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The Explosion that Rocked Beacon

By Robert Murphy
June 16, 2017

Category: Articles

The blast knocked children readying for school off their feet. Windows were blown out. Chimneys toppled from roofs. Dishes jumped off shelves and shattered on kitchen floors. Peaches dropped from their trees all in one fell swoop ... and that morning it sounded like the world had exploded like a bomb. The date was September 17, 1924, and the Joseph Chiarella Fireworks Company had suddenly and accidentally blown up. Almost the entire east end of Beacon had been damaged to some degree by the shock waves of the blast. Even across the Hudson the... Continue reading

Tags: Images: 1923 Advertisement for Chiarella Fireworks; News stories of the Blast; Chiarella is killed 1970.

Memorial Day 2017

By Robert Murphy
May 30, 2017

Category: Articles

The Naval Water Ceremony--where our city honors Beacon servicemen who have perished at sea--has been a traditional part of Memorial Day services every year dating back to at least the 1920s. On Memorial Days past, crowds of veterans and parade goers would stop at one of Beacon's bridges over the Fishkill Creek (either the East Main Street Bridge or the Wolcott Avenue Bridge), and a prayer would be said and a wreath of flowers tossed into the creek in remembrance of those who served in the Navy and those who lost their lives for our country o... Continue reading

Tags: Water Ceremony on Memorial Day 2017; Nicholas Calaluca and his ship the USS Daly; a floundering "Nevada"

Susan B. Anthony Speaks out for Women for the First Time ....

By Robert Murphy
May 24, 2017

Category: Articles

This year marks the 100th anniversary (1917-2017) of women's suffrage in New York State. One of the early leaders in the women's rights movement was Susan B. Anthony. A fateful confrontation with one of Beacon's most famous residents during a teachers' convention in 1853 was the catalyst that gave her the boost in confidence she needed thereafter to speak out on women's rights issues.


In an 1896 interview, Susan B. Anthony recollected that the other player in this verbal clash of the sexes at the convention was Professor Charles Da... Continue reading

Tags: Susan B. Anthony and Professor Charles Davies

The City all abuzz over the "Human Fly."

By Robert Murphy
May 14, 2017

Category: Articles

It was said that Jack Williams had such strong fingers he could "squeeze a raw potato into pulp" with one hand. The former trapeze artist turned this prowess into a one-man daredevil act of climbing buildings--like the Woolworth Building in New York--in cities across America using only his finger tips and toes to scale man-made heights that awed crowds in the early 1920s.


Dubbed the "Human Fly" for his fearless act, Williams also had a patriotic touch to his performances that added to his appeal: during World War I he would donate... Continue reading

Tags: The Melzingah Hotel (at 432 Main Street in Beacon) as it looked when the Human Fly climbed it in 1922.
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Remembering Fred Talbot ...

By Robert Murphy
May 02, 2017

Category: Articles

We recently learned of the death--at the age of 97--of longtime Beacon Historical Society member Fred Talbot of Syracuse. Fred grew up in Beacon and wrote down for us a family memoir about his father Harry Talbot. Harry was born in Fishkill-on-Hudson in 1884, and for many years owned and operated a saloon/plumbing establishment at 123 Main Street in Beacon. Harry lived to be almost 106 years old. The following is Fred's recollection of life with his father during Prohibition ...


"Now, my father's saloon had been a legal enterprise... Continue reading

Tags: Photos: Harry Talbot's saloon on Main Street with the banner encouraging the union of Matteawan and Fishkill Landing into the city of Beacon in 1913; Harry Talbot as a boy in the late 1800s; Fred Talbot's obituary notice.
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Straw Hat Season

By Robert Murphy
April 22, 2017

Category: Articles

--Wear your straw hat at the wrong time of the year and a man took the risk of having his "Panama" knocked off his head and the hat stomped on!


...Such was the quirky custom about the country during the 1920s regarding the strict rule of just when a man could don his straw hat. The official opening date of straw hat season was May 15th, and it extended through the summer to September 15th [the season had been "Decoration" (Memorial) Day to Labor Day, but in 1923 the hat manufacturing association had the season elongated by two week... Continue reading

Tags: The Genuine Panama Hat Works was located on Jones Street (now Verplanck Avenue) and was razed years ago.
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A New Refrigerator for Two Nickels a Day!

By Robert Murphy
April 16, 2017

Category: Articles

"Good reason to buy a new refrigerator," was the adline for a Central Hudson  advertisement featuring a Beacon family, Mrs. Ralph Morse and her three children .... Mother Betty Morse had her hands full with one-year-old twins Billy and Betty, and two-year old Priscilla when the Central Hudson photographer arrived at her apartment on Davis Street to shoot the scene in February of 1938. It was all part of an campaign to promote Central Hudson's "Meter-Ice Plan" of the 1930s, whereby the electric customer could replace his old ice box with... Continue reading

Tags: Photo of Mrs. Ralph (Betty) Morse and twins Billy and Betty and two-year old Priscilla in 1938. Photo courtesy of Ralph Morse

Gold Star Mothers Pilgrimage to European Cemeteries, 1930-1933

By Robert Murphy
April 04, 2017

Category: Articles

This was a once in a lifetime golden opportunity for grieving survivors of sons lost in the Great War ... Gold Star Mother Mrs. Thomas Garrison of 26 Hudson Avenue in Beacon had never been able to visit the grave of her son, Fred Garrison, until a legislative act by the federal government. Private Garrison had been killed in action in the battle of Argonne Forest on September 29, 1918, and lay buried in a military cemetery in France. While most of our honored war dead had been removed from their temporary graves in Europe after the war to be... Continue reading

Tags: Third Photo: Fred Garrison's headstone in the Somme American Cemetery

The Dead Mayors Streets

By Robert Murphy
March 29, 2017

Category: Articles

The origin of Beacon's street names sometimes leads the researcher down dusty, long forgotten paths of local history. Take, for example, Beacon's Dead Mayors Streets ...


In March of 1941, the Beacon city council met to remedy the problem of several streets in Beacon with confusing or duplicating names. These street names dated back before 1913--a time when our yet-to-be-born city was comprised of the villages of Matteawan and Fishkill Landing. In 1941, there still were streets with left over names from that bygone era that now need... Continue reading

Tags: The Dead Mayors

March is Women's History Month: Phebe Doughty, MD.

By Robert Murphy
March 22, 2017

Category: Articles

Phebe Van Vlack Doughty (1873-1967), born and raised in Matteawan (now Beacon), became the first female physician in southern Dutchess County  when she earned her medical degree from the University of Michigan in 1904.  Though medicine ran through the Doughty family's  blood, being a doctor was not Miss Doughty's first choice of a career ...


Major John Henry Doughty, Phebe's father,  had been a surgeon during the Civil War. After the war young Dr. Doughty and his new bride Elizabeth, chose the village of Matteaw... Continue reading

Tags: Miss Doughty and her parents.
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"Look Up in the Sky": A Daring Female Aeronaut and Other Stories on High

By Robert Murphy
March 08, 2017

Category: Articles

The study of history need not be earthbound or all about matters of gravity ... our past is full of flighty characters and celestial happenings that have given our ancestors cause to look to the heavens. Beaconites have craned their necks skyward to witness some of the flying, falling and fascinating objects once seen in our skies ...


* One aerial amusement that once entertained our early citizens was when the acrobat came to town. On June 23, 1877, according to the Fishkill Standard newspaper, the acrobat walked across the "Five C... Continue reading

Tags: Dutchess County Fair Advertisement for Louisa Bates and her balloon ascension in 1891
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The Blizzard of 1888: A Reminiscence by Weldon Weston in 1920

By Robert Murphy
March 03, 2017

Category: Articles


Weldon Weston, along with his brother Wilbur, ran a stage line in Fishkill Landing-Matteawan (now Beacon) from the 1870s until the electric streetcars came to the twin villages in 1892. The brothers, originally from New Hampshire, later became the prime movers and investors in what was to be Beacon's greatest enterprise--the Mount Beacon Incline Railway. In February of 1920, after a particularly bad snowstorm in which Beacon streets were nearly impassable, Weston wrote the following recollection for the Beacon Daily Herald newspaper... Continue reading

Eyewitness Account of Passenger Pigeons Here: Philip Hone's Diary for 1835

By Robert Murphy
February 27, 2017

Category: Articles

"The air was filled with them; their undulation was like the long waves of the ocean in a calm, and the fluttering of their wings made a noise like the crackling of fire among dry leaves."



... So wrote Philip Hone in his dIary entry for November 4, 1835, after viewing a sight no one shall ever see again--the massive flights of wild passenger pigeons that once darkened the skies over Beacon. Hone, a one-term mayor of New York City (1826), and an investor/director of the old Matteawan Company (located about wher... Continue reading

Tags: Engraving of Philip Hone and Shooting Passenger Pigeons

"A Scene on the Banks of the Hudson"--a poem written in Beacon in 1827 by William Cullen Bryant.

By Robert Murphy
February 22, 2017

Category: Articles

Ages ago as a student in Beacon High School, I  had to read the poem "Thanatopsis" by poet William Cullen Bryant. How much more palatable that homework assignment would have been for my English class had we known that Bryant, a recognized giant in nineteenth-century American literature, once walked the streets of Beacon and even had written one of his poems here in Fishkill Landing!


Bryant (1794-1878) was a frequent sojourner in our community, spending several summers in a boarding house here while visiting his wealthy friends... Continue reading

Tags: Poet Bryant as an old man
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Famous Authoress at Fishkill Landing Sanitarium

By Robert Murphy
February 13, 2017

Category: Articles

When you think about old sanitariums once in Beacon, Craig House Hospital (1915-2000) comes first to mind. But one local sanitarium for nervous disorders, addictions and mental illness dates back even further, to 1870--the Riverview Sanitarium of Fishkill on Hudson. The sanitarium was located on Ferry Street (the building and the street both long gone, victims of Urban Renewal), and over the years had several doctor-owners, all specializing in psychiatry. One such  doctor, William Scollay Whitwell, brought to the sanitarium perhaps the... Continue reading

Tags: Children's author Frances Hodgson Burnett stayed in Beacon in 1902
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"The End of the World!"

By Robert Murphy
February 06, 2017

Category: Articles

Naturalist writer John Burroughs of Catskill had an intriguing passage in his book, "Time and Change" (published in 1912) ... Burroughs wrote: "When I was a small boy at school in the in the early forties [1840s], during the Millerite excitement about the approaching  end of all mundane things, I remember, on the day when the momentous event was expected to take place, how the larger school-girls were thrown into a great state of alarm and agitation by a thundercloud that let down a curtain of rain, blotting out the mountain on the oppo... Continue reading

Tags: The fourth image is a cartoon depicting a Millerite climbing into his "safe" place.
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Old Tioronda Hat Factory at 555 South Avenue Destroyed by Fire

By Robert Murphy
February 03, 2017

Category: Articles

One of Beacon's oldest hat factories was all but destroyed by an early morning fire on January 31. The old building dated back to 1879, when Lewis Tompkins, the man who was most responsible for Beacon becoming the hat-manufacturing capital of the state, built the Tioronda Hat Factory as an adjunct factory to his Dutchess Hat Works on Lower Main Street in Fishkill Landing. The old factory on South Avenue remained a hat shop until 1948 (it was then known as the "Merrimac Hat Company"), when the Atlas Fibers Company bought the property and bega... Continue reading

Beacon Artist: Ella Ferris Pell

By Robert Murphy
January 31, 2017

Category: Articles

"She is buried in a pauper's grave at Fishkill Rural Cemetery in New York." ... so reads most of the brief biographical summaries you will find online of the life of artist Ella Ferris Pell. How did such an accomplished painter, sculptor, and illustrator--one of the most written about American female artists of the late nineteenth century--come to such an inglorious end?


Ella Pell (1846-1922) spent most of her last years as a resident of Beacon, seemingly well off, living in her own home on South Avenue, and doing paintings of loca... Continue reading

Tags: Image # 4: Illustration in pastels of the book
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Mount Beacon Hiking Trail: "Howard's Path"

By Robert Murphy
January 27, 2017

Category: Articles

One of the best hiking trails on Mount Beacon is unmarked and little used. It is "Howard's Path"--so named after the cabin owner who created it to get to his mountain retreat in the early 1900s. The trail traverses the west face of the mountain, starting near the ancient radio-aerial towers (to the left of the Powerhouse ruins) and running north along the mountain until it comes out by the Mount Beacon Reservoir. 

   

Along the trail you will see the ruins of some of the cottages once accessed there by Howard's Path. In t... Continue reading

Tags: Cabins along Howard's Path
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The Icy Hudson: A Tale from the Past

By Robert Murphy
January 25, 2017

Category: Articles

“Even in winter, when the frost has bridged the entire river, Newburgh Bay presents a lively scene almost everyday, for ice-boats and skaters are then in great abundance.” –“The Hudson: From Wilderness to the Sea” by Benjamin Lossing, 1866. [Illustration at right also from Lossing’s book.]


A century and more ago the month of January most often brought about a frozen Hudson River, closed to all north-south river traffic an... Continue reading

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