History of Physical and Digital Places

I will start with the physical place, Wassaic, a hamlet in Dutchess County, New York. The community’s name derives from the Native American word ‘Washaic,’ meaning “narrow valley.” This name is quite apt, considering that one can stand almost anywhere in town and see the rims towering above. European settlers first located the vicinity of the hamlet by following the Housatonic River located in adjacent modern-day Connecticut.

An early European settle, Richard Sackett, petitioned the English colonial government on March 11, 1703 to let him buy a parcel of land in the place he translated to the word ‘Washiack.” He was became colonial Dutchess County’s first country clerk in 1715. Graves for Revolutionary and Colonial era civilians dot the landscape of the Hudson River Valley.
During the later 18th and 19th centuries numerous mills operated in Wassaic. The industries operating the sites ran from steel and paper. The town also had a condensed milk factory which opened during the early Civil War. Outside Wassaic in the surround countryside, farmers raised sheep and cows and harvested grain Above is the former paper mill which now houses a nonprofit organization which educates about the history of Wassaic and its environs.
During the boom times of Wassaic, a handful of establishments for travelers opened. The current single eatery in town, the Lantern Inn (pictured above), opened in the late 19th century. Although the inn no longer acts as a lodge, the building now houses a pub which serves food whose ingredients originate from local farmers. The interior of the architectural gem is pictured below.

A single rail track juts through the center of town. Travel to Wassaic by rail was initiated by the New York and Harlem Railroad, which built the station in 1851. The station was a major reason for the opening of mid-century inns, such as the aforementioned Lantern. Tracks past Dover, a community south of Wassaic, were removed in the 1970s and it was only until the 1990s when Metro North extended the terminus of the Harlem line a few stations to its current northern end In Wassaic. The station is scenic two hour ride from Grand Central which runs nonstop only once a day.

Now let’s talk about the history of my digital place, Khan Academy.

In 2004, Salman Khan (above), began experimenting with using Yahoo Doodle as a way to engage visual learners when he tutored mathematics (as a math teacher myself, I can appreciate the new to come up with creative solutions tailored to these learners). He recorded videos of him solving math problems on the screen using Yahoo Doodle and posted them online. They garnered positive praise and he decided to start his namesake Khan Academy in 2008. The next year, he quit his job to solely focusing on creating video tutorials for the site. The organization now has dozens of content specialists which Khan Academy hires to create and edit the tutorials.

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