New York State: A Haven for History

By Conry, Jaci | American Heritage, April-May 2004 | Go to article overview

New York State: A Haven for History

Conry, Jaci, American Heritage

New York State, a land of breathtaking landscapes with rolling hills, sparkling lakes and geological wonders, is a haven for history lovers. Here, you'll find renowned and inspirational works of art and photography. You'll encounter Colonial architecture, re-created Indian settlements, opulent estates and battlefields that were the sites of some of America's greatest military struggles. You'll also see where a group of strong-willed 19th-century women gathered to champion equal rights.


Step back in time and visit many of the state's reconstructed cultural sites where the past has been meticulously preserved and is often reenacted. At the Shakowi Cultural Center in Oneida, you can explore the Oneida Indian Nation's extensive collections of artifacts and artwork. Located in a beautiful log structure, painstakingly fashioned by Oneida Indian Nation members from the logs of stately white pines, without a single nail, you will discover a marvelous testament to the Oneida civilization. Clothing basketry, books, wood carvings and musical instruments made by the Oneidas are the backbone of the collection.

In the town of Rome, Erie Canal Village is a reconstructed village of to early 1800s where you can take a mule-drawn packet-boat ride. Part of the 524-mile Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, this waterway played key role in turning New York City into a preeminent center for commerce, industry and finance. A catalyst for growth in the Mohawk and Hudson Valleys, the canals also helped open up western America for settlement.

Not far away at Fort Stanwix National Monument, history comes alive everyday, as visitors experience the sights, sounds and ambience of the 18th century. The reconstructed fort is the site where Revolutionary War patriots withstood a 21-day British siege. Stop at the Visitor Center for an orientation on the American Revolution in the Mohawk Valley. Explore the fort on your own with a free self-guided walking tour, then sign your enlistment oath with a quill pen and declare your allegiance to the crown or to independence.

Another fort, Ticonderoga, is situated at the southern point of Lake Champlain. Built in 1755 by the French to defend the strategic waterways of Lake Champlain, Lake George and the Hudson RIver, it's located on 2,000 acres of protected landscape. the area now houses a replica of the original fort, which was the scene of important battles in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. In Montgometry Country's Fort Johnson, reenactors and historians tell the story of Sir William Johnson, England's superintendent of Indian affairs. In 1749, he built the fieldstone house that would become his residence, as well as the site of numerous Indian conferences. Johnson conferred regularly with the Iroquois, and the also met tribe representatives from New England and the Midwest. His negotiations with the Iroquois nations kept them on the side of the British during the French and Indian War, and the alliance continued during the War for Independence.

Just south of the village of Schuylerville, the former country home of General Philip Schuyler is an estate that once included 80 acres of elaborate gardens, orchards, fields and farm buildings. The first great mansion on the 1777 estate was burned by British General John Burgoyne and was replaced in just 29 days by the home currently on the property. Later, British Loyalists would wreak havoc here once again when they made a failed attempt to capture General Schuyler in a sneak attack. This occurrence and other 18th-century reenactments and military demonstrations are regularly portrayed at the estate, where past guests have included George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette.


New York's art history begins with the Hudson River, a river that not only shaped the nation's history and development, but also produced a great school of landscape painters called the Hudson River School. …

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