Interior of Slee Bros. store, Poughkeepsie, NY.
Exterior of Slee Bros. Photography Gallery, Poughkeepsie, NY. The brothers are probably the men on the balcony.
The Niagara Steam Fire Engine firehouse, Poughkeepsie, NY. The engine company that became Niagara was organized in 1810 but did not start going by that name until 1847. There is a decorated facade erected on the roof welcoming home the 156th Regiment NYSV. The names of Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan are included on the facade. There is an incredible painted sign on the front wall of the firehouse with the company name, a flag, “Spirit of ’76,” etc. The firemen and civilians are posed outside with a shiny, steam fire engine.
Front Interior View of Leason E. Holdridge’s Crockery Store, (Kirchner Building), 278 Main Street, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Front View of Leason E. Holdridge’s Crockery Store, (Kirchner Building), 278 Main Street, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
College Hill, Po’keepsie, NY. One of the two largest open spaces in the City of Poughkeepsie, College Hill Park has a storied past. The site came into prominence in the 1830s, when a building was erected by the leaders of the Improvement Party, a group of local citizens who were responsible for new industries, new streets, new churches and new schools in the city. The most successful of all the group’s initiatives was the Collegiate School on College Hill, which, coincidentally, is how the site got its name. The founders were 11 prominent Poughkeepsie men who incorporated in 1835 and built the impressive Parthenon-like school building. Charles Bartlett, who’d previously overseen a school in Fishkill Landing (today’s Beacon), became the school’s principal when it opened in 1836. Within three years, the school had become an established and well-respected educational facility. Following Bartlett’s death in 1857, Otis Bisbee succeeded him as principal. In 1865, the school was sold at auction to settle Bartlett’s estate and Bisbee participated in the bidding process with plans to continue the school operation. When he was outbid by George Morgan, who acquired the property for $35,500, Bisbee built Riverview Military Academy on Lincoln Avenue. Once the student body vacated the Collegiate School, Morgan opened College Hill Hotel in the former school building; Morgan also lived at the hotel. The hotel proved to be unsuccessful and Morgan then constructed the namesake Morgan Lake with the intention of selling the water to Poughkeepsie. At that time, with the population increasing in the city, officials sought to establish a municipal water system to supply drinking water to residences. Morgan was mayor of Poughkeepsie from 1869 through 1871. Despite that influence, Poughkeepsie’s water commissioners chose the Hudson River over Morgan Lake for the system. John Guy Vassar, nephew of Matthew Vassar, purchased College Hill with the intention of opening an orphanage in the building, but the project never came to fruition. In October 1892, William W. Smith, partner of the Smith Brothers Cough Drop enterprise in the city, purchased the College Hill property for $11,600. He donated it to the city for use as a public park. “It was a place that people went to picnic and in winter they could sleigh ride there,” said Harvey Flad, author of “Main Street to Mainframes: Landscape and Social Change in Poughkeepsie.” “It was a very well used park.” In 1917, the caretaker and florist for the park, both city employees, were the only ones living in the former school and hotel. On Feb. 11 at 8:45 a.m., smoke was detected in the building and by noon the entire structure was destroyed by a massive fire. The land remained vacant until 1934 when, upon the death of banker and industrialist Guilford Dudley, he bequeathed $22,000 in his will to erect a Parthenon-like structure on College Hill to commemorate its history as the site of a college during the 19th century. Supported and built as part of the Works Project Administration (WPA), per Dudley’s wishes it was named The Shelter. East and downhill from the shelter is a rock garden created in 1931 by Clarence Lown, who owned a cooperage business in the city and transported plants to the park from his own garden. A still popular nine-hole golf course opened in the park in 1933, Morgan Lake features a dock for fishing and walking trails exist throughout the grounds. “The July Fourth fireworks used to be at College Hill Park before moving to the river,” said City Council member Ann Perry, who has worked tirelessly in recent years to bring the park’s appearance back to its heyday. “I spend a lot of time there with volunteers to keep it in good condition.” College Hill Park is on North Clinton Street, north of Oakley Street in Poughkeepsie. [Anthony P. Musso, Poughkeepsie Journal]
Farmers & Manufacturers National Bank, Po’keepsie, NY. n 1834 a group of prominent businessmen in Poughkeepsie founded the Farmers’ and Manufacturers’ Bank with a capital of $200,000. At a meeting held July 19 at Hatch’s Hotel in Poughkeepsie, stockholders met to elect a 13-member board of directors that included Matthew Vassar, William Davies and James Hooker. Hooker was elected the bank’s first president but shortly after turned the position over to Vassar, well known for his successful brewery and philanthropic endeavors. When the bank officially opened to the public in 1835, it became the fourth one to exist in the city, the others being Bank of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County Bank and the Poughkeepsie Savings Bank. Upon establishing the financial entity, its directors purchased and demolished Myers Tavern on the northeast corner of Market and Cannon streets. There, they built a 2 1/2-story, three-bay Greek Revival-style building; it included a square cupola atop its roof, providing it with a distinctive and elegant appearance. Originally, the upper floor of the building served as a residence for the bank’s cashier. The first recorded customer was George Van Kleeck, one of the city’s most prominent merchants and a descendent of Baltus Van Kleeck, who built the first house in Poughkeepsie. In 1863, following the introduction of the National Banking Act, passed to provide customers with a more secure banking system, the Farmers’ and Manufacturers’ Bank’s charter expired on Dec. 31. On Jan. 1, 1864 its operation was transferred to a new organization, which retained the bank name and its officers. On June 20, 1865, the bank switched over from a state establishment to a national bank that printed its own currency. Just prior to 1889, the bank went through its first renovation; its 1835 windows were replaced with new single-light French plate glass. Simultaneous to that upgrade, the original service counters were refinished and fitted with partitions that had plate glass and the walls and ceilings were redecorated. A more expansive modernization took place in 1892 when the bank’s interior and exterior were modified. The multiple stone steps that existed on Market Street, which provided customers with access to the bank floor, were removed and the interior floor was lowered to street level. The bank’s ground floor was redesigned to expand the banking room and to provide space for a new modern vault with safe deposit boxes. A directors’ room was built in the rear section of the building with a separate entrance on Cannon Street; the room would be relocated in 1915 into an addition that was built on the back part of the lot that the bank owned. Farmers’ and Manufacturers’ Bank was eventually acquired by Empire National Bank, which promptly closed the Poughkeepsie office and relocated elsewhere but retained ownership of the building. When Bank of New York acquired Empire, it reopened the Market Street building as a branch office. In 1994, after the bank closed that branch, the building was purchased by Bob Jankovics, who moved his insurance business there. The once bank and now insurance office is at 43 Market St. [Anthony P. Musso, Poughkeepsie Journal]
Whitehouse Shoe Factory, Po’keepsie, NY. This factory was the workplace of over 400 men, and almost everyone in the city would own a pair of shoes or boots made by J.O. Whitehouse and Company. John Osborne Whitehouse was born in Rochester New Hampshire in 1817 and worked on a modest farm until he was 18 years old. He then made his way into Brooklyn to begin his business career and he appears to have succeeded rather quickly. By the early 1860s he began the firm of J.O. Whitehouse and Company which manufactured boots and shoes, and it wasn’t long before he followed in the footsteps of several other entrepreneurs and brought his company to Poughkeepsie. In 1870, he hired local architect and builder J.I. Vail, to construct a massive factory that ran from Main street, north on Cherry and sat up against the Fall-Kill creek. At the height of its operations, the factory employed over 400 men. He also invested in trains and banks and was the largest stockholder in the Ninth National Bank of New York. 1872 was a very busy year for Whitehouse, as not only did he have a factory to oversee but he also established his own newspaper, The Poughkeepsie Daily News. Also during that year he was nominated to run for Congress for the 13th district. He managed to beat out the very popular General John Henry Ketcham and was elected again in 1874. He and his wife had built a home just off of Hooker Avenue which they called Mountain View and in 1868 they purchased Matthew Vassar’s Springside which they added to their property. There appears to be several tragedies in his life even as he appeared to succeed in business and politics. Though there were no reports in the newspapers, John’s daughter Fannie died in the February of 1865. The only written mention of the death is in the book “Old Poughkeepsie New York – 1865” which mentions that she burned to death when her dress caught on fire from a spark in the family home. She was only about 13 years old. Within a few years, two of John’s sons, Spencer and William, would die from consumption. In 1879, his factory was struck by lightning which started a massive fire and killed one of his employees. It was rebuilt soon after but is said to have cost him over $250,000 in losses. Finally, in 1880, his last son, James, who had worked with him at the factory, passed away, also from consumption. This last loss appears to have been too much for Mr. Whitehouse. His health quickly deteriorated and he passed away in August of 1881, at 64 years old. The New York Times claims that he was worth about three million dollars when he passed, all of which he left to his wife Fannie, and his last child Mary Josephine (who married Eugene Howell). The house appears to have remained in the hands of Fannie until her death in 1893, and later her daughter, but by the early 1900s it disappeared to make way for new development. There is no mention as to what became of the house or when or why it was torn down. Nor is there any further mention of the Whitehouse/Howell family in Poughkeepsie after 1910. As for the factory, it was rebuilt but in two different pieces, and not as large. The main portion on Cherry Street later became the home of a cigar factory. These two distinct buildings are still standing today. [Shannon Butler]
Po’Keepsie NY looking West. The Slee Brothers gallery can be seen at lower center with the skylight.
Old Ladies Home, Po’keepsie, NY. One of Poughkeepsie’s most distinguished buildings is the Vassar-Warner Home, once known as The Old Ladies’ Home. Further back in time, the building also served as one of the first schools in Poughkeepsie, known as the Dutchess Academy. The unmistakable columns and Greek Revival architecture help it to stand out on beautiful South Hamilton Street and it has earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1835, this space on the corner of South Hamilton Street and Hooker Avenue was occupied by the Dutchess Academy, which had previously stood at the corner of Academy and Cannon Streets. That school began back in 1792 and was the first private boys’ school in Poughkeepsie for many years. Boys from some of Poughkeepsie’s most prominent families were educated there including the Cannons, Van Kleecks, Stockholms, and Barnes, to name a few. The three-story brick building that served as the last location for the school was built in 1835 and would continue to serve until the school closed down in 1869. Within a year, a group of church women made their way to see the old building at the behest of Mr. Jonathon Rowland Warner, who had a new purpose in mind. Warner, who was born in Poughkeepsie but spent most of his life fur trading in Utica, had been a successful businessman and never forgot where he came from. His obituary in the Poughkeepsie Journal showed that he cared for the poor, friendless, and the elderly in his hometown and decided to help with the wealth that he had earned. He joined up with leading women in several of the local Protestant churches with the intention of finding a suitable place to establish a home for elderly women who could not afford to live on their own. Together they agreed on a price and purchased the old Dutchess Academy for $14,300. Warner also donated an additional $10,000 as an endowment. The home opened in 1871 with 20 applicants in the first year of business. That number quickly grew and soon there was a long waiting list of over 1,000 old ladies who wanted a room in the lovely home. William W. Smith of the Smith Brothers Cough Drop Company decided to contribute money and the construction of a new wing, which allowed for 27 additional rooms. It was this construction at the end of the 19th century that gave the building its current ‘T’ shape. The managers of the home also managed to purchase a plot in the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery for those who passed away in the home and hadn’t made plans for burial. Smith would continue to contribute to the home up until his death in 1913. It is believed that he gave over $140,000 and nicknamed the home the “vestibule of heaven.” The Vassar Home for Old Aged Men, which had opened in 1881, merged with The Old Ladies’ Home in 1974 to become the Vassar-Warner Home. Men officially moved into the home on South Hamilton Street with the ladies in 1986. The house still serves the same purpose of caring for the elderly over 150 years later, and there is still a waiting list to get in.