What makes a property a historic place?
The criteria for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places are admirably broad-based, encompassing—as per the official website— “districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects” that hold some sort of historical significance. How, then, does the Register define what’s historically significant?
That, too, falls under an elastic array of guidelines: the site could be linked to a person of historical interest, associated with a distinctive design important to the development of a town or region, or boast a high standard of artwork or craft. The properties highlighted here only represent a small fraction of Hudson Valley Historic sites (nearly 1500 across the region!).
5720 State Route 9G, Hudson
Frederic Church, the 19th-century Hudson River School artist, lives on not just through his art, but through the magnificent Olana, a 250-acre estate that Church created as a lasting, living source of sublime beauty. Olana can’t be experienced all at once; it may take several trips to take in the landscaped grounds, distinctive house, and gallery, plus any enrichment programs that may be taking place. It is a cultural and educational hub that is rooted in the contemporary world as well.
Listing date: 1966
30 Second Street, Troy
The Italianate music hall dates from 1870 and serves as a dramatic representation of 19th-century Troy’s industrial heft and prosperity. Troy has been working its way up and out of the decline of manufacturing; the functioning music hall is a potent symbol of a revitalized town, boasting — among other attributes — a mammoth pipe organ. The music hall is not simply of historical interest; it’s an active concert venue with truly eclectic offerings, including a recent appearance by Puddles the Clown. Did we mention eclectic?
Listing date: 1989
New York boasts one of the country’s most distinctive seats of government, the architecturally imposing, dome-less Capitol Building. Constructed over a 30-year span, the Capitol was declared complete by Governor Theodore Roosevelt in 1899. The decades-long building process — and change of architects — explains the blend of architectural styles. If you’re looking for the time capsule that was stored in the original cornerstone, forget it; its locale has been lost in the mists of time.
Listing date: 1971
1 Playland Parkway, Rye
“America’s Premiere Playground” (as it was billed when it opened in 1928) is the nation’s first planned amusement park. Playland still retains its unique Art Deco construction—“a hands-on, living, working museum,” in the words of one of its directors. Not surprisingly, numerous filmmakers have made use of Playland; It’s where Tom Hanks had his final encounter with Zoltar, the fortune-teller, in Big. (There’s even a Zoltar machine near the park’s iconic attraction, the Dragon Coaster.)
Listing date: 1980
228 Main Street, Poughkeepsie
Poughkeepsie’s 19th-century City Hall building is no longer the headquarters of city government (it houses the Dutchess County Commissioner of Jurors). The site serves as a visible reminder of Poughkeepsie’s history; when the City of Poughkeepsie came into formal existence in 1854, this was the seat of government. Poughkeepsie was part of the Civil War-era whaling industry and so, for a time, City Hall also included — in what was certainly a boon to satirists — fishmongers selling their wares.
Listing date: 1972
168 Lighthouse Drive, Saugerties
The Saugerties Lighthouse is symbolic of the city’s historical role as a thriving 19th-century port. The lighthouse eventually fell victim to more sophisticated technology in 1954 and, after subsequent decades of abandonment, was saved from demolition and beautifully restored. Visitors can explore and, if they choose, stay at the bed & breakfast. What is it about lighthouses that are so evocative?
Listing date: 1979
330 North Broadway, Upper Nyack
The restored Upper Nyack Firehouse, originally built in 1887, is a wonderful example of Queen Anne architecture and even features a bell tower. The structure served a dual purpose, functioning — up to the 1970s — as both a firehouse and city hall. It is still very much in use by the Empire Hook & Ladder fire company.
Listing date: 1982
1 Main Street, Brewster
Perched opposite Brewster’s train station is this Queen Anne–style building that served as the town of Southeast’s town hall and still houses local governmental agencies. Its original incarnation was the First National Bank of Brewster, built in 1886. Besides its architectural significance, the bank enjoyed the odd distinction of being cited in Ripley’s Believe it or Not! as the only bank entirely surrounded by street. (Although exactly how they verified this is another matter entirely.)
Listing date: 1988
44 Gleneida Avenue, Carmel
Until the Putnam County Courthouse was closed for repairs in 1988, it had been in continuous operation since 1814, a record for New York State. The Greek Revival building’s stately silhouette masks its formidability; for many years it housed a jail. Reopened in 1994, it’s no longer the county’s primary courthouse, but does still function in an official capacity.
Listing date: 1976
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3020 Seven Lakes Drive, Bear Mountain
The Bear Mountain Inn is the jewel in the crown of the massive Bear Mountain State Park. The inn opened in 1915 and played host to various dignitaries, entertainers, and sports teams, including the Brooklyn Dodgers. Extensively renovated, it now boasts superior lodgings and dining, all encircled by the beauty of its natural surroundings.
Listing date: 2002
County Route 20B, Cornwallville
There are some stone arch bridges, a 19th-century innovation, that are extant in New York State. The Woodward Road bridge is a prime example. Documentation is sparse, but this and the other bridges — in the words of a local historian — “are believed to have been originally of the classic dry laid stone design.” The fact that these bridges still exist at all is something to marvel at.
Listing date: 2009
25 Grange Road, Huguenot
Among the more interesting chapters in the Hudson Valley historical mosaic was the influx of Huguenots, the persecuted French Protestants who sought refuge here in the 17th century. This classic one-room brick schoolhouse — which, incredibly, functioned as a school until 1961 — is now the Town of Deerpark Museum.
Listing date: 1997
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17 South Street, Middletown
The Paramount Theatre, with a seating capacity of over 1,000, is a venue for first-run and classic films and an array of live events. This is accomplishment enough as cultural centers vanish from the landscape, but the theater has historical significance as well. Opened in 1930, the Art Deco structure is a wonderful touchstone to the vanished days of elaborate live entertainment — and has current resonance as well.
Listing date: 2002
93 Market Street, Poughkeepsie
The Adriance Memorial Library, in all its Beaux Arts glory, was dedicated in 1897. A public library was (and still should be) a sign of civic enlightenment, and the library’s grand appearance reflects this. The Adriance is the oldest tax-supported public library in New York and one of the oldest in the country. The library — and the Mid-Hudson Library System as a whole — offers a wealth of accessible information, culture, and knowledge.
Listing date: 1982
To view the more than 90,000 listed properties on the National Register of Historic Places, go to www.nps.gov/nr/