Landscape History


"From the hilly tract that occupies from five to ten miles of the eastern part, the intermediate country is but gently undulated to the Hudson.  Ranges of small hillocks are interspersed with extensive plains or vallies..."
              - Horatio Gates Spafford describing Columbia County, 1824
                                       A Gazetteer of the State of New York

We live in a continously changing landscape.  Some characteristics, like the shape of the hills and quality of rocks, may change slowly over geological time.  Many of the other features of the local landscape, however, have changed rapidly with the changing nature of human settlement.


A Report on Landscape History

Forest, Field, and Freeway is a report we've put out that brings together diverse sets of demographic, socio-economic, agricultural, and ecological information on Columbia County through the centuries.  It tells one slice of this story of change through maps, graphs and an accompanying narrative.


A Columbia County Environmental Atlas

In 2010, we put this mini-atlas together with the editors of Our Town, the Claverack-based newspaper. It gives a generalized, map-based view of aspects of our county's history.


Columbia County/NYC Interactions: Flows of Nature, Agriculture, Ideas & People

This 'catalogue' describes the materials we presented at a November 2013 NYC event considering rural/City interactions.


1940's Aerial Photographs

One way we can quickly get an idea of more recent landscape history is from 1940's aerial photographs. This page describes how we use them and how you can access an image of your property or a parcel of interest. 


New Lebanon Shaker Village Landuse History

This page describes some preliminary work done by Kyle to better understand the Mt. Lebanon historical landscape. The page includes a PowerPoint presentation and Google Earth File. This article touches upon that history (together with that of Beebe Hill).


Historical (and Present) Grain Production and Processing

There are three enteries here: Anna's newspaper article surveying the history of grain production in Columbia County, another article she wrote on the history of local milling, and Conrad's article on wheat in the Hudson Valley.


The Sheep Boom and Other Woolly History

This is a KYPP Nugget that Anna wrote on the history of wool production in the County.



It's nothing new. See Anna's article surveying some of its history in the County.


Regional Land Use Change through the Eyes of Some of our Larger Mammals.

Our mammal fauna has changed substantially over the last 300 years; our mammals page surveys some of that.


Columbia County Ecocultural Regions

This KYPP Nugget describes and provides background on local ecocultural regions - areas which share certain ecological and historical commonalities.


Blog Postings

We have done a series of blogs on 20th century local literati around Harlemville, describing some of their observations of the landscape of decades ago, especially John Cowper Powys and Alan Devoe:

April 2011 posting

Nov. 2011 posting

Sept. 2012 posting

Jan. 2014 posting

A couple of other postings include land use of a few local spots: the Hillsdale train station and Phudd Hill. Finally, this posting profiles three 19th century regional naturalists who give us glimpses of our past landscape, and this posting discusses three of the powerful, landscape-shaping hurricanes which have hit our area.


Maps and Graphics

We have started indexing some of the maps and graphics that we have found and created over the years to help tell the story of changes in the landscape of Columbia County - feel free to explore!