The New York State Conference

Written by: Denise Doring VanBuren, President General
October 9, 2019

While not an official visit, I had the pleasure of joining the New York Daughters for our 123rd State Conference in historic Albany at the end of September.  My mother was born in Albany in 1927, and generations of my family have been born and buried there. While I moved about 100 miles south 35 years ago, it is always a joy for me to return to this city on the Hudson to rekindle fond memories (especially of the women in my life).

Our annual state conference affords me the equally enjoyable opportunity to reconnect with other important women in my life:  those who so warmly welcomed me into DAR in 1988. These ladies represent the lasting friendships and bonds of solidarity that make active involvement in our organization so fulfilling.

And it was, indeed, a marvelous gathering of Daughters from across the Empire State. Though health concerns unfortunately kept our State Regent Wilhelmena Rhodes Kelly from presiding, our State Vice Regent Patrice Birner capably took the reins and steered us through a substantive and enjoyable weekend of meetings, workshops, tours and evening events that recharged our collective DAR battery. I’m delighted to share just a few highlights here.

First up was the treat of viewing the limited-time “Schuyler Sisters” exhibit at the Albany Institute of History and Art. Albany has a special connection to these women, as Alexander Hamilton married Eliza Schuyler in December 1780 at the home of her father, Revolutionary War General Peter Schuyler, here in the heart of our state capital. Never before have these amazing 600+ items been gathered in one place to honor Eliza and her sisters, who featured in the hit Broadway play Hamilton. Two personal favorites of many: Eliza’s gimmel wedding band and a portrait of Washington’s Headquarters at Newburgh that was restored through an NSDAR Special Projects Grant. It is wonderful that so many people have discovered this chapter in our nation’s history as a result of the Hamilton's popularity. 

The curatorial staff at the Institute readied a surprise from its collection for the Guests of Conference: the 1895 Charter of Albany’s storied Mohawk DAR Chapter (to which fourth President General Mary Margaretta Manning belonged). The charter is preserved in a unique “relic frame” decorated with blocks of wood from famous trees, objects and sites. What a privilege to explore this treasure. 

Next stop was historic Albany Rural Cemetery, with a personal tour of the 470-acre cemetery by its historian Paula Lenore and a visit to Mrs. Manning’s grave, which was official marked by then-President General Merry Ann T. Wright in 2012, when I served as New York State Regent. Our afternoon also included visits to the graves of U.S. Constitution signer William Paterson, General Schuyler and his daughter Peggy, whose resting place has become an attraction as a result of the Hamilton musical. Along the way we had the privilege of meeting Albany resident Tyler Kattein, a retired banker who devotes his free time to voluntarily cleaning hundreds of headstones and monuments. Their transformation is remarkable – and his community spirit is amazing.

The Guests of Conference tour also featured a delightful and delicious lunch courtesy of the ladies from my late mother’s chapter,  General Peter Gansevoort, at their 1755 Van Schaick Mansion. It was a thrill to dine in the home where Generals Schuyler, Arnold, Clinton and Gates planned the American advance at the Battle of Saratoga. I thank these ladies for both a great lunch and for being such proud and proper stewards of this historic property. 

In fact, I thank every Daughter who RISES up to support of our mission of historic preservation, education and patriotism – and I urge all of you to SHINE by telling other about the good works we do in communities across the nation and around the world.

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