People to Watch
(page 4 of 11)
By: Mary Forsell
Almost anyone driving along Route 9 south of I-84 in Fishkill wouldn’t notice anything unusual — a blighted mall, a Mexican restaurant, a Hess station. Mara Farrell sees things differently. “This is hallowed ground,” says the Fishkill resident. “This is a place where dramas played out.”
She is referring to the Fishkill Supply Depot and Encampment, a one-of-a-kind military city that once occupied this land. It was constructed in 1776 by George Washington’s troops and was in continuous service for seven years. A major logistical center for munitions and war supplies and an extensive camp/hospital for the Continental Army, the site was crucial to preventing the advance of the British and helping the colonies win the Revolutionary War.
Despite this legacy — and the fact that the 70-acre site bordering both sides of Route 9 was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 — much of it has been developed. When Farrell moved to Fishkill from Westchester in 2001, and learned of the depot’s history through her work as a board member of the Fishkill Historical Society, she immediately took up the cause to save the site’s remaining 20 acres. “From the very start, I was astounded by the importance of the site. It is New York’s Valley Forge,” says Farrell. “I just had to be an advocate.”
The owner of a small public relations agency, Farrell went on to cofound Friends of Fishkill Supply Depot in 2006 with Nate Binzen and Marty Byster. The group has initiated petitions and spoken out to save the site from commercial development.
“Historic sites have the power of place,” says Farrell, who majored in history and music at Sarah Lawrence and earned a masters in international education from Columbia (she was also a teenage tour guide at Lyndhurst historic site in Tarrytown). “Ground is irreplaceable. If you don’t make the community aware of what we have, commercial plans move forward and hallowed ground becomes aisle nine of the next big-box store. That’s not how we want to honor our first veterans.”