When I first met my husband in the early 1980s, we were in college in my home state of Maine, and I didn’t know much about his hometown. He told me that it was close to West Point, only 60 miles up the river from the Big Apple.
After a few weeks of dating, Bob showed up at my dorm wearing a battered T-shirt with “Newburgh is for Lovers” across the chest. The slogan resembled the ad campaign for the state of Virginia. I began to picture a resort town complete with tourist attractions and nightlife. When pressed for more information, Bob confessed that the T-shirt was done in jest but did not elaborate. If I visited, he promised to take me to the best restaurant in the city.
After being introduced to his mom and dad, we promptly left for Pete’s Hot Dogs before they closed for the afternoon. He ordered for me: four snappers with everything and two chocolate milks. I was surprised they only had sauerkraut and mustard for toppings. Where’s the relish? Onions? Ketchup? How could two measly condiments be called “everything”? I couldn’t take a bite until he drove me to the scenic part of the city in a section referred to as The Heights. We pulled to the side of the street and dined by a boarded-up residence; even in December, we could just make out Bannerman’s Island over the overgrown brush. Needless to say, this was not what I had envisioned.
Bob and I tied the knot in 1984. We bought a condo in Ossining, a perfect halfway point for my train commute into the city and Bob’s drive over Anthony’s Nose to Newburgh. After two years of condominium living, we were ready to leave our honeymoon nest for a fixer-upper.
For the same price we sold our one-bedroom condo in Westchester, we bought an early 1800s 4 bedroom, 4½ acre property with a pond, 2 garages, a barn, and a rental cottage in the town of Newburgh. But like the area in which it was built, the house was a diamond in the rough.
By signing our name to the mortgage, I felt as if we were also promising to do our part to rebuild some of what had once made Newburgh “The Queen of the Hudson.” In one of the garages, we unearthed a mastodon-sized lawn mower that was made in the early 1900s by the Coldwell Lawn Mower Company of Newburgh. Our donation to the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands introduced us to local enthusiasts and to a wealth of knowledge about the area. We filled the house with four children, and I taught at the high school where my husband graduated.
After more than 30 years of living in Newburgh, I know that it will never be the tourist destination Bob’s T-shirt promoted it to be, but I’m okay with that. The city is not the same as when I moved here in the 1980s or even when my husband grew up in the ’60s and ’70s. But Newburgh does have amazing history, architecture, and — more importantly — hot dogs.
Ginny McCurdy has made Newburgh her home for over 30 years and currently teaches at Newburgh Free Academy.
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