For those of us born after the destruction of the Newburgh Waterfront, it is impossible for us fully understand the loss of something we never had to chance to experience. Looking at old photographs like the one above helps. We see a dense prosperous city, full of life. We can imagine all those chimneys puffing out smoke and families gathered around fires sharing stories. We can imagine what it was like to have a butcher, a baker, and a grocer at almost every corner who probably all knew your name and your mother’s name. It is a very stark contrast to what Newburgh has become today. Even so, there is still enough of the city left behind to re-urbanize it and make it prosper.
Newburgh historian, Mary McTamaney was kind enough to share some urban renewal statistics in a speech she gave a few years back. Looking at these numbers, Newburgh really was NYC’s 6th borough. The figures below represent what was lost during urban renewal.
Churches: 673,448 cubic feet
Retail: 7,510,260 cubic feet
Storage (“warehouses and commercial structures converted to storage”): 1,868,560 cu.ft.
Office Space: 871,650 cu. ft.
Factories: 670,810 cu.ft.
Other non-residential structures: 252,090 cu.ft.
“This report never included residential buildings. Yet, we know that well over 50 acres of Newburgh were cleared. Entire streets like Fourth, Fifth, Barclay, Hudson, Garner, Smith and High Streets were obliterated. Looking through city directories before the destruction began can help estimate the residential loss statistics by following the geography of the built environment now gone. It is easy to count over 1,300 now missing addresses.
Old directories in the library told me these sample things about Newburgh 50 years ago: Within the city limits, Newburgh then supported 5 theaters, 2 roller rinks, 20-30 apartment buildings, 15 automobile showrooms, 6 truly local banks, 30-40 barbershops and an equal number of beauty shops for women, 10 bus lines, 4 bottling companies, over 50 clothing stores and over 25 clothing manufacturers, 20 drug stores, 6 appliance stores, over 70 homes renting furnished rooms, 12 furniture stores, 11 hardware stores, over 100 corner grocery stores, 5 ice cream manufacturers, 16 jewelry stores, 20 music teachers giving private lessons, 9 photographers, over 60 doctors who lived here in the city where they practiced, 66 restaurants, 15 shoe stores, 20 shoe repair shops and 2 shoe shiners, 21 tailors, 6 upholsterers, 3 window cleaners.
No era was more transforming to Newburgh than the half century since 1960″.
– Photos courtesy of John G. Arnott
For more photos of the obliterated Newburgh Waterfront click here.