Happy Birthday, George Washington!

He’s 279 years old this week–George Washington, our first President. Actually, living in the Hudson Valley within easy distance of so many Revolutionary War sites, I think of him more readily as General Washington, the Revolutionary War hero.

Our Hudson Valley historic sites have been celebrating Washington’s birthday this week with appropriate festivities– notably, Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site in Newburgh and the New Windsor Cantonment. The Newburgh site contains Hasbrouck House, which served as the General’s headquarters from spring 1782 to summer 1783 and now houses a museum. Also on the grounds is the so-called Tower of Victory, built in the late 19th century to honor the centenary of Washington’s stay here. Inside this impressive stone structure is a statue of General Washington looking across the Hudson River at the Beacon Hills on the other side.

Another Revolutionary historic site that I return to again and again for its marvelous photo opportunities is the New Windsor Cantonment, where 7,000 troops of the Continental Army were encamped. This site also houses the Purple Heart Hall of Honor, where one can see marvelous exhibits about our country’s heroes. It’s a great place for parents to take their children; not only is there much to learn in the Hall of Honor, but on special occasion reenactors put on live exhibits of life in the days of the Revolution.  This weekend such demonstrations took place in honor of Washington’s birthday, and so I swung by briefly to get some photos of the soldiers who were about to fire their muskets and the cannon.

Living in the Hudson Valley one is always grateful for the area’s natural beauty and for the culture available here, but remember, as well, these historic sites that keep alive the memories of the people and events of our nation’s history.

Iran Hostage Heroes Celebrate 30th Anniversary

It was on January 25, 1981 that the fifty-two American hostages who had been held captive in Iran for 444 days traveled from Stewart Airport (as it was then called) in Newburgh to West Point after their release. A heroes’ welcome awaited them then, as they passed home after home festooned with “Welcome home” signs and the traditional yellow ribbons. Recently several of those veterans of the Iran hostage crisis returned to West Point for a reunion and to be greeted by a whole new generation of West Point cadets.

During this past autumn I drove along Route 9W over Storm King Mountain toward Cornwall, having no idea of the great historical significance of this stretch of road; I was on my way to Cornwall to find a spot from which to photograph the Hudson River and happened to pull into a parking area that appeared to have some promising photo opportunities. My hunch was correct, and after making several images of the astounding Hudson Highlands in their autumn finery I walked over to where I had seen two hikers begin what seemed to be a descent toward the river bank.

It was then that I saw the sign proclaiming this to be the Freedom Road. Now, I’m always on the lookout for subjects of historical interest in the Hudson Valley, but this was a surprise and a revelation for me. (I was living abroad at the time of the hostages’ release and thus unaware of the details of their return route.)  What a great tribute and memorial to heroism and courage! And let’s face it, one can’t help but feel a twinge of pride to think that one of the first sights to greet the hostages upon their arrival back in the USA was one of the most stunning views in our beautiful Hudson Valley.