My Studies

I have been a student learning about local history for much of my life. Even before I started college and my first public lecture, I digested great insight through regional historical societies. Here, the like-minded passions of fellow members acted as a nexus of information and friendships. As the youngest member of the Ontario & Western Railway Historical Society, I eagerly waited for the first Friday of each month when they would hold their monthly meetings in the Mulberry Senior Center of Middletown, NY. I reveled in their meetings that began with an informal gathering where members would sell and trade railroad items. They followed Robert’s Rules of Order and established a pattern that I would later diligently follow as the youngest member and later president of the Hudson Valley Bottle Club. What I loved best about these monthly meetings were the featured lectures that followed, complete with images that captured the once rich history of local railroads. I always had to leave early because my parents worked the following day, but those meetings left an indelible mark on my psyche. 

HUdson RIver Valley Review
2022 was a successful year for my publications. In the year’s spring edition of the Hudson River Valley Review, a peer-reviewed journal published by the Hudson River Valley Institute of Marist College, I published a thirty-three-page article on the history of the Ellenville Glass Works. This was a once-important regional industry that operated throughout much of the nineteenth century. With this being my second feature in the Hudson River Valley Review, I continued in the fall with the publication of an article on the Gomez Mill House in the New York Archives Magazine.

Dedication

Inspired, I dedicated myself to learn, acquire, and assemble information that I would soon share with my fellow members at the Woodbury Historical Society (WHS). : I first joined WHS at age eleven and was elected to their board of trustees at fourteen where I still serve today in addition to being their collections manager. At WHS, I began to discover my interest in presenting history to the public and the first of these projects was known as “Fifty Items that Tell the Story of Woodbury.” Modeled from a New York Times article titled “Fifty Items that Tell the Story of New York,” the general idea was to bring together fifty artifacts of all shapes and sizes that told the story of our local history. The presentation attracted well over fifty items and brought out new finds and individuals interested in our town’s history. One year later, I gave my first lecture before WHS titled “The Erie Railroad’s Shortcut Then and Now” which attracted more than one hundred people. That lecture would be one of more than forty that I would give before graduating from high school. One lecture, as a junior in high school, caught the attention of a regional reporter for the Orange County Magazine. That article made its way to the history department at Marist College where one of the professors brought the article to their meeting insisting “this is the kind of student we need to get here.” 

Marist College Internship Award
In April of 2022, I was awarded Marist College’s internship award for my two internships with the Hudson River Valley Institute and, principally, the production of a thirty-five-minute documentary on the local legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted.

College Student, Author, and Guest Lecturer

Two years later, I would attend Marist.

In high school, I didn’t play any sports but the local libraries, senior centers, and museums became my arena and field of dreams where I was able to soar while sharing my passion for local history. Each lecture was a unique opportunity to communicate and connect with a diverse audience. This was my “Facebook” with one exception; we actually met in person—face-to-face.

The COVID-19 Pandemic would present some of the most difficult obstacles. Unfortunately, I have witnessed some members of these historical societies become infected and perish from this awful virus. Societies, in general, suspended their lectures and meetings—instead opting to move to an online setting. I choose to use this time to write and, beginning in March 2020, I published “How Bottles Talk To Us, and the History They Tell” in the Antique Bottle and Glass Collector magazine. That followed with Marist’s Hudson River Valley Review which, in May of 2020 printed my essay “When Steel Rails, Glass Bottles, and Fresh Cream Ruled the Country; Orange Country’s Role in the Birth of Transporting and Marketing Milk” and “The Rondout Valley’s Glassy Past: The Ellenville Glass Works, A Forgotten Hudson Valley Industry” in May 2022. The Antique Bottle and Glass Magazine would feature another submission in October with my article on “Tin Tops—The Pioneers of Milk Bottles.” Finally, the Orange County Historical Society published my essays on “The Erie Railroad’s Race for a Shortcut: The Story of Woodbury’s Three Sister Railroad Stations,” “Orange County’s Forgotten Trackside Past: The New York, Ontario and Western Railway’s Meadowbrook Station and the Cornwall Railroad Triangle,” and “Struggle, Strike, and War: How Orange County Dairy Farmers Battled for Fair Treatment at the Turn of the Twentieth Century.”

New York Archives
A sampling of the eight publications I have achieved on topics of Hudson Valley history during my undergraduate studies (2020-2022). 

PodCasting

In the spring of 2021, I produced and debuted a series of podcasts entitled “A Walk Through Woodbury” which investigates one topic on local history per episode. To date, I have produced five episodes: “The Dairy Farms of Woodbury,” “The Jewish Bungalow Colonies of Woodbury,” “When The Railroad Came Through Woodbury,” “Famous Residents of Woodbury,” and “Hotels of Woodbury.” Each story features incidental music (performed by me) and sound effects to help move the story forward. Additionally, special guests are invited to our recording sessions while hosting a regular roundtable of experts. There is also a mini-video series called “In A Woodbury Minute” which explores individual facets of history in two to five-minute segments. Six episodes were published during the summer of 2021. These podcasts can be found here: https://alexprizgintas.com/mypodcasts/.

Woodbury New York HIstorians
A look at a recording session of my podcast series “A Walk Through Woodbury,” Featuring Town of Woodbury historian Leslie Rose and ninety-five-year regional resident Walter Stanfield.

From Undergraduate to Graduate Studies

In the fall of 2021, I returned to my last semester as an undergraduate student at Marist College to complete my studies in history with a minor in Hudson River Valley Studies and a concentration in public history. This was the first time that classes were held in a semi-normal state since the COVID-19 pandemic began and, though I had grown used to the hybrid format of classes, this was a pleasant return to standard routine where I officially graduated on January 31, 2022 summa cum laude. Between January and August of 2022, I remained busy with a busy schedule of bookings for lectures and musical performances (I gained approximately seventy events for the 2022 season) as well as performing research and writing for future articles. In August of 2022, I returned to Marist to pursue a Masters in Public Administration. Having studied history for three and a half years as an undergraduate student, it is my goal to use the leadership and management skills offered by an MPA degree to lay the foundation for a museum that preserves various facets of Orange County’s neglected history. 

During my last year of undergraduate studies, I began my second internship at the Hudson River Valley Institute where I produced one of my crowning achievements thus far at Marist: a thirty-five minute film on the impacts of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted in the Hudson Valley. This documentary can be viewed here:

Here are some images portraying my development as a historian:

Early on, local historical societies were a fundamental building block for my studies since the like-minded passions of fellow members guided my own interests in the field. Seen here is a circa 2014 meeting of the Ontario & Western Railway Historical Society in Middletown, NY. I am seated to the right of the banner.

A Look at my first lecture on the Erie Railroad’s Newburgh Shortcut before the Woodbury Historical Society in 2013. Over one hundred people attended and this would be the first of over forty presentations on local history that I would give over nearly ten years. 
Mount Saint Mary College
Preparing for a lecture on E. H. Harriman’s Incline Railroad, with some cello accompaniments, before Mount Saint Mary College’s Desmond Campus in Newburgh, N.Y.
Association of Public Historians NY State
Myself before the Association of Public Historians of New York State when I gave my lecture “Orange County’s Dairies and their Milk Bottles” in late 2017. Also present is Hudson River Valley Institute program director Christopher Pryslopski, New York State Historian David Lander, and Orange County historian Johanna Porr Yaun.
I was presented with a citation from the New York State Assembly by Senator James Skoufis for
my work in the community. Also pictured are Woodbury town historian Leslie Rose and long-time
mentor Herman Galberd.
Orange County Citizen of the Month
In 2018, I was awarded Orange County’s Citizen of the Month award by county executive Steve Neuhaus for my efforts in preserving local history.
Marist College CURCSA
Marist College has given me the wonderful opportunity to broaden my horizons in local history and expand my research capabilities. Seen here is my interpreted history of Orange County’s dairy farms at the 2019 CURSCA (Celebration of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity) conference. To the left are Mr. Christopher Pryslopski of Marist College’s Hudson River Valley Institute and Dr. David Woolner of Marist College’s history department as well as a senior fellow and resident historian of the Roosevelt institute.
While I am a history major at Marist College, I find that history and music often go hand-in-hand. This was certainly the case at Marist’s 2019 Woodstock Retrospective—celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival. Here, I am with (left to right) Dr. James Johnson of the Hudson River Valley Institute, internationally-noted author and CNN commentator Douglas Brinkley, and past Marist President David Yellen. I performed Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze at the conference, which was enhanced with a looping station amplified and various guitar pedals to replicate that “acid rock” sound.
Despite my intensive work at college and the negative effects of COVID-19, I still try my best to publicly present local history since it is a vital way of interacting with the community. Seen here is my August 2021 lecture on Orange County’s dairy farms before the Mamakating Historical Society—one of the first in-person lectures I gave after two years.
I was honored to have attended the Hudson River Valley Institute‘s Handel-Krom Lecture Series where my good friend, Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Philip Dray, presented his recent book “A Lynching at Port Jervis.” Through both my guidance and that of Marist College’s history department, it was wonderful to have Philip come to campus for the first time back in March of 2022. Focusing upon the 1892 lynching of Robert Lewis, his work provides an excellent glimpse into an under-appreciated facet of Hudson Valley history. Pictured from left to right are HRVI executive director Andrew Villani, Philip Dray, myself, HRVI program director Christopher Pryslopski, and HRVI education coordinator Jason Schaaf.