By Jennifer L. Warren
BEACON – It’s a pretty powerful trifecta.
The Howland Cultural Center, Howland Public Library, and the Beacon Historical Society: Individually, they have made indelible educational, cultural and societal footprints on their community over the years; now, for the next six weeks, they will come together to showcase and maximize their priceless connections and lasting contributions. Welcome: The Howland 150, a Celebration of the Howland Cultural Center’s century and a half influence, an expansive tribute to Richard Morris Hunt’s 1872 architectural “Jewel of Beacon.”
Friday, the festive occasion, funded by arts Mid-Hudson, commenced with an official, symbolic 5pm bell ringing- just like the one that resonated in 1872, as a large crowd gathered outside of the Howland Cultural Center. Following the nostalgic sound, Denise Van Buren, Trustee as well as Past President of the Beacon Historical Society welcomed in guests to this long-awaited celebration. Pointing out the theme of, “People Make Things Happen,” Van Buren, who is also the 45th President General of the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution, reminded everyone of the deep historical roots embedded in the building they were all facing.
“The Howlands left an important legacy that we celebrate today,” said the dynamic Van Buren. “It is a place that bears their name and continues to thrive.”
Those iconic Howland figures were philanthropists: General Joseph and Eliza Howland, who 150 years ago, commissioned their brother-in-law, Richard Morris (one of the premiere architects of his time) to design the “masterpiece” Howland Cultural Library as well as a music room at their Howland Estate. In 1976, that library found a new residence- its current one- at 313 Main Street in Beacon; while its original site transformed into the now Howland Cultural Center in 1979. Meanwhile, around this time, the Beacon Historical Society was born, finding its home on 61 Leonard Street. All three of these places share a deep, special history, embedded with a love for learning, books, history, community and hope that has formed an unbreakable piece of the Beacon fabric-filled with strength, love and pride.
“During the Pandemic shutdown, the biggest thing my kids said they missed was going to the Howland Library,” said Legislator and first Latina Minority Leader of Dutchess County, Yvette Valde’s Smith. “I’m thrilled that we are in a place like the Howland that is a hub, connecting people; those connections are books, printers and the Internet, and so much more, to knowledge and to friends.” The Beacon-Fishkill Legislator continued, “This place must continue to grow; the Howland has always been a beacon of truth.”
Another local politician, Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson, was also on hand, offering his congratulations as well as a certificate, commemorating this milestone event of the Library’s 150 years strong.
“Libraries are just so very important to a community,” affirmed Jacobson. “This one is on the cutting edge, and it’s why everyone is so proud to be here today to celebrate it.”
City of Beacon Mayor, Lee Kyriacou, also offered some brief remarks as he was eager to learn more about the historical roots- golden nuggets of these three, interconnected, vibrant cornerstones of his City. Some of those pearls were delivered by a living history segment, when General Joseph was brought to life, clad in a maroon vest, pinstriped pants and distinct hat, addressing the audience with verbiage of his day and distinct mannerisms while eliciting the undivided attention of all present.
Friday’s affair also included the official opening of the Howland Cultural Center’s present exhibit, “People Make it Happen,” a visual arts series of historical pictographs, telling the story of Beacon’s free public library, while celebrating literature, arts and culture. The pieces were diligently and passionately constructed by artists Donna Mikkelsen and Jean-Marc Superville Sovak, who pointed out “These are the untold stories and unsung heroes,” about the exhibit that seeks to capture the pure magic inherent in this priceless Beacon library.
“The library is the place where your dreams can come true,” said Dutchess County Legislator, Giancarlo Llaverias. “We don’t need a machine to time travel, we just need books.”
Next up on the Howland 150 schedule are two big Saturday, August 13 events: “Keeping the Books,” (highlights from librarian scrapbooks) from 12-3pm, at the Howland Public Library. Then, artist Donna Mikkelsen, over at the Howland Cultural Center, from 3-5pm, discusses her historical pictographs in the Exhibit in a “Meet the Artist” gathering.
To learn more about upcoming Howland 150 events that run through September 21, 2002, log onto the sites of the celebrated three community partners: The Howland Cultural Center, Howland Public Library and the Beacon Historical Society.