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The First Lady's Treasures Tour - Newburgh, New York

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Hasbrouck House The First Lady continues her tour in Newburgh, New York, home to the headquarters of President Washington in 1782-83, while he served as commander of the Continental Army, and the Dutch Reformed Church, considered one of the finest Greek Revival style structures in the United States. Both sites are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Newburgh is located on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River, 60 miles north of New York City. Its strategic location in the mid-Hudson Valley first led it to military prominence during the War for Independence and later to commercial prominence as the eastern terminus of an important inland turnpike in the early-nineteenth century. Newburgh's greatest period of development occurred in the second half of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century when it achieved regional supremacy as an industrial and manufacturing center.

Washingtons Headquarters State Historic Site is a 7-acre site that includes 3 structures: the 1750, 8-room Hasbrouck House rented by the Continental Army for Washingtons Headquarters from April 1782 to August 1783, the Museum Building, constructed in 1910, and the Tower of Victory, a monument to peace erected in 1886-1887 to commemorate the centennial of Washingtons accomplishments while headquartered at Newburgh. The Museum Building houses Washingtons expense book and a collection of his original papers. On April 19, 1783, General Washingtons order for a cessation of hostilities was announced from his headquarters in Newburgh.

It is here that Washington initiated the Badge of Military Merit, to recognize unusual acts of gallantry by soldiers below the rank of officer (previously, only officers had been eligible for honors). The badge itself eventually died out but was revived in 1932 as the Purple Heart, which bears Washingtons profile and crest.

The Headquarters site is the first publicly operated historic site in the United States (Mount Vernon is the second), purchased by the State of New York in 1850. The Museum Building was constructed in 1910. The Tower of Victory was erected in the 1880s to commemorate Washingtons order to cease hostilities and the peace which resulted. The project to build the tower was chaired by Secretary of War Robert T. Lincoln.

Preservation Needs for Washingtons Headquarters State Historic Site:

  • The Hasbrouck House needs a new roof and chimney repair. The roof is on verge of leaking onto the attic floorboards which form the ceiling of the original living and working quarters.
  • The monument needs a new roof because the original one was blown off in a hurricane in 1950 and beams supporting the second floor are rusting from exposure.
  • Making the Museum Building handicap accessible and enlarging the building.
  • The collections of original papers of Washington and Quartermaster General Timothy Pickering are currently in adequate condition but an ongoing conservation cycle needs to be established.
  • The 1876 wrought iron centennial fence surrounding the property needs restoration and reconstruction.
  • Landscape restoration is needed, including historic plantings, pathways and reinstallation of the 37 cannons that were on the site.
  • Construction of the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, part of which would be at a site six miles away at the location of a Continental Army encampment (New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site).

Dutch Reformed Church. The monumental Dutch Reformed Church was designed by Alexander Jackson Davis and built between 1835-1837. Situated high on the bluff overlooking the Hudson River, the church was intended to form the centerpiece of an acropolis-like collection of civic architecture. The monumental building features 2 foot thick, loadbearing stone walls covered in stucco. The front porticos four wooden Ionic columns rise 37 feet. The acoustics of the church are remarkable, due in part perhaps to the deep coffers of the wooden barrel-vaulted ceiling. The original pews and balcony seating remain.

The Dutch Reformed Congregation vacated this church in 1964. Threatened with demolition in the late 1960s, a grass roots effort succeeded in saving the building and the church became the symbol of a new movement, one that would seek to preserve neighborhoods and historic structures, while promoting new economic vitality for city centers. From 1968 to 1980, the Hudson Valley Freedom Theater occupied the church and performed important stabilization work. In the last several years, a coalition of groups has emerged, sharing the goals of stabilizing the building and then adaptively reusing it for varied but not conflicting public uses, such as public meetings, performances, and educational programs. It is hoped that work on the restoration of the building can be tied into a restoration training program for young people, for whom few job opportunities exist.

Preservation Needs for the Dutch Reformed Church: The building is deteriorating rapidly but is still structurally sound. There is an immediate need to secure the building from the elements: installing a new roof, replacing wooden siding that is missing, repairing existing siding, and repainting the entire building.

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