Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Monday, January 18, 2016

A river runs through it

A chilly bright and beautiful winter day today. Unfortunately, when people say that to me, all I hear is "chilly." Like those dog jokes where the cartoonist interprets what dogs hear. Lots of blah-blah and then "walk" or "treat." So. Chilly. Have spent part of the morning between the covers.

The covers in question are those of the inestimable treasure Rogues' Hollow by Peter John Stokes, Tom Cruickshank, and Robert Heaslip (ACO, 1983)

I spent two days in Rogue's Hollow (known more commonly as Newburgh since the 1850s) in November. If you are a Newburgh nut also, I'll link you here and here to previous posts.

The more I walked Newburgh's streets the more I became acquainted with its rivers. First thing I learned - there is only one river, the Napanee. Split by nature into two branches (the smaller one is Little Napanee - no poet on hand to christen it more poetically) and domesticated into canals and millraces by the owners of its water powered industries, Newburgh is a town with a lot of waterfront.

Walk with me through some delightful spots in Newburgh where the river and the town coexist.

This grey and honey-coloured stone building hugging the north edge of the Napanee, dead centre in down-town along Main Street, is Philip Phalen's blacksmith shop, built on the site where he had been established since before 1856. The building looks ancient, but the authors suggest that it was built after the 1887 fire which destroyed so much of the centre of the town. By way of evidence, a c1910 photo shows a new-looking (although rough-built, in the interests of economy) stone building at the site. Tsk. A virtual Newburgh newbie. The building has been used as blacksmith shop, fire hall, storage and now a residence. But never as a mill, according to Rogues' Hollow, despite the Wikipedia article writer's assertion to the contrary.
Salmon River upstream

For years the door in the south facade opened onto thin air above the river; only recently has someone harnessed the power of the deck.

From the bridge you can view the Napanee River burbling along cheerily. But just back it up with a dam, especially during spring freshet, and she becomes an industrial force to be reckoned with.
looking downstream

Join me on the bridge. It's easy to get a look to west and east, in the fall with the leaves flown. The top photo is the view upstream, what the folks sitting on that deck would see.

To the left is the view downstream.  I like the bit of a ruin in the stream;  I believe it's part of the dam at the former Hooper's mill complex.
no this was not the November trip

Doesn't look like much of a flow really, does it? But by 1860, Newburgh was home to an astonishing amount of industry, most powered by the river and its branches: a sawmill, flour mill, carding mill, a foundry, carriage and cabinet works, tanneries and blacksmith shops.

Denis is standing near the riverbank at the concrete and stone dam which is visible from the Main Street bridge above. Here Douglas Hooper started the  Union Flour and Grist Mills in 1840; later he added an oat mill. A mill pond bulged around Hooper's dam on the Napanee River.

Nothing is visible of Hooper's grist milling empire but by way of consolation, I offer his 1864 woolen mill, which sits just north of the earlier buildings, on the Little Napanee River. Fortunately, this immense structure has been saved, beautifully restored and landscaped, and used as a residence .

The Rogues' Hollow writers comment on the round iron plates in the fine stone walls of the two and a half storey structure. They're useful, not decorative, serving to hold the ends of tie bars keeping the walls standing straight and tall. To finish up I'll share two of the other stone buildings in the valley of the Napanee River, along Main Street.

The stone store (with its shop-front unattractively modernized) sits right on the northwest bank. It's visible in the top photo, should you still be trying to get oriented. This is the W.W.Adams Tailor Shop c1850. Rogues' Hollow notes its classical qualities, its size and proportions and its grand chimneys, stone corbels and eaves (a particularly Newburgh feature.)

Madden Store
The final stone structure in the river bottom grouping is this lovely. It sits a bit north of Palen's blacksmith shop, its parapet end wall visible in the second photo from the top.

This is one of those happier stories. Often buildings that appear in great condition in books published in the 1970s or 80s (why are there so few architectural history books coming out these days?) have succumbed to unattractive face-lifts or worse, in the intervening years. In the case of the lovely Madden Store (c1855) Stokes et al describe this worthy as "vacant for some years, partly stabilized and restored by the former owner..." They comment on the boarded up shop windows which the owner had painted to resemble the original 12 paned glass. This is what they had to say about the Madden Store: "The building is of great architectural importance and it contributed to the overall visual quality of this section of Main Street." See it's not just me. They note the "imposing chimneys, stone corbels and eaves, quoins and posts to the shopfront, and a transom over the front door."

I love how it sits right at the street, in the old manner. And that happy story? It's now restored, and looking wonderful.

Newburgh sounds like a nice little community, even today. Check their Facebook page to keep up with news and events. Shout Sister, a choir I used to sing with, performed recently, a Syrian refugee benefit. Good on ya, Newburgh!

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