The following article is by Newburgh historian Mary McTamaney, published originally in 2005 regarding the Clinton Hotel. It is referencing 102-104 Washington Street recently cleaned up by the Newburgh Community Clean Up Mob.
Buildings Lost and Won
Sunset in Newburgh is best viewed, I believe, facing the opposite way. Don’t look west where the setting sun flashes and you squint to see it. Face east and watch the glow of its reflection. Our city is never so lovely as during the last half hour of daylight here when everything in view is blessed by the hyper-clarity of last light.
This evening, I sat at the new Café Macchiato on Liberty Street and, while the food was delicious and well-prepared, even it couldn’t keep my attention away from the glorious light that spread across Washington’s Headquarters lawn and the mountains beyond. I could imagine people strolling in the headquarters park last century and listening to the warm-up notes of the Alsdorf orchestra a few doors away practicing for a concert. Down the hillside of Washington Street, the last workers would have been exiting from Delaney Boilers and Kempler Metal, and Palatine Silk, and Newburgh Planing Mill carrying their lunch boxes back home and enjoying the freedom of their coming day or day and a half off.
From our little table in the Café Macchiato, I looked out a window at 102-104 Washington Street. The setting sun shone through its windows too but instead of glass windows they were loosening boards that allowed a view of the collapsed walls and missing roof within. There was a typical slice of our Newburgh: the cared for and the neglected. The café at 99 Liberty had known lives as a bakery and a market for produce, groceries and meats. It survived a bad fire and has been brought back again as a neighborhood restaurant where people come and go and greet each other by name. Just around the corner, 102-04 Washington Street has not been so lucky. It hasn’t seen life in many years. But research shows it was once as bustling a place as the corner café is now. The Washington Street building was The Clinton Hotel in the first half of the last century. That was an era when Newburgh had many small hotels and rooming houses too – places where visiting salesmen and performers could stay, places where the young could live as they got a start in their first full-time jobs.
The Clinton Hotel was run by Hugh McGuigan when this picture was taken of it 100 years ago. All but two rooms have their shutters closed so it may have also been a sunset or sunrise moment when the picture was taken. The two little strollers out front have such still and formal toddlers aboard, they may just be doll carriages with the kind of big china dolls my mother told me she once wheeled along South Street. A review of this hotel in 1906 described The Clinton as one of the most popular hotels in the city, “efficiently managed and thoroughly equiped with a genial and solicitous host.” No laughter comes from the bar behind its doors any longer and the granite stepping stone and iron hitching post out front are long gone, replaced by toppled trash cans and an old mattress. Why do we accept this? We can do better. We know many Newburgh people still need rooms in clean safe places.
Daylight savings time has just begun for 2005. Lots of long evenings to look over our city and see clearly what can change for the better. For all of us who live here and who own buildings here, it’s time to take another broad view of our properties. Holding and neglecting homes and businesses is not OK. It insults the neighbors who live around the mess and try to make a nice place for their families. The city’s code compliance team can work hard and fast but the numbers and the time to take citations and seizures through court will always thwart their best efforts. Maybe a strong public will and a spreading sense of “investor” embarrassment can ignite our landscape with the same energy as tonight’s beautiful sunset.