NEWBURGH - Washington’s Headquarters

Tower: The Tower of Victory is a memorial to peace

An institution in the City of Newburgh, Washington’s Headquarters State Historic Site commemorates a key location during the American Revolution and evokes pride for the city’s residents.

The site of General George Washington’s war headquarters, the location was where decisions were made by Washington that helped America become independent from Great Britain. Washington stayed in the home of successful Dutch merchant Jonathan Hasbrouck and his wife, Tryntje from 1782 – 1783, because of its strategic location in front of the Hudson River.

The site features a museum with paintings, memorabilia and documents related to Washington’s command of the Continental Army and a replica of the home he stayed in with donated artifacts. Washington’s accomplishments during his yearlong stay included establishing the precursor to the Purple Heart Medal of Honor, the Badge of Military Merit, rejecting the notion that America should be a monarchy as was presented in a letter by Colonel Lewis Nicola, and writing his Circular Letter that was said to have drafted the framework for the U.S. Constitution.

It was Washington’s attentiveness and charisma that made him an effective leader in the fight for America’s independence, according to Elyse Goldberg, Historic Site Manager for Washington’s Headquarters. “We know about his ability to listen to people and have them benefit from what he was listening to,” she said. “He had this ability to have a presence and to hold people’s awe.”

A group of fundraisers gathered together in 1850 to restore the site and open it to the public as New York State’s first historic site. Similarly, a group of locals came together in 1951, a year after a hurricane destroyed the roof of the site’s signature Tower of Victory – a peace memorial for a hard-fought war – to restore the roof. The campaign finally came into fruition this April when the restored Tower of Victory reopened to the public. “It took seventy years to restore, but it happened at that same time as the site’s birth,” said Goldberg.

Visitors can take in over 1,300 artifacts that are housed throughout the site, which have been donated over the years from descendants of the Hasbrouck family, acquisitions from the Office of New York State Parks and Recreation, and the National Archives. They include dishes from the original home, old doll collections, a piece of the famed U.S.S. Maine warship and even a lock of George Washington’s hair. “It’s interesting to see what people felt were important during 160 years,” said Goldberg. “It’s a microcosm of collecting in America,” added Paul Banks, the site’s interpretive program assistant. “Anything that [people] felt was important was brought here.”

For Newburgh residents, the site serves as a marker of an important time in America’s history and as an avenue for recreation. “Visitors can see what it was like for Washington to be in residence,” said Goldberg. “There’s a lot to see; you can spend a couple of hours here. For those who are not history fans, it is also a park for people to sit and take a nap, or read, or have a picnic.”

Right now is the time to visit the City of Newburgh, as the onetime so-called “Murder Capital of New York” (per an article in New York Magazine) is experiencing historically low crime rates. According to Banks, there has been an 80 percent drop in crime since 2014, three years after that article was published, in September 2011.

Some of the must-see places to eat in the revived Newburgh are located right on Liberty Street, where Washington’s Headquarters is located. Right in front of the park is the Wherehouse, which catches one’s attention right away with its tie-dye mural of Washington himself. It serves typical bar fare and features live music on most weekends.

Upscale eaters and Francophiles can try Ms. Fairfax or the beloved Liberty Street Bistro, both of which feature Franco American-style cuisine at moderately high prices. For Mexican food lovers, Hudson Taco is the latest hotspot in the city, located in the renovated site of the historic West Shore Train Station. That site also houses the Newburgh Brewing Company, which offers a Cream Ale that was voted CNBC’s Most Loved Beer in 2015.

Dessert lovers have plenty to choose from. The recently-opened Flour Shop is co-owned by Liberty Street Bistro owner Michael Kelly, and has artisanal baked goods and homemade ice cream. Chocoholics will feel right at home at the Commodore Chocolatier on Broadway, with handmade chocolate that is made through traditional chocolate manufacturing methods. Blacc Vanilla on South Street is also a must-visit for those with a sweet tooth, with its various assortment of pastries.

After a big meal or dessert binge, you can enjoy a stroll around Downing Park, located in the center of the city. Like the city, the park has been experiencing a revival as well, with a summer concert series and seasonal farmers’ markets.

Each year the City of Newburgh hosts its Newburgh Illuminated Festival to mark another historic marker for the city: as the site where Thomas Edison built one of the nation’s earliest power plants in 1884. Local community organizations and businesses offer booths to show off the best Newburgh has to offer and the area’s restaurants have special discounts on food and drinks.

After decades as a hotbed of criminal activity, the City of Newburgh is experiencing an economic boom fueled by popular restaurants and by its roots as the city where America’s independence was molded and shaped.