04/18/13 8:00am
Chapman Steamer Firehouse Newburgh

1.) The Chapman Steamer No. 1 circa 1910, 2.) In winter 2008, as transformation into the Firehouse Arts and Community Center begins, 3.) 30 years after the firehouse was retired in 19764.) rendering of the completed Firehouse Arts and Community Center

It has been over two and a half years since anything has been heard from the Chapman Steamer Collective. It has certainly not been for lack of trying. Just this week, they reached out to Newburgh Restoration to update everyone on their current status. It seems they are in a very precarious situation and need help. If you think you can be of assistance, please email them. See below for their official letter to Newburgh:


Because we know now that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our community. Knowing that the struggles against injustice and inequities are part of our identity, part of our culture; if indeed we are to rise from the wretchedness of division and conflict, we have to cultivate and defend those selfless efforts and talents dedicated to this goal. -Adapted from Nelson Mandela 1996 Heritage Day Address

All we wanted to do was to offer our Newburgh community the Firehouse Arts & Community Center. A gathering space of their own… A place that speaks in their voice… A place that allows their voices to be channeled into positive energy and constructive communication achieved through proactive methods and techniques. A haven to provide opportunity to lift every voice and to no longer be discounted.

We thought we possessed the fortitude to withstand the barrage of attacks, but it finally got to us. We lost our resolve amongst the negative voices and destructive acts… and we surrendered, we abandoned our belief, we abandoned Newburgh, and for that WE APOLOGIZE.

Our own conscience and courage to do what is right had to be reawakened. To no longer concede to the destructive and unscrupulous acts of a few.

We love our Newburgh community! Like the pride one feels for a good friend, close cousin because you see their potential for an amazing future. For nearly two years now, we lost sight of that.

Idealistically we trusted that the needs of the community were, and are, far more compelling than the coveting of a few. We trusted in their strong proclamation of community development lending with emphasis on highly distressed and underserved communities like ours despite it being a turbulent time for the banking industry. We naively believed they could avoid the typecasting and profiling of our community based on its present economic and social condition, its national reputation and our country’s banking and housing crisis to fulfill its promise to our community project. To our disappointment, we bore witness to a community lending mindset that lacked the courage not to let their conviction be deterred by the economic crisis—that instead reneged on their promise to our project, to our community, for no legitimate banking reason, and in their reneging, we witnessed a greater wrong—the sacrifice of the Firehouse Arts & Community Center project.


Five years ago we came to Newburgh, NY and the firehouse for very selfish reasons. Five NYC friends with savings looking for an outside-the-NYC weekend residence that could fulfill our desires—close to the city, access to public transportation, large space and where our money could stretch further. We must admit, even with the gracious welcome by Newburgh the deciding factor to ignore what we heard and witnessed of Newburgh, was the Chapman Steamer No. 1 firehouse on the corner of South and Dubois Streets—its size, its architecture and its price at 7,500sq. ft was irresistible compared to other similar size properties we had viewed. And so, in late 2007 we closed on the firehouse and opened to the City of Newburgh.

We never anticipated so much attention—people filled with curiosity, excitement and love for the resurgence of the firehouse would constantly approach. Engaging them found us embracing a higher purpose for the firehouse something far greater than our desires—the desires and the needs of the many. Not an easy sell but SOLD! And now the purpose of the firehouse would take on its intended meaning—to serve and nurture the community.

Fueled by our newly impassioned mission we established the Chapman Steamer Collective (a diverse group with a shared vision for the firehouse and its service to the community) and we organized the creation of Firehouse Arts & Community Center. We established our project team; committed to community involvement throughout the entire project, on all levels of input; and committed to a LEED certified center. Ambitiously and somewhat idealistically we envisioned a project, a center for the people, by the people.

In the summer of 2008 KeyBank offered us a construction loan under the federal New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program for distressed and underserved communities. For three years we fought hard for this ever-mutating device through all types of obstacles from all directions. Each transformation required us to rework the numbers and project elements, all to continue to assure them of a positive project return, all to firm up their confidence. And even after their last-minute inexplicable rejection of our NMTC loan we made every effort first to learn the reason why and secondly in asking them to do the right thing by reviving our loan offer or providing some other financing solution so that we may complete the project—only to have, after several months without any response from KeyBank, our communication rerouted to an outsourced Albany, NY law firm. And with this final apathetic and obstructive act the fight in us had been exhausted.

For a year and a half, from May 2008 through December 2009, KeyBank had assured us of a construction loan based on the strength of our project specifics. All their communication and efforts were directed toward that very goal right up to that shocking day and their nebulous last minute rejection on December 9, 2009. Until we received that shocking email that morning, we had fully anticipated obtaining a NMTC loan through KeyBank CDL. And even though the loan process had taken more than a year we perceived the delay to be linked to the economic crisis at the time.

In reneging on our loan, KeyBank calculated — based on what some of history has shown—that we would go quietly into the night and they would get away with this unjust act. And for a time, nearly two years, we let them. Until with eyes open and standing for something greater than the sum of our parts we realized that we cannot just walk away, that we must stand against wrong, should not turn away from unethical, unscrupulous mistreatment no matter the consequences, no matter if they be the bank and we be individuals. With this awakened inner strength… WE ARE BACK in the fight! With cause for and the hope that fair treatment, honest dealing, and the establishment of Firehouse Arts & Community Center may be achieved.

And now, KeyBank has received a foreclosure decree based on the court’s disallowing discovery on our negligence–fraud counterclaim. (A decree ordered on a bridge loan–line of credit with a one-year maturity that was supposed to have been covered “in the short term future” with the construction-to-permanent loan—“no worries, we don’t want you to lose project momentum”, as KeyBank assured us) This injustice, travesty of the fair lending laws, and deliberate transgression of the federal NMTC policies will not see us stop our fight even with the potential loss of the firehouse and by consequence the end of the Firehouse Arts & Community Center. We will fight to the highest level.

We tried standing alone in attempting to raise KeyBank’s conscience to do what is right, to no avail… And now, we could use your help, your voices, your input, your energies, and your strength.

All we ever asked is that they follow through on what they professed to, that which is so prominent throughout their community development banking lending principles (as proclaimed on Key.com) – “innovative and complex financing from a variety of sources…” and “providing unique solutions to underserved individuals.”

In it to the end,

The Chapman Steamer Collective

06/05/12 8:00am

It’s been a long while, probably too long since anything has been heard about the Chapman Steamer Firehouse aka Chapman Steamer Collective LLC. This is an example of the interesting architecture Newburgh has that can be recreated into something wonderful. I’d love to see something happen with this place eventually. I had illusions of owning it myself for many years.

Anybody know anything? Any updates? And was there a time when South Street didn’t run past Dubois? There’s no South Street to the right of the firehouse.

-Photo from Remembering Newburgh NY Facebook Group

10/14/10 9:30am

I am super excited to talk about the Chapman Steamer Firehouse over on 179 Dubois Street. Last year in June we posted about how the renovation of this amazing building was in danger. I had asked around and didn’t hear anything new, and the blog they started hadn’t been updated in ages, so I assumed that the project was dead. How wrong I was!

The Chapman Steamer Collective LLC is very much alive and kicking. The story starts out with 5 artistic friends who are originally from Brooklyn. They were happy there but quickly found that Brooklyn was turning into Manhattan and they were getting priced out. The search began for a work place that they could go to on the weekends. Not knowing much about anything North of Westchester or the Bronx, the friends began visiting another friend in Beacon who had renovated an old school. They were introduced to the owners of the Beacon Glass firehouse, who then told them about a firehouse in Newburgh across the river. At the time it was owned by Holland Woo.

There were many visions for the Chapman Steamer Firehouse such as- a bed and breakfast, a 3 story restaurant, or a live/work architecture space. In September 2007 the Chapman 5 purchased the firehouse. The goal for the space today is for it to become an education and entertainment space on the first floor, and artists lofts above. Roderick Vaughn (known as Vaughn), with whom I spoke to comes from a theatrical background. He has worked at Lincoln Center, BAM, and City Center to name a few.

Vaughn mentioned that he and his partners were surprised at how many people were interested in the work they were doing at the firehouse. Neighbors would bring over muffins and express their interest in investing in the area pending the success of the firehouse. Sitting at the Northeast corner of Downing Park, the firehouse is in a part of Newburgh that doesn’t get as much attention but, equally beautiful.

They anticipate to complete their project toward the end of May 2011. They will have “Firehouse Arts & Lofts” which will have 4 live/work spaces. The smallest space will be approximately 850 sq ft and the largest approximately 1275 sq ft. Each apartment will be unique and have special features like interesting tubs and entryways. There will also be a private garden for residents. The ground floor will consist of 2 commercial spaces that will be used for special events and art. They plan to offer classes that will cater to the community including: food preparation, exercising at home, how to go grocery shopping on $20 etc. In the summer they plan to have an ice cream parlor in the back.

Sustainability and the environment were kept in mind while renovating as well. They are applying for LEED certification and they will be using solar energy for the electricity. About 80-85% of the electricity for the lofts will be solar energy based. They will also reuse rainwater for the washers, toilets, and dishwashers. There will be radiant heated floors, and tank-less water heaters. Vaughn and his associates are extremely excited to provide pure energy for their tenants.

Seeing all of this come together one has to reflect back on the challenges that they have experienced thus far. Perhaps one of the biggest ones would be a huge crack in the façade of the building. Apparently in 1955 when South Street was being built, dynamite was used. That caused the whole face of the building to fall, and left a giant crack in the façade. Vaughn thinks the crack deterred many buyers because they thought the building would crack in half. Thankfully their construction manager managed to fix it by incorporating Heli-Ties to keep it together. Also, when I spoke to Vaughn, he was recovering from a cold that he caught from spending 2 days out in the rain repairing the leaky roof!

The last fireman to leave the building was in March 1976. Now the building will have a lot of  new life in 2011. The Chapman 5 is now the Chapman 8. Members include Roderick Vaughn, Mei Wang-Vaughn, Toi Wang, Jerome Gasper, Noreen Sumpter, Aquanetta Wright, Romana Torres, and Decora. They invite anyone to come and visit when the doors are open. The Chapman Steamer Collective is a collective group of everyone in the community. They want this to be a local project of local people.

Stay tuned in the future for renderings, before and after photos and more! Click here to sign up for email updates, click here to sign up for updates on facebook. Thanks for subscribing!

06/01/09 4:44pm

The photo above is the Newburgh Chapman Steamer Firehouse Co. I drooled over this property for months about 3 years ago, wanting to make it my own home. (If you click on the source of the photo above, the owner of the picture has a really great flickr stream of photos of the city of Newburgh of many historic structures) The firehouse is really a site to see! It was purchased in 2007 by a few individuals with a dream of restoring the building and of being a push forward in the restoration of the City of Newburgh. Now that dream is close to being shattered because after 17 weeks the owners still have not received their site plan approval from Ms. Margaret Hall, secretary of the planning board and the building department.

This is really a shame that a common ground can not be found. If the owners are forced to sell this property who knows how many more years will go by before another buyer can be found with the same hope of restoring this building? From what I understand the owners were planning on turning the building in to some kind of artists studio or museum. It is very ironic that the homeowners are being given such a hard time when the number of abandon buildings in Newburgh is so high, and that the city even has an original picture of the firehouse on their website. This structure is massive, and it’s restoration would surely have a positive impact on the community.