The air is turning crisp, and with Thanksgiving approaching, it means holiday decor is getting hauled out. Soon, wreaths will be hung and greens draped across stoops and porches. Newburgh, an architectural wonder of a town along the Hudson River, celebrates the season in style every year with their Candlelight Tour of Homes.
Sponsored by the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands for over 30 years, the self-guided tour features historic Newburgh spaces, both public and private, decked out for the holidays. From early 19th century mansions to modest post-war cottages and everything in between, the tour offers a chance to get a peek behind the intriguing facades of about a dozen or so spaces.
This year the tour takes place on Sunday, December 9, with the exact locations of the open houses kept quiet until attendees pick up their tour booklets on the day of the event.
Perched overlooking the Hudson, Newburgh 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.
In the 19th century, Newburgh was the center of an architectural scene with a group of designers who would have a lasting impact on the American home — including hometown boy Andrew Jackson Downing, a designer and horticulturalist, along with architects Alexander Jackson Davis, Calvert Vaux and Frederick Clarke Withers.
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 historic 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 spruced up in seasonal decor, the house showcases a collection of 19th century furnishings and decorative arts, and hosts exhibits and lectures.
The tour got nicely atmospheric last year with a fresh layer of snow gently draping the landscape as attendees meandered their way to the open houses. No guarantees this year, but Newburgh is worth a trip for architecture and history buffs no matter the weather.
How to Visit
Address: The Candlelight Tour begins at the Captain David Crawford House, 189 Montgomery Street, Newburgh, N.Y.
Hours: The 2018 event takes place on Sunday, December 9 from 12 to 5 p.m.
Admission: $30 per person. Tickets can be purchased online here and tour booklets picked up at the Captain David Crawford House.
Directions: By car, Newburgh is about two hours from Brooklyn via the Palisades Parkway.
[Photos by Susan De Vries]
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