Discovering History at the Peekskill Museum, Peekskill, New York, USA
Written by Debra C. Argen and Edward F. Nesta   
Peekskill Museum, Peekskill, NY USA
Peekskill, New York, named for Dutch businessman Jan Peeck, has a very interesting history, and to learn more about the area, we visited The Peekskill Museum and took a tour with Author and Historian John J. Curran, Museum Vice President, and learned about the history of Peekskill and its historical prominence in the Revolutionary War. The Museum is a treasure trove of information and objects that will inspire historians as well as pique the interest of visitors of all ages.

 

Peekskill Museum - Peekskill, NY USA - photo by Luxury Experience
Peekskill Museum

The Peekskill Museum opened in 1946, is in the former home of Dwight Stiles Herrick (1845-1908) and his family. Built in the Queen Anne Shingle Style in the1870s, the house was designed by William Rutherford Mead, who went to Amherst with the owner. Interesting to note about William Rutherford Mead is that he later joined Charles McKim and Stanford White, in the legendary architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White, who designed many New York City landmarks including Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, Metropolitan Club, The Morgan Library, the University Club of New York, and many others. 

Peekskill Museum - Peekskill, NY USA - photo by Luxury Experience

While the house is interesting architecturally with its double doors in the entryway to keep the cold air out, two sets of stairs at the front and the back of the house, green-tinted glass, bay windows throughout, and intricate parquet floors with a different pattern in each of the rooms, it is the contents and artifacts that will intrigue historians, as well as delight visitors of all ages. 

Lorman
Lorman "Augie" Augustowski with his uniform from 1957

A few of the many Museum highlights include information about and objects from the Revolutionary War. Peekskill was also home to the Peekskill Military Academy founded in 1832 and closed in 1968. We had the pleasure of speaking with Lorman "Augie" Augustowski, who serves on the Museum's Board of Trustees, who attended the Academy, and his uniform from 1957 is on display at the Museum. He explained that the uniforms were custom made and cost over $600. He also told us that the owner of the house, Dwight Herrick, was an instructor at the Academy in 1867. Interesting to note is that Frank Baum (1856-1919), author of the "Wizard of Oz" also attended the Academy for 2 years in the 1860s. 

Peekskill Museum - Peekskill, NY USA - photo by Luxury Experience

Peekskill had a large stove manufacturing industry, and the stoves on display are works of art including the Taylor & Flagler stove circa 1845 in the parlor of the home with its intricate details, The Union Stove Works called "New Beauty," a large-scale stove from 1881, and the H.H. Finch & Sons stove called "The Fairy." 

John J. Curran - Peekskill Museum - Peekskill, NY USA - photo by Luxury Experience
John J. Curran, Author and Historian
Showing us coal used to fire the cast iron stoves during tour

Other impressive statistics: Fleishmann's Yeast created a state-of-the-art research laboratory in Peekskill in 1900 and was the largest yeast manufacturer in the world. Peekskill also was the birthplace of former Governor of New York George Pataki and actors Stanley Tucci and Paul Reubens aka "Pee Wee Herman." 

Peekskill Museum - Peekskill, NY USA - photo by Luxury Experience 

Children will love seeing the period clothing and shoes on display, the beautiful dollhouse, dolls, toys, soap box derby racer, a giant ball of string, a "high wheeler bicycle," patented in the United States in 1884, that had a front wheel measuring 54 inches high and a back wheel measuring 26 inches (which was later enlarged to 28 inches in the 1890s), and so much more. 

Peekskill Museum - Peekskill, NY USA - photo by Luxury Experience

If you love music, you will be interested in hearing the sound from the hand cranked Edison phonograph and also the Victrola phonograph. Stereo equipment has certainly come a long way from when the first phonographs were invented. 

Peekskill Museum - Peekskill, NY USA - photo by Luxury Experience

Also interesting is the Museum's collection of walking sticks and canes. Walking sticks had their vogue in the Victorian era where it was the de-rigueur fashion statement for men as well as women, however oftentimes they contained compartments to conceal a wide a variety of items. 

Peekskill Museum - Peekskill, NY USA - photo by Luxury Experience

We first became acquainted with walking sticks during a trip to New Orleans many years ago and met with Bill Rau, owner of M.S. Rau Antiques on Royal Street. He showed a diverse collection and explained about their various compartments. A physician's walking stick could hold medical instruments, a billiards player's walking stick could hold a cue, and for someone who liked to fish, the walking stick could hold a fishing rod. 

Peekskill Museum - Peekskill, NY USA - photo by Luxury Experience

However, walking sticks could also have a more nefarious context and conceal weapons, or in the case of the walking stick at The Peekskill Museum, it could have a small secret compartment to hold a rolled-up note and was perhaps used as a "spy tool." (For more information on walking sticks and canes, you might like to read our feature on "A Visual History of Walking Sticks and Canes" by Anthony Moss.) 

Peekskill Museum - Peekskill, NY USA - photo by Luxury Experience
John J. Curran points out hidden compartment

There is much to experience at The Peekskill Museum so be sure to allow enough time during your visit to Peekskill to take an insightful and interesting step back in time. 

Peekskill Museum - Peekskill, NY USA - photo by Luxury Experience
Revolutionary War Artifacts

Until next time! 

The Peekskill Museum is open on Saturdays from 1:00 pm until 4:00 pm. Admission: $5, Free for members. Appointments are available by calling the Museum.

Peekskill Museum - Peekskill, NY USA - photo by Luxury Experience
Revolutionary War Artifacts

For more information on The Peekskill Museum, please visit the website: www.peekskillmuseum.org 

Peekskill Museum - Peekskill, NY USA  

The Peekskill Museum
124 Union Avenue
Peekskill, New York 10566
United States
Telephone: +1-914-736-0473
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Website: www.peekskillmuseum.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/museum10566/ 

Read more about Peekskill and the area in the DestinationsHotels and ResortsRestaurantsGastronomyLiquor CabinetAdventures, and Arts and Antiques sections. 

For more information on the Hudson Valley, please visit the website: www.HudsonValley.org and www.VisitWestchesterNY.com 

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