Remembering Abe Lincoln and Martin Luther King, a Tower-ing achievement, and books for chilly afternoons. PLUS Valentine’s Day Gift Guide and On The Town
Lincoln Memorial, Take 2
A newly commissioned life-sized statue commemorates Honest Abe’s 1861 visit
Any number of Hudson Valley locations can claim, with varying degrees of accuracy, that “Washington slept here.” But only once in recorded history did Abraham Lincoln come to Westchester County. That visit has resonated throughout Peekskill, the village he visited, for almost 150 years.
In early 1861, the newly elected president was traveling by train to Washington, D.C. for his inauguration. At the time, Peekskill was an important industrial and political hub. So, on February 19th of that year, at the invitation of local congressman William Nelson, Lincoln agreed to stop his train and give a speech.
About 1,500 people — nearly half the population of the town — crowded into the Peekskill Freight Depot on Water Street. Lincoln’s speech was brief, only 134 words, during which he asked for support “in regard to the difficulties which lie before me and our beloved country.”
Lincoln’s quick visit (and what followed) inspired Peekskill residents to found America’s first Lincoln Society. The speech was celebrated at the society’s 50th anniversary in 1911, and again on its centennial in 1961. A memorial stone, the Lincoln Exedra, was erected near the depot in 1925. And this past year, a life-sized sculpture of Lincoln was unveiled at the spot where he spoke, in what is now aptly called Lincoln Plaza at the Lincoln Depot.
The statue was created by sculptor Richard Masloski and sponsored with a donation by Ginsburg Development Companies. Masloski’s pieces already dot the Hudson Valley: the Yonkers Gold Star Mothers Monument, the Westchester County Police Memorial, the Orange County Veterans Memorial, and the Town of Wappinger War Memorial. But sculpting his longtime hero “was the thrill of a lifetime,” he says.
The finished piece shows the 16th president, sporting his trademark stovepipe hat, delivering his address from atop a luggage cart, just as he did that day. “Lincoln is unique,” Masloski says. “He is so sculptural — no one looks like him. It’s a challenge to capture his looks. Some Lincoln scholars have told me it’s one of the best Lincoln sculptures they ever saw.”
Along with the statue, the depot will be turned into a museum, which is scheduled to
open in 2009 (the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth). It is part of a riverfront development project that officials hope will revitalize the area. Every February 19th, a reenactment of the speech will be held at the site, giving us a chance to relive the day the Great Emancipator came to town.
— David Levine
The pride of Peekskill: Masloski’s life-like sculpture graces the city’s Lincoln Plaza. At left: the artist at work in his studio
What better way to say “I love you” this Valentine’s Day than with a beautiful, personal gift? From small boutiques to large retail stores, we’ve scoured the Valley to locate these “just-right” items that will show your dearest just how much you care. From lingerie and jewelry to original poetry, you’re sure to find something that will dazzle the one you love. — Elizabeth Stein
How Do I Love Thee?
Tell your Valentine how you feel with an original poem by local writer and designer Terah Cox. Framed $38-$175, unframed $12-$42
Heaven & Earth Works, Cold Spring 845-265-2401 or www.heavenandearthworks.com
Chocolates are mandatory, and these hand-dipped treats are truly decadent. Custom filled boxes start at $5 $24 as shown The Chocolate Moose, Chatham 518-392-8732 or www.chocolatemoosetreats.com
The Art of Time
Your man will feel extra-special with this shiny ESQ watch by Movado on his wrist $450
Kingston Fine Jewelry, Kingston
845-336-5455 or www.kingstonfinejewelry.com
Lovely Little Locket
Guys, here’s a tip: Slide your picture into the locket of this handmade brass-and-quartz necklace so she can keep you close to her heart $35
Manic Trout, Millbrook
845-677-6914 or www.manictrout.com
Cover the bed with these hand-painted, richly colored silk pillows. Scatter rose petals on top, and watch the sparks fly $48 each
Carreras, Rhinebeck. 845-758-2200 or www.carrerashome.com
Surprise the man in your life with these cotton boxers in various prints and colors $8.50 each
Old Navy. 1-800-653-6289 or www.oldnavy.com
She’ll feel like a princess in this delicate nylon chemise by Arianne $50
Avanti, Warwick 845-986-6891
Champagne on ice never looked so good (don’t forget the strawberries and whipped cream).
Challis Champagne Bucket by Vera Wang $220 The Mango Tree, New City 1-888-99-MANGO or www.mangotreehome.com
Gold-infused, hand-blown champagne flutes by Union Street Glass $175 pair Clouds Gallery, Woodstock 845-679-8155 or www.cloudsofwoodstock.com
Pamper your sweetie’s skin with this gift set of three 100% olive oil soaps $15 Rosner Soap, Sugar Loaf 845-469-5931 or www.rosnersoap.com
Pretty and Practical
Show your friend how much you care with this ruby-red patent leather key chain from Coach $48
1-888-262-6224 or www.coach.com
The local NAACP activist shares memories of Martin Luther King
By Tara Driggs
With his influential role in the American Civil Rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most revered and renowned leaders of the modern era. His nonviolent tactics and eloquent speeches continue to be the source of inspiration for many of today’s leaders in the African-American community. Elouise Maxey, president of the Northern Dutchess County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), grew up in Atlanta and had the opportunity to meet Dr. King. His words still influence her as she battles modern-day racism in this region. She shared her thoughts with Hudson Valley.
How long have you been active in the NAACP?
I’ve been president of the Northern Dutchess chapter since 1996, but I’ve been an NAACP member since I was 14. I grew up in it; my parents and relatives were very much involved, and joining the youth chapter was a family tradition.
Atlanta was also Dr. King’s hometown. Did you ever hear him speak?
Oh, yes. I had the opportunity to speak with him and shake his hand. I have heard many of his sermons and speeches. And I participated in my first march with him, the March on Washington, in August 1963.
Do you have specific memories of Dr. King?
I remember that the last sermon I heard him give in Atlanta was on February 4, 1968. Whenever he came to Ebenezer Baptist Church, his home church where his father was the pastor, it was standing room only. The sermon was entitled “The Drum Major Instinct.” The drum major is out front, leading the band. He talked about how that instinct to lead could be a good thing, but we can turn it around and make it a bad thing by having the idea that we have a sense of entitlement. You become a little snobbish or pompous with it. He didn’t want to be known as the drum major with that kind of demeanor. He wanted to be known as a drum major for justice, for righteousness, for peace. He wanted it known that Martin Luther King tried to serve others, that Martin Luther King tried to love somebody. He tried to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked. He said he tried his best to serve humanity, and that he certainly did. In this speech he actually talked about his death. Not long after, he was killed on April 4, 1968.
I understand you came across a letter written by Dr. King. Can you tell us about that?
I was at the Troutbeck Inn in Amenia for a dinner. Joel and Amy Spingarn once owned that property. Joel was a former [national] president of the NAACP. Many people are not aware that the organization is not just for African-Americans; many of our founding fathers were Caucasian. While I was attending this dinner, Manager Garret Corcoran said he had found something very valuable, an interesting letter in the attic of the building. When he started reading the letter, tears came to my eyes. The writing sounded like Dr. King. Sure enough, when he finished reading it, he said, “signed Martin Luther King, Jr.” The writing was very much the way he spoke, it is a wonderful letter. [The letter is a thank-you note for being chosen as the recipient of the Spingarn Medal, one of the organization’s most prestigious awards.]
What kinds of problems does the NAACP encounter in the Valley?
Mostly we deal with discrimination in jobs. A person might come to us feeling like they were discriminated against, maybe not promoted when they felt like they had seniority and better qualifications for the position. We investigate and see if we can help. We also have seen a lot of racial discrimination with the influx of neo-Nazis or skinheads. We had a situation with a school district that was very bad. A Hispanic family was being tortured by this particular group. The perpetrators actually had the audacity to ride by the family’s home screaming racial epitaphs, and there was a noose hanging on the mirror of their car. We were able to work with that family, the district attorney, and the police department to get that problem resolved.
Have you made any major changes in your 11 years as local president?
I have managed to bring our youth chapter back to life again. We now have 25 young people we are training to become the leaders of tomorrow. We teach them the history of the NAACP, conflict resolution, how to overcome being bullied. We take them on various outings to let them learn from the way we conduct business.
How have racism and discrimination changed since the time of Dr. King?
Racism is still alive and well, it is ubiquitous, and I don’t think we will ever completely get rid of it. But it’s not as blatant as it used to be, it can be very subtle sometimes. Recently I received information regarding [Vice President] Dick Cheney. He came to town to go hunting, and he actually went to a club where there was a Confederate flag hanging in one of the buildings. A reporter asked me about it. I told him I was disappointed that Cheney and his entourage would actually feel comfortable in that type of setting.
The type of racism I encountered in the south was different. You had one particular race, the Caucasian race, that you feared. Here in the north, there are many different ethnicities that all have their different types of prejudices.
Northern Dutchess NAACP President Elouise Maxey (seated) is flanked by Marilyn Vetrano, executive director of the Dutchess County Human Rights Commission, and the Rev. E. Clayton Wade, pastor of Poughkeepsie’s Ebenezer Baptist Church and chaplain of the Northern Dutchess NAACP chapter. Below: Dr. King’s letter
Down Goes Tyson
Eighteen years ago, Catskill’s most famous former resident hit the canvas — and took all of boxing with him. A new book explores how it all went down
By David Levine
On February 11, 1990, the unbeatable was beaten. James “Buster” Douglas, a 42-to-one underdog, knocked out Mike Tyson, then considered one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time. Tyson, Douglas, and the sport of boxing haven’t been the same since. Award-winning author and Saratoga Springs resident Joe Layden explains why in his new book, The Last Great Fight: The Extraordinary Tale of Two Men and How One Fight Changed Their Lives Forever (St. Martin’s Press, $24.95).
As a former columnist and executive sports editor at the Albany Times-Union, you covered Mike Tyson from the earliest days of his career. Were you at the Douglas fight?
The fight was in Tokyo, but I was in California on another story. No one thought this fight was even worth covering. So I watched it on TV in a bar in Santa Monica. After the first round I said, “Something’s going on here. This guy Douglas isn’t supposed to be any good.” The bar was rocking, and you never forget that kind of event. A few years later I read how Douglas had become overweight and diabetic, and of course Tyson had all his problems. I thought there has to be a great story here: How did these two guys come together to create one of the most memorable athletic events in history?
But not everyone agreed at first, did they?
My editor and agent both said, “Oh boy, a boxing book.” That’s a tough sell. They discouraged me, but I decided to write a proposal anyway. They really liked it, and my editor became a strong advocate for it at St. Martin’s.
Tyson came to fame while training with the legendary Cus D’Amato in Catskill. But by the time of this fight, he had already begun his downward slide. Did leaving this area contribute to that?
He was a Catskill guy until around 1988. All of the guys on that original “Team Tyson” think if he had stayed in the Catskill cocoon, he’d have been better off. But he was a kid when he joined Cus. And Cus had died. Kids leave. He would have left and gone on his own at some point.
Still, leaving “Team Tyson” clearly was the beginning of the end of his championship reign.
Sure. The Catskill group really did have his best interest at heart — certainly more than Don King, who took over his career. There are several lines of demarcation with Tyson: Catskill and post-Catskill; pre-Don King and post-Don King; and they all fall around 1988-90. That’s when all the nonsense started.
You contend that with Tyson’s downfall, the sport of boxing has fallen as well.
Boxing had already lost some of its appeal prior to Tyson, in the early 1980s after Ali and his generation retired. Then Tyson galvanized the sport. He brought it to a huge mass audience during the four years he was champ, from 1986 to 1990. He transcended boxing and brought attention to the sport — not always for good reasons. Once he faded, so did boxing, and it hasn’t really recovered.
Despite all his faults and failures, you treat Tyson compassionately in the book.
There was so much poignancy to this fight. Tyson had never been beaten up before. His corner didn’t even have the right equipment to treat the swelling in his eye. They had never needed it before. They were so unprepared for disaster. And at the end of the fight, after Tyson went down, he didn’t know what had happened. He asked his trainer, who had to tell him, “You got knocked out.” Tyson just collapsed on his shoulder, and the trainer had to console him. I wanted to avoid the common trap of portraying Tyson as a monster. He’s far more complicated than that.
From acclaimed historian and biographer Ed Renehan, Jr. comes Commodore: The Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (Basic Books, $27.50). One of the wealthiest men in American history, Vanderbilt built a shipping and railroad empire that forever changed the landscape of New York. Born to poor parents on Staten Island in 1794, he made his fortune through hard work, a relentless drive to succeed, and by donating very little to charity. Also the biographer of famed Valley railroad magnate Jay Gould, Renehan has substantial experience in finding out what made men like Cornelius Vanderbilt tick. Commodore explores the tycoon’s dark family life, erratic later years, and his terminal bout with syphilis. The author’s attention to detail and exhaustive research paints a unique picture of a man who was hated, loved, admired, and reviled.
Perhaps the least well-known of the Catskills’ famous trout streams, the Neversink River stretches about 40 miles from the top of Slide Mountain to the Delaware River, cutting breathtaking gorges and waterfalls all along the way. The Legendary Neversink (Skyhorse, $29.95) is an anthology of works by more than 20 fishermen and river enthusiasts that explores the significance of this important trout sanctuary. Edited by Radford University’s Justin Askins, the book includes essays by naturalist John Burroughs, Theodore Gordon (an early proponent of fly fishing), and Leonard M. Wright, Jr. (who has written two books about the river), among others. Their stories detail the trials and tribulations of fishing the Neversink, as well as the camaraderie and friendship that the anglers experience. To Askins and his contributors, the Catskill streams are the birthplace of American fly fishing, and the Neversink remains the best place to cast your line.
Set in a tiny Alaskan village, Toehold (Simon & Schuster, $13), by first-time author Stephen Foreman, is a unique novel from the start, blending romantic comedy with tales of survival. A resident of the Catskills, Foreman combines sharp wit, screenplay-style dialogue, and a nonlinear storyline to explore his characters and their pasts. Cody, a taxidermist, had a flower-child upbringing in San Francisco; he heads to Alaska after his mother’s death. Mary Ellen, a nomad wilderness guide, just can’t seem to settle down anywhere, or with anyone. The village of Toehold itself is equally quirky: moose make daily treks down unpaved Main Street, wolverine and caribou are hunted for their hides, and travelers from the lower 48 trek in for a taste of the last frontier. Set against the beautiful backdrop of the Alaskan bush, Toehold combines love, laughs, and quaint northern charm.
Thought to be the longest serving mayor of any major American city, Erastus Corning was the undisputed ruler of Albany for 42 years. Mayor Corning: Albany Icon, Albany Enigma is an in-depth biography by Albany Times-Union reporter Paul Grondahl (State University of New York Press, $24.95). Grondahl explores every facet of Corning’s life: his strict religious upbringing, his days at Albany Academy and Yale, the influence of his powerful family, and his stint as a soldier in World War II. Bred to be a politician, Corning dedicated his life to the capital while keeping his true personality hidden from even his closest associates. With a reporter’s instinct, Grondahl pieces Corning’s personas together through methodical research and meticulous attention to detail. The outcome is an elaborate portrait of a complex public figure. — Joseph Climek
By The Numbers…
According to legend, if the famed groundhog Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow on February 2, there will be six more weeks of winter. Hedgehog Day, which originated in Germany, derived from an old Scottish couplet: “If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, winter will have another flight.” Although the hedgehog was the Bavarian weather predictor of choice, these spiny mammals were nowhere to be found when German immigrants arrived in America in the 19th century. A similar animal, the groundhog (or woodchuck), stood in its place instead. And every year since 1886, thousands have gathered in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to learn the answer to this burning meteorologic question.
Here are a few little-known facts about the groundhog:
4 large, chisel-like incisor teeth fill each animal’s mouth, growing an average of
1/16 of an inch every week
5 months each year (from October to February) are spent hibernating, during which time its heart beats just
10 times per minute
1,600,000 tons of soil in New York State are turned over every year by these furry critters, as they dig tunnels that are up to
30 feet long and 5 feet deep, and include multiple chambers
4 to 6 years is the average lifespan of a groundhog
16 kilometers per hour is the speed these guys can sprint when being chased
12 other famous groundhogs besides Phil — including Staten Island Chuck and Sir Walter Wally of Raleigh, N.C. — help predict the arrival of spring
90 percent of the time Phil has seen his shadow during the
122 years of this Punxsutawney tradition.
— Elizabeth Stein
Power of Tower
Bard’s Joan Tower earns three Grammy Award nominations for her
composition Made in America
No one can say that the Grammys have gone to Joan Tower’s head. Tower, the Asher B. Edelman Professor of Music at Bard College, received three Grammy Award nominations this year for her orchestral composition Made in America. “Everyone thinks it’s the cat’s pajamas,” says a bemused Tower. But she doesn’t. In fact, she hasn’t yet decided if she’ll even go to the award ceremony.
Heck, Tower is unsure whether or not she was nominated for a Grammy before this. “They sent me an invitation in 1991 for a violin concerto I wrote,” she says. “I think they only invite you if you are nominated.” She didn’t go then. And rehearsals for the premiere of another of her compositions may conflict with this year’s awards ceremony.
Where will she put the statue if she wins? “I haven’t thought about it, quite frankly,” she says.
She may not be making a fuss, but the music world is. Entitled Tower: Made in America, the CD received nominations for Classical Contemporary Composition, Classical Album, and Orchestral Performance. It was recorded on the Naxos label by the Nashville Symphony, with Leonard