Preserve America Community:
Roxbury, New York
Roxbury, New York (population 2,509), is a small, rural community in the Catskill Mountains. At the headwaters of the Delaware River in Delaware County, it is the birthplace of railroad magnate Jay Gould and essayist John Burroughs.
Now primarily residential, Roxbury was a flourishing commercial center in the early 1900s. Roxbury's Main Street was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 and the entire hamlet was listed in the State and National Registers in 2003.
From 1890 to 1930, Roxbury's center, Kirkside Park, was part of the estate of Helen Gould Shepard, daughter of Jay Gould. She was one of America's leading philanthropists, and generously opened the landscaped property, full of rustic Adirondack-style bridges and gazebos, stone terraces, and paths along falls and a stream, to the community for recreation. The grounds included a ball diamond used by the Roxbury Nine Base Ball Club, part of a popular regional league.
After Shepard's death in 1938, the park was neglected for more than 50 years until deeded to the town of Roxbury. Much of the estate's grounds were lost to subdivision, and the threat of additional development in 1981 galvanized community residents to save the remaining acres of the estate park.
In partnership with the Catskill Revitalization Corporation, the Roxbury Arts Group, and other local nonprofit and community partners, Roxbury attracted funding from New York State, private foundations, and corporate donors.
Restoration efforts began in 1999, with recent improvements including restoration of historic plantings, stone walls, rustic bridges and paths, and a complete rehabilitation of the ball field. Two donated barns adjacent to Kirkside Park will be restored to serve as a town museum, environmental educational facility, and community gathering space.
Roxbury has been a regional leader in developing and promoting heritage tourism programs. An ongoing program in Kirkside Park features the 1898 Roxbury Nine Vintage Base Ball Club, which dresses and plays the game as it was played there at the turn of the 20th century. A costumed interpreter at every game explains the rules and nuances of the game as it was played in small towns during the 1890s.
Once a year, over 15 community groups present "Turn of the Century Day," highlighting period social, athletic, technological, and fashion trends in the Catskills and attracting close to 3,000 visitors. The town also produces and sponsors walking, driving, and house tours.
Roxbury has integrated its resources into the local history curriculum for its schools, and has a full-time employee dedicated to preservation and educational activities.
For more information
Town of Roxbury: www.roxburyny.com
Updated July 7, 2005