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Bill Jeffway, is the Executive Director of the Dutchess County Historical Society and serves on the Research Committee of Celebrating the African Spirit.
Chris Kroner is a Principal of MASS Design Group and leads their Hudson Valley efforts.
College Hill has 360 degree views that fix it firmly and unmistakably in the Hudson River Valley, and an unusually rich history. Its most important historical distinction, however, might be what did not happen on the site: suburban development. Both what happened, and what did not happen, can inform potential use of this City gem.
Much of the hill remains as it was when it began its first public role in 1836 as the site of the prestigious Collegiate School, which served students as local as Franklin Roosevelt’s father, James, and as far away as those from Mexico and Europe. The school invited and encouraged public access for concerts, parades, talks and new-fangled ideas like “the Pic-Nic.”
College Hill is strongly associated with Poughkeepsie’s Black history. It was the location of a gathering of 4,000 persons who came to hear Frederick Douglass speak on Emancipation Day, August 2nd of 1858, an event that will be commemorated this year on Sunday, August 1, 2021. Three generations of the Bolin family are associated with College Hill. Abram Bolin was a Free Black who moved from the Quaker stronghold of the Town of Dover in 1865 to N. Clinton Street, where he raised a large family. Bolin later became superintendent of College Hill Park and the City Reservoir. His son, Gaius Bolin, who became the first Black graduate of Williams College and the county’s first Black lawyer, after marrying started his family while living at the corner of N. Clinton and the College Hill entrance. Gaius’ daughter, Jane, who was born in that house, became the first Black female judge in the United State in 1939.
Since 1872, College Hill has had a critical role in Poughkeepsie water management, whether for safe drinking water or to extinguish fire, a role that continues to expand today. The remains of the dramatic reservoir system have the potential for creative re-use.
A historic rock garden relocated in the 1930s is being revitalized by Revive College Hill Park Coalition.
With a view to the future, Chris Kroner will look at emerging ideas that have the potential to reconnect College Hill and the community around it in ways no less energetic and creative than those of the past. The ideas he will speak about include creative adaptive re-use of reservoir system, to making College Hill an intimate part of our diverse community again.