Then & Nowby Highlands Historian Stella Bailey
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a whole new meaning for ‘home’. Many have stayed home and found new ways to stay safe and keep busy, finally getting at that painting, cleaning and those projects which have been put off for quite some time. The home has been the fortress against outside stress.
Mentioning the homes, there have always been and still are some wonderful, unique and historic homes in the Town of Highlands. In 1979 through 1982 Historic Preservation Groups, as part of the New York State Division for Historic Preservation, conducted surveys of these homes. There are over 50 listed including churches and some other historic edifices around the area.
For instance, a unique structure on North Main was the former residence of a local doctor. There have been many other owners over the passing years, most remembered is Adele Tucker. It is located next to the Holy Innocents Rectory home. Built in c. 1860s, it has a three-story tower and is now painted yellow, where it was once all white. It is considered the most significant Italian Villa style structure in Highland Falls.
Another Main St. structure best known as Vona’s Shoe Shop is the small brick building by the Post Office, owned by the Kopald family. In 1875 it originally was owned by George Stephens, who ran the Stephens Hotel. It is now a pizza parlor but it was a book store and a barber shop This is considered one of the earliest commercial buildings in the village.
In the year 2000 the Village Board unanimously passed a resolution designating the Main St. area running from Thayer Gate to Memorial Park as a local historic district. Mayor D’Onofrio stated this had taken place in an effort to “preserve and enhance the historic, cultural and architectural integrity” of Main St.
The Village Hall itself was listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places in September 1982. Assesor’s records give the building a date of 1894, although there was a divided building here dating to 1859. Once called the “Kreutz Block” it housed the First National Bank, then Marine Midland Bank in 1967 became the Village Hall.
Right next door to Village Hall is presently the Bear Mountain Bakery. This large commercial building dates back to 1875 and was owned by former resident Sophie Greenberg. There was also a clothing store on the front side. At one time it was the home of the Citizens National Bank and a historic marker has been erected on the sidewalk.
In Fort Montgomery the Garrison House, better known as Chimney Corner, dates back to the Revolution and a member of the family was at the Fort Montgomery Battle Site. A historic marker has also been erected there.
You can take a walk throughout the main part of the Historic Village using a unique Tour Trail Guide put out by the Historical Society. It is like taking a walk back in time and you will learn a great deal of the local history.