A Local History Lesson

The Hudson Valley has always been considered a remarkable area in American history. A local historian native to the area highlights significant trademarks of the region based on his own literature.

After two decades of thorough research on the Hudson Valley, Saugerties native Vernon Benjamin led Historic Huguenot Street (HHS) through his educational journey.

On Saturday, Feb. 18, HHS’ Deyo Hall hosted Benjamin and a packed audience for their second event of the 2017 season. The event was held in support of his first two books written about the Hudson Valley. 

In 2014, Benjamin released “The History of the Hudson River Valley: From Wilderness to the Civil War,” documenting over 250 years worth of history on the area, and followed up in 2016 with “The History of the Hudson River Valley: from the Civil War to Modern Times” to complete his quest on the topic.

Benjamin charmed and captivated the audience on the warm February afternoon, cracking jokes and enlightening Hudson River Valley enthusiasts and newbies on the subject alike with a warm and friendly demeanor that left audience members walking out with a newfound perspective on the area in which they reside. 

The esteemed author has spent 20 years meticulously researching and consolidating facts about the Hudson Valley.

“What’s not to be interested in?” he asked. “I’m from here. The Hudson Valley has been called ‘the landscape that defined America,’ so when I was approached about doing a book about it, I was more than happy to.” 

Apart from his books, Benjamin has been lecturing at colleges such as Marist and Bard since 2003 and has appeared on C-Span in the past.

From Robert Livingston and the Van Rensellaer family to underrepresented cultures such as the importance of the black community and women in the Hudson Valley, Benjamin used a fine tooth comb to make the history of the beloved Hudson Valley come alive and inform on both the well-known and lesser-known facts of the region. 

Allen Brown, a West Hurley resident, has been to events similar to this in the past, and said that Benjamin “nailed it” when discussing his book.

“I grew up in Rhinebeck, and went to SUNY New Paltz 40 years ago so this event was very appealing to me,” Brown said. “Benjamin was really thorough and brought up a lot of interesting points on many different people, especially the Livingstons who really ruled the land.”

Benjamin, whom HHS has been in contact with to speak for over a year, provided a relevant experience, said guest experience coordinator Courtney Russo. 

“We look to put together events that broaden horizons, and Benjamin did just that,” Russo said. “He talks about important underrepresented cultures and things the common Hudson Valley resident wouldn’t necessarily know about.” 

For Benjamin, his next step is to update his previous books and make them as accurate as possible, as well as working on a book about Standing Rock Indian Reservation. 

HHS’ next event will be held on Saturday, March 11, with “A History of American Women in Song,” a performance by Linda Russell, which will focus on the role of women in the 18th century to the ratification of the 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote.