Pitched Preservation Battle to Save New York's Valley Forge
Pitched Preservation Battle to Save New York’s Valley Forge
By Michael Boyajian
There is a scene in a Sherlock Holmes story where Holmes turns to Watson as their train passes through a country village and says this is where the real crimes take place. That might be the story of the scenic Hudson Valley Town of Fishkill where preservationists under the direction of Mara Farrell and the Friends of the Fishkill Supply Depot ( http://www.fishkillsupplydepot.org/ ) along with the likes of Senator Chuck Schumer are engaged in a pitched battle to save New York’s Valley Forge from the back hoes of commercial developers.
The Revolutionary War site is the Fishkill Supply Depot and the commercial development was almost pushed through with the support of the Town until Bill Sandy and a team of archeologists recently discovered Revolutionary War soldiers’ graves on the developer’s site. The ground penetrating radar that led to the discovery detected hundreds of graves making it a virtual necropolis and the largest American Revolution cemetery complex in the country. Suddenly, with the discovery of the graves, the developer and his supporters are on the defensive due to pressure by Mara Farrell’s group and under a mounting torrent of media outcry by the likes of the New York Times, Gannett’s Poughkeepsie Journal and an Associated Press wire story that landed on the front page of hundreds of newspapers around the world.
In rolls New York’s Senior United States Senator Chuck Schumer with a plan to add the site to other locations to be protected by the Battlefield Protection Act. Mara Farrell is summoned to testify before Congress and the efforts of preservationists steps up to a new level with the developer in the face of Federal involvement now saying he is open to a sale of his parcel and Town officials seeming to now support preservation as well.
But that is just one parcel of the entire Depot site. The Depot, a complex of barracks for thousands of soldiers, a blacksmith shop, supply stores, stables, officers quarters and even a hospital, covers many properties in the area including a Hess gas station and the defunct Dutchess Mall which was built over the site in the late 1970s with little effective resistance from Town officials, civic groups or local residents. It is said that Depot artifacts were lost in piles of construction debris from the mall or looted by treasure hunters with metal detectors. Now another Depot parcel owned by a religious group appears to be on the selling block to developers even in light of the efforts of Senator Schumer to acquire the Depot land through justly compensated voluntary acquisitions. It is unclear where the Town stands on development of the religious group’s portion of Depot property.
Established by General George Washington it served at varying times as a headquarters and nexus point for General Israel Putnam, General Alexander McDougall, General Horatio Gates, Alexander Hamilton and General Lafayette. The Depot provided logistical support to Washington’s forces through the course of the war up and down the Hudson. Without the Depot there would have been no victory at Saratoga, no turning point to the war. Soldiers at the Depot endured seven frigid upstate winters unlike the one winter American forces spent to the south at Valley Forge.
Mara Farrell calls the discovery of graves at the Depot land an inconvenient truth to developers and their supporters and states that the site must be transformed into a National Park that will honor our first patriots who gave their precious lives for liberty. Mara Farrell plans to once again return to Washington in March to drum up more support for the Depot and all eyes turn with hope towards her and Senator Schumer to save what is the last great discovery dating from the American Revolution. Still the battle continues with no iron clad guarantee of victory but for the determination of a growing band of preservationists from around the country and a determined U.S. senator with access to the power of the Senate.