Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What do the Alamo and Oriskany Have In Common?

When I was in San Antonio recently I could not help but wonder as I looked around at the hundreds of visitors and rooted around the gift stores, how different this historic battle site was from the Battle of Oriskany site I wrote about not too long ago in this blog. The difference was quite striking because at the Oriskany site there was no one there. Here thousands visited daily from all over the world, spending millions of dollars a year in the local economy. Nearby, the riverwalk hosted several conventions at the hotels there and thousands of tourists and locals enjoyed dining along the canal at dozens of small restaurants and shopping the little boutique stores, while others walked, jogged or rode small boats on the canal.

Not to downplay what happened at the Alamo as a few hundred men fought heroically and died here. It seems most of us know something about the history of the Alamo, yet ask even locals here about the Battle of Oriskany, and few can give any details. Ask someone say from San Antonio about Oriskany, and they will give you the most quizzical look you ever saw. One older man I spoke with who was a WW2 veteran, asked if that was what the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany was named after. He was the only one of a dozen people I spoke with that was even

close. I was able to get them on the right trackonly by mentioning the movie "Drums Along the Mohawk".

I won't go into the details of the battle only that the Americans and Oneidas suffered over 450 casualties and this was one of the bloodiest battles in the American Revolution and an important and significant battle in the Saratoga Campaign. Yet, very few Americans even know about the battle much less any details.

I went to school in Texas for four years, and there is a pride and community spirit there you don't find around here. They teach Texas history first and foremost, and the Alamo is the symbolic "brand" of Texas. When a Texan has to leave, they most always think that they are leaving temporarily, and will return as soon as possible. And when they talk about the the heroic exploits of Texans, including the fallen at the Alamo, they talk with pride and enthusiasm about the importance of what happened at the Alamo and it's impact on shaping Texas.

I guess what it comes down to is Texans are just better marketers than we are here in Upstate New York. They love their state and love to talk about the exploits of their heroes. New Yorkers need to learn to start doing the same. It's that simple. We have much to love and be proud of, and much to share with not only other Americans, but the whole world. So, learn and love local history, and then advertise and help brand the Mohawk Valley.
The Battle of the Alamo and the Battle of Oriskany were both horrific and terrible battles that were symbolic and important turning points in American history, and that much we have in common with our Texas counterparts. Last week I visited Oriskany and there was one car there.
I reflected on the striking contrast with the bustling Alamo and I decided like our forefathers did, that here lied the fate of our community, our state and our country.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Grace Church A Downtown Utica landmark, Utica, NY

Built around 1860 with money donated by prominent Utican Alfred Munson, Grace Church stands as a testament of the proud and prosperous past of Utica. Designed by architect
Richard Upjohn this building is a must see for those interested in historical architecture. The interior is a little dark but beautifully crafted. And if you can go when the organ and the music are playing it is really quite remarkable.
If you're hungry, nearby restaurants like the Court-Vue on Elizabeth Street,
Pho Mekong on John Street, Grimaldi's on Bleecker Street, Geisha 2 are a few of my favorite eateries nearby. Get a canoli at Caruso's Pastry Shop on Bleecker Street afterwards and you're good for another hour of hiking around downtown.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Local Jewel, Stanley Theater, Utica, NY

For those who haven't driven through downtown Utica recently, you'll notice the Stanley looks
quite different from the above photo I took a few years ago before the rennovations began.
We are indeed fortunate to have such dedicated people in this community who realized the value of this landmark building and lovingly restored not only the inside but the outside as well.
Most recently they finally installed a massive chandelier made by Utica company Meyda, and expanded the stage area to accomodate the full sets of Broadway shows. Although I am sentimental about the way the Stanley used to look, I am quite pleased with the work done
on this wonderful facility. Take a look next time, or better yet catch a show!
If you have an appetite after a show, there's not too much open after 7 or 8 in downtown Utica. If you head north on Genesee street you will probably find Babe's Macaroni Grill and Delmonico's Steakhouse open and serving pretty good fare. The 258 Steak house is supposed to reopen soon
which is right next door to the Stanley. I've only had lunch at the Hotel Utica and it was good but seemed a little pricey.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Utica Lunatic Asylum, Utica, NY

After reading about the historic homes in Rutger Park it got me thinking about the Utica Psychiatric Center Building aka NYS Lunatic Asylum, Utica State Hospital. If you are looking for an interesting way to spend a few moments, bring along a camera and be prepared to be
amazed at how magnificent this structure truly is as you walk around it. If you're into architecture Utica Psych. built in 1814 this is listed in the National Historic Register as one of the finest examples of Greek Revival Architecture. There is quite a bit of info out there if you do a Google search. Occasionally, they have walking tours in conjunction with Utica Monday Night.
Anyway, hopefully this site will be given some much needed attention, focus and dollars as it is such a wonderful opportunity for this area especially with the adjacent acreage that NYS owns
along with the property.