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Small historical societies also offer plenty to history buffs

Small historical societies also offer plenty to history buffs

Finding glimpses of the past
Small historical societies also offer plenty to history buffs
The Saratoga Monument in Victory.
Photographer: gazette file photo

As someone who loves immersing herself in the past, Siena College history professor Jennifer Dorsey always looks forward to visiting some of the biggest historic destinations in upstate New York.

But as you might expect, she's also a bit scholarly, and for Dorsey and people like her, a real treat can be taking the opportunity to visit a local historical society.

"I love going to the big places, but I also urge people to visit their local museums and historical societies," said Dorsey, who is also the founding director of Siena College's McCormick Center for the Study of the American Revolution. "In Albany, Schenectady and Rensselaer they have three great county societies at three wonderful historic sites that are all real close to home."

[History within our reach: 4 important sites]

Jennifer Delton, a history professor at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, is a big fan of towers, so one of her favorite destinations is the Saratoga Monument in Victory. It's just outside of Schuylerville and part of the Saratoga National Historical Park.

"There are beautiful bronze reliefs of scenes from the war on the ascent," said Delton. "From there you can also walk down to General Schuyler's House. The tour is surprisingly interesting and of course newly relevant because of the Hamilton musical. One of the songs in the musical refers to Eliza's father's house upstate; which is this house."

Another Siena College history professor, Bruce Eelman, also has his favorite destinations, and among them are the Cohoes Falls and Albany Rural Cemetery.

"You can go to Cohoes Falls, which offers a glimpse of the past importance of the region's water power in making the area a center of industrial activity during the 19th century," said Eelman. "Or you can stroll through Albany's Rural Cemetery where many important war veterans, politicians and hard-working folks are buried there, and their stories are told on often intricate headstones."

Eelman also mentioned places such as Schenectady's Stockade Neighborhood and the stretch along Lock 7 in Niskayuna along what was the Erie Canal; Dorsey added Old Fort Johnson and the Fort Plain Museum to her list; and Delton offered the Saratoga Race Track, not for its gambling but for its history.

Brookside in Ballston Spa is home to the Saratoga County Historical Society, while the Schoharie County Historical Society has its headquarters at the Old Stone Fort. Both are special places for history buffs, and Fulton, Montgomery and Warren counties also have historic structures and libraries where people can research local history. In many cases but not all, it is New York's colonial history, particularly the American Revolution, that is the predominant theme.

And, if you're interested in Revolutionary War history and you like special events, then head over to Siena College next Tuesday, May 8 for a presentation sponsored by the American Revolution Round Table: Hudson/Mohawk Valleys and the McCormick Center for the Study of the American Revolution. Geoff Benton, curator at the Clermont State Historic Site down in the Hudson Valley, will deliver a talk entitled "Henry Beekman Livingston: Black Sheep of the Livingston Clan."

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