For those of you who live in the Lower Hudson Valley, you probably know the area has some rich bits of history ingrained in its land. Whether or not you’re a history buff, you can’t deny how interesting it is to live in a place where notable political figures have made their mark. To coincide with the recent President’s Day and ongoing presidential debates, here are some connections previous Commander in Chiefs have with the Lower Hudson Valley.
Seeing as George Washington was our first president, we’ll begin with him. If you visit 84 Liberty Street in Newburgh, NY in Orange County, you will find the location of Washington’s headquarters, a fieldstone farmhouse that has the distinction of being the first public historic site in the country. Washington resided in this house for 16 months following the end of the American Revolution, and while staying there, he created the Badge of Military Merit, which is the predecessor to the Purple Heart. The house is now a museum that overlooks the magnificent Hudson River and also includes the Tower of Victory, which was constructed in 1890 to overlook the river. The tower is meant to honor the centennial of Washington’s stay at the house. It’s a real privilege to be in close proximity to a piece of history involving one of our Founding Fathers, so if you have time to visit this museum, I highly suggest you do so.
If you find yourself traveling around Hyde Park, NY in Dutchess County, you should go to 4097 Albany Post Road and visit the Springwood estate, which was the birthplace, home, and final resting place of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, our 32nd president. He was once quoted saying, “All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River,” and it’s safe to say anyone can find a sense of tranquility when living in a home as beautiful as this one next to a river as historic and gorgeous as the Hudson. The property also includes a library and museum that will teach you about FDR’s 12-year presidency (this was before the enactment of the 22nd amendment, which limits a president to two terms). In 1943, Roosevelt donated his home to the American people; and following his passing in 1945, it was given to the National Parks Service. There was even a movie released in 2012 called “Hyde Park on Hudson,” which starred Bill Murray as FDR. Roosevelt also had the quaint and cozy Top Cottage, which he built in 1937 as a retreat and eventual retirement home, where he also had guests such as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Top Cottage also has the distinctions of being one of the first wheelchair-accessible homes and one of the only homes designed by a living president.
In 1927, our 35th president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, moved from Brookline, Massachusetts to the Bronx, where his family spent two years before moving into a home in Westchester County at 294 Pondfield Road, Bronxville, NY when he was 12. He and his family lived there from May 1929 to January 1942. It was a 5.5-acre hillside estate called Crownlands, and it was a Georgian-style mansion with a white exterior and red roof, and it had a circular row of columns that added to the home’s stateliness. The house also had a grand white set of stairs that descended the hill on which the house was situated. This was certainly a home where you could imagine the great Jay Gatsby hosting a party. It was demolished in 1953 by a developer who found a use for the land, which back then was the largest piece of property in the village. With Kennedy being one of our most well-known presidents, you can’t deny how neat it is for him to have lived in an area so close to us.
No matter where you live, odds are there is some interesting history behind your surrounding area. Whether it be local history or history that has a bigger connection to national history, it’s always fun to learn the story behind where you live. In celebration of Presidents’ Day 2016 and the current presidential race, take the time to acknowledge the moments in our country’s history that have touched certain places in the Lower Hudson Valley and value the opportunity we have to live in a place that has ties to a few presidencies.