If the communities of Newburgh and Cornwall had a theme song it might just be Credence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary" with its "rollin' on the river" chorus. Both communities are set against the majestic backdrop of the mighty Hudson River.
Newburgh is a city that has been marred by crime and negative publicity in recent decades, but thanks to creative and unique development plans and artistic projects, the city is poised to become a regional destination for the arts and culture.
Cornwall is a town of mountain and river views that residents say has kept a true small town feel even in an era of franchises and urban sprawl.
The first European explorer to come to Newburgh was Henry Hudson, whose ship, the Half Moon, came up the river (that would later bear his name) and into Newburgh bay in 1609. His first mate's journal entry recorded that the area was "a pleasant place to build a town." During the Revolutionary War George Washington guided the war from the city. For the last year and a half of the war Washington used the home of the Hasbrouck family as his headquarters. In 1850 the house became the first building to be preserved by a state as a historic site.
During the early 1800s and early 1900s Newburgh was a center of commerce in the mid-Hudson. After World War II the national move away from cities and, decrease in industry took its toll on the city and many downtown business had closed by the 1970s. Over the years, historic buildings were left vacant and demolished by the city, and the crime rate increased. But today, the city is roaring back and is looking to reclaim its place as a regional influence. The newly opened Newburgh Brewing Company began selling beer at the end of April. (Read a profile of brewery owners page Paul Halayko and Christopher Basso on page 78.) The city is also home to the 35-acre Downing Park, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who designed New York City's Central Park.
Helping to lead revitalization efforts in Newburgh is Safe Harbors of the Hudson, a nonprofit organization that is committed to building communities through housing and the arts. In 2002 the organization purchased the historical Hotel Newburgh, which at the time was a run-down hotel but has since been transformed into an attractive supportive housing complex that has been renamed The Cornerstone Residence.
In addition to providing assistance housing, the residence serves as a community center and catering and event hall. The Cornerstone Residence is also home to the Ann Street Gallery, which shows contemporary art by local and non local artists alike. Safe Harbors of the Hudson also hosts concerts and community events and festivals. The organization plans to renovate Newburgh's historic Ritz Theater in the near future.
Tricia Haggerty Wenz, executive director of Safe Harbors of the Hudson, says that revitalizing communities through the arts is "a proven way of redeveloping these small urban cities throughout the country." She adds, "I believe Newburgh can redefine itself as a Mecca for the arts. I think that's its best hope for the future." But she's quick to note there's already plenty to love about Newburgh. "First of all you can't deny the natural beauty of Newburgh right where it is in the Hudson Valley, with the river and the mountains. Then, you have the incredible architecture and then the eclectic mix of people who live here. There are so many different cultures that reside in the city. It makes for a certain kind of vibrancy. You can experience any type of food in the city of Newburgh. We need to expand upon that and market it more."
Among the food to be experienced in Newburgh are smoked and grilled meats and a varied vegetarian menu of the Wherehouse Restaurant at 119 Liberty Street. The Wherehouse specializes in barbecued items like ribs and pulled pork and uses organic and locally grown products wherever possible.
Rib lovers will find another Mecca of meat flavor at Billy Joe's Ribworks, at 26 Front Street. This waterside restaurant and bar offers mouthwatering ribs, spectacular views of the Hudson River, outdoor dining and regular live entertainment.
At Caffe Macchiato, at 99 Liberty Street, diners can get a taste of Italy at this charming café that features breakfast and lunch menu items such as Italian style eggs and panini sandwiches. Lovers of Italian food can also sample the wood-fired-brick-oven pizza, pastas, and entrees at Cosimo's Brick Oven at Route 300 Newburgh.