History of the NPA

The Newburgh Preservation Association (NPA) is a nonprofit citizens membership organization dedicated to rebuilding, preserving, and promoting the architectural heritage and historic viewsheds of Newburgh, New York.

Preservation efforts began in Newburgh in the 1960s, when people first became alarmed at the destruction of historic buildings under the banner of "urban renewal." Local architect Ray Ruge, city historian Helen Gearn, and planner Barry Benepe worked tirelessly, as did local citizen groups such as Newburgh Now and the Greater Newburgh Arts Council. Preserving the Dutch Reformed Church was a major cause. Key accomplishments of these early efforts were the state's designation of the East End Historic District in 1973 and volunteer Libby Lyon's saving of "the five bricks" (Victorian houses) on Montgomery Street.

Building on these earlier efforts, the Newburgh Preservation Association was started in 1978 as a volunteer nonprofit organization. Lamenting the historic buildings already lost to "urban renewal," the NPA worked to increase public awareness of Newburgh's historic architecture and attact more residents and businesses to the older parts of the city.

NPA members bought derelict buildings without plumbing or electricity and commenced restoration. When copper pipes were installed, vandals stole them, so the new homeowners would sleep in their buildings to protect them. Those who had running water would allow the new pioneers to use their facilities. Members shared tools and knowledge on how things were constructed so restoration could be done.

Since its formation, the Newburgh Preservation Association has undertaken numerous preservation activities, including the following:

Volunteers conducted weekend tours of the vast array of architectural styles represented in Newburgh's downtown buildings. The tours led to several home purchases.
NPA mounted plaques identifying several historic buildings in Newburgh.
The NPA published a newsletter, named "Five Bricks" after the buildings saved by Libby Lyon.
In the 1980s, the NPA operated a Visitor Center at 87 Liberty Street, opposite Washington's Headquarters, encouraging both homeowners and businesses to relocate in the city core.
In the mid-1980s, NPA volunteers began maintaining the Old Town Cemetery. On the first Saturday, volunteers hauled out seven truckloads of rubble! A series of small grants helped buy lawn mowers and rakes. Volunteer John McCormick mowed regularly for 11 years, followed by Jim Wanamaker, who continues to the present day.
In 1985, NPA volunteers contributed to the inventory historic buildings in the East End Historic District, which was expanded that year to include about 4,000 buildings.
In 1999, the NPA formally established the Old Town Cemetery Committee, including the mayor of Newburgh and the pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church, and the Friends of Old Town Cemetery, a volunteer group, which now operates as a committee under NPA.
In June 2001, after a talk by NYS preservation officer Bill Krattinger, local volunteer Carla Decker formed a new Dutch Reformed Church Restoration Committee, which later elected Jim Hoekema as chair. In the Fall, the NPA elected new officers, including Pat Favata as president, and the DRC group became an official committee of the NPA. In November, the NPA and the DRC committee helped plan the ceremony dedicating the Dutch Reformed Church as a National Historic Landmark.
In 2002, the NPA added another committee, Newburgh for Newcomers, an annual workshop designed to attract new residents to Newburgh. The task force is led by founder Dick Bedrosian (who became president of NPA in 2004) and co-chair Richardo Tegni.

John McCormick & Jim Hoekema. Last updated March 25, 2012

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