Governor Paterson’s budget proposes cuts to the Office of Parks that would mean the closing of up to 25 historic sites across the state. Many of them are important to our national history as well as to New York’s rich cultural heritage. Once closed, this connection to our past could be gone forever.
The sites include Philipse Manor Hall in Yonkers, the Walt Whitman House on Long Island, the John Jay Homestead in Westchester, the John Brown Farm in Lake Placid, and Ganondagan, a major 17th-century Seneca town. From Revolutionary War sites like the New Windsor Cantonment to historic 19th-century mansions such as Hyde Hall in Cooperstown, these buildings are part of the foundation of New York’s history and the nation’s heritage. For a list of all the historic sites that will be lost, click here.
One of the sites up for closing, Washington’s Headquarters at Newburgh, is an important piece of the history of preservation. It was here in the closing months of the Revolutionary War that General George Washington rejected the offer to become king of the new nation, create and awarded the first Badge of Military Merit (the forerunner to the Purple Heart), and planned for the reentry into New York City, the last American city to be occupied by the British. In 1850, after a preservation campaign led by author Washington Irving, New York State purchased the building and created the country’s first publicly owned and operated historic site. Uzal Knapp, a Revolutionary War veteran, acted as the first docent and is buried on the grounds.
When the huge costs of documenting and storing the sites’ collections and securing the buildings is taken into account, the plan is penny wise, pound foolish. The risk of what could be lost when historic structures and their contents are left virtually abandoned is unthinkable. For 160 years, through numerous wars, social changes, and economic downturns, New York State has been dedicated to preserving its history. 2010 is not the year to stop.
You can help save our heritage. Contact Governor Paterson, the leaders of the State Senate and Assembly and your own representatives to let them know that you want to see New York’s historic sites stay open. Go here to contact these officials.