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Hudson Valley Press

July 25th, 2012

Pilot brings the Crawford House back to life

The Kronk children were part of a scene for a potential television pilot during a two day filming at the historical Captain David Crawford House, on Montgomery Street in the City of Newburgh.
NEWBURGH - The Captain David Crawford House came alive Friday and Saturday.

For two days, the City of Newburgh historical landmark, built in 1830, was transformed. The personal lives of its four inhabitants, Captain Crawford, his wife, Fanny, and their two daughters, were unraveled when a television crew, along with local volunteer actors, breathed life into the residence at 189 Montgomery Street.

It all started when Robert Sabuda had an idea. The New York Times best-selling author had seen some of the cable television series showcasing early American homes. Discussing such details as when and how the homes were built, along with the history of their interior decor, they failed to reveal something much more pivotal.
“People are interested about the lives of the people who lived in those homes,” explained Sabuda, who splits his time between New York City and New Paltz. “It’s a really effective way to bring history alive through people; houses are not as popular as the people who lived in them.”

Intrigued by the concept of living history, Sabuda set out to do his research. Focusing on the historically-rich Hudson Valley, he delved into the familial stories of six area homes, each storing their own interesting, hidden tales. The Crawford House was selected as the winner.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Crawford House/Museum was far more than the yellow-hued, large, lofty edifice image it presents to the outside world. Rather, it was home to a man who played a major role in moving Newburgh from a small riverside community to a bustling shipping and industrial center. A civic leader as well as maritime entrepreneur, David Crawford was at the nucleus of Newburgh in the 19th Century.

“Crawford was a self-made man who came from a farming family and became a shipping entrepreneur, shipping things to New York City,” recalled Sabuda, who will also serve as the shows’ host. “There were no other homes here in this area at the time, so there was a very clear view of the Hudson from it.”

Not only did Crawford’s business dealings transpire within the 189 Montgomery Street walls, so too did births, marriages, innovative construction contributions made by the Crawfords themselves on the home, and a host of other everyday happenings people can still connect to almost 200 years later. One vignette, being shot in the attic, was focused on a young David Crawford meticulously selecting wallpaper samples; yet another depicted an interaction between the young Fanny Crawford and a painter.

“It’s really a way to bring the Museum (Crawford House) to life,” said its Director, Johanna Porr, who also joined the acting cast as one of the Crawford daughters.
In addition to Sabuda’s script, which features “nonverbal acting” fused with his narrator’s voiceover, another component that brought the house to life was the costumes. Beacon-based historical costume maker, Mary Kronk, hand made each of the pieces of clothing.

“This was my first time working on a production like this, and it has really been a great experience,” said Kronk, who was contacted by Sabuda’s assistant, after viewing her work online. “The most challenging part has been finding time appropriate shoes; you can make the clothing of the time period, but not the shoes.”

For now, the filming product will be edited and sent out to a host of potential television markets. Sabuda, as well as those involved in the project, are hoping the piece gets picked up. In the meantime, once it is finalized, Porr will be receiving a copy to be kept at the Crawford House. The tangible memento of “living history,” containing not only images of the house, but the amazing and sometimes very normal lives of those who dwelled there, will then become available for screenings by all visitors.
5 / 5 (5 Votes)

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Reader Response
  • Mary Politi Thomas
  • October 6th, 2012 As a native Newburgher who left the area for so many years and then came back again and taught in its schools for just as many, I applaud your vision. How awesome that one of our 'own' will be shared with many others... the Crawford house. So much history. Our area is full and alive of wonderful storie, homes and people.. Perhaps it will help those today try and keep it going ...creating a new history. Bravo! Look forward to seeing this project and more to follow.

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