The Eltinges Legacy in New Paltz

Just around a mile outside of SUNY New Paltz’s campus borders sits one of the most influential pieces of land in New Paltz history. 160 Plains Rd or “The Locusts” as it is formally known, is home to one of our local historic sites. According to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, this large stone estate dating back to 1826, once belonging to Peter Eltinge, mimics the same style and structure as the houses that line historic Huguenot street today. The Eltinges beautiful stone estate is not only what attracts tourists and historians alike, for the property it resides on is part of one of the most significant property transactions in New Paltz history to date. 

The Deed of Noah Eltinge describes the land transaction between Noah Eltinge, a well-known resident in New Paltz, and a gentleman by Benjamin Doyo. The Eltinge’s have a long-standing history in New Paltz, most well known nowadays for the Elting Library located in the heart of Main Street. However, the deed that was transcribed described a very different terrain and surrounding landscape that the Library dedicated to the Eltinge family resides on. Upon this discovery, it was time to dive deeper into the Eltinge family and their history in New Paltz to see where else they may have lived and where a-bouts this piece of land that was described in the document was located today. 

According to New Paltz’s Historical and Natural District Inventory, the piece of land described in the deed is still in the Eltinge family’s name. Before Roelif Eltinge even purchased it in 1727, it belonged to the DuBois family. The DuBois Family, another local name familiar to the area, was one of the original New Paltz’s Pantees. According to documents, Roelif Eltinge married one of the DuBois daughters, which helped secure this significant land transaction. Noah Eltinge, born in 1721, inherited the land through his father Roelif and maintained it through the years.

This transaction described in the deed is perhaps the most famous one to date involving the Eltinges. It helped make Noah Eltinge one of the wealthiest men in New Paltz at that time. This piece of land was sold to Benjamin Doyo in 1765 and went for nearly 45 shillings. It is unclear which portion of land and where exactly it was located on the Eltinge’s estate, for their property was so expansive, and so many changes had been made to the maps and charts of the area. This transaction of land and mainly the profits they made from it genuinely shaped the legacy of the Eltinge family in New Paltz and made them who they are today.

            The family expanded on the property through the years with a large estate, barns, and other amenities added well through 1821 when they did major renovations. To this day, their property extends and includes the mill and the pond located on Rt.208 as you are entering New Paltz on the east side. Peter Eltinge, the grandson of Roelif Eltinge, who initially purchased the land, built the large stone estate formerly known as “The Locusts.” Located on what is now known as Plains Road, it is one of the oldest landmark houses besides Huguenot street. Built-in 1826 by Peter Eltinge himself, this house mimics that same style found on Huguenot street, with the original stonework still present and evident in its structure today. The property is still owned by the Eltinge’s as it has been for nearly three centuries.  

Google Earth Image of the property and its location to SUNY New Paltz campus
Peter Eltinges House on Plains Rd.

An Exploration with the 4×5 Camera

For my own analog experience, I choose to work with a film camera, more specifically, a Large Format 4 x 5 film camera. Being a photographer, I typically work with a digital format DSLR, but I have had prior experience with 35mm film cameras. For this experience, I wanted to explore and dive deeper into the world of film cameras with the Large Format camera, one that I had never before had the opportunity to explore. 

Image of a Large Format camera and its different parts

I knew it would be wildly different from my preferred digital camera experience upon beginning this exploration. Still, I had some inclination it would be similar to a 35mm film camera. Using this new 4×5 film, I wondered if the images produced would be equal to or better quality compared to my DSLR? Aside from technical aspects, I wondered if it would feel different while shooting and taking the images than with my digital camera. This camera is around fifteen pounds, requires a nearly five-foot tripod, and only comes with eight film slides. With all that being said, setting up to take the picture and taking the image will take a lot more time than it would with any digital camera. Would this impact my experience with it? And would that impact be positive or negative?

For the actual experiment, I choose to photograph simple objects around my house and backyard, even getting some pictures of my grandfather working outside in the barns. The investigation itself was a bit complicated and very time-consuming. To take an image, the tripod has to be level and at the correct height for the camera’s glass to be at eye view. To focus on the subject matter in the mirror, the dark cloth is needed, precisely what it sounds like, the black fabric called the “dark clothe” is draped over the user to see the image reflected upside down in the glass. Once the image was focused, I had to meter for the correct lighting and exposure time. To little time the image would be too dark, too much time, and the image would be too light, making the exposure the most crucial aspect of the photograph. The experiment was concluded after doing this whole setup and process eight times and changing locations midway through. 

Image of an individual focusing on a subject matter under the Dark Cloth.

Reflecting on my exploration, I realized there are a lot of steps to set up the image and make sure the exposure is correct before even clicking the shutter to take a photograph. By the time I focused, I had found the light had changed and needed to re-meter the whole picture. Besides these technical difficulties, this time between taking the images and setting them up allowed me to slow down and the information I was photographing. 

After developing my film from this experiment and having all of the negatives come out, I was relieved. My experiment was successful, I learned how to use the large format 4 x 5 camera, and I even got some excellent photographs. I found that these images were highly detailed and crisp, much sharper than any image my DSLR could produce. It is a long-standing truth in photography that film is the best to shoot on for higher quality and sharp appearance. I never truly believed that until I saw these images, I was honestly a little surprised. Besides technically being a successful experiment, I can’t say I loved the experience as a whole. Unlike my DSLR that I can strap around my neck and take with me anywhere, like a spontaneous trip or event, this camera was the exact opposite. The weight and its cumbersome nature overshadowed any quality of images that it produced. I did enjoy slowing down and spending more time with my subject matter while setting up my pictures. However, I found myself missing that digital aspect of taking five or more images with one click of a finger. I found this type of camera was limiting and often didn’t let me take complete creative control of the image in more ways than one. Overall this experiment was enjoyable, and I can proudly say that I now have the knowledge and experience working with another film camera under my belt. This was a great exploration, but I think I will be sticking with my DSLR camera for any future shoots.

Some of the images i took during my experiment, developed and printed.
Second Set of images from my exploration

Image Sources:

http://www.shoppbs.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/ansel/sfeature/sf_camera_text_1.html

https://www.richardphotolab.com/blog/post/how-shoot-large-format-film

A Feminist take on Shelley’s Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus, has stood over nearly two centuries as a literary masterpiece. Shelley gives birth to these two very essential characters, who we come to know as the creature and the creator of this being, scientist Victor Frankenstein. Throughout the novel, we see the battle between these two opposites, both physically and mentally, bringing to light many life lessons and struggles, one of them being what it means to be different and shunned from society. Victor Frankenstein’s creation, the creature, is neither man nor inhuman, but rather another species all on itself who has trouble navigating through this new life he was brought into. Often shunned, mocked, and ridiculed, the creature quickly realizes this world does not accept his nature. 

Upon beginning this novel, I was highly interested in Mary Shelley herself. Shelley, daughter of the infamous feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, followed in her mother’s footsteps in her ideas regarding women’s status in society. This knowledge and background on Shelley herself are interesting to show that Shelley’s life piece, Frankenstein, did not include a strong female protagonist. Instead, Shelley wrote in two leading male characters: a well-respected and genius scientist and an inhuman monster-like being. However, after reading further into it and keeping in mind Shelleys very own background, the connection between the creature and the female race can be made.

The creature is often shunned and mocked for things out of their control, just like women in Shelley’s time. Because of a woman’s appearance and features, they were deemed incapable of specific jobs, duties, or the ability to do things that the male race could physically do. The creature is also judged heavily on its appearance, looking inhuman and being described as grotesque and horrifying to some who cross his path. “A mummy again endured with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch. I have gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then, but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived”(Shelley, p.55). Shelley describes through the creator’s eyes how horrific the creature is to the eye and making a comparison Dante inferring hell and satanic ideas. This comparison is attractive in how Shelley included how women were perceived in history, tying in women as evil and satanic creatures during the witch hunt era. In addition to appearances and physical differences, the creature is also viewed as Frankenstein’s property. The creature is not its being but rather an object associated with Victor. This idea of people being property to others is very similar to what women were encountering daily when Shelley was around. “But I knew that I possessed no money, no friends, no kind of property”(Shelley, p.143). Women at that time were not viewed as separate entities, but rather an accessory to their husband, with no thoughts, actions, or views held separately. 

Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein ties in feminist ideals by introducing the creature as one of the main protagonists. The beast is shunned, mocked, and treated as unequal to men throughout the novel, similar to how women were treated and viewed during Mary Shelley’s time. Shelley brought her background and beliefs into Frankenstein, making this novel even more complex, genuinely allowing it to stand the test of time.  

Inspired by Marie Kondo

After seeing an episode of Tidying up with Marie Kondo , showing a couple going through their closet, I was inspired to do the same with my own “joy test” experiment. I love to shop, in person, online, anyway there is. Combining my love of shopping with my passion for fashion means clothe shopping has become my kryptonite. Nearly every time I see a new article of clothing that catches my eye, I immediately “have to have it!” As a result, I have a closet full of sweaters, dresses, and jackets in my apartment here in New Paltz; that is only a portion of the entire collection I have at my home. I also have two dressers filled with shirts, workout attire, skirts, and sweatshirts. Everything from statement pieces to everyday basic shirts to one-time wear Occasion pieces, which in the moment of buying them I couldn’t live without. I decided that this experiment would be best done on this collection of clothes I have, and potentially I could even learn a bit of pairing down and working with what I have for the time being. 

I decided to start with my dressers; each drawer separates a different article of clothing, some being full to the brim due to recent additions and online shopping spontaneous purchases. After emptying the contents of all my drawers, I realized this experiment was going to be very time consuming and could quickly turn into a whole day project, so I decided to break it down a tad more and focus my experiment on my dresser drawers focusing on my sweatshirts, shirts and  I didn’t dare open my closet door after making that decision. I quickly tackled my sweatshirts, for this was simple, I don’t have many, and the ones I do own, I realized quickly, are a necessity, for I do wear all of them regularly. So far, this joy test was going very well. Then it came to my shirts, and this is where some tough decisions were made. I organize my shirts in three separate categories, basics, t-shirts, and as I like to call it my “extra” shirts, they are just a little fancier and can be worn by themselves. I quickly realized I had so many t-shirts I didn’t even realize I had, and it also made me realize this experiment was doing this intended job. I went through and only kept five t-shirts that I genuinely felt connected to and knew I would wear either to the studio during an art project or even to sleep in. The basics went almost as simple as the sweatshirts, for I wear most of them regularly. However, I quickly realized even though these are very practical, a few to almost none of these shirts gave me that “wow” moment. I wasn’t in love with any of these shirts on their own. I sat for a moment and debated keeping or discarding these so-called essential pieces that I relied heavily on in my wardrobe. After a few moments, I realized that these basic shirts didn’t give me joy or make me feel  happy to wear them independently; however, they complete the outfit when paired with other sweaters, skirts, etc. Putting outfits together essentially gives me the joy that Marie Kondo expresses. Therefore, I feel confident and happy in the mundane essential pieces that don’t speak on their own, but rather  are a contribution to that wow outfit. As a result, I decided to keep all but two of them, for I realized I had a lot, and they were very similar, even down to the color. If anything comes out of this experiment, it will be that I don’t need any more basic shirts, as cute as they may seem on the shelf. Finally, it was time to go through the “extra” shirts, a moment I dreaded due to their quantity. Immediately I realized I almost disliked and didn’t feel anything special about most of them. These purchases were primarily made online through fast fashion websites, and I had only worn them once or some not at all; a few pieces even had the tags still on them. I was embarrassed and almost sad that I spent the money on these pieces that just sat there every day being overlooked. I knew I needed to pass these shirts on to a new home literally and metaphorically. All the shirts that did not wow me or I saw myself not happy wearing, I put in a bag that I plan to give away to the local Salvation Army. After I was done sorting them all out, I had paired down my “extra” shirts to about a half of what they used to be, and to my surprise, my mood had lifted. 

After experiencing Marie Kondos’s joy test experiment firsthand, I can see what all the hype is about surrounding her techniques. I only did this experiment on nearly a third of my wardrobe; however, even that slightest change I can say has genuinely made me feel better and a little less cluttered. I quickly found the shirt I wanted to wear, even today, and It made me a little more aware of how many clothes I have! As for that bag of shirts, I intend to go to the Salvation Army after my class and donate them to provide them with a new life, one where they will be worn happily and displayed in the light they should be.  

Handmade with Love

The object I choose is one of my favorite dresses that I currently own. This dress is very special to me for many reasons, including how to came to be in my possession and the meaning I now have come to associate with it through determining its origins. 

This tie-dye sun and moon maxi dress was found at a thrift store in Beacon, NY, back in 2017. I happened to stumble upon this dress through the many racks that the store had lined up from door to practically ceiling it felt like. To my surprise, upon first trying it on, I was taken aback that it fit me to a tee, unlike many thrift store finds as we all know are usually way too big or a tad too small. I knew at that moment this dress was made for me and I had to purchase it. Since that spring day nearly five years ago, I have had this dress and have worn it to many fun and memorable occasions.

I never before honestly thought about the life this dress had before me. Before I stumbled across this great find, it undoubtedly belonged to someone else who had discarded it and given it up to the thrift shop, but for what reason? There are no stains, rips, or tears, no visible reason I saw that someone would not want this beautiful attire anymore. Could it simply be that this person didn’t want it in their closet anymore or was cleaning out their wardrobe as so many of us have done with the changing of seasons? It wasn’t until I was searching for a tag on the dress itself, a marker of sorts to where the origins of this dress perhaps were. The search was futile but also, at the same time, eye-opening. There was no tag, no place where a label may have been or ever was. This can only mean one thing, and as a fellow creative, I knew that this dress was handmade. 

The tie-dye sun and moon fabric are unique, and you can tell that the background indigo fabric was, in fact, hand-dyed, and the stencils of the celestial beings are placed in different spots. This fabric itself is a handmade pattern that is unique unto itself. The rainbow-colored dyes used in both the moon and sun are rich and look as if they are from a tie-dye kit that includes all the primary ROYGBIV colors. As someone who has done the practice of tie-dye before, this is familiar to me, and after looking at it so close, it was something I recognized immediately. The buttons themselves have the fabric sewn onto them and are gently attached to the dress by a simple stitch using navy embroidery thread. It could be from the many times I have worn this dress or even perhaps from the life it had before me, but the thread that holds the button is very fragile and looks as if one or two of the buttons could detach at any second, adding that that handmade touch once more. The last detail that caught my eye was the hem of the dress. On the bottom, you can see that the hem isn’t perfectly straight and looks as if an amateur on a sewing machine was the one behind this creation. If this was a mass-produced dress, the hemlines would be perfectly level. The buttons would be securely fastened to the dress, and the fabric would not be as individualized as it is. Seeing and breaking down all of these details and coming to understand that this dress was made by a lovely artist was heartwarming to me.

The origins of the person are unknown to me, and since 2017, that thrift shop on Main Street in Beacon has closed its doors. I wonder if I had the opportunity to go back there and ask if any local up-and-coming fashion designers or even just everyday crafters had come looking to get their pieces out there, that maybe I could know who is responsible for this beautiful creation. I feel as if I will never truly know, but now I do know that I own a one-of-a-kind piece that I will keep with me forever. I always knew that I felt connected to this dress as if it was made just for me, and I like to think that maybe it really was.

Written in the Stars

Sun and Moon cross stitch pieces hanging on the wall
Close up of Moon Piece
Close up of the Sun Piece
Picture of the Pattern Booklet

Ever since I was little I can remember staring at these Sun and Moon frames hanging above my mother’s headboard. I always adored them but it wasn’t until they were gifted to me in 2018, that I understood their full meaning.

My grandmother, Mimi, as we call her loves to craft and do handmade projects. Knitting, cross-stitch, embroidery, you name it, she can and will make it for you. Long before I was a thought, my Mimi made my mother these celestial cross stitch pieces as a Christmas gift in 1994. These pieces were made from a pattern booklet, The Definitive Book of Celestial Designs, made in the early ’90s. These pattern booklets were all the rage back then and Mimi to this day has saved every single pattern she has ever made, a whole cabinet full to be exact. These pieces are made with what is called four-point cross-stitch and are a simple stitch in the embroidery world. These elaborate Sun and Moon pieces were made stitch by stitch, and as Mimi claims only took her a few weeks to complete. These pieces were then framed in an 8 x 8 wooden square frame which allows it to be hung up as a wall decoration. My grandfather, a handyman and antique dealer, found these frames at the garage sale and repaired them to fit. It was almost serendipitous how it all came together in time for Christmas morning. 

My mother has always had these hanging up since that day no matter where she is in life. They followed her to the first college dorm at SUNY Purchase, then transferred right along with her to SUNY New Paltz of all places. When I came along in 2000, I can remember them always in her room above the headboard, on the side by the window, and even hanging on the back of the door. I always loved them and admired them from afar never questioning where they came from or even knowing that my Mimi had made them. It wasn’t until I was getting ready to move to my first college dorm here at SUNY New Paltz that my mother gave them to me to hang up and told me the story of how they came to be. Since that day in 2018, I have had them in both of my college dorms and now in my apartment, they hang above my bed. 

These celestial pieces have become a sort of family heirloom and something I treasure dearly, but the meaning goes beyond just that. My Mother loves anything celestial and she has in more ways than one passed that love down to me. Both my mother and I were born on a full moon, and we are both Pisces. For us, this love of the celestial beings goes way beyond just being about the sun and moon, but rather is more about our connection, our love, and how in a way it was written in the stars. 

A Token of Good Luck

Pendant shown from the front with a penny for scale reference.
Pendant shown from the back showing the apparent wear and tear it has undergone.
Pendant shown from the side, showing the beveled edge and detailed inlay.

The object I have chosen to describe is my mother’s yin and yang pendant. This pendant was gifted to me when I was just thirteen and I have kept it safe and close all these years.

From an outside perspective, this pendant is no more than meets the eye. Having a circumference of just a little over 3.5 cm, it has a very large presence and makes a statement when worn. A petite neck like mine is not suited for such a large piece adorning my chest. My Mother, on the other hand, can adorn this necklace as if it was made for her, and maybe that is one of the reasons I adore it so much. The pendant has a beveled outer circle inlaid with an abstract pattern consisting of dots and lines. This texture can be felt with your fingertips if grazed slightly over feeling the ridges and dips of the metal. This base structure that the yin yang is placed on is a type of copper or nickel that at one point and time was silver plated. As the years have passed by, so has the once shiny and finished appearance of the pendant leaving it now with a worn and heavily loved appearance.

The yin and yang symbol itself sits a mere .75 cm from the base giving it the appearance of coming out of or towards the intended wearer. The symbol itself is made from Bakelite, a type of synthetic resin that was first used in the 1900s. Despite Bakelite’s advantages of being more durable than other synthetic plastics, the pendant has a chip or two showing great wear and tear on the upper left section of the black teardrop shape. This symbol is from Japanese culture and is an ancient symbol of harmony and balance in the natural world. This idea of balance and the natural ebb and flow in life is an idea that my mother whole heartily believes in and has passed those beliefs down to me.

The origins of this object are pretty much unknown to my mother for she acquired it at a flea market when she was just a teen. The quality of this object and the materials reflect the cheap and often stereotypical flea market qualities we all know, maybe some a little too well. However, this object despite its little to no material value has been with my mom through the fires and back, quite literally. My mother in her early twenty’s, a volunteer firefighter at the time, was battling one relentless and unforgiving fire. Amid everything the dainty delicate chain that once belonged to this pendant, broke in two, releasing the pendant from around her neck. When the flames were snuffed, my mother noticed quickly that her beloved pendant was gone. Later that day when she was taking off her steel-toed boots, on the bottom of her shoe, or the soul of her shoe rather, lied the pendant. The pendant survived the raging fires and as she tells it, helped keep her safe in one of the worst fires she had ever encountered.

With that being said this pendant has come to be a great token of good luck for both my mother and I.