The abandoned mansion is off the beaten path, seemingly stuck in a time when the Hudson Valley was a sleepy backwater. The Point, as it is known, is sequestered at the end of a winding road in a forested section of Mills-Norrie State Park, located in Staatsburg. It’s set at an angle on a high promontory of the Hudson River, which glimmers through the thick growth of trees. The windows are boarded up, the roof of the large stone portico at the entrance has half collapsed, the porch is gone and the bare lawn is surrounded by a utilitarian chain-link fence; yet the Gothic-style building, with its tall gables graced by carved verge boards, bay windows and squared-off, compact mass, exudes an echo of fairytale magic. Constructed of bluestone, whose soft, faded gray tones blend in with the site, the house has a cottagelike intimacy.
“I’m goal-oriented, and truth-oriented,” said retired forest ranger Patti Rudge, explaining why she’s devoted so much time and energy to early 20th century Oliverea resident Dr. William H. McKenley, one of her hamlet’s most interesting and mysterious figures. A man of color, McKenley was described in a July 11, 1900 New York Times article as “well-known both as a society man and a physician of the Negroes on the west side.”
The winter of 1919-20 was quite a bit harsher than 2019-20. Consider: “The great depth to which the ground is frozen has caused many springs to give out.” … “Crossing the ice is still good between Highland and Poughkeepsie. The taxis charge 25 cents to take passengers across.” … “The present winter is without exception the longest and hardest in the memory of the present generation. There has been 25 snow storms this winter, big and little.”
Reclusive millionaire Oliver Hazard Payne was as wealthy as he was enigmatic. The eight years this bachelor lived in West Park left a legacy that lingers today.
Amongst a month of other events, there will be a bilingual flash-mob performance of “Un Violador en Tu Camino” (“A Rapist on Your Path”) in front of the Ulster County Courthouse. This choreographed protest chant originated in Chile and has gone viral.
Saturday, Feb. 29: Big Black: Stand at Attica by Frank “Big Black” Smith, Jared Reinmuth and art by Améziane, is the memoir of Frank Smith, a prisoner-negotiator during the Attica prison revolt.
Saturday, Feb. 22: This year’s Sojourner Truth Life Walk goes from Port Ewen to Kingston, and you can catch the bus from Dietz Stadium. The Hudson Valley heroine’s image is being added to a 15-foot-tall bronze statue planned for Central Park that includes Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. A statue of Truth by herself is soon to be erected near the Highland entrance to Walkway over the Hudson. The sculptors creating both – Meredith Bergmann and Vinnie Bagwell, respectively – will give a joint slide presentation and talk.
For the first 20 years, she remained the only black female judge in the country – a fact that she said “embarrassed” her.
Back in December, 1905, when Kingston still got its water from the Zena reservoirs and Cooper Lake was twinkling in the city’s eye, Oscar Harrison was murdered near the water supply. An African American man, Cornell Van Gaasbeek, in whose house the body was found, was charged with the crime and tried in Ulster County Court. He was defended by a local reformer, part politician Augustus H. Van Buren, as the trial unfolded amid the charged racial climate of the early 20th Century.
The ‘‘Our town’’ column is compiled each month for the New Paltz Times by Carol Johnson, coordinator of the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection. The entries have been copied from the February issues of the New Paltz Independent.