Friday, January 20, 2017

“Keep Hope Alive”

copyright 2017
canopy of lights, TSL entrance

For many on this gloomy day,
the community lunch at TSL Warehouse was just what was needed.
"Keep Hope Alive" was a chili and cornbread feast with discussion on our times at TSL Warehouse,  434 Columbia Street Hudson today with speakers  including Cheryl Roberts, filmed by Dan Udell. Roberts referenced a favorite poem, "When I Am Old"/Jenny Joseph, explaining her purple scarf encouraging all present to "Dig Deep. Find Hope."

TSL Warehouse was founded in 1973 and in its current location, continues to offer documentaries and independent films in its cinema. One of the most recent youth programs was the bench project where students learned to build benches; designing, measuring, and visiting Lowes for materials. A few examples currently reside there and also at the train station. You can pick up a red piggy bank at TSL and donate spare change to help keep programs alive.
Over this weekend, there will be many opportunities to get involved in community encouraging hope. 
All are welcome; all are valued.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Legend of St. Winifred

copyright 2017

The St. Winifred statue resides on Promenade Hill overlooking the Hudson River. Folklore has it that she was a noble British maiden in Flintshire Wales beheaded by Prince Caradoc, known as Caractacus by the Romans, when his advances toward her were dismissed. After her head rolled down a hill, a spring flushed forth where it stopped. The statue was presented to Hudson in 1896. She wears the martyr’s crown and holds the sword that beheaded her. In this image, she looks more victorious than victim.
Image courtesy Kevin Stein
More information, images can be found in Images of America: Hudson/Arcadia Publishing on as well as local bookstores.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Hudson's Mohicans in the StoneAge; November is Native American Heritage Month

copyright 2016, upcoming issue of Hudson Magazine.

Hudson, Greenport, Stockport and all of Columbia County, New York was Mohican territory. They also dominated the territory spreading west to Windham, north almost to Lake Champlain,  towards Stockbridge Massachusetts, and south almost to Manhattan. Their stories, and some of the local historians chronicling them, are almost lost to time. Their stories are still worth telling.  

 Mohicans should also still be remembered for their contributions to our  history during the period of the American Revolution; they were honored previously by George Washington as Friends of our Fathers. Mohicans served in George Washington' s Continental Army in battles that were not theirs. 
The stories and history of the Mohicans has never thoroughly been passed down to people living in Columbia County, both past and present. Pilgrims and our European ancestors weren't the first here as people often forget. 
 Generations of people have lost their link to the past along with their region's history. The Mohican language is also extinct; as with any language, there are a certain number of people needed to still be speaking it in order to pass it onwards. Apparently, they had no written language  surviving, although symbols such as turtles and chevrons have been found on artifacts. 
Mohicans were an ancient and powerful race of people; their tools show fine levels of craftsmanship for that time period.  The Delawares and the Lenni Lenape tribe from the west near present-day New Paltz are believed to be who the Mohicans are descended from. The Delawares claim to be the breeding stock from which most eastern Algonquin tribes, including the Mohicans, sprang from.  By 1609, the 1000 or more Mohicans in the Hudson River Valley commanded respect; their main villages and chief occupied the Hudson River' s eastern banks and islands. In the Fall of 1609, a Mohican walked out from one of the main villages and saw a strange sight on the river. Thinking it was some sort of great fish, he ran back to the village to tell the others. Returning to the scene with two more Mohicans, they encountered the coming of Henry Hudson and his crew aboard the Half Moon.

Within twenty years of the time of Henry Hudson's ship entering possibly at Hudson or Stockport, their numbers had started to decline. Whether it was in part or in whole due to warring with neighboring Mohawks or the coming of the Dutch, their stronghold on the region would soon not last. When Henry Hudson and subsequent Dutch visitors arrived somewhat later, Mohicans were extremely hospitable to the outsiders. Hosting the newcomers, Mohicans readily showed Henry Hudson and his crew the Mohican way of life, their tools, their cooking and hunting techniques, along with their food supplies. Meals made by them for the visitors included wild game and the meat of a dog. We know also from journals kept at that time, that Henry Hudson and his crew entertained Mohicans aboard their ship; a gesture involving remarkable trust on  both sides.  Through the 1500s, European sea captains along the East Coast began collecting natives to take home as slaves; lower Hudson Valley Wappingers were hostile to Hudson for this reason.
Vastrick Island, later called Ten Pounds and then Roger' s Island, was named for Garret Vastrick, a merchant of New Netherlands and a friend of  then Governor Peter Stuyvesant. Wishing to wipe out all Mohawks  remaining, Mohicans landed on the island late night. What appeared to be Mohawks sleeping by their fires, was actually logs wrapped in blankets and a disappointment to Mohicans wishing to use their tomahawks to wipe them out. More importantly, Mohicans were now surrounded by Mohawks who fired shots from the woods with guns from the Dutch that Mohicans did not know they had been provided with. The few surviving Mohicans were marched as slaves the next morning by victorious Mohawks. Some Mohicans were burned at the stake. Some Mohican surviving families had previously started to retreat over the mountains into Massachusetts. 
Around 1736, the Mohicans left Claverack and New York for Stockbridge, Massachussetts then settled in Wisconsin where today they exist as Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Tribe. They currently maintain a connection to their homeland and now have opened the historic preservation office located in Troy. Bonney Hartley is the tribal member sent to the Northeast now representing Mohicans; she and my friend Stephen Kent Comer are enrolled tribal members. 
 Comer noted, "I can say that when I came to this area thirty years ago, I was amazed to find virtually nothing about my people in their native land. It was as though we were a ghost people. "
Donald Shriver, president emeritus of the Union Theological Seminary in New York, and Stephen Kent Comer, added a historical marker alongside the already-existing History of Columbia County marker at the northernmost overlook of the Taconic Parkway. The original marker tells of Hudson' s arrival in 1609 with no mention of the Mohicans. After years of fundraising and work with a variety of state agencies, and with the help of St. Peters Presbyterian Church in Spencertown, New York the men decided it was necessary to commemorate the Mohicans who had greeted Hudson and his crew.
 Leaving the City of Hudson on State Route 23B,  turning right just past the Old Tollhouse, is Spook Rock Road. The road was originally a Mohican trail. Certain seasons of the year had the Mohicans living and hunting in the Windham, Greene County region, while the rest of the year they resided here in Columbia County. 
As professor at the University of Rochestor and member of the New York State Archeological Association, Ken Mynter completed an excavation of an Indian shelter in Claverack yielding evidence that the site was used 5,000 years ago. Carbon tests proved that cooking fires were used there as far back as 3,000 B.C. with remnants of meals eaten there; mussel shells and animal bones were found. In 1984 while writing for the Independent newspaper, he wrote: Indians were living here in this county before the building of the pyramids while our own ancestors were living in the New Stone Age in Europe. It is a staggering thought to have sink in. 
After spending thousands of years in a vast valley with no one  else but their own, it is  remarkable that the Mohicans let us in...
This Thanksgiving, as you recall stories from your childhood about the Pilgrims and our nation's first Thanksgiving, consider and give pause to think about the Mohicans and what our region's Native Americans  were doing at that time.
Edward Moran 1898 painting of Sir Henry Hudson entering New York Bay on September 11, 1609 with Indian family watching from shore. Library of Congress Image.

Dart used before invention of bow and arrow; Late Archaic Period, appraised NYState Museum, Albany.
4,000 years old. Courtesy Lisa LaMonica.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Hudson Fortnightly Club, est 1888, bids Farewell

copyright 2016,

I met the current members of The Hudson
Fortnightly Club 3 years ago this month on a stunning sunny Fall day. I was asked to speak about my book Haunted Catskills at one of their bi-monthly meetings, and became fascinated with this literary club from the start.
Writing a book is a journey and I'm continually amazed at how many new people are met along the way, and the doors that open.
Becoming a member, is where I met the  late Kevin Novak, a local expert on the Titanic and Hudson's Titanic survivor Gretchen Fiske Longley.
The Hudson Social Reading Club was organized on January 22, 1879, with 50 members. It was created for social purposes at the height of the 19th-century social club era. The club reconvened the following autumn, on the evening of November 10, 1879. In her 1909 book History of the City of Hudson, Anna R. Bradbury wrote, “The literary menu was prepared by a committee who announced the fortnightly feast of reason and flow of soul.” Bradbury stated that the club’s formation was at the mention of “Miss Mary Gifford.” On November 5, 1888, the club was reorganized and renamed the Hudson Fortnightly Club. There were a few changes, most notably the omission of gentlemen, as well as the decision to hold meetings in the afternoon versus in the evening. A membership in these clubs was considered at the time to be a necessary and proper part of a well-rounded middle- and upper-class lifestyle. Original meetings were held in the homes of its members, in the parlors of prominent families’ mansions in the neighborhoods of Allen Street and Willard Place. A high tea followed the business meeting, with all the required silver service, bone china, linens, floral decorations, and fine cuisine and a dress code that included hats and gloves. Today, the meetings are given to a more casual attire and meeting place, in the central location of a church hall. Some traditions of the club are still retained today, however, with a formal business meeting followed by a receiving line, where the hostess and the committee greet members and the day’s guest speaker. A tea still follows, poured in the formal style, while sandwiches and sweets are passed by the hostess and the committee. This club is one of a small group of social clubs having made the transition from the 19th century into the 20th and 21st. The club’s ability to transcend three centuries was due to growth and change with the times and the needs of its members.
Sadly, a final decision was made to discontinue the club
and a final lunch was held yesterday at Yianni's in Chatham.
The club's artifacts are held at both the Hudson Area Library History Room and the DAR, 113 Warren Street.
Hudson's Titanic survivor, courtesy the late Kevin Novak
 The Inn at Hudson where past Fortnightly Club meetings took place. Courtesy Windle Davis

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Hidden in Plain Sight - Symbolism and the Hudson River School, by Thomas J. Illari

Copyright 2016 Hudson Magazine and Tom Illari,
Courtesy Tom Illari,

The Hudson River School artists were in search of an art form that would allow them to celebrate that which set America apart from Europe and this they found in the splendor of the American landscape. Over the course of the 19th century there was a remarkable change in attitudes toward nature, discoverable in all the arts, especially literature, painting and landscape architecture. It culminated in the Romantic landscape tradition in Europe and America in the 19th century. It was the golden age of landscape painting marked by a major change in the view of the relationship between man and nature.
The early Hudson River artists searched for the sublime and modified what they saw when they later applied the landscape to their canvases. They viewed the sublime as a manifestation of God’s power, to impress the mind with a sense of awe. They believed that there was a moral purpose for being an artist. Their goal was to recreate, not necessarily reproduce or just copy, what they found in nature. Their belief was that art itself is the process of creation and fundamentally religious. Rather than painting the actual landscape as first viewed by the artist their goal was to create their own allowing time to diminish unnecessary details.  They permitted themselves to embellish on those components of the landscape they wanted to emphasize by adding various elements, symbolism, and at times carefully hidden meanings within their landscapes. In the nineteenth century both the artists and their audiences were aware of the tradition of using symbols and they were fully able to understand and incorporate these into their works.

For example, in Thomas Cole’s series The Course of Empire he rejects the American nationalist pride by predicting its inevitable decline by showing in a series of five paintings the progression from wilderness  (The Savage State) to pastoral (The Arcadian State) to the empire (The Consummation of Empire), it’s demise (Destruction) and the landscape returning to wilderness (Desolation). This series could be taken as a warning that if we do not learn from history we are doomed to repeat it. And perhaps the next time our civilization collapses, it very well could be the last. Cole portrays the inevitable course of the empires of the past that have fallen into corruption, decadence and who brought about their own demise. It is a lesson in five panels outlining the historical course of empire building and a warning of what may be in store for his newly created country.

In Cole’s scene from Last of the Mohicans he uses enhanced geological features including imagery of a large phallic next to a dark cave to expose the sexual tensions in the popular James Fenimore Cooper novel that inspired the painting.

In Cole's painting The Oxbow the painting can almost be divided in half with the left side being an untamed wilderness with a storm passing through.  On the right side the storm has passed and everything is calm. It is an ideal rural scene, but the removal of trees has left scars on the hillside. On closer inspection, those scars are in the shape of Hebrew letters. For the viewer they spell Noah. Looking down, from God's perspective, the same shapes spell Shaddai, or the Hebrew word for God, or Almighty. Is Cole suggesting that the landscape be read as a holy text?
Aside from some of the obvious messaging, many Hudson River School artists used storm imagery that was originally used to represent the dark side of the sublime. However, as the 19th century evolved the storm imagery grew to symbolize civic discord during the civil war and to represent the coming crisis and tension of industrialization and technology that threatened a sanctified landscape.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

When James McCartney Comes To Town


copyright 2016
excerpt from July issue

When James McCartney first came to Hudson in 2013 playing a concert at Club Helsinki, I had the chance to talk to him after the show. His eyes were what struck me most at first and I had a montage of images come to me.
Images of his parents, his possible upbringing and childhood, and all of the legendary musicians James must've been around growing up. Secondly I was struck by how modest  McCartney was on stage and after. For myself, shyness is easy to understand, but harder to imagine a musician like James McCartney being that way also. It's equally hard to imagine such a legendary family being so gracious to the people who enjoy their music and taking the time out of their creative journey to visit with fans.
James McCartney returned to Hudson and Club Helsinki again last night taking the stage during his tour to promote his new CD "The Blackberry Train."
The show was delayed til 10 pm due to McCartney being held up by traffic coming from Manhattan; there had been a bad accident on the Thruway.
Studio versions of songs like Ring O Ring O Roses may draw a comparison to his father, but hearing this and many others live had a much grittier sound all his own.
McCartney wailed on the guitar with no accompanying musicians; just full out expression on songs like "Unicorn" and "Waterfall" with some punk and grunge flavors. Seeing McCartney live is to experience his music in a much more raw way than the CD offers. I highly recommend the CD for all of the rich sounds incorporated on these particular tracks. 
Image courtesy Neva Bota Trachtenberg
The night ended with McCartney's "Peace and Stillness" with lyrics about "what I wish for you" and "love is reigning in your soul"-- a salve to the soul after this week's Orlando tragedy still fresh in everyone's minds; the nearby vigil for victims of Orlando having had just taken place in Hudson a block away...

Cd review and full article to come.