It is prime season for touring historic sites that are decked out in holiday cheer, overflowing with greens, lights and other decorative symptoms of the season. If you are exploring upstate, a special candlelight tour is held every December in the architectural wonder of a town that is Newburgh, N.Y. Even if you can’t make the tour, Newburgh is worth a visit any time of the year.
The Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands sponsors the annual Candlelight Tour of Homes event. For over 30 years, the magical, self-guided tour has featured historic Newburgh spaces, both public and private, primped for the holidays. It is a unique opportunity to glimpse the interiors of some of the town’s architectural beauties and support the work of the historical society. The annual event typically includes a dozen or so sites representing a range of a range of styles, history and use.
Newburgh, perched overlooking the Hudson, was strategically important during the Revolutionary War, and Washington’s headquarters is now a New York State Historic Site. The town was a hub of commerce in the early 19th century, its waterfront a stopping point between Manhattan and Albany. Business owners and ship captains built up the small town with mansions and warehouses. It also became a popular resort in Victorian times.
Important names in 19th century architecture put their stamp on Newburgh, including hometown boy Andrew Jackson Davis, a designer and horticulturalist, his sometimes collaborator, architect Alexander Jackson Davis (yes, those names are quite similar!) as well as architect Calvert Vaux, known in Brooklyn for designing Prospect Park with Frederick Law Olmsted.
Newburgh remained a shipping and industrial center through the early 20th century, but by the 1960s changes in transportation and other economic forces hit the city. While urban renewal projects demolished blocks of buildings, the town also worked to document its significant architectural legacy. It established a historic district in 1973, which includes building styles from the 18th to the early 20th century.
The annual candlelight tour begins at one of those significant sites, the Captain David Crawford House. The grand Federal-style mansion was constructed in 1830 and has been the headquarters of the historical society since 1954. When not decked out for the seasonal tour, the house showcases the society’s collection of 19th century furnishings and decorative arts and hosts exhibits and lectures.
How to Visit
Address: The Candlelight Tour begins at the Captain David Crawford House, 189 Montgomery Street, Newburgh, N.Y.
Hours: The 2016 event takes place Sunday, December 11 from 12 to 5 p.m. The Captain David Crawford House is also open Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. and by appointment.
Admission: $30 per person. Tickets can be purchased online.
Directions: To catch a ferry to Newburgh, take Metro North to Beacon and head to the ferry landing, just south and across from the train station. By car, Newburgh is about two hours from Brooklyn via the Palisades Parkway.
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