Our History Blog


Ice Bridge

By Robert Murphy
February 18, 2018

Category: Articles

It was a winter of so relentless cold that men now old still remember their uncles and fathers talking about the first and only time they ever walked across the Hudson ...

   The year was 1934, and such was the cold snap then that one February morning in Beacon the thermometer bottomed at 34 degrees below zero--a record of frigidity unbroken to this day. The Hudson River froze solid, with ice in the channel 18 inches thick. The Ferryboat Orange damaged its rudder in the ice and was out of service for a week during that ex... Continue reading

Tags: Headline in the "Beacon News" from Feb 17 1934; and crossing the ice on Newburgh Bay

Ski Guru Walter Foeger and his "Commuter Ski School" comes to Mount Beacon

By Robert Murphy
January 24, 2018

Category: Articles

   Ski Magazine had called the American Parallel Technique "the best system ever devised" to teach novices how to ski. The system's creator was Austrian-born Walter Foeger who had been invited to join the staff of Beacon's Dutchess Ski Area as executive vice president in the winter of 1969. His task was twofold: to make over Mount Beacon so that it would be competitive with other big market ski areas in the East, and to start an instructional school that would attract novice skiers from the metropolitan region.

  &nb... Continue reading

Tags: Dutchess Ski Area Commuter Ski School


By Robert Murphy
January 15, 2018

Category: Articles

The Beacon Historical Society's latest acquisition is an old building-blocks toy with ties to the Beacon of the 1920s. The toy is called "Bookie-Blox," manufactured in 1922 by the Bookie Blox Company of New Rochelle, New York. The toy, which consists of a set of seven individual hinged, painted  wooden blocks, was donated to the Society by Beacon business owner Brenda Murnane who acquired the blocks  by online auction. Bookie Blox were the patented invention of Charles Douglas Fisher who would move his toy-making factory to Beacon... Continue reading

Tags: Bookie-Blox illustrations; a short bio of Blanche Fisher; the Fisher patent; Charles Fisher

The Park-O-Meter Comes to Main Street

By Robert Murphy
January 01, 2018

Category: Articles

Put a penny in the meter for twelve minutes or a nickel for an hour. That is how much it then cost the motorist to park on Main Street. The date was June 1, 1953, and the latest rage in city planning, the control of parking in the business district, had come to Beacon--a new city parking ordinance and the resulting installation of hundreds of Park-O-Meters on Main Street.

The coin-operated devices were manufactured by the Magee-Hale Park-O-Meter Company of Oklahoma City which sent an agent to Beacon in May of 1953 to lay out spaces... Continue reading

Tags: The Park-O-Meter

Hellcat Over Beacon

By Robert Murphy
December 04, 2017

Category: Articles

On November 15, 1945, the long wait for the end of WWII was over and officials from Beacon's veterans organizations hung a special banner across Memorial Hall on Main Street that read: "A Good Job Well Done" as a proud city welcomed home its returning GIs.

On that same date another returning serviceman to Beacon staged a more spectacular "Welcome Home" display of his own fashion, more than any mere banner ever could. On that Thursday morning a Navy "Hellcat" fighter plane buzzed Beacon's Main Street at treetop level, scaring half o... Continue reading

Tags: Ensign Adams photo provided by his daughter Susan Adams Ratigan

"Why We Should Support our Historical Society"

By Robert Murphy
November 10, 2017

Category: Articles

[Editor's Note: On November 9, a fundraiser to support the Beacon Historical Society was held at The Roundhouse. Former Beacon mayor Clara Lou Gould and Beacon business Hudson Beach Glass were the honorees given the Beacons of History award. Over 180 attended the event. The following speech was given that evening by the president of the Beacon Historical Society.]

There is an old French proverb that reads: "Happy is the country which has no history."

This saying seems paradoxical to us today ... especially in light of our... Continue reading

Tags: From the November 9 Fundraiser for Beacon Historical
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The Dixie Kiefer Plane Crash

By Robert Murphy
October 25, 2017

Category: Articles

 Veterans Day for David Rocco now takes on added poignancy ever since he has come to learn more about the life, and death, of Captain Dixie Kiefer. 

For on the late foggy morning of November 11, 1945, the aircraft that Kiefer and five other Navy personnel were in crashed head-on into the Fishkill Mountains near Glenham, killing all six aboard. The remote crash site took searchers 15 hours to find, and by then the news of the grim discovery was set in bold headlines around the nation. For Dixie Kiefer was one of the most d... Continue reading

Tags: News Photos and headlines of the 1945 crash; a propeller from the doomed plane.

Main Street Architecture: "The Bank that Loomed Large"

By Robert Murphy
September 29, 2017

Category: Articles

... On the granite facade of the building at 139 Main Street are two panels in carved relief depicting a man's arm holding a hammer. The arm and hammer were to be symbolic of the strength of the financial institution located within, as well as representative of the corporation's name--the Mechanics Savings Bank.

The building was constructed by the James Forrestal Company in 1929, and opened for business on February 1, 1930. The architect was A. Stanley Miller whose admitted purpose in designing the bank's unique front was to make i... Continue reading

Tags: Mechanics Savings Bank in 1930 and Today

"The Man Who Dared Too Much"

By Robert Murphy
September 11, 2017

Category: Articles

Harry "Tex" McLaughlin had a meteoric rise, and fall, to fame. And it all happened to him in the year 1920. 

Tex McLaughlin actually had very little of Texas background in him. Born In !892 in Fishkill Landing (now Beacon), New York, where his father George McLaughlin was a brakeman for the New England Railroad, Harry spent most of his young years in Connecticut. He got the nickname Tex from the relatively brief time he spent as a flight instructor during World War I at the army's Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas. Prior to th... Continue reading

Tags: Harry McLaughlin: aviator stuntman and short-lived silent movie star.

First Television Set in Beacon!

By Robert Murphy
August 18, 2017

Category: Articles

Ralph Manning was a businessman ahead of his times.  Soon after he had opened his auto supplies store at 500 Main Street (complete with "Tydol" gasoline pumps on the sidewalk) in the mid-1920s, he capitalized on the latest rage--radio broadcasting--by adding Atwater-Kent cabinet radios for sale next to his line of auto batteries and tires. In 1939, again thinking more of the living room than the garage, Manning stocked for sale the first television set in Beacon.

The date was August 31, 1939, and the television was a top-of-th... Continue reading

Tags: Photos: First TV antenna in Beacon; RCA TV ads in 1939; Manning ad; Ralph Manning at 500 Main.

Historic Home Lost to Urban Renewal: "Cedar Lawn"

By Robert Murphy
July 30, 2017

Category: Articles

The first major undertaking in Beacon's Urban Renewal program was the Forrestal Heights Housing Project. In 1966, between South Avenue and Dinan Street, a handful of handsome old homes on Wolcott Avenue were seized and razed, among them a dilapidated, bulging, made-over apartment house once known as "Cedar Lawn." 

Cedar Lawn had belonged to one of New York's most famous physicians of the nineteenth century . He was Dr. Egbert Guernsey: journalist, philanthropist, founder of two hospitals, and New York's most noted doctor of ho... Continue reading

Tags: Now and Then: Cedar Lawn postcard (above) and as an apartment house below.

Detective Work on an old Photograph of a Store Interior

By Robert Murphy
July 11, 2017

Category: Articles

With the help of a high resolution scan and spot closeups, we were able to piece together clues of when, where, what and who (we think) is in this old photograph that the Beacon Historical Society recently received.

Referring to the numbered arrows pointing to objects in the photo, we find:

Arrow 1. A calendar hanging on the wall with the name "John M. MacFarlane, Chemist and Apothecary" printed below the calendar's picture. The date of the year is muddied, but we can read that the month is November, and the 1st falls on... Continue reading

Tags: Photo courtesy of Sam DiTullo

Beacon's Cannonball

By Robert Murphy
June 30, 2017

Category: Articles

One of the most picturesque historic spots in the Mid-Hudson Valley is the Fort Montgomery State Historic Site, located off of Route 9W just across the Bear Mountain Bridge. Fort Montgomery has easy hiking trails, excavation sites with restored stone walls of the fort's ruins, and a visitor's center where you can learn more about the American Revolution and the Battle of Fort Montgomery where the Americans were defeated by the British on this site on October 6, 1777.

Among the Revolutionary War artifacts displayed in the visitor's... Continue reading

Tags: Photos: Fort Montgomery View; Beacon's Cannonball on display; Dutchess Hat Works

"Growing Up on Long Dock" by June Palmatier Hamory

By Robert Murphy
June 27, 2017

Category: Articles

[Editor's Note:] BHS member Joan Palmatier Hamory of Florida has written a memoir about her childhood growing up on the riverfront in Beacon during the Depression. Joan's "Growing Up on Long Dock" is the true story of what life was like to be the daughter of a ferryboat man, and of living with her parents at the river's edge in company houses on Long Dock. Joan's father, "Big Jim" Palmatier, worked on the Newburgh-Beacon Ferry for 44 years--at first as a deckhand and in later years as a wheelman. The following excerpt is from Joan's memories... Continue reading

Tags: Newburgh-Beacon Ferry after 1956; Long Dock as it looked about 1913.
1 Comment

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.
1 Comment

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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