Saint Paul’s Church National Historic Site

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Saint Paul’s began as a simple wooden structure in Eastchester in 1700, built by Puritans who were against the Church of England. The British then established the Anglican Church of Westchester County in 1702 in an attempt to get better control of the colony.

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In 1763, Eastchester was a large and prosperous town. In celebration of the end of the French and Indian War, the town began building a large fieldstone church near the original structure, inspired by the architecture of Christopher Wren. Wren had designed many of London’s buildings after the Great Fire of 1666.

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The Revolutionary war interrupted the building of the church. The large stone structure was used as a field hospital for the American, British and Hessian armies during the war. The congregation continued to worship in the wooden building until the wood was needed for firewood.

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After the war, the tower was completed and plaster ceiling and walls added. It was consecrated as St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in the early 1800s.

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In the early 1900s, the surrounding town had become more of an industrial area. St. Paul’s fell into disrepair. FDR’s mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, spearheaded a campaign to restore the church.

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The same firm that had worked on Colonial Williamsburg restored St. Paul’s to its original appearance in 1942. The congregation continued to shrink as people moved out of the area, however, and in May of 1977, the last service was held.

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The church was de-consecrated so that the Federal Government could purchase it and transfer ownership to the Department of the Interior. Today, the National Park Service runs a visitor center out of the old carriage house and conducts ranger-led tours of the church and cemetery.

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I met Scott and Tiff from Raven About The Parks at the visitor center (this was their 353rd NPS unit visited!)  We watched the short film and then followed the ranger into the church. We toured the parishioners boxes, the pulpit, rang the bell (a cousin to the Liberty Bell)  and learned about the church’s history.

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The ranger took us upstairs to the balcony where the poor parishioners used to sit. He played a song on the original pipe organ and then took us behind the organ to peer up into the tower. Then we went outside amongst the 250 year old gravestones and found the marker for the Hessian soldiers’ mass grave.

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Location: 897 S Columbus Ave, Mt Vernon, NY 10550

Designation: National Historic Site

Date designated/established: July 5, 1943

Date of my visit: September 21, 2019

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Scott and Tiff from Raven About the Parks visiting their 353rd NPS unit!

Harriman State Park: Jackie Jones Loop

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Harriman State Park, only 30 miles north of New York City, is New York State’s second largest state park. It encompasses more than 47k acres, 30 lakes and 200 miles of hiking trails.

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I explored this park with Take A Hike NJ! on a beautiful September Sunday. We chose a variation of the Jackie Jones Loop, a trail which passes through some ruins, ascends to a Fire Tower and a camping shelter before returning to the park road.

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After finding parking for the group at the trailhead, we followed the yellow blazes to the ruins of the Orak mansion. Orak is Karo spelled backwards…the mansion was built in 1923 by George Buchanan, an executive for the company that makes Karo corn syrup.

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After Buchanan’s death in 1939, the mansion was sold to the park. It was demolished in 1973.

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We continued on up the trail to the steel fire tower. Built in 1928 at the 1276 foot summit of Jackie Jones Mountain, it was renovated in 2018.

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It still seemed a little rickety to me as we climbed it to take in the surrounding views, but the little dog in our group made it up the 60 feet, so who am I to complain? From the top, the NYC skyline, the Hudson River and the lakes of Harriman State Park can be seen.

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Continuing along the trail after the tower, we climbed another ascent to the Big Hill Shelter. This is one of nine stone shelters throughout Harriman, for use by campers. This was a good place to rest before heading back down around the loop to our cars.

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Harriman Posts:

  • Jackie Jones Loop
  • Lake Welch (Coming soon)

Location: 54 Seven Lakes Dr, Sloatsburg, NY 10974

Designation: State Park

Date designated/established: 1910

Date of my visit: September 8, 2019

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Walkill River National Wildlife Refuge: Winding Waters Trail

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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The Walkill River National Wildlife Refuge protects a ten mile stretch of the Walkill River. This river flows north from Sussex County, New Jersey, up into New York State and into a tributary of the Hudson River.

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The Lenape called the river Twischsawkin, or ‘the land of plentiful plums.’ As European settlers moved into the fertile valley, they lowered the water levels by constructing a canal. When the area became a wildlife refuge in 1990, much of the natural area was reclaimed from farmlands.

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The Winding Waters Trail follows an old farm road up the river and through fields in a 2.1 mile loop. It begins at one of the refuge’s canoe launches, just down the road from the Liberty Loop Parking Lot, and is entirely on the New York side of the border.

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Walkill River NWR posts:

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Location: Oil City Rd, Pine Island, NY

Designation: National Wildlife Refuge

Date designated or established: 1990

Date of my visit: 3/9/2019

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Vanderbilt’s Eagle’s Nest NRHP

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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The Vanderbilt family, building on the shipping and railroad business started by Cornelius Vanderbilt, became prominent during the Gilded Age (the period after the Civil War.) William K. Vanderbilt was a great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt and he built Eagle’s Nest on the Long Island Sound in 1910 as his summer home.

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I’d previously visited the Hyde Park and Biltmore Vanderbilt mansions…those were built by grandsons of Cornelius, uncles to Centerport’s ‘Willie K.’ Some friends and I were looking for a rainy-day activity on Long Island’s North Shore, so we headed to the Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium and took the guided tour of Eagle’s Nest.

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The summer home began as a 9-room Tudor cottage in 1910. By 1936, Willie K had remodeled and expanded it into a 24-room Spanish-Revival mansion, including a wing dedicated to the memory of his son who was killed in a car accident.

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Willie K was a marine biology hobbyist who collected specimens from around the world. He displayed these in a separate building on his 43-acre property. There is also a gallery of his collections on the ground floor of his mansion.

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Vanderbilt was outrageously wealthy as evidenced by the eccentricities throughout the mansion. In one wing there is a carved wooden spiral staircase. Vanderbilt saw this in a monastery in Europe and loved it so much that he purchased it, had it shipped to Eagle’s Nest and tasked his architect with making it fit somewhere in the house. It didn’t fit, so the architect had to add another section and a second story to the house to accommodate the staircase.

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Vanderbilt left his estate to Suffolk County with an endowment to keep it open to the public as a museum. The county also runs a planetarium in a separate structure to help with funding for the upkeep.

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Vanderbilt Posts:

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Location: 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport, New York

Designation: National Register of Historic Places

Date designated or established: 9/26/1985

Date of my visit: 3/10/2019

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Walkill River National Wildlife Refuge: Liberty Loop Trail Revisited

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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I was in the area and decided to revisit Liberty Loop Trail in the Walkill River National Wildlife Refuge.  The last time I’d taken pictures here was in 2004. Digital photography has come a long way in the last 15 years and even my phone captures better images than the 2 MP point and shoot I was using back then.

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Liberty Loop is a level 2.5 mile trail that begins in New York State and follows the perimeter of a former sod farm that straddles the New York/New Jersey border. The sod farm was restored to its natural wetland state after becoming part of the refuge.

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This area is a haven for migratory waterfowl and the short-eared owls. The trail had been damaged by recent storms so I couldn’t get very far along. I didn’t see any owls, but there were some Canadian Geese pretty close to the parking lot.

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The wetlands in this area were formed by the retreat of the glaciers. As the ice sheets receded, a glacial lake filled the valley they’d formed. The wetlands were once at the bottom of that lake.

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Walkill River NWR posts:

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Location: Oil City Rd, Pine Island, NY

Designation: National Wildlife Refuge

Date designated or established: 1990

Date of my visit: 3/9/2019

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National Purple Heart Hall of Honor

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Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T! Remembering those who have sacrificed on this Veterans Day and thank you to all who have served!

The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor shares a building with the museum for Washington’s Cantonment at New Windsor because it is here that the military award got its start. George Washington, while stationed at his Newburgh headquarters in 1782, created The Badge of Military Merit to recognize acts of valor by common soldiers. Three soldiers from the cantonment received the badge and then it fell into disuse.

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General MacArthur revived and rededicated the the award to honor George Washington on his 200th birthday. In 1932, 137 World War I veterans received the first purple heart awards in a ceremony at the New Windsor Cantonment. Today the Purple Heart is awarded to members of all branches of the military who are wounded or killed in combat.

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In 2002, Senator Hillary Clinton introduced Resolution 113 to create a National Purple Heart Hall of Honor. Newburgh locals provided compelling arguments for building it in Newburgh and so it was dedicated at the Cantonment site and opened in 2006.

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There is no comprehensive list of the estimated 1.8 million recipients of the Purple Heart, so part of the Hall of Honor’s mission is to collect and preserve this data. If you or a family member have received a Purple Heart, you can obtain the enrollment form from the website here.

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The museum chronicles the history of the Purple Heart and towards the back of the hall, there is a small theater where you can watch a ten-minute film featuring several veterans telling their stories. Behind the theater, there are kiosks with computers to look up names in the honor roll.

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To see my other posts from The Hudson Valley National Heritage Area, please click the links below:

Location: 374 Temple Hill Road, New Windsor, NY

Designation: National Heritage Area, Museum

Date designated or established: 11/30/2006

Date of my visit: 2/18/2019

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Goosepond Mountain State Park

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.

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Goose Pond Mountain State Park is a 1,706-acre undeveloped New York state park. The park includes five acres of man-made wetlands constructed by the New York State Department of Transportation as compensation for wetlands that were destroyed when the nearby highway interchange was built.

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The park is administered by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, but it doesn’t look like it is routinely maintained. The sign at the entrance to the nature trail is overgrown as is the trail itself.

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I stopped here with my dog while were in the area on an errand. We walked as far as we could down the nature trail before it became thoroughly choked with brush and wildflowers. We noticed some birdhouses that looked fairly new…the park is considered a bird sanctuary.

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According to the map at the entrance, when there is less vegetation, the nature trail is a loop with a boardwalk section at the far end.

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Location: 1198 NY-17M, Chester, NY 10918

Designation: State Park

Date designated or established: 1960

Date of my visit: 8/4/2019

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