The purpose of the society is to collect, preserve, and present to the public historical and cultural materials pertaining to Putnam County, especially the Philipstown area, the West Point Foundry, and the Hudson Highlands. To fulfill this mission, the society maintains and administers the Foundry School Museum and a research library. The museum organizes changing exhibitions, with accompanying catalogues, and provides educational programming for the public.
The Putnam County Historical Society was founded in 1906 by a group of prominent Philipstown residents and chartered the next year to be the first historical society in the county. Its dedicated early members were prominent Cold Spring residents: A. Augustus Healy, Gouverneur Paulding, William Henry Haldane, Robert Floyd-Jones, and William Wood. Galvanized by the desire to collect and preserve historical and cultural materials pertaining to Putnam County, especially the Philipstown area, and the Hudson Highlands, while both looking back to the nineteenth century and forward into the twentieth, the members initially concentrated on the assemblage of information related to many county families, the compilation of a list of local Civil War veterans, and a study of the milestones on the Putnam County segment of the New York to Albany Post Road. During these early years, the members met in private homes, where objects collected by the society were stored, as well as in libraries, where special programs were held.
In 1960, with funds from the estate of a longtime supporter, the noted writer Laura Spencer Porter Pope (1907-1957), the society acquired the Foundry School building, which was built in about 1830, enlarged in the 1860s, and used for the education of the foundry's teenage apprentices as well as its employees' children. In 1971, a wing was added to house the society's holdings related to the West Point Foundry. Since the establishment of this museum, the society's members, many of them extraordinarily informed about the history of the Highlands and the county, have continued to dedicate their time and talents as docents, researchers, and educators.
Today, the organization is known as The Putnam County Historical Society & Foundry School Museum (PCHS-FSM) and is owned by a not-for-profit corporation under the oversight of the Department of Education of the State of New York. PCHS-FSM is governed by a board of trustees composed mainly of local residents accomplished in business and the professions and is administered by a professional staff including, an executive director and a curator.