Nearly drowned: Talk on aborted Dutchess reservoir project this Friday

The 1865 Masonic Hall in Schultzville, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is just one of many historic structures that would have been destroyed by the proposed dams in Dutchess County. (Craig Marshall)

The 1865 Masonic Hall in Schultzville, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is just one of many historic structures that would have been destroyed by the proposed dams in Dutchess County. (Craig Marshall)

The town of Clinton in Dutchess County is best characterized as “a nice place to live,” says Dick Coller, board trustee of the Town of Clinton Historical Society. Clinton Corners, where the Historical Society meets each month, is one of seven hamlets in the town, he explains, each of which is “completely rural,” without supermarkets, restaurants, billboards or strip malls. But if the old Board of Water Supply of the City of New York had had its way in the 1920s, those hamlets would no longer exist.

That’s because the plan back then was to flood major parts of Dutchess County in order to create reservoirs to serve New York City. Had that occurred, all of Clinton Corners as well as Schultzville and many other parts of Clinton would be underwater today. Of course, this is what eventually happened in Ulster County after 1910 when the Ashokan Reservoir was built, wiping out several hamlets in the process.

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Coller will give a presentation about all of this at the next meeting of the Town of Clinton Historical Society on Friday, October 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the Creek Meeting House, located at 2433 Salt Point Turnpike in Clinton Corners. In “Clinton Hamlets Threatened by Dutchess Dams,” Coller will display a map detailing the plan and discuss how and why it never came to fruition. The presentation will include a video of the Ashokan project.

The Town of Clinton, population 4,312 as of 2010, was named in honor of governor George Clinton when it was formed in 1786. It became a town in 1788, but was reduced in size in 1821 when Hyde Park and Pleasant Valley were formed from it. The town contains four buildings that are on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Creek Meeting House in Clinton Corners, constructed by Quakers in 1777. The Clinton Historical Society owns the building now, maintaining its archive of photographs, town records, census data from 1790 to 1930 and the largest collection of railroad memorabilia in Dutchess County.

The Clinton Historical Society has been in existence since 1975. In addition to Clinton Corners, the organization covers the history of the other six hamlets in the town: Clinton Hollow, Frost Mills, Schultzville, Pleasant Plains, Hibernia and Bulls Head.  Meetings are held the first Friday of each month most of the year; they don’t meet in the summer. Some of the meetings are based around a dinner, Coller adds, so usually it amounts to about five or six programs a year that feature a speaker discussing a variety of topics of historical interest.

Coming up will be a speaker giving a presentation about Camp Boiberik, a Yiddish-culture summer camp founded in the area in 1913. It operated in Rhinebeck from 1923 to 1979 under the auspices of the Sholem Aleichem Folk Institute, but despite maintaining a kosher kitchen and observing shabbat, the camp considered itself secular and apolitical. After the camp closed, the grounds were purchased by the Omega Institute, which maintains its facilities there today.

 

“Clinton Hamlets Threatened by Dutchess Dams” presentation, Friday, October 2, 7:30 p.m., free, Town of Clinton Historical Society meeting, Creek Meeting House, 2433 Salt Point Turnpike, Clinton Corners; (315) 859-1392, clintonhistoricalsociety@yahoo.com.

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