillings.”


But despite the Puritans’ best efforts, Christmas in America became a drunken street carnival, a raucous combination of Halloween, New Year’s Eve, and Mardi Gras. In New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and other cities, the poorest residents (mostly, but not exclusively, men and boys) drank to excess, fired muskets wildly, and engaged in “mumming,” costuming themselves in animal pelts or women’s clothes. Local bars actually serviced drinks gratis on Christmas Day, a holdover from an old English custom. The poor would demand entrance into the homes of the well-off and aggressively beg for food, drink, and money. Celebrants formed Callithumpian parades, disturbing the peace by beating on kettles, blowing on penny trumpets and tin horns, and setting off firecrackers.
Sometimes things would escalate and there would be break-ins, vandalism, and sexual assault. In 1828, a particularly violent Christmas riot in New York led the city to create its first professional police force.

Callithumpian Parade


We could find no records suggesting that Christmas was observed this way in Hillsdale in the 18th century. Possibly the Yankee New Englanders who founded the tiny squatter settlement of Nobletown (today’s North Hillsdale) were too busy feuding over land claims with the powerful Van Rensselaers to the north, who constantly threatened the hill town settlers along the Massachusetts border. In 1766 the Van Rensselaers hired British troops to evict the Nobletown settlers and burn the settlement to the ground.

But there are hints that after the Revolutionary War Hillsdale residents remained an unruly bunch. In 1799 the Columbia Turnpike Directors had to draft a “Hillsdale Exception” permitting gate hopping by Hillsdale residents at the East Gate Toll House: “Whereas certain inhabitants in the town of Hillsdale have become excited upon the subject of the eastern gate on the Columbia Turnpike … for the purpose of allaying said excitement [we] do agree to give to such inhabitants as will be satisfied and will cease to be excited themselves and will avoid fomenting excitement in others the following privileges …”

In other words, everyone should just calm the hell down.

“The Hillsdale Exception”



In larger communities, late 18th century seasonal celebrations were male rituals that excluded women and families. At the end of 1784 Theodore Sedgwick of Stockbridge wrote a jocular letter to Henry Van Schaack of Claverack calling him a “drinking devil” and promising that when the two met they would “eat & drink & be merry.” It wasn’t until the mid-1810’s that the Sedgwick children began to wish one another a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

In the early 19th century, the Industrial Revolution overtook the agrarian economy and there was no longer a lull in the demand for labor: employers insisted on business as usual all year long (think Ebenezer Scrooge). As farmers moved to towns and cities in search of work, the appearance of an economic underclass brought an explosion of poverty, vagrancy, homelessness and public violence. In the eyes of “respectable” citizens, cities “appeared to have succumbed to disorder … and seemed to be coming apart completely.” Christmas misrule had become such an acute social threat that respectable residents could no longer ignore it or take it lightly. Something had to be done.

A handful of wealthy, politically conservative New Yorkers was primarily responsible for creating a new kind of a Christmas. In 1809 Washington Irving, who had long lamented the absence of distinctively American holidays, published the satirical Knickerbocker’s History of New York in the guise of a “history of New Amsterdam” during old Dutch times, and forged a pseudo-Dutch identity for New York that became a cultural counterweight to the “misrule” of the early 19th century city. Writing as “Diedrich Knickerbocker,” Irving described fictional St. Nicholas Day celebrations in Manhattan where “Santa Claus” (an Americanization of the Dutch Sinterklaas, or St. Nicholas) would distribute gifts to children. These celebrations were wholly invented, but the book was read by many as serious history and became a best seller, not only in the drawing rooms of New York City but in log cabins on the frontier.

Jan Steen, “Hes feest van Saint Nicholaas,: 1666


Fourteen years later Clement Clarke Moore, a prominent Protestant theologian (and slave owner) became famous for a 56-line poem written solely to amuse his children. Moore described St. Nicholas as a jolly miniature elf with a sleigh full of toys and eight flying reindeer. He set St. Nicholas’s visit on December 24, not December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas’ day, and mixed a number of European legends together: the gift giving of the Dutch St. Nicholas, the Norse god Thor’s sleigh pulled by flying goats, the chimney descent of “house spirits” in Germany, and the French and Italian practice of hanging stockings. A Visit from St. Nicholas was first published (anonymously) in the Troy (NY) Sentinel in 1823.

Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863)

But it was political cartoonist Thomas Nast, the terror of Tammany Hall and creator of the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey, who developed the visual image of Santa Claus. Nast gave Santa his familiar shape: fat and jolly, with a stocking cap and a long white beard. Nast’s first Santa Claus appeared during the Civil War in 1863 as a morale booster for Union soldiers.

Thomas Nast’s vision of Santa Claus, 1881

Over the course of the 19th century, the rude revelry of Christmas misrule was gradually channeled towards domestic felicity. The rowdy Christmas season did not simply disappear: to read newspapers in mid-century is to see upbeat editorials about Christmas shopping and the joyous expectations of children juxtaposed with unsettling reports of holiday drunkenness and rioting. But newspapers began to relegate coverage of revelry and riots to the police column. Celebration moved from the street to the parlor. The temperance movement, spearheaded by women, promoted sobriety and pushed coffee as a substitute for alcohol during the holidays. Merchants began turning their stores into holiday emporiums full of tempting toys and gifts. Christmas was declared a federal holiday in 1870. In 1913, Hillsdale’s own Freeman Pulver promised a “Grand Display of Holiday Goods” … “The most extensive line in town.”

Pulver’s Grand Display of Holiday Goods

In 1931 the Coca Cola Company debuted the Santa Claus image that persists today. Originally a marketing gimmick to get people to drink Coke year-round instead of just during the summer, the campaign was so successful that Coke ran it until the 1960s.

Ad appearing in The Saturday Evening Post. Santa was painted by artist Haddon Sundblom

All of this is to say that the modern family Christmas is not a timeless tradition. It was invented less than 200 years ago, largely to prevent an impoverished underclass from upsetting the social order ushered in by market capitalism.

There are still some modern holiday observances that retain an early anarchic spirit. SantaCon, the annual pub crawl, started as “joyful performance art” in San Francisco but has devolved to a “reviled bar crawl” of drunken brawling, vandalism, neighborhood terrorization, public urination and disorder, especially in New York City where it has resulted in fierce community resistance. The 2017 SantaCon in Hoboken NJ resulted in 17 arrests and 55 hospitalizations.

For most Americans, the holidays of 2020 will be a quiet affair, more like Victorian family-centered celebrations than the pagan-inspired revels of the country’s early years. Perhaps we will use this fallow time to create our own holiday traditions, ones that value connection over commercialism, and giving over getting. In whatever way you celebrate the end of year, the Hillsdale Historians wish you peace, prosperity and good health.

© 2020 Chris Atkins and Lauren Letellier

 

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