Saturday, December 22, 2012

Largely Misunderstood

Days ago, the Nelson House Annex on Market Street in the city of Poughkeepsie was demolished. It opened in 1876; about twenty years after the Gregory House opened on South Cherry Street in the city of Poughkeepsie. The Gregory House, formerly the Eastern House, was operated by Theodorus Gregory, a prohibition advocate. As a temperance house, the Gregory House became the best hotel in the city, "far surpassing the Forbus House and Poughkeepsie Hotel."1 After the Civil War, it was sold to George Morgan (who Morgan Lake was constructed by and named after) who appropriately renamed the hotel the Morgan House.2 In addition to running the Morgan House, George Morgan also converted the College Hill School into the College Hill Hotel after acquiring the building and its grounds from Charles Bartletts' estate auction.        

Knowing that the Nelson House emerged on the scene about ten years after George Morgan began operating two popular hotels in the city of Poughkeepsie, I began to further investigate the story of the Nelson House. I came across the video below on the Poughkeepsie Journal website.

I'd like to highlight the following quote made by City of Poughkeepsie Historian George Lukacs in the above video:

“As far as the Nelson house being a loss to the community, it has been largely misunderstood and it’s more or less faded into the background. People walk by it, the man on the street doesn't possibly understand it, but that doesn’t make it less significant as a location." - George Lukacs

The above statement rings true with Morgan Lake as well. The man on the street walking (or driving) to Stewart's or Dutchess Community College may not understand why Morgan Lake is historically significant, but that doesn't make it less significant.

The goal of my research and community development project at Morgan Lake is to prove that while Morgan Lake has forever been a "largely misunderstood" place, it doesn't have to lose its' significance to the community as a result. There are so many community members who understand both its contemporary and historical significance, and once they band together, Morgan Lake will no longer fade into the background.    

1. The Eagle's History of Poughkeepsie: From the Earliest Settlements, 1683 to 1905 by Edmund Platt. 1905. 
2. The Eagle's History of Poughkeepsie: From the Earliest Settlements, 1683 to 1905 by Edmund Platt. 1905. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Diane Overflows Morgan Lake, Aug. 1955

Hurricane Sandy has nearly completed her tour through Dutchess County and has certainly left some areas worse for wear, but thankfully the upper part of Smith Street was spared from being flooded by Morgan Lake. This was not the case last year. Hurricane Irene caused Morgan Lake to rapidly overflow into Smith Street. Below is an iWitness Weather video uploaded on August 28, 2011 on The Weather Channel website of Morgan Lake waters rushing into Smith Street.

As many of you know, I am researching the short life of the Morgan Lake Amusement Park, which opened on August 13, 1955 and was owned and operated by the late Joseph Yellen and his son Don Yellen of Fishkill, NY. Recently, Richard Alexander, a Poughkeepsie native, contacted me through the Facebook group If you grew up in Poughkeepsie, NY and shared the following memory:

   Richard Alexander My feeble memory tells me this place was only open a few weeks when it was demolished by a hurricane and never re-opened

This was a great lead. On a day off from work, I went to Adriance Library and scanned through the August 1955 microfilm reel of the Poughkeepsie New Yorker until I came across a small advertisement that read, "...OPENING TOMORROW... Morgan Lake Amusement Park," which finally gave me the official opening date for the Amusement Park (August 13, 1955).

Weeks earlier, most of the paper's headlines discussed the drought that Dutchess County was suffering through. These notices shifted very quickly to warnings that Hurricane Connie may "pound" the area. On the very same day that the Amusement Park opened, the Poughkeepsie New Yorker reported that Connie did hit several trees and power lines in Dutchess County. Before much of the area could recover, a second hurricane (Diane) swept through the area causing destructive flooding in areas including Pleasant Valley and the upper part of Smith Street. On August 19, 1955, the cover page of the Poughkeepsie New Yorker included a short report and photograph of the William W. Smith apartments flooded by waters that overflowed from Morgan Lake. Twenty families needed to be evacuated from the building.1

Surprisingly another "Now Open" advertisement for the Morgan Lake Amusement Park was printed on August 20, 1955; the very next day after the flood. It must have been impossible for cars to drive up Creek Road from Smith Street and Salt Point Turnpike. And even if it was possible for cars to reach the Amusement Park driving south on Creek Road from Pendell Road and Violet Avenue, how many were actually out on the road?

Did Hurricane Diane force the Morgan Lake Amusement Park to close? Were there other factors at play? If you have any further information please write to

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Desirable Swimming Pool For Rent

Superintendent Dean of the Board of Public Works predicted in April of 1939 that by the end of that year the city of Poughkeepsie would acquire the Morgan Lake property from the Morgan family and add it to College Hill Park.1 The deadline predicted by Mr. Dean was a little ambitious, but the action of acquiring Morgan Lake was not; the goal was met in 1941.

On Thursday, July 25th 1940, it was announced in the section titled "Brief Bits of County News" in The Harlem Valley Times newspaper that the city of Poughkeepsie could purchase the Morgan Lake property for around $40,000 (about triple the amount that George Morgan paid for the property originally in 1866).2 In December of that year, a real estate transaction placed the 32 acre property into the hands of the Morgan Family trustees, Chester Husted and Elijah T. Russell.3 This transaction was carried out by the president of the company, Eva Morgan-Niver, Senator Morgan's daughter who became president of the company after her brother George Morgan III passed away in 1932.

Throughout the months of February and March in 1941, Elijah T. Russell paid for a small, daily advertisement to be printed in The Poughkeepsie Eagle-News announcing that Morgan Lake was available for rent as a lake swimming pool. 
From The Poughkeepsie Eagle News Friday February 21, 1941 Page 3.

On March 31, 1941 in an article titled "Morgan Lake May Be Swimming Pool" in The Poughkeepsie Eagle-News it was announced that a man was considering leasing the property and developing it into something comparable to Heidrick's pool in Millbrook, NY.4 The name of this man was revealed in another article published two days later on April 2, 1941 titled "Burke Seeks Morgan Lake: Would Modernize Property As Up-To-Date Resort If Zone Is Reclassified." William Burke had managed Heidrick's pool in Millbrook, NY for two years (1938-1939); which explains why he was hoping to develop Morgan Lake into a bathing park similar to Heidrick's pool.5 Burke planned to build "dressing rooms, stands, picnic tables and other features which [would] make the swimming pool more attractive" and would hire life guards to be on duty at all times.6

Just short of a week after Burke's plan was announced, city of Poughkeepsie Common Council members Alderman Williams and Alderman Thompson made the motion to refer Elijah T. Russell's request to have the Morgan Lake property be leased as commercial land to the city of Poughkeepsie Planning Commission.7 City Planning Commission Secretary George J. Lumb announced to the Common Council on April 21st, 1941 that the Morgan Lake zoning change request to switch from residential to commercial property was approved.8 However, the Planning Commission would still need to approve Burke's development plan before the lake became a private swimming pool.9

Did Morgan Lake ever become the Poughkeepsie/William Burke version of Paul Hiedrick's private bathing park in Millbrook? If you have any additional information about this moment in Morgan Lake's history, please leave a comment below, send an email to or call Joclyn Wallace (845) 418-0016.         

1."---Dean Looks (Continued from Page [11])" The Poughkeepsie Star-Enterprise Monday April 24, 1939. Page 19.
2. "Brief Bits Of County News" The Harlem Valley Times Thursday July 25, 1940. Page 2.
3. "Bond to Be Posted" Poughkeepsie New Yorker Friday Evening December 26, 1941. Page 9.
4.  "Morgan Lake May Be Swimming Pool" The Poughkeepsie Eagle-News Monday March 31, 1941 Page 11.
5.  "Morgan Lake May Be Swimming Pool" The Poughkeepsie Eagle-News Monday March 31, 1941 Page 11.
6. "Burke Seeks Morgan Lake" The Poughkeepsie Eagle-News Wednesday April 2, 1941 Page 2.
7. "Planning Commission Given Lake Request" The Poughkeepsie Eagle-News Tuesday April 8, 1941 Page 12. 
8. "Morgan Lake Zoning Change is Approved By Planning Group" The Poughkeepsie Eagle-News Tuesday April 22, 1941. Page 9.
9.  "Morgan Lake Zoning Change is Approved By Planning Group" The Poughkeepsie Eagle-News Tuesday April 22, 1941. Page 9.



Let's Go Fishing!

"Boop Boop dit-em dat-em what-tem chu!" This catchy chorus from the song Three Little Fishies by Saxie Dowell could be heard loud and clear at Morgan Lake on Saturday August 18th during Part 2 of a four month long outdoor, children's story book reading, song, and game hour series called Storytime by the Lake. The event is open to all ages and is a chance for children and families to learn a little about specific topic related to Morgan Lake; this month's topic was fishing. 

Four fish and fishing related books were read by Morgan Lake Volunteer Lake Stewards Joclyn Wallace, Dan Wallace, Betty Fugere, and Zachary Shaw. The story books read were:

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (fish pages), by Dr. Seuss

Piggy and Dad Go Fishing, by David Martin 

A Fishing Surprise, by Rae A. McDonald 

A Good Day's Fishing, by James Prosek

Fish and fishing related games were played between each story. Hot Potato (renamed Fling the Flounder by Morgan Lake Volunteer Brittany Bush) was played, as well as a life size version of the magnetic fishing board game Let's Go Fishin' designed by Morgan Lake Volunteer Amy Wallace. Children also had a chance to get their hands wet by playing with some wind up fish toys in a small, inflatable kiddie pool. The last event for the day was the Fishy Foto Contest where children (and parents) were encouraged to make their best "fish face" in the cutout board designed and painted by local artist Joanna Cohen.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Saving Morgan Lake

A FULL page article on Joclyn Wallace's Morgan Lake Project was published in Hudson Valley News Vol. 4 Issue 15 July 11-17, 2012. The wonderfully written article by Daniella Di Martino is a must read!

Stop Those Litterbugs!

"Morgan Lake is where I like to fish,
And when I'm here I only have one wish,
That Morgan Lake will stay litter-free,
So that all the critters that call it home can live here happily.

If I do my part and bring my trash with me when I go,
Then everyone who visits Morgan Lake will know,
That this city park is cared for by all,
Young and old, big and small."

The Morgan Lake Anti-Littering Pledge was recited by all - young and old, big and small - yesterday at the first "Storytime by the Lake: Stop Those Litterbugs!" children's book reading at Morgan Lake. This free event is part of a series of four themed children's book readings that will occur once next month in August, September, and October, too. Although children's books are read, the event is open to all ages. Everyone who was at this month's reading enjoyed listening to the stories, singing "The Litterbug" Disney song, playing the toss and catch game called "Catch That Litter!", and hanging red Stop Those Litterbugs! hand cut-outs onto the outside wall of the restroom.

To view photographs of this event visit our Facebook page 

Next month's theme is fishing and the reading is titled "Let's Go Fishing!" Come down to the lake on Saturday August 18 at 11am to enjoy an hour of good old fashioned fun for free.