The Persistent Preservationist

New marker recalls historic Philipstown church

By Michael Turton

The church is shown on a postcard mailed in 1905 to a Cold Spring resident with the inscription, “A reminder of the days gone by.”

“It’s amazing how quickly we lose our history if we don’t preserve it,” Ginny Buechele lamented as she stood beside a newly erected historical plaque marking the site of one the first Methodist Episcopal churches established in Putnam County.

Built in 1812, the North Highlands church was converted into a home in 1949 and then demolished in 2006 when the intersection of Fishkill Road and Route 9 was realigned.

In 2003, Buechele learned the church would be razed and lobbied Putnam County officials to place a marker on the site. Vinny Tamagna, who represented Philipstown in the county Legislature at the time, and then-County Executive Bob Bondi, told Buechele in a letter that once the intersection was finished, a plaque would be installed.

Nothing happened for 16 years.

In the meantime, Buechele wrote a number of emails to the county Legislature. “No one ever answered,” she said. “But I never gave up.”

In 2017, she met then-County Historian Sarah Johnson (more recently executive director of the Putnam History Museum) and research assistant Jennifer Cassidy. “Sarah took the bull by the horns,” Buechele said. “She and Jen deserve a lot of credit for seeing this through.”

Ginny Buechele with the historical marker that she fought for 16 years to have installed in Philipstown (Photo by M. Turton)

With funds from the historian’s budget and donations from Buechele’s family and friends, the project moved forward. Earlier this month, a county crew installed the long-awaited, $1,200 marker on Fishkill Road North, west of the intersection of Route 9 and Fishkill Road.

“I’m just thrilled; it’s something I can cross off my bucket list,” Buechele said.

In an email, Tamagna, who is now the county’s transportation manager, said the marker was delayed due to a change in county leadership. “Three [county] historians later, it has been accomplished. Amen!” he wrote. “I consider those markers sacred ground, those critical places in our history.”

A resident of Fishkill, Buechele began researching her family history 25 years ago and discovered Philipstown ancestors dating back to the 18th century. Jotham Hawks, her great-great-grandfather, fought in the Revolutionary War and appears in a local 1810 census. Leonard Hawks, her grandfather, lived on East Mountain Road South and attended the church now commemorated by the marker.

4 Responses to "The Persistent Preservationist"

  1. Ginny Buechele   June 22, 2019 at 9:52 pm

    Great story, Mike. It was a labor of love for me. See Tales of One River, Two Counties.

  2. Ron Newbery Sr.   June 27, 2019 at 9:52 pm

    It’s nice to see the house on Fishkill Road North in Philipstown that was purchased by Eugene and Frances Morse, and later owned by their daughter and son-in-law, has finally been honored with a plaque.

    We lived in that house from 1965 until 1974 and again from 1978 until Putnam County took it from us and later tore it down. Thank you, Ginny Buechele, for your efforts to get the plaque done.

  3. Ginny Buechele   June 28, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    You are very welcome, Ron. It was my pleasure. I knew of you and had researched the property deeds from when Frances transferred the place to “Ronald and Clara” (Deed recorded 9 May 1979) but never met you. I did not know the county “took” the home from you. There is always a backstory to add more meaning to our life journey.

    It is good to know we had a common attachment to the Old North Highlands M.E. Church. “It’s amazing how quickly we lose our history if we don’t preserve it.” Peace be with you and yours. If you have any old pictures of the interior you would be willing to share with me, I’d love to see what it looked like inside. I would be thrilled. Mike Turton knows how to contact me.

  4. Stefani Dicembrino   July 12, 2019 at 5:34 pm

    It is essential to preserve. My son, Tyler, has been involved with Civil War studies and as a reenactor and has been to multiple battlefields and historic sites of the era. We watch the heads of battlefields fight for their preservation as hallowed ground. Now the American Battlefield Trust is preserving American Revolution, 1812, and Civil War sites so builders don’t come in.

    Recently we supported saving Cold Harbor in Virginia. A builder wanted to put a race track facility on it. Countless boys were killed on that land. When we hear the news about what was saved it’s a celebration for my son. He is 18 and next in line to make sure what his peers fought for remains honored land. Bravo to you for getting this market up. I know you had to jump through lots of hoops. But you persevered.