The Message in A Brief History of Saugerties






The release of the book I recently authored on the history of Saugerties, being published by The History Press, will happen in mid year. Before this happens I'm going to let you know what to expect. It is not a straight-forward placement of history in a time line of our past, as is my History Atlas of Saugerties. This work is written as a critique of society's approach to history, with Saugerties illustrating the issues.

After a dozen years on the Historic Preservation Commission responding to both the citizens and government of Saugerties I have learned that most are unaware of what my thoughts represent. Just stating them brings out a knee-jerk doubt of their veracity and then my credibility. Inasmuch as the authenticity of what I have to offer has been deferred to in every other experience; many of which are with Fortune 500 companies; my curiosity naturally has peaked on why such an obviously counterproductive response is so common, and, indeed, why this response to historic preservation is so broadly documented beyond just here. This brought me to consider that it is the history imperative my message represents that is at issue.

From this concern I themed A Brief History of Saugerties as an argument against defenses and I characterized history from the viewpoint of heritage identity that threatens individual identity. I posed this as a back story of opposing priorities between the two in a society of individuals competing against history; a society that champions its ruin as a proud defense of the community's self esteem.

In A Brief History of Saugerties I illustrate this by addressing the history that is most visible in the community. I use individuals that can be identified within living memory and what they've built that is still accessible in the environment. I characterize this present environment as a presence that is identifiable throughout the history of the community and then I simply leave the reader challenged to identify with the historic environment as a part of him or herself.

So, A Brief History of Saugerties is stating an argument for identifying with history. As a polemic it pointedly assigns antihistorical elements to a dark corner on the fringes of its recurring theme; presence. It subliminally compares people and their psychological struggles with their individual identity to what they have made ephemeral in their changes that have altered the appearance of their environment over time and that, having been changed, are now gone. It presents this history as a cautionary tale with the moral that history unseen is identity unseen and placing personal identity above the history that is common to us all is a sure way to become too petty in history to be remembered.

This is the second book I have written on the theme of justifying this interest in preservation. The Guidelines was written for the Commission and Village Review Board to have in one publication guidelines, ordinances and criteria for historic significance, along with a local history and illustrations of local historic elements. This is a 68 page book produced with a grant from the New York State Historic Preservation Office's Certified Local Government program and is available from the Town and Village for what it cost to print it.

A Brief History of Saugerties is on book store shelves by July, 2016, but there will also be in bookstores a growing list of illustrated 16 page booklets that focus on details of history deserving more in-depth attention than space would allow in a brief history. The booklets are sold to support management of the archive of the Lamb Center and are produced by Rosenblum and Lamb.