Discover Newburgh’s East End Historic District

Posted in Historical Newburgh | Last Updated May 11, 2024


Discover Newburgh's East End Historic Districts history, architecture, and charm!

A bird’s eye view of Newburgh’s active waterfront in the 19th century

The Bold Hudson

In the country’s earliest days, huge sloops and (much later) steamships navigated the New York harbor’s tidal waters, ferrying passengers and goods from the harbor’s mouth to the region’s capital, Albany, and points in between.

These ships were buffeted upriver or sucked back downriver by an Atlantic tidal current often so fierce it easily laid waste to river-going vessels.

A River of Commerce and Danger

A largely intact 19th-century sailing sloop is allegedly located in Haverstraw Bay, about 35 miles north of Manhattan.

Further north, the possible remains of a half-dozen Revolutionary War vessels scuttled in 1777 lie.

Whether ferrying cargo and people up to Albany or down to Manhattan, and sometimes on to Europe, river traffic took advantage of the current as it transported goods and people.

Natural Harbors Enabled Creation of Modern-Day Historic Districts

River towns with natural harbors became regional market centers, economic drivers, and wealth creators.

Newburgh, N.Y., for example, has a historic district recognized as one of the state’s most significant.

The district developed because Newburgh’s natural features—a safe harbor and a magnificent bay—fostered the development of a huge shipping and market center where an economy flourished and grew, and people built homes, businesses, and lives.

Through three centuries, Newburgh enjoyed economic boom times and a distinct architectural narrative that qualified her for recognition as having, outside of New York City, the state’s largest historic district.

Newburgh’s East End Historic District

In fact, Newburgh has two distinct historic districts, the East End Historic District and the Montgomery-Grand-Liberty Streets Historic District.

However, these two districts are considered by the State to be one continuous historic district, and for the purpose of this blog post, we will treat them both that way as well.

The districts appropriately front the Hudson River and run within a defined area inside the larger city to points east, west, north, and south.

Broadway (the widest Broadway in the US: it runs east/west) serves as a sort of line of demarcation, with many of the properties in the district south of Broadway, near Washington’s Headquarters, the oldest property in the city.

Most properties in that district (such as the properties in Washington Heights) are later 19th—and turn-of-the-20th-century Victorians, or Italianate row houses, popular in the late 1800s with middle—and working-class families.

The historic district south of Broadway also includes the aforementioned Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site, as a National Historic Landmark which is a separate building.

The boundary more or less encircling this District runs in a quadrant below Broadway, bounded from  Robinson Avenue (US 9W) to the west, to the east, Water Street (directly on the Hudson) and also Bay View Terrace on the southeast, as well as Monument and Renwick streets hard to the south with LeRoy Place and Broadway (as mentioned) to the north completing the district.


Looking south on historic Liberty Street in Newburgh

Looking south just below Broadway on Liberty Street in Newburgh’s East End Historic District

Within this defined area, the boundaries of Montgomery–Grand–Liberty Street’s historic district are defined by its three named north-south streets in the northeast section of the city, which includes 250 buildings within its 1,010 acres.

The properties in this vicinity represent Newburgh’s contribution to an amazing narrative of 19th-century style, culture, philosophy, and political development as represented across three specific architectural styles:

  • Federal
  • Greek Revival
  • Gothic Revival (also known as Carpenter Gothic and Hudson Valley Bracketed)

Importantly, because properties in the defined East End Historic District have a historic designation, they are entitled to New York State historic homeownership rehabilitation credit, and this has proved attractive, drawing homebuyers interested in a historic property in a city that is enjoying a renaissance.

Colonial History

The early city

The Dutch settled the Hudson Valley  (New Netherland) beginning with a journey that began (as schoolchildren are commonly taught) with Henry Hudson’s famous voyage up the Hudson River on behalf of the Dutch crown, in search of a passage to Asia via the New World.

While exploring, Henry Hudson claimed what we now know as Albany for the Dutch in 1609.

With Dutch control, Beverwijck, as they called it,  developed into a major trading post, especially in fur trade with native Americans.

Eventually, just as the English wrestled sea dominance from the Dutch, they also took control of this port city and renamed it Albany, much as they renamed New Amsterdam, New York.

The city we know of today as Newburgh, unlike New Amsterdam and Beverwijck, was not a Dutch settlement.

German Settlers from the Palatinate

Newburgh was settled in the winter of 1708-09 when fifty-four Germans from the Rhine Valley traveled here.

Specifically, they came from a war-weary area known as The Palatinate a region per German history that was part of the lands of the count palatine, a legacy name recognizing the a prince of the Holy Roman Empire.

This area consisted of two small territorial clusters: the Rhenish, or Lower, Palatinate and the Upper Palatinate. “The boundaries of the Palatinate varied with the political and dynastic fortunes of the counts palatine.”

The “Palatines,” as they were known overwhelmed by endless territorial disputes, and starving during an at that time mini ice age,  appealed to the British Crown for help. They were starving to death.

Britain, led by Queen Ann, took pity or saw an opportunity and agreed to finance the group as an entourage to the New World.

They were to establish a settlement in New York and create a naval store for British troops and to serve as a guard against potentially hostile French and Indian forces to the north.

Land was granted in an agreement defined as a “patent,” which effectively was a partnership with the crown.

They settled moved to the area in (now) Newburgh near the Quassaic Creek and built their lives, but not without great hardship, and continuing pressure from local landowners and the government.

The Palatines Managed Naval stores

Over time, other immigrants joined the Palatine Germans.

The newer arrivals were often of Scotch Irish stock, fleeing difficulties experienced at the Ulster Plantation in Ireland.

Eventually, the Palatines were outnumbered, and their influence diminished. But by then their architectural influences and orchard management techniques made a permanent impact on the landscape still visible to passersby on their way to New Paltz via country roads.

Discover Newburgh's East End Historic District and take the ferry from Beacon!

A much later ferry, but this service took its cue from Alexander Colden’s 1742 ferry from Newburgh!

A Ferry Links New York with Points North and West

In 1743, an “official” ferry was established when Alexander Colden, son of Cadwallader Colden (a New York governor who owned a large tract of land in Montgomery, N.Y.), petitioned Governor George Clarke for water rights so he could operate a ferry from Newburgh across the river to Beacon.

This ferry passage formed a corridor for commerce and communication that lasted centuries and has survived to this day as the New York Waterway Ferry.

Later, Alexander Colden’s shrewd vision of an east-west ferry was seized upon by Washington’s senior military strategists during the latter and final phase of the American Revolution when it kept commerce and communication between patriots in New England and the Continental Congress in Philadelphia open.

River Trade Spurred Economic Growth

Not long after Colden’s Ferry launched, Newburgh established itself as a vital part of river trade and the economies attached to Albany, New York City, and other points north, east and west.

Shipbuilders and shipping transport companies trading lumber, grains, and dry goods began to arrive, and the Newburgh waterfront began to develop.

As commerce thrived, Newburgh’s position on the Hudson offered the colonists a strategic advantage during the Revolutionary War.

Its riverfront became a logistics focal point given its dock storage and ferry, not to mention the expansive Newburgh Bay.

By 1777, the city was humming with military activity and people who fled New York City after the English took over.


Discover Newburgh's East End Historic District and her shipping history

Newburgh shipped bricks, wheat, lumber, and beer to New York City and beyond

The Newburgh Conspiracy

By 1782, the War for Independence from England had been effectively won with a victory in Yorktown.

Washington, headquartered at the Jonathan Hasbrouck house in Newburgh, held the frail but unified colonies together.

Unfortunately, soldiers who had left their homes to fight for the cause of independence had worked without pay for years.

By war’s end, these men and their families were literally starving, at their wit’s end and in mind to rebel against Washington, and the Continental Congress for lack of pay for a few years.

Such a mutiny would have obliterated all that had been gained, threatening the infant country’s future.

A plot was afoot, and General Washington realized he needed to undo it.

“On March 15, 1783, Washington delivered his Newburgh Address to the senior officers of the Continental Army. The speech contained important themes that would later reemerge in the Washington presidency – national duty, the submission of military to civil authority, and the importance of dispassionate and good faith debate.” The Constitution Center’s blog explains.

He let them know he sympathized with them, but disagreed with their decision.

He seemed to have little effect that is until he retrieved a pair of spectacles from his pocket to read a letter from Virginia congressman Joseph Jones, who had recently written to Washington of a near bankrupt Congress.

The officers were surprised to see Washington momentarily fumble with spectacles he had received only the month before.

None of them had seen their general and hero in eyeglasses, and he seemingly aged in their sight.

He offered an explanation per the lenses made to put them at ease, confirming his leadership and the character that had sustained them during The Revolution.

“Gentlemen, you must pardon me; I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind.”

The assembled officers were caught off guard emotionally… The stress, the majestic bearing of the commander-in-chief, his appeal to duty, and then the very human act of their 51-year-old leader now worn by years of war destroyed the cabal and quelled the incipient rebellion.

Some officers openly wept.”

Taken in part from an article on the Claremont Organization’s website.

Post-Revolutionary War Newburgh

The early 18th Century

On November 25th, 1783, after several years of bloodshed and disruption, following the September signing of the Treaty of Paris, the war between Great Britain and the colonies officially ended, and an impressive power transfer occurred.

By then, Newburgh then catapulted to a new level of trading status.

In 1801 a shrewd group of businessmen decided to create the Newburgh-Cochecton Turnpike Company.

The Turnpike Company created a road connecting Newburgh’s docks on the Hudson River to points on the Delaware River.

“Indeed, the turnpike carried thousands of settlers from New England to the western United States, many loading their covered wagons onto the old Newburgh ferry and crossing over the Hudson, then Western Avenue and the Cochecton Turnpike to head for Buffalo and the Ohio River valley.” noted Mary McTamaney, Historian, City of Newburgh.

Feeding the world

Newburgh was taking shape in a post-revolutionary war economy during which, literally, captains of industry and the shipping merchant class built New York and Newburgh in tandem.

Freight shipping, starting at the end of the 18th century, continued well into the 19th century.

During the first part of the late 1700s and early 1800s, Orange County was one of the premium growers of all grains, including wheat.

Changes in technology, including reapers, threshers, and cultivators, and an appreciation for improving the soil made effective cultivation possible.

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 could be shipped wherever necessary to New York City, and well beyond.

New England farmers whalers, and shipping magnates seeking greater fortunes headed to Newburgh.

Like others before them, they recognized her position as strategic, given her port, and, in the 19th century, emerging rail lines.

Proximity to the fertile soil farmers (throughout what we now know as Orange and Ulster County) was used to grow wheat.

Demands for baked goods and barley and rye for beverages meant that there was never enough wheat.

Adding to this pressure was not only crop depletion but an agricultural pest known as the Hessian Fly, which ravaged crops late in the 18th century.

Orange County farmer, Crevecoeur’s recording of a conversation he had with farmer and miller, John Ellison (whose home served as Knox’s Headquarters during the Revolutionary War) confirms the area’s grain farming ended by the 1830’s.

A change from a commodities-based economy

By 1835,  Newburgh was a now well-established market center where considerable commodities-based commerce was conducted,  creating and enriching a trading class of businessmen.

According to a state census, by then the harbor town and burgh had grown to a population of 7683.

Steamboats with names like The Washington, The Baltimore, and The Highlander were ever peripatetic transporters of butter, milk, grains, and other agricultural bounty, much of which originated in Orange County arriving at the riverfront via the Newburgh-Cochecton Turnpike.

Finished products herald an economic change

Brickmakers pulled clay from the surrounding hills and produced millions of bricks, which were then sent to Manhattan and elsewhere for the booming construction of row houses.

Iron Foundries also turned out castings and machinery in service to the growing metropolis to the south.

Thirsty? The conveniently named John Beveridge Brewing Company employed the latest in steam technology to turn out more than 20,000 barrels of delicious beer yearly, also relying on the huge agricultural production capacity of Orange County.

Imagine how busy the streets were with horse-drawn carriages and working men rolling barrels of brew down to the docks!

Consider also how one economy begets another. All that beer had to go into barrels, meaning barrel-making was needed,  keeping many employed.

Other finished products began to be manufactured by soap companies, silk companies, fabric manufacturers, lawnmower manufacturers, and piano manufacturers.

Each cluster added to the economy and created a wealthy class of people and far fewer poor people.

 Railroad lines eclipse river traffic

Eventually, completion of the Erie Canal would diminish Newburgh’s role as a freight forwarder enhanced by the Copechton Turnpike, slowing her economic progress.

As Barnard Professor Mark Carne, in his The  Rise and Falof a Mercantile TownFamily, Land and Capital in Newburgh, New York 1790-1844 points out:

“The Erie Canal, completed in 1825, reduced long-dis­tance freight rates and grain from the Old Northwest soon flooded the eastern seaports. Confronted with the higher yields and lower production costs of the fertile soils and large farms of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, the grain farmers of New York and Pennsylvania could no longer successfully compete for eastern markets.”

Change had come causing a  waterfall effect felling economies in its path.

As Professor Carnes further points out, though, in the same work, new demands would benefit Newburgh:

“From 1790 to 1840 New York City’s population increased ten-fold, swelling the demand for milk, butter and other perishables that could only be supplied by farms near the city. Farmers in Orange County shifted from grain to dairy farming and became major suppliers of the New York City market.19 The prosperity of the agricultural hinterlands benefited Newburgh itself as the sloops and steamboats which had carried wheat and other cereals now were loaded with butter and milk.”

Discover Newburgh's historic East End District which had a great manufacturing history

 Sweet Orr manufactured jeans in Newburgh in the late 1800’s


Rise of the leisure class

With economic growth came a desire for cultural and intellectual awareness, and this happened on a national level.

In Newburgh, the benefits of economic prosperity most took hold in the lifestyles of many families revealing itself in public buildings and private homes.

The first inkling that a desire for cultural enrichment was manifesting was revealed by the formation of several organizations, including The Newburgh Lyceum Association (1837), of which a young Andrew Jackson Downing was a founding member.

Topics explored included moral philosophy, industrial technology, science, engineering, and political philosophy.

An interest in architecture also ensued.

Interestingly, Newburgh’s Historical Society was also formed about this time, in 1845.

Newburgh’s leading architectural styles in the East End Historic District

To understand Newburgh’s significance as a center of style and architectural significance that permeates and defines the historic district and how this reached an apex in the 19th century, it is useful first to consider early architecture created during the development of the young colony and then the architecture of the young republic whose rising economic fortunes increasingly funded more complex architecture to accommodate more leisure time and a changing philosophical outlook.


Discover Newburgh's East End Historic District and her colonial vernacular architecture

Washington’s Headquarters on Liberty Street in Newburgh


Dutch Colonial Vernacular style

Few original Dutch Colonial architectural style buildings remain in Newburgh, however, the Jonathan Hasbrouck house is one. This is a classic stone house built in the Dutch style, with a steeply pitched roof.

While it is true that Germans settled Newburgh, and French Huguenots settled in New Paltz and areas in between, the population within the 18th century Fort Orange Dutch colony although not necessarily Dutch by pedigree willingly assumed a distinctive Dutch style and this house reflects that.

The Headquarters has its original fireplace, a jambless fireplace, typical of Hudson Valley Dutch Colonial architecture.

Newburgh's Historical Society located at the David Crawford Museum

In the Crawford house (home of Newburgh’s Historical Society) we see the orderly facades and symmetry favored by the Federal style.

Federal Style

Buildings in the Federal Style are some of the earliest surviving architectural styles in Newburgh. The young republic followed Thomas Jefferson’s lead in embracing classical ethical and structural principles for government and classical design principles for architecture.

Per Wikipedia:  “the founding generation consciously chose to associate the nation with the ancient democracies of Greece and the republican values of Rome.”

In the Crawford house (home of Newburgh’s Historical Society) we see the crisp facades and symmetry favored by the federal style. The ionic capitals on top of the porch columns indicate the Roman style typical of the Federal style. The ornate door has more of a Neoclassical feel.


Discover Newburgh's East End Historic District and St. George's Church a beautiful Federal building.

St. George’s Church, Newburgh, N.Y. Note its beautiful tower designed by Calvin Pollard

Located on Grand St, between Cambell and Second St., is St. George’s Episcopal Church,  another superb example of Federal Style architecture.

Its beautiful edifice was constructed in 1816. Stylistically, this building incorporates both the Federal style with Greek Revival, as it possesses architectural modifications by noted New York City architect Calvin Pollard, who designed its beautiful tower.

Pollard also designed the Brooklyn Borough Hall, and the tower on that building if not identical to the tower he had designed and built for St. George’s, is quite similar.

Pollard’s work in Newburgh represents two things: a well known and sophisticated architect who took a commission in Newburgh, where other notable architects would soon work, and the first introduction to the Greek Revival style of architecture Andrew Jackson Davis and Thornton Macness Niven would so expertly design, starting in 1835.

More modest Federal style houses are located near Washington’s Headquarters (located on Liberty St., south of Broadway). The two side streets opposite the headquarters, Washington and East Parmenter street, boast many of the oldest homes in Newburgh.

These homes are important not only for their design but because these areas are where many of Newburgh’s African American families resided, for instance, Professor Dubois Alsdorf.

These homes are far humbler structures than the Crawford house, but these row houses offer a good example of early 19th century Federal Style row house dwellings.

The houses are located in the second largest designated historic site in New York State, and in the oldest neighborhood in Newburgh.

AME Zion Church Newburgh

The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (the present A.M.E. Zion Church was built on the same site and dates from the 1860s) is also on Washington Street near a few of the previously described row houses.


Greek Revival

 Newburgh's East End Historic District boasts some of the finest Greek Revival architecture in the country including Andrew Jackson Davis' Dutch Reformed Temple

Superimposed closeup of a temple column and full picture of A.J. Davis’ Dutch Reformed Church Temple


In 1835 Newburgh took, if not the world, then the region by storm as it began building a number of significant Greek Revival buildings.

First to be erected was a public building, the Dutch Reformed Church, designed by noted architect Andrew Jackson Davis, and built in part by, Thornton MacNess Niven, who was a stonecutter at the time (he later became a prominent, though unschooled, architect).

Later, Davis and Niven would both work in New York.

Andrew Jackson Davis would go on to have an incredibly productive relationship with Andrew Jackson Downing, but for a few years in the 1830s, it was Thornton MacNess Niven (Thornton Niven Wilder is a great-grandson) who would dominate the architectural scene as a leading architect of Greek Revival buildings.

In addition to designing one of Newburgh’s most distinctly Greek Revival-style buildings, the former Orange County Courthouse on Grand Street, (1841-42), with its Doric-columned portico,  Niven also, it is thought, designed and built“Quality Row,” (1836-37).

Quality Row is a group of five frame row houses located on the north side of First Street, (1836-37). #112 First Street’s original owner was Reverand John Brown D.D., rector of St. George’s Church.

The five homes are generally uniform featuring two and one-half stories, 3 bays, rear porches, and a basement. The layout is rectangular with a left-of-center entrance and the roofs are low pitched metal gable.

Niven’s stone masonry skills would be put to use later as he oversaw the construction of  Dry Dock #1 in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, one of the great feats of American engineering in the first half of the 19th century.

Gothic Revival Architecture

Rural Gothic or Carpenter is characterized by pointed arches, pointed gables, projecting roofs and verge or bargeboards adorning the roof fanciful and highly decorative shapes. Other features include projecting bay windows, roofs that are steeply pitched, and large verandas embellished with scrollwork detail of quatrefoils, diamonds, and arches.

The genre was defined in 1838 publication by Alexander Jackson DavisRural Residences and again in 1841 by Andrew Jackson Downing’s first book, A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening.

In 1842 Downing collaborated with Davis on the book Cottage Residences, a highly influential pattern book of houses. The book did much to spread the so-called “Carpenter Gothic” and Hudson River Bracketed architectural styles among Victorian builders, both commercial and private.


Discover Newburgh's East End Historic District and Gothic Revival Classics inspired by Andrew Jackson Downing

The Warren House on Montgomery Street one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival Architecture extant

These defining features can be seen throughout Newburgh’s East End Historic District, in particular, Grand Street, Montgomery Street, and Liberty Street north of Broadway.

Andrew Jackson Davis returned to Newburgh’s architectural scene after developing a working relationship with Andrew Jackson Downing, a Newburgh native.

Downing owned a nursery he had inherited from his father who passed away while Downing was quite young.

The nursery emphasized fruit trees and other stock and as a purveyor, Downing had the opportunity to become acquainted with the elite of the Hudson Valley, owners of the great mansions overlooking the river.

Downing was an intellectually curious young person who had a love of botany and horticulture, about which he wrote extensively.

He became a tastemaker and an advisor to the rising upper middle class interested in science, nature, architecture, and philosophy.

He cultivated and educated his audience via his nationally popular magazine The Horticulturalist, as well as through the books he wrote.

Andrew Jackson Downing and Andrew Jackson Davis’ partnership upended the prevailing cultural zeitgeist away from Greek Revival architecture.

They evolved American vernacular architecture, classicism to the European influenced Picturesque style:

“Downing championed the Picturesque style, which included irregular surfaces, contrasting shapes, and interplay of light and shadow, and rejected the formal order of the “classical” style.” From Bard College.

Over the next ten years, Davis and Downing popularized the Picturesque style receiving commissions for numerous Hudson Valley projects.

Downing was not an architect, but he had very specific ideas and theories about how Americans should live and also borrowed heavily from English architectural and landscape styles.

Davis who was a trained architect served Downing as an advisor and draftsman, and he received great promotion from Downing who touted him in his publications.

Gothic or Carpenter Gothic architecture

Carpenter Gothic is characterized by pointed arches, pointed gables, projecting roofs and verge or bargeboards that adorn the roof with fanciful and highly decorative shapes.

Other features include projecting bay windows, steeply pitched roofs, and large verandas embellished with scrollwork embellishments such as quatrefoils, diamonds, and arches.

This circa 1865 Picturesque Gothic is a good example of Picturesque architecture. It features gothic arches over center bay openings. It was designed by Newburgh architect Frederick Clarke Withers. It is located at 264 Grand Avenue in Newburgh

The genre was defined in the 1838 publication by Alexander Jackson Davis’ Rural Residences, and in 1841 by Andrew Jackson Downing’s first book, A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening.

In 1842 Downing collaborated with Davis on the book Cottage Residences a widely collected and a highly influential pattern book of homes.

The publication entered into many printings and helped spread the so-called “Carpenter Gothic” and Hudson River Bracketed architectural styles across the nation.

These defining features can be seen throughout Newburgh.

Eventually, Davis and Downing’s partnership faded, leaving Downing to find other architects with whom he would collaborate.

Downing traveled to England, where he met and recruited illustrator and architect Calvert Vaux and (later) architect Frederick Withers.

These two joined Downing at his Newburgh firm, where they would help transform the harbor market city into a flourishing center of architectural activity.

Other notable architects followed these giants, including Frank Estabrook, designer of the Liberty Street School in Newburgh. While accomplished, none of these architects enjoyed the reach and impact that Davis, Downing, Vaux, Niven, and Withers had across the entire country during the middle to late 19th century.

Their pioneering architectural work in Newburgh has set her apart and qualified her for the distinction of being able to boast of a grand historic district.


All pictures in this blog post are the work of Newburgh native and artist/photographer John Leighton, whose work may be found on Flickr. 

Some information for this article’s architectural detail descriptions is inspired by research prepared for the city of Newburgh by noted author and architectural preservationist Arthur Channing Downs.