The City of Newburgh is a microcosm of the fates and fortunes of the Hudson Valley; historic beginnings, a legacy of innovation, years of thriving economic fortunes, followed by hard times in the latter half of the 20th Century, and its current revival. Exactly 400 years ago, Henry Hudson sailed into what is now Newburgh Bay and remarked that the location would be “a pleasant place to build a town,” and the city was first settled 100 years later. George Washington’s Continental Army camped here in the waning days of the American Revolutionary War.
In the early 20th Century, Thomas Edison built his first power plant in Newburgh, making this the first city in the world to be electrified. In 1939, RCA chose Newburgh as the first test market for the television set. Television history was made here again in 1941 when newlyweds Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz performed together onstage for the first time at the historic Ritz Theater. Encouraged by the rapturous response, the duo went on to develop the act for television, and the seminal sitcom I Love Lucy was born.
Newburgh fell into a rapid decline in the late 1950s. The local manufacturing plants, which had been the backbone of the city’s economy for more than 100 years, began moving out of the Hudson Valley. When the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge on I-84 opened in 1963, it bypassed downtown Newburgh entirely. This proved to be the fatal blow, and Newburgh went from one of Look Magazine’s “All-American Cities” to an American ghost town in less than 15 years.
Now, Newburgh is beginning to recapture its former glory. With the largest National Historic District in the state aside from New York City, a new generation is discovering the astonishing architectural legacy that has remained intact along Newburgh’s East End. Newburgh’s waterfront features a thriving mix of trendy restaurants, shops, and an independent film center. Block by block, new businesses are opening again in downtown Newburgh as the city begins to look to the future. This is a crucial time in the history of Newburgh, and it will take a concerted effort by all who care about it to help pull the city out of the poverty and decay it has been mired in for over 45 years. It is to this end that Safe Harbors of the Hudson was born.