Terrific Weeds at the Brinckerhoff House Historic Site

Patch of Weeds 9

A couple of months ago, this large patch of weeds used to look like a few pine trees and a berry bush.  There were still some weeds around the pine trees, but in such a short amount of time, they grew into large, thick, competitive vines.  In the photograph above, the pine trees they cover are barely noticeable.

My director and I spoke about the grounds of the Brinkerhoff House Historic Site in East Fishkill, and we both agreed that this patch of weeds had been left to grow rampant for too long.  The pine trees that the vines were growing on and around were almost completely dead, and it was an ugly addition to the East Fishkill Historical Society’s beautiful property, so I decided to clear out this mess.

Patch of Weeds 5

A couple of days ago, I started to try and figure out what exactly in this patch of messy vegetation was salvable, and was not invasive weeds.  I was very excited to clear a small section, but something clicked when my old college buddy came over for a visit.

When my friend, Anthony Mancini, came to the Brinckerhoff House Historic Site, I gave him a tour of the Brinckerhoff House, the 1885 Carriage Barn, and the 1820 One-Room Schoolhouse.  He was pretty impressed, and mentioned that he has been recently been playing a large part in his community in Putnam County.  As a journalist, he writes articles about local history and current events.  He was always an inquisitive person.  When we started to walk back to the Brinkerhoff House, I pointed out the yard work I was in the process of finishing.  When he saw the large patch of weeds that I was working on clearing, he immediately smirked and said “Ah, you have a bad case of Oriental Bittersweet, huh?”

Patch of Weeds 7

He told me that he already wrote six different articles of the Oriental Bittersweet – how this year they are growing more rampant then ever before, and that their presence is really effecting the vegetation in the Hudson Valley.  When he left the site, I Googled “Oriental Bittersweet,” and he was right.

Everything I read about this weed made it clear that the whole entire patch of “weeds” was actually just a patch of one huge weed, the Oriental Bittersweet.  Even more surprising, was the berry bush which I thought was good looking and planted on purpose, was actually an Oriental Bittersweet itself.

Over the next several days, I have been working on clearing all the vines from the trees, and removing that “berry bush,” but here are some picture of the process.

An attacked pine tree:

Patch of Weeds 1

Half-way rescued:

Patch of Weeds 3

Its sad reality.  Now it can breathe. Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree:

Patch of Weeds 2

Cleaning up:

Patch of Weeds 4

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Ice House Under Construction

On Tuesday morning construction began on the Ice House of the Brinckerhoff House Historic Site.  Several months ago the Ice House was moved from the property of an old farm which used to be directly across the street from the Town Hall of East Fishkill.

When it was built in the 1870’s its purpose was to store ice over the spring and summer months for the farm.  Probably for a dairy farm, this ice probably helped to keep milk cold.

Inside of the ice house will soon be an exhibit of ice harvesting and the ice industry in the Hudson Valley during the nineteenth century.   There will also be local history of the farm which the ice house came from.  Once the roof is complete, the display cases from the 1785 unfinished attic, which used to hold the Civil War diary of Richard T. Van Wyck, will be moved to the ice house to hold this new display.

Here are some pictures from Wednesday morning.  In this shot is also the red 1820 One-Room School House which was moved from where the corner of the Taconic Parkway and Beekman’s Road intersects.  Behind the tree is the ice house.

 Ice House Under Construction 1

This photograph shows the front of the ice house.   Notice how the doors go up and down the whole façade.  At the peak of the roof there is a hook in which a pulley would be used to move heavy mounds of ice and milk up and down from the shelves inside.

Ice House Under Construction 3

From this angle, behind the tree is the 1885 Carriage Barn which was moved from the “John Jay” house which was owned and occupied by Van Wyck’s for many centuries.

Ice House Under Construction 2

Behind the Scenes off Palen Road

I spent most of my evening inside of and walking between the Bailey Room and Collections Room of the Brinckerhoff House.

Currently, there are two display cases set up in the Bailey Room with a journal written by Richard T. Van Wyck while he fought in Gettysburg and other major battles during the American Civil War.  Also on display are various dishware, medicine bottles, pipes, and large glass jugs, all which was excavated from the grounds of Abraham Van Wyck’s house in Wiccopee.

As of the Collections Room… Well, let’s say that it is under construction.

Collections Room 2

I am currently working inside the Collections Room, organizing everything.  It will finally not only be an accessible collection of materials, maps, and paintings of the Hudson Valley from the 18th and 19th century, but it will be a collection that people will want to access.

Blue Clamshell Boxes Filled with Records of the Van Wyck family in the Hudson Valley, and Sergeant Clinton Peterson.

Blue Clamshell Boxes Filled with Records of the Van Wyck family in the Hudson Valley, and Sergeant Clinton Peterson.

I hope that in the near future this Collections Room will be used by college students who are enrolled at colleges which are relatively local to East Fishkill.  Aside from just organizing this data is analyzing it and extending the historical narrative of the Hudson Valley.

With all this said, there is a lack of space inside the Collections Room, and that is because I opened up too many folders without putting them in sorted piles or folders.  So, for a night, I turned the Bailey Room into an archival laboratory, and started to categorize what I have already looked through over the last month.

Bailey Room 1

The EFHS recently bought three extra large newspaper boxes, in which I filled with newspapers, maps, indentures, and diplomas.  This new addition to the EFHS’s Collections Room will be utilized alongside the numerous blue clamshell boxes that the EFHS purchased in previous years.  Even though the boxes are empty, already they make the room more aesthetically pleasing.

Collections Room 4

Moving and Creating New Exhibits in the Brinckerhoff House

ImageThis is a picture of the Bailey Room in the Brinckerhoff House of the East Fishkill Historical Society.  The Board has agreed that it would be the historic site’s best interest if we made a new exhibit inside of our main building.

These two display cabinets were emptied and moved from the 1820 One-Room Schoolhouse into the Bailey Room.  Some documents of Robert Van Wyck’s war diary, from the Civil War, will be moved from the older exhibit, which is currently in the upstairs of the Brinckerhoff House. The display cases from the upstairs of the Brinckerhoff House will be moved into the newly moved Ice House.  Inside the Ice House, there will be an exhibit of the history of the Ice House, other ice houses, and the ice industry of East Fishkill (and the larger Hudson Valley).  A lot of moving around and working hard, but our goal is to have a really nice exhibit room for this summer’s season.

If you, or anyone you know, has any information on ice houses, and the local ice industry in the Hudson Valley, please contact us (or have your friends contact us) as we encourage involvement from anyone interested.

The Harlem Hellfighters: Our U.S. Army’s 369th Infantry in World War I

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Set up in the East Fishkill Historical Society, Michael Barootjian, a curator, has begun to preserve primary documents which relate to Sgt. Clinton Peterson’s life in and after World War I.

The East Fishkill Historical Society was recently donated a diary of Sergeant Clinton Peterson of New York City’s 369th Infantry.  The diary was written by Peterson when he was in France, and it is titled, “Somewhere in France.”  Along with the diary, various items relating to his life and his wife’s life are now included in our collection.  The documents which we possess are rare and full of information about Peterson’s family, and life after World War I, but his war diary was written during World War I.  Currently, the Director of the East Fishkill Historical Society, Malcolm Mills, is transcribing Peterson’s diary, and other members, including myself, are working with the other various documents.  These documents were folded and were not protected or kept the right way for generations and decades, but we have put in much effort to ensure their conditions.

If interested in helping further research please contact Michael Barootjian at barootm@gmail.com