Croton Friends of History

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This blog was inspired by my membership in Croton Friends of History, a non-profit group dedicated to preserving and promoting the history of Croton-on-Hudson and the Hudson Valley through lectures, discussions, and special events.

Our regular events are free and take place in the Ottinger Room of the Croton Free Library, 171 Cleveland Drive, Croton-on-Hudson. For the complete schedule and membership information, visit the Croton Friends of History website and follow us on FacebookIf you would like to support us you can now make a secure donation with Paypal or any major credit card.

Here’s an excerpt of an article I wrote for Patch.com in 2012, when we celebrated our 10th anniversary.

Ten years ago a group of Crotonites interested in the area’s rich heritage met in Carl Oechsner’s kitchen and founded Croton Friends of History.

“We wanted to share what we knew about this amazing area,” says Oechsner, a former history teacher and president of the organization. “We didn’t realize it at the time, but what we started that day was something unique—a ‘virtual’ historical society. We don’t have an office in a beautiful old building, we don’t have archives or collections of artifacts, but what we do have is a passion for the history of the area that we share through free monthly events, articles on our website and a very active Facebook group.”

In the last decade the group has offered more than 80 events on topics ranging from the Hudson River school of painters and Robert Fulton’s steamboat legacy to the “romantic revolutionary” John Reed and the history of American popular song. . . .

This year the organization is hoping to increase membership and donations, since other than an annual “garage sale” and an occasional small grant, dues are the group’s sole source of funds.

“The advantage of being ‘virtual’ is that we can operate on a shoe-string,” Oechsner points out, “but we could do so much more with greater financial support. There are wonderful speakers we could bring to Croton and we’re working on some exciting online projects that we could jump-start if we had funding.”

“When friends ask me if we’re going to run out of topics I tell them we’ve just scratched the surface,” Oechsner says with a smile. “We haven’t done a program about Roger Tory Peterson being encouraged to create his birding books after a trip to Croton Point; or Croton resident Herman Kahn, the inspiration for Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove; or Vera, the famous fashion designer who lived in Croton and had a factory in Ossining. And then there’s the time, at the end the Revolutionary War, when George Washington made a simple wooden bridge across the Croton River along Nordica Drive the official entry point into the United States. People need to know there’s amazing history all around us.”

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