Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Scholarly Approach to the Furgary

Tomorrow night, as part of Shipwreck Week at the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston, Daria Merwin, co-director of the Cultural Resource Survey Program at the New York State Museum, will be presenting a lecture entitled "Maritime Cultural Landscapes of the Hudson River."

Merwin's talk will give "an overview of the array of significant archaeological and historic properties in New York that illustrate the Maritime Cultural Landscape concept" and will focus on "some of the challenges of studying maritime properties." The lecture expands on a paper Merwin presented at a 2015 symposium on Maritime Cultural Landscapes, which uses Hudson's own Furgary Boat Club, a.k.a. "the Shacks," as a case study, exploring how the Maritime Cultural Landscape concept "can contribute to our understanding of the site where traditional means of assessing historical and architectural significance fall short of telling the full story."

The talk takes place at 7 p.m. in the Riverport Wooden Boat School Classroom at the Hudson River Maritime Museum, 86 Rondout Landing, Kingston.  


  1. The lecture was excellent. Some older timers from Shantytown attended hoping to hear something we didn't already know, and we were not disappointed.

    Although we had additional historic information which was useful to the speaker, what we learned in exchange was gratifying beyond belief. It turns out that our Shantytown - a site at Hudson's North Bay, a.k.a. "Furgary" - was an important test case for a new discipline and State program.

    Several years ago, working alongside the owner of the Gossips blog, we applied for a federal designation for Shantytown. Coincidentally, this was not long after the Cultural Landscape Initiative was launched by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), and was simultaneous with a groundbreaking conference which explored "maritime cultural landscapes." Tonight's speaker was New York SHPO's participant at that conference which took place in 2015.

    For a bunch of reasons, Shantytown was not an easy designation for SHPO. There was "considerable debate," and the new way of looking at "cultural landscapes" and the potential for managing them led to a wide discussion among professionals in the field, with plenty of fresh academic thinking on this new subject.

    But the State became very concerned when Hudson's Common Council passed a Resolution designating the site for demolition (see: Law of Unintended Consequences).

    In the end, SHPO made its determination after charting the cultural strengths of Shantytown against the 20th century's corresponding Shad populations. As the last tangible remains of this type of fishing community on the Hudson River, and having enough "integrity" or completeness to justify a designation (for example, the vernacular architecture of the shacks), it was decided that the site was definitely worth listing for its historic significance.

    It was so gratifying to learn, years later, that our well-timed efforts had been critical in the State's learning curve concerning the cultural resource management of maritime landscapes.

  2. Room for a hundred boats, yet in five years the prescribed use is reduced from 25 boats to one.

    Where is the feast we were promised?

  3. It's a shame that restoration of a group of buildings receives more consideration than restoring the bonds broken and the goodwill that the Columbia County's littoral society once brought to North dock.

    1. Maintaining bonds is your own responsibility, just as I maintained a bond by copying you earlier on an email about saving the shacks themselves.

      If this is such a "shame" to you, then why would I copy you on any more emails? Why would I maintain a bond which harms my interests?

      You're lashing out at the wrong parental imago.

    2. Didn't you say that your needs were met halfway down the poor man's pathway?

      The bonds that deliver free maintenance and limit city liability may be a competitive interest but nevertheless shouldn't be dismissed.

    3. P.S. The mutual bond that continues to hold Columbia County's Littoral Society together never was an individual . The common bond is with the river and the bounty she provides.

  4. Who better to protect the place than the people who enjoy the freedom it allows?