Discover Newburgh’s East End Historic District
Posted in Historical Newburgh | Last Updated May 1, 2018
Puff of Smoke, by Gifford Beal, hangs at the Art Institute of Chicago. It depicts Newburgh with a view east to the Hudson River
Beal’s family had a country home in Newburgh, known as Wilellyn, where he and his brother, Reynolds Beal spent time. Gifford was a student of William Merritt Chase, and one of his classmates was Edward Hopper.
Note the background buildings along the Hudson River waterfront which were destroyed in the 1960’s by Urban Renewal. Fortunately, the Nomination of The East End Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places helps guard against future loss by encouraging active preservation.
Newburgh and Manhattan: defined by their Hudson River Locations
Newburgh, N.Y., the historic Hudson River city, is located about 60 miles due north of the Hudson River’s most signficant city, Manhattan.
Manhattan rose to prominence early in Dutch and English colonial days because of its unique, sheltered location.
Flanked by the East River, the New York harbor, and The Hudson River, lower Manhattan straddles the intersection of all three. The Atlantic tides ebb and flow up both sides of the Island via both rivers, and in the case of the Hudson, all the way to Troy, hundreds of miles to the north.
The New York harbor is one of the great natural harbors in the world, and like other such harbors, for instance, Boston’s, was the center of great trade and regional and international economic growth in an era when sea trade was the means to commercial exchange.
In fact, trade with mother England by 18th century colonials defined the city and vice versa.
Trade impacted the old world, which was dependent on raw goods shipped from the island’s harbor for a growing industrial manufacturing and technology, base back in England, and this reliance underscores England’s desire to keep control of the lucrative colonies, so aptly poised on great waterways and so rich in resources.
Newburgh is also defined by her location on the Hudson. Her deep waters became a port in the storm for colonists who escaped New York City when it was occupied by the British during The Revolutionary War, and following the war her strategic location and deep port made her a shipping logistics center for a young nation building its own trading and manufacturing economy.
A shared history
Both cities share the prestige of having served as headquarters for General George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
Today, both cities also share New York state’s top historic district designations.
Manhattan easily takes first place with nearly 5,000 designated buildings (including thousands in Park Slope, Brooklyn) and Newburgh stakes claim to second place with 2,217 buildings, including Washington’s Headquarters.
Jonathan Hasbrouck House; Newburgh’s oldest building and site of Washington’s Headquarters
Birdseye View Lower Manhattan Kimmel & Forster 1865; Fraunces Tavern location
The historic districts are, well, rooted in a shared history!
On November 25th, 1783 after several years of bloodshed and disruption, following the September signing of the Treaty of Paris, which officially ended the war between Great Britain and the colonies, an impressive transfer of power occurred.
General George Washington and entourage descended down Broadway while defeated loyalists evacuated Manhattan, the timing of the transfer of power so precise and well orchestrated by the two sides that at no point was the city without official governance.
By midday, per agreement, the British sailed out of New York harbor, past Sandy Hook, New Jersey out into the Atlantic, just as Washington arrived in lower Manhattan with much celebration and imbibing to follow at Fraunces Tavern, one of the meeting places of the secret society, the Sons of Liberty, who had helped start the revolution.
The year prior, 1782, saw Washington stationed in Newburgh, a safe spot 60 miles up river from Fraunces Tavern’s promontory on Manhattan’s upper bay.
While in Newburgh, Washington
- quelled internal rebellions litigated successful skirmishes, and strategized the campaigns which prevented British entry from Canada
- forced the British from New Jersey
- ultimately secured British capitulation at Yorktown
It is axiomatic that Washington was a military genius, and arguable that his protected location in Newburgh, guarded by the fort at West point to the south, the natural barrier of Lake Champlain to the north, and the Ramapo Mountains to the east, made the strategic forays of the troops he ultimately commanded possible, notably with help from allies such as the French and Germans.
Birdseye view of Newburgh, N.Y. T.J. Hughes
Since General George Washington’s stay in Newburgh until today, Newburgh has seen varying fortunes and numerous boom and bust economic periods.
She has usually always recovered, and gracefully, each successive period leaving its mark upon her visage.
The city derives its shape and architectural development, as does New York, from a post-revolutionary wartime during which, literally, captains of industry and the shipping merchant class, shaped both cities.
Freight shipping was a growing industry after the war, providing wheat to a hungry nation and world
Population growth at home, a food shortage in Europe, and the growth of farming in Orange County, N.Y. meant a ready crop of wheat and other foodstuffs was able to be shipped wherever necessary, to New York city and beyond.
New England farmers and whalers and shipping magnates, seeking greater fortunes, headed to Newburgh.
They shrewdly recognized her position as strategic, given her port, emerging rail lines, and proximity to the fertile soil farmers were using to grow wheat.
Demands for baked goods, and barley and rye for beverages of choice, meant that there was never enough wheat.
Eventually the Erie canal was created and was connected by the West Shore Railroad.
Emanating from Hoboken, the West Shore Railorad linked New York ports and Canal street in Lower Manhattan with Newburgh and via a growing crowded network of railroads to points north and west and south.
Effectively downtown New York was extended to Newburgh, making a connection being revived in our day, as Newburgh is rediscovered because of this proximity, rail lines, and now highways and interconnecting roadways.
Orange County, N.Y. was once the U.S.A.’s main wheat and grain producer and Newburgh the supplier via its freight ships and shipping industry
In the mid-19th century, as the west opened up, Orange County stopped being the center for sourcing wheat.
Farms to the west did the job on a larger scale, more cheaply (land was cheaper) and with a longer season. This caused other agricultural crops to be grown locally and sold to hungry residents in Manhattan and elsewhere.
Lumber from surrounding forests powered forges and provided material for the buildings in New York and the village homes springing up all over Westchester, Rockland, Bergen and Orange counties.
Shipping from Newburgh was by both freighter or rail, as the graphic timeline below illustrates.
Image Courtesy: hudsonrivervalley.org from an article by Neil Maher
One economy fed the other, and eventually textiles, shoes, and dry goods were heavily traded out of Newburgh for points anywhere across the country and the world.
As wealth grew and an emerging leisure class sprung up, pioneering thinkers like Andrew Jackson Downing, a son of Newburgh, and America’s first landscape architect, changed the way American homes and gardens were designed, effectively changing how a new leisure class lived.
Artists, like the music and dance teachers of the Alsdorf Family of Newburgh influenced the way music was performed and danced to.
This helped seed changing tastes by promoting certain music and dance styles to the newly monied, which the Alsdorf’s did both by way of performance and instruction.
Summertime visitors to Newburgh and Cornwall who ascended from Manhattan surely brought the influences of the Alsdorfs back with them to Manhattan for the fall season.
Famed editor, publisher, and bon vivant Nathanial Parker Willis hired Dubois Alsdorf to teach dance instruction at his home, Idlewild, but it is not a stretch to imagine Asldorf’s orchestra performed there at summer soirees.
The likes of Edgar Allen Poe was among many notable visitors whom Willis entertained and did business with as one of America’s foremost if not the foremost editor of the time, and Alsdorf might have entertained both men in Cornwall or at West Point, where he frequently performed. Poe was a West Point graduate.
Through boom and bust times, Newburgh, like Blanche Dubois, increasingly relied on the kindness of strangers to maintain her beautiful buildings, parks, and public spaces, as natives moved on to other parts of the country and newcomers discovered her charms.
Fortunately, these appreciative newcomers, as well as long time residents, recognized and valued the varied historic architecture found throughout nearly all of the city, with the area of most dense concentration being in the East End Historic District.
Official Map of the East End Historic District of Newburgh, N.Y. 1985. The recent rezoning is not reflected yet.
Spanning 445 acres, this East End Historic District of Newburgh has been a part of the National Register of Historic Places since 1985.
In fact, this area is home to the city’s oldest building: Jonathan Hasbrouck’s 1750 stone house the site of Washington’s Headquarters.
Hasbrouck House is the nation’s first publicly-owned historic site. Located on Liberty Street (in Washington’s Day, King’s Highway) and overlooking the Hudson River, it is open to the public year-round for tours.
Those with an interest in pre-Civil War architecture can discover literally hundreds of buildings in the East End that have been standing since at least the mid 19th century
Federal style home near Downing Park
Two and three story townhouses abound in areas on or near Liberty Street and Grand Street. In the northeast region of the district as well as the southeast the scenery opens up, and properties offer beautiful views of the Hudson River. In the southeast, Washington Heights area you’re sure to see some larger Victorian style houses circa the late 1800s; in the northeast Grand street area, there are Carpenter Gothic styles mixed in with Craftsman style bungalows and Italianate villas. These are only two areas to explore, there are literally block after block of beautiful historic buildings from the river heading west, beyond Mt. St. Mary college and beyond Downing Park.
Craftsman Bungalow amidst victorians and italianate villas on one of Newburgh’s streets in the East End District Photo Credit: John Leighton
Significant commercial buildings
Residential buildings, though, are not the only properties of architectural and historical significance. The East End District is home to hundreds of local businesses, and, of course, throughout the District, historic commercial real estate warehouses and manufacturing buildings may be found, rich in history, where goods were made and shipped.
Schools, such as the beautiful Liberty Street School, designed by noted Newburgh architect, Frank Estabrook, offers a stately presence as do a variety of churches throughout the Historic District, such as St. George’s Church on Grand Street features Tiffany windows. Completed in 1819, it is the oldest church in Newburgh, and boasts a baptismal font which was a gift of Trinity Church in Manhattan, one of that city’s oldest churches, and an example of the interconnectedness of Newburgh and Manhattan.
Broadway has historically been Newburgh’s main drag for commerce, dating to the days when farmers brought their wares to town from farms across the nearby countryside via the turnpike which concluded at the waterfront.
Now, Broadway is dotted with restaurants, markets, and family-owned small businesses in very affordable mixed use retail spaces.
We recently detailed a successful retail business on Liberty, Cream, and a possible retail use for an old firehouse building on Broadway.
Many of the buildings on Broadway are perfect candidates for the kind of retail success being enjoyed by Cream.
These buildings work well in mixed use context, especially given Newburgh’s recent zoning changes, which emphasizes Live Work as an encouraged option for business owners. Buildings available to rent or buy are listed here.
Typical Commercial Retail Space on Broadway in Newburgh
Newburgh’s Architectural Review Commission (ARC) is dedicated to maintaining the historical integrity of these older buildings. In their own words, the East End is a “virtual open air museum of outstanding examples of architectural styles that date back to the 1850s.”
The commission even has a handy guide for residents offering advice on how they may play a role in preserving classic architecture. ARC is a certified agent of New York’s State Office of Historic Preservation (SHPO) in charge of protecting and promoting the enhancement Newburgh’s wealth of culturally significant architecture and public spaces.
First and foremost the ARC emphasizes repairs not replacements for owners working on homes or commercial buildings. By keeping original materials, the commission contends, the original character of the homes are maintained.
Historic warehouse and manufacturing commercial real estate is found throughout Newburgh.
While the building pictured below may seem like it’s in the middle of the English Countryside, in reality this classic, historic commercial real estate building faces the Hudson River and is in the thick of the city.
It is home to the Newburgh Brewing Company, a popular purveyor of ales and beers and entertainment.
Th Newburgh Brewing Company. Newburgh Has Dozens of Similar Commercial Spaces
Financial incentives: preservation in Newburgh
According to ARC’s website guide “Beyond the personal pride of completing a beautiful improvement and contributing to the revitalization of your neighborhood, New York State now offers a 20% tax credit (up to a maximum of $25,000) for historically appropriate rehabilitation of certain residential properties. Most but not all properties in the East End Historic District will qualify. Projects must meet the following criteria: the house must be owner occupied; at least $5000 must be spent on the project.
“ The plans must be approved by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation as well as the ARC. In addition, both residential and income producing properties located in the City’s East End Historic district may be eligible for a 20% federal income tax credit for the substantial rehabilitation (both interior and exterior) of historic properties. For income producing properties, the final dollar amount is based on the cost of the rehabilitation; in effect, 20% of the rehab costs will be borne by the federal government.
” The credit for rehabilitation work on historic residential structures will cover 20% of qualified rehabilitation costs of structures, up to a credit value of $50,000.00. Houses must be owner-occupied. At least $5,000.00 must be expended on qualifying work, and at least 5% of the total project must be spent on the exterior of the building. For both income producing and residential structures, the work performed must meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, and be approved by the Newburgh Architectural Review Commission.” For more information, click here for the NY State Historic Preservation Office.
This building received tax credit and financial incentives and conformed to the ARC’s specifications regarding historic restoration and renovation. Read about it here
Newburgh’s East End Historic District preservation efforts 2018
Currently, the city and state are making efforts to preserve and rejuvenate the historic architecture of the East End because the history of the East End Historic District is important to locals as well as the nation.
The City of Newburgh is making strides to preserve its cultural significance while offering housing opportunity to middle income families, artists, and veterans.The most recent effort is the Newburgh Core Revitalization Project from development non-profit, RUPCO. This program will turn 15 vacant East End buildings into 45 apartments for rent. “People are moving here, there’s interest again here and all of the river cities in the Hudson Valley have to come back,” RUPCO CEO, Kevin O’Connor, told Spectrum News. “Anytime we have the opportunity to re-purpose abandoned buildings, to treat things with historic respect, to create affordable mixed housing, then that’s our mission.”
The Sweet Orr Factory rendering from the book Newburgh Her Institutions, Industries, and Leading Citizens, author: John Nutt
Affordable apartment units in East End Historic District available in February 2018
RUPCO’s website says the units are beginning to rent now: “The first series of apartments are coming online February 1 in Newburgh’s historic East End. Be the first to live in these newly renovated rentals in a five-block radius. They are just off Broadway on Lander, First, South Miller, Dubois and Johnson. We’re bring 44 apartments to life and Safe Harbors is managing the resident end on our behalf. Complete your application through Safe Harbors of the Hudson’s website here or call (845) 562-6940 ext. 141 for more information. You can also stop by their offices at 111 Broadway, Newburgh and fill out the paper application right there. Apartments include a space for every sized household.”