Historian

Travelogue No. 1 of Orange County, NY: The Erie Railroad’s Chester Station

Travelogue No. 2 of Orange County, NY: The Rushmore Estate

HRV1 Video Podcast Episode 1: Frederick Law Olmstead

Dave Brubeck and the Revolution of Rhythm: Selections from “Time Out” Performed by Alex Prizgintas

As an aspiring historian, I have presented and written about the Hudson Valley’s history both within and outside of the academic community of Marist College.
Over the past seven years, I have presented over thirty lectures covering various historical topics from railroads to milk bottles. These lectures are a crucial part of my desire to share local history with my community.

 Much of my work focuses on researching, collecting, and sharing local history. The three did not all happen at once; rather, as one passion grew, it opened the door to another. I began as a collector or, better said, an eclectic preservationist of our region’s past. All things vintage fascinated me, from old transistor radios to model trains, typewriters, and even bricks manufactured at the once prominent brickyards of the Hudson Valley. I still collect these artifacts, but over time, I took a keen interest in memorabilia from the region’s railroads, items from the famed Sullivan County Borscht Belt Hotels, and milk bottles from Orange County, NY. It would be through this focus that my more critical work would evolve.

 As a young collector, I was fascinated by the objects themselves but often neglected to look deeper into their past. My first glimpse at this crucial link between a tangible object and its lucid history came in 2012 when I, along with the Woodbury Historical Society, helped to coordinate an event called “50 Items That Tell the Story of Woodbury.” Inspired from an article in The New York Times titled “50 Items That Tell the Story of New York,” the exhibition included fifty different items from the collection of the historical society that described the town’s past and welcomed the community to crowd source artifacts from outside participants who wished to share different stories from our local history. Some of these “antiques” were collectible, like bottles, while others were somewhat pedestrian such as old receipts and pens with advertisements. One that I remember quite well was a detailed history of a local dairy farm complete with pictures and even included one embossed milk bottle. Each, however, told a different part of Woodbury’s history through establishing this vital link between the object itself and its past.

 “50 Items That Tell the Story of Woodbury” was my first large-scale project and while it was a success for the Woodbury Historical Society, it taught me to look beyond the object and learn more about their stories. This transition from a collector to a historian is best illustrated when in 2016 when I debuted my lecture “The Dairies and Milk Bottles of Orange County, NY.” Unlike past lectures, the “visual aid” was (at the time) my entire collection of approximately two hundred local milk bottles. Presented before the Hudson Valley Bottle Club, the lecture was very well received given that the audience largely consisted of bottle collectors. However, as the program grew more popular in the community among those with no intimate background knowledge concerning the bottles themselves, I understood that it was necessary to look beyond the bottles and research the history of Orange County’s dairy farms. That extra reach was well worth the effort; apart from transforming that particular program into one that was far more fascinating and approachable to all, I was hooked on the region’s history with milk—a place where milk was first transported by rail in 1842 and, by 1900 was populated by more than 2,900 dairy farms.

 By delving further, I discovered my voice as an author for writing and sharing history that could not be accomplished through collecting alone. Since my first lecture in 2013, I have given more than thirty programs on various topics of local history from Orange County’s dairy farms to Edward H. Harriman’s incline railroad. As an author, my knowledge on milk bottles has been published in the nationally distributed magazine the Antique Bottle and Glass Collector and, recently, I have had articles featured in the peer-reviewed journals issued by Marist College’s Hudson River Valley Institute and the Orange County Historical Society. Furthermore, all of my work starting back in my initial days of collecting has become the source for my book Spoiled Milk, Two Centuries of Triumph and Corruption in Orange County: New York’s Lost Dairy Farming Empire.

 
  Below you will find a few LINKS to pages on this website on the following subjects:

 “Orange County’s Railroads”

 “The Borscht Belt”

 “Orange County’s Milk Bottles”