Sauger­ties au­thor Ver­non Ben­jamin con­tin­ues chron­i­cles of Hud­son River Val­ley in fol­low-up book

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Pa­tri­cia Doxsey pdoxsey@free­manon­line.com pat­ti­at­free­man on Twit­ter

KINGSTON >> From the ear­li­est days of man, the Hud­son River Val­ley has played an im­por­tant role in the progress of hu­man­ity and our na­tion.

In his first book, “The His­tory of the Hud­son River Val­ley: From Wilder­ness to the Civil War, Sauger­ties res­i­dent Ver­non Ben­jamin traced the his­tory of the ear­li­est days of the val­ley, which is roughly com­prised of the area bor­dered by the Berk­shires on the east, the Catskills on the west, the Adiron­dack foothills that be­gin at Glens Falls on the north and New York City to the south.

In June, Ben­jamin re­leased a se­quel to that book, “The His­tory of the Hud­son River Val­ley: From the Civil War to Modern Times.

The new book, Ben­jamin said, picks up from where his first book left off — with Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln’s fu­neral train pass­ing through the val­ley and ends just be­fore the ter­ror­ist at­tacks of Sept. 11, 2001, be­cause Ben­jamin said, at the time of the writ­ing, there was still a great deal un­fold­ing, and he felt it would have been in­ap­pro­pri­ate for him to fix at that time, the mo­ment in his­tory.

Along the way, Ben­jamin ex­plores the im­pact of the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, the re­sult­ing rise in the man­sions that would dot the river­front, the emer­gence of the Hud­son River School of Art, the new promi­nence of the rail­road, the con­struc­tion of the New York City aque­ducts, pro­hi­bi­tion, the end of World War II, Wood­stock, and the birth of the en­vi­ron­men­tal move­ment.

He also delves into some of the po­lit­i­cal and gov­ern­men­tal ac­tions and ef­forts dur­ing that time and how those ac­tiv­i­ties not only helped to shape the fu­ture of the Hud­son River Val­ley, but also of the na­tion.

In a re­cent in­ter­view, Ben­jamin talked about the dawn of the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, and how the chang­ing modes of trans­porta­tion re­shaped the re­gion and opened up ar­eas that there-to-fore in­ac­ces­si­ble por­tions of the state.

“Fol­low­ing the Civil War, the Hud­son River Val­ley moved es­sen­tially from a ru­ral mom-and­pop small busi­ness so­ci­ety,” into one, he said, that was “driven by big money and big prof­its.”

Rail­road ty­coons and fi­nanciers found their way into the Hud­son River Val­ley, us­ing the river for busi­ness and plea­sure and its shores for their va­ca­tion homes.

“There was a lot of wheel­ing and deal­ing of big power bro­kers and monied peo­ple on the river who treated it as their recre­ation area,” said Ben­jamin adding that the wide open lands along the river’s banks also made ideal lo­ca­tions for the man­sions of those in high so­ci­ety.

As quickly as the steam­boat re­placed the sloop, and the rail­road re­placed the steam­boat, though, the au­to­mo­bile in the early 20th cen­tury be­gan to be­come the pre­ferred method of trans­porta­tion and with that the de­mand for roads to drive on. With the con­struc­tion of high­ways, and even­tu­ally, the New York State Thruway, the re­gion was opened to an in­dus­try re­mains one of the top in­dus­tries to­day: tourism.

“Tourists came first for their health and to get out of the mi­asma of the city. They also came for the re­lax­ation and the re­lief from the heat,” said Ben­jamin. “Then, they re­al­ized this is the land­scape that de­fined Amer­ica and they came for the cul­ture.”

Taken to­gether, the two books rep­re­sent more than 1,200 pages of text and 23 years of Ben­jamin’s life. Since the re­lease of his sec­ond vol­ume, Ben­jamin has been on the au­thor’s cir­cuit, ap­pear­ing at book stores, li­braries and his­tor­i­cal so­ci­eties to talk about his works and the his­tory he’s un­cov­ered.

“An odd thing hap­pened to me when I fin­ished the book,” he said with a laugh. “I crawled out of my cave, by doc­tor put me on high doses of vi­ta­min D for a month and I started writ­ing fic­tion.

“I’ve never done that be­fore, but it’s some­thing I’m go­ing to fool around with,” he said.


Sauger­ties res­i­dent and au­thor Ver­non Ben­jamin stands along the shore of the Hud­son River on a trail out to the Sauger­ties Light­house.

On­line: Watch a video with this story at dai­lyfree­man.com


Sauger­ties au­thor Ver­non Ben­jamin.

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