Kingston Travel ItineraryKingston Travel Itinerary

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Mayor's Welcome
List of Sites
Dutch Colonization Essay
Revolution Essay
Transportation Essay
Kingston Urban Cultural Park Essay
Learn More


The National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places and the Kingston Urban Cultural Park proudly invite you to explore Kingston: Discover 300 Years of New York History. Established in 1652 as the third settlement in the Dutch colony of New Netherland, an active participant in the American Revolution, and a major river-port during New York's 19th-century canal and steamboat era, Kingston boasts a history that spans over 300 years. This National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary explores Kingston's rich history using 24 historic places that recall past eras when Dutch settlers and Native Americans warily shared river flood plains, when proud Revolutionaries and angry British armies walked its narrow streets, and when coal, limestone, and even patent medicines flowed through Kingston along the route of the Delaware and Hudson Canal.

Travelers through the itinerary will learn about such fascinating places as the Stockade Historic District. Built under the orders of Dutch Director General Peter Stuyvesant in 1658 when tensions flared between Native Americans and Dutch settlers, the Stockade area exists as Kingston's original colonial core. The Senate House, a New York State historic site, hosted the first meeting of New York's State Senate, but was later burnt by the British during the Burning of Kingston. You will visit the Fred J. Johnston House; sometimes called "Winterthur-on-the-Hudson," this building houses the antique collection of preservationist Fred J. Johnston. Visitors to the Rondout II Lighthouse can take a boat ride out to the site and will learn about one of its keepers, Catherine Murdock, who tended the lighthouse for over 50 years. You can drop by the Community (Broadway) Theater to see an example of America's movie palaces, or call the Ulster Performing Arts Center to catch a live show in this historic theater.

Kingston: Discover 300 Years of New York History offers numerous ways to discover the historic properties that played important roles in both the birth and development of Kingston and what is now New York State. Each property features a brief description of the site's significance, color and historic photographs, and public accessibility information. At the bottom of each page, the visitor will also find a navigation bar containing links to three essays concerning Kingston's role in Dutch Colonization, the American Revolution, and Transportation, as well as an essay describing the history and successes of Kingston's Urban Cultural Park/ Heritage Area program. These essays provide historical background, or "contexts," for many of the sites included in the itinerary.

Created through a partnership between the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places, the Kingston Urban Cultural Park, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO), and the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions (NAPC), Kingston: Discover 300 Years of New York History is the first example of a new and exciting cooperative project. As part of the Department of the Interior's strategy to revitalize communities by promoting public awareness of history and encouraging tourists to visit historic places throughout the nation, the National Register of Historic Places is cooperating with communities, regions, and Heritage Areas throughout the United States to create online travel itineraries. Using places listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the itineraries help potential visitors plan their next trip by highlighting the amazing diversity of this country's historic places and supplying accessibility information for each featured site. In the Learn More section, the itineraries link to regional and local web sites that provide visitors with further information regarding cultural events, special activities, and lodging and dining possibilities.

Kingston is the first of more than 30 communities and regions working directly with the National Register of Historic Places to create travel itineraries. Additional itineraries will debut online in the future. The National Register of Historic Places and the Kingston Urban Cultural Park hope you enjoy this virtual travel itinerary of Kingston's historic resources. If you have any comments or questions, please just click on the provided e-mail address, "comments or questions" located at the bottom of each page.

Dear Internet visitor,

Steeped in heritage and surrounded by the natural beauty of the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains, Kingston has much to offer the tourist, the vacationer and business people who seek to avoid the commercial atmosphere of our larger cities.

Located just off the New York Thruway, we bring the serenity of suburban living and the convenience of easy access by car, public transportation and water. We encourage you to visit us so you too can enjoy the unique experience of history melded with modern day accessibility.

As you browse this National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary of Kingston, please take note and consider it in your search for a rewarding vacation and business site.

From earliest colonial days, Kingston, the first capital of New York State, our stone houses, our magnificent waterfront, and our growing economic viability have attracted those interested in a leisurely visit or a long-term commitment the area. Some of the oldest buildings in the United States are located here. The original New York State Senate House, the Old Dutch Church, the Rondout II Lighthouse, the Fred J. Johnston House, and our stately Ulster Performing Arts Center (Community Theater) are but a few of Kingston's historic places ready to welcome you.

Our Stockade Historic District returns you to the 17th century and our country's infancy. Buildings have been restored and landmarks are clearly defined. Walking tours provide a firsthand look at the architecture and ambience of days long past. The Rondout Waterfront allows you to travel the river or simply sit in West Strand Park where you can be part of an atmosphere that cannot be equaled.

Kingston is proud that it has honed the ability to blend its development potential with its historic significance. High above our City, overlooking the Hudson River, stands our new Kingston Business Park, providing available industrial sites in an atmosphere that is bound to encourage commercial development. We consider it one the most attractive complexes of its kind, and invite prospective businesses to accept a guided tour through it with a representative of our Economic Development Office.

There is much to do and see in Kingston. As its Mayor, I welcome you and offer you the hospitality of our City. We hope you enjoy your Internet tour, and soon make plans to visit our city in person!

T.R. Gallo
Mayor of Kingston

List of Sites

1. Hoffman House
2. Senate House (State Historic Site)
3. Matthew Jansen House
4. Franz P. Roggen House
5. Kingston Academy
6. Matthew Person House
7. Ulster County Courthouse
8. Henry Sleight House (Wiltwyck
Chapter, DAR)

9. Fred J. Johnston House
10. Old Dutch Church
11. Community Theater (Broadway

12. Kingston City Hall
13. Kingston City Library
14. Chestnut Street Historic District
15. Cloverly
16. Rondout-West Strand Historic District
17. Dwyer House
18. Tubby Row
19. Ponchockie Union Church
20. Mansion House
21. Sampson Opera House (Daily Freeman

22. Kingston - Port Ewen Suspension Bridge
23. Rondout II Lighthouse

The Hoffman House is a Dutch Colonial style stone house built about 1679. An excellent example of early American-Dutch rubble construction, the Hoffman House displays several of the "prototypical" characteristics of Dutch Colonial housing. Since serious Dutch colonization in America occurred only from 1626 until 1664, and almost exclusively along the Hudson River between Albany and New Amsterdam (New York City), relatively few examples of Dutch colonial architecture exist in the United States. The Hoffman House, built after the British assumed control of New Netherland (New York State), reflects the survival of Dutch building traditions years after English colonists began pouring into New York. The building has remained basically unchanged since its initial construction, and the Hoffman family occupied the house for 201 years, until the late 19th century. In 1908, the property became the headquarters for the local Salvation Army Corps., who due to their programs of social work, spent little money restoring or modernizing the structure, and it fell into disrepair. In 1976, two local entrepreneurs obtained the site and rehabilitated the building for use as a restaurant. Whenever possible, all old usable material was salvaged and restored. The restoration replaced warped and damaged floors, reused original nails, and carefully reconditioned moldings, baseboards, mantels and door paneling. As one of the architectural highlights of Kingston's Stockade district, the Hoffman House vividly displays the long and varied history of the Dutch in America.

Hoffman House is located in the Stockade Historic District at 94 North Front Street, at the corner of Green Street. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. For more information call 845-338-2626.

Senate House State Historic Site

In 1777, a year after Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence proclaimed the 13 American colony's freedom from English rule, this limestone building housed the first meeting of New York's newly organized State Senate. A "government on the run" being chased north from New York City by the British Army, the state government moved to Kingston in February of 1777, and took up residence in the Ulster County Courthouse in order to create a formal state constitution. The delegates approved the state's first constitution in April of 1777, and held elections in June. While the Supreme Court remained in the Courthouse and the Assembly met in a local tavern, the Senate convened its first session in the generously-offered old stone home of Abraham VanGaasbeck. Built in 1676 only 12 years after the British assumed control of New York from the Dutch, the house reflects both the building traditions of the original Dutch colonists and the gradual acceptance of English construction styles. In October of 1777, after meeting in the Senate House for only a month, the Senate and the rest of the newly formed State government hastily fled Kingston when a British force sent north from New York City began plundering the Hudson Valley. On October 16, 1777, British forces swarmed through and set fire to every house in town as punishment for Kingston's role in supporting the Revolution. Both Kingston and Senate House were rebuilt, and over 100 years later, New York State acquired Abraham VanGaasbeck's home to recognize the role Senate House played in the American Revolution. Senate House quickly became a vital community museum, exhibiting a wide range of artwork, documents and historical objects donated by local residents. A two-story museum was constructed next door in 1927 to house and display this collection. The second building in New York preserved by the State for its historic value, the Senate House has been finished and restored to depict the building as it would have looked in 1777.

The Senate House is located in the Stockade Historic District at the corner of North Front Street and Clinton Avenue. The building and grounds are open to the public. Senate House staff provides guided tours. For more information call 845-338-2786.

Matthew Jansen House

The Matthew Jansen House, referred to locally as the "House of Doctors," boasts sturdy limestone construction with 20-inch thick walls. Originally built before the Revolutionary War, British troops attempted to burn this home and much of the rest of Kingston on October 16, 1777, as punishment for the town's role in housing and protecting the newly formed New York State government. With only the walls remaining, the home was rebuilt by 1796, as the residence of several of Kingston's doctors. At some point in the 19th century, a small addition was added to the right side of the building and used as a doctor's office, making it an attractive and convenient property for doctors moving into the community. The decorations that adorn the house testify to its old age--architectural components from several different eras, like cornice modillions and pediment door overhangs, are mixed in with original elements like the six-panel "Dutch Doors." In the 20th- century, the Matthew Jansen House has been used as a print shop as well as a music studio, but has been recently restored, and is now once again used as a private residence. With its massive limestone walls, and Dutch and English architectural influences, the Matthew Jansen House is one of the finest historical houses in Kingston.

The Matthew Jansen House is located in the Stockade Historic District at the corner of John Street and Crown Streets. The property is a private residence and not open to the public.

Swiss immigrant Franz P. Roggen built this Dutch Colonial style house shortly after his arrival in Kingston in 1750, but it is the property's place in local mythology and legend that differentiates this house from the other Dutch Colonial architecture located in the Stockade Historic District. After the British burned Kingston in 1777 in retaliation for the town's role in supporting the American Revolution and the new State government of New York, the interior of the Roggen house was completely gutted and remained in ruins until 1800. It is during this time that the Roggen House began its role in local legend, when the remaining beams of the original building were purportedly used as a gallows site. The "hanging beams" were incorporated into the house's reconstruction, contributing to the building's "haunted" status. After many years as a residence, the Roggen House is now occupied by a securities firm that has adapted the interior for business purposes while maintaining the historic integrity of the exterior.

The Franz P. Roggen House is located in the Stockade Historic District at the corner of John and Crown Streets. The property is not open to the public.

Kingston Academy

Constructed in 1774, Kingston Academy illustrates the importance that American colonists placed on education. Founded by the trustees of the freeholders of the City of Kingston, Kingston Academy instructed students in the "learned languages"--Latin and other romance languages--as well as basic mathematics, sciences, and the arts. Only 3 years after the school's opening, however, the British burned the academy and the rest of Kingston to the ground, suspending teaching until 1778. John Vanderlyn, one of the academy's most famous students studied here in the late 1780s and early 1790s, completing his studies in 1791. Vanderlyn, who has many of his paintings on display in the Senate House, is perhaps most famous for the Landing of Columbus, located in the Rotunda of the Capitol in Washington, DC. The building continued its role as a school until 1830, when the city constructed a larger academy on what is now known as Academy Green. Like so many other of the buildings in the Stockade Historic District, the Kingston Academy has had many different owners and uses; in the 19th century a cabinet maker worked out of the building, and in the early 20th century a local newspaper, The Kingston Daily Leader, used the building as a print shop. Today, radio station WGHQ occupies the second floor, and a restaurant operates on the ground floor.

The Kingston Academy is located in the Stockade Historic District at 82 John Street, at the corner of Crown Street. The ground floor is currently occupied by a restaurant and is open to the public. For more information, call 845-340-9895.

This Dutch Colonial house, on the southeast corner of John and Crown Streets is a 17th-century remnant of the days just after Kingston and the rest of the Dutch colony of New Netherland came under British control. Sergeant Matthew Person arrived in Kingston in 1663 while under the command of Dutch Army Captain Martin Kregier, when the Dutch military came to rescue several white hostages that Esopus Indians had kidnaped and held captive. When the Dutch forces disbanded after the British captured New Amsterdam (New York City) and the rest of New Netherland in 1664, Person decided to settle in Kingston, although many of his countryman left America and returned to the Netherlands. Several generations of the Person family occupied the house until the 1820s, when the building was converted for use as a public house. Later, Dr. John Goodwin took up residence, and added a wing for use as a drug store and grocery. Around 1900, the entire property passed to Ulster County, and has since been used for offices of the 4-H club, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the Agricultural Department. This building is one of four pre-Revolutionary War buildings located on the corner of John and Crown Streets.

The Matthew Person House is located in the Stockade Historic District at 74 John Street, at the corner of Crown Street. The Cornell Cooperative Extension occupies the building, which is open to the public.

Ulster County Courthouse

Buildings on this site have housed the activities of county and State officials since 1683. The present Ulster County Courthouse, constructed in 1789, has played a key role in both local and New York State history. Although Kingston was founded by Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant in 1658 as a Dutch fort on the Hudson River, the British took over New York in 1666. When the County of Ulster was formed in 1683, the city had a two-story stone building constructed on Wall Street to serve as a jail, courthouse, and related county offices. During the Revolutionary War, this courthouse played a pivotal role in the formation of New York State's first government. After the British captured New York City in 1776, the patriots charged with creating a new State constitution fled New York City and eventually arrived in Kingston in February of 1777. The delegates, led by John Jay, took up residence in the Ulster County Courthouse, and convened a constitutional convention, and approved a new constitution in April of 1777. In September, with the Assembly meeting in a local tavern and the Senate meeting in Abraham VanGaasbeck's old stone house, the New York State Supreme Court opened its first term in the Courthouse. A month later, however, New York's newly elected government once again became "a government on the run," when British General Vaughan and 1600 British regulars arrived and burned Kingston to the ground. The city slowly rebuilt, and in 1789, the city replaced the courthouse with a larger two-story stone structure that is currently the center of the Ulster County court system. Several important events occurred in this courthouse as well; Sojourner Truth, the famous abolitionist and women's rights activist, successfully saved her son from slavery by arguing his case here. In 1997, the county spent $5.5 million renovating the building's interior to improve courtroom facilities, heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical service. Mindful of the Courthouse's historical significance, conservators also carried out exterior upgrading without compromising the building's historic integrity. Ulster County now possesses one of the finest and most historic court facilities in New York.

The Ulster County Courthouse is located in the Stockade Historic District at 285 Wall Street. The building is open to the public with certain access restrictions.

Henry Sleight House

The Henry Sleight House, a beautiful example of Dutch Colonial and English Colonial building styles, was built prior to 1695 on a triangular lot within the stockade district. Burned by the British along with the rest of the Stockade, the house was later rebuilt and occupied by Village President Hendricus (Henry) Sleight. Like many of the other buildings within the Stockade District, the Sleight House has been used for many different purposes, but by 1900, the Sleight House had fallen into neglect and was in danger of being demolished. The Wiltwych Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution saved the building from destruction, and paid for the complete restoration of the building's interior and exterior. The Daughters of the American Revolution was founded in 1890 and incorporated by an Act of Congress in 1896. The DAR works today to "perpetuate the memory and spirit of the men and women who achieved American Independence" by supporting diverse avenues of knowledge--schools, scholarships and museums--and through far-reaching efforts to promote American freedom, traditions and citizenship. Historic preservation has long been a priority for the DAR and the stewardship of American history continues into the present. Offering tours by appointment and genealogical research resources, the Wiltwych Chapter's ownership and care of the Sleight House exemplifies how preservation efforts can benefit a community.

The Henry Sleight House is located in the Stockade Historic District at 3 Crown Street, at the corner of Green Street. It is open to the public by appointment only.

Fred J. Johnston House

Originally built in 1812, this carefully restored residence is an excellent example of the Federal style, and houses an unparalleled antique collection. The Federal style dominated American architecture from around 1780 to 1820, and the Johnston House possesses many of the decorative features that identify it as a "classic" Federal style building. The elliptical fanlight above the front door is a trait typical to virtually every Federal style home. The very regular and strict symmetrical placement of the windows are a typical characteristic as is their six-over-six pane configuration of each window. Another classic Federal style trait found at the Johnston House are the tooth-like projections located just under the cornice; called dentils or modillions, these projections vary somewhat with each house, but the Johnston House possesses simple, unelaborated blocks. The Johnston House was originally built by John Sudam, a lawyer, a two-term State senator, and a New York State Regent, but the house is best known today as the Fred J. Johnston Museum. Fred Johnston began his career in antiques and restoration in 1936, when as a young architectural draftsman he met Henry F. du Pont, who had just started his own museum, the now-famous Winterthur Museum. Impressed by Johnston's aesthetic sensibilities, du Pont made Johnston one of Winterthur's first consultants. After finishing several period rooms for the Winterthur, Johnston stopped the planned construction of a gas station here in Kingston in 1938, saving what would become the Fred J. Johnston House from destruction. For 60 years, Johnston built-up an antique business specializing in 18th and early 19th century furnishings and decorative arts. Called a "small Winterthur-on-Hudson" the Fred J. Johnston collection contains exemplary pieces of furniture such as chests, secretaries, Hudson Valley chairs, American glassware and pottery, and Staffordshire porcelain and pictorial needlework. In 1993, Johnston deeded his property to Friends of Historic Kingston, ensuring that his home and his collection will continue to be shared with visitors as a museum.

The Fred J. Johnston House is located in the Stockade Historic District at 63 Main Street near the corner of Wall Street. It is located near the historic Old Dutch Church as well as the Ulster County Courthouse. The building is open to the public. For more information, call 845-339-0720.

Built in 1852 and located in the core of Kingston's Stockade district, the Old Dutch Church is the fourth building to serve a congregation that has existed since 1659. Under the direction of Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant, the City of Kingston was created as a fort, or a "stockade," to protect Dutch settlers from the raids of Native Americans. Religion was an important part of colonial life, and although many settlers came to America for personal gain, others came to New Netherland (later to become New York) to freely practice their religion of choice. The most religiously heterogeneous of the American colonies, New Netherland of the 1650s and 1660s included a wide range of religious sects, including Dutch Reformed, Lutherans, English Congregationalist, Quakers, and Jews. The congregation that today makes up the Old Dutch Church formed in 1659, just a year after the completion of the Stockade. The church grew along with the rest of Kingston, and in 1852, the present bluestone church was erected at a cost of $33,631.39. Designed by Minard Lafever, a New York ecclesiologist, the Old Dutch Church displays both Egyptian and Greek influences, which are both recognizable elements in the general architectural style known as Renaissance Revival. Lafever consistently implemented a round-arched treatment throughout the building, and the interior's vaulted ceiling reflects some of English architect Sir Christopher Wren's themes detailed in London's St. Paul's Cathedral. The fourth church situated on this site, the congregation has conscientiously conserved and restored all of the original church records of baptism, marriages, and minutes. Located outside the church is the congregation's historic cemetery, as well as a monument to George Clinton, a Brigadier General in the Revolutionary War, and the first governor of New York State.

Old Dutch Church is located in the Stockade Historic District at 272 Main Street, at the corner of Wall Street. Tours of the building are available by appointment. For more information, call 845-338-6759.

When it opened on June 9, 1927, reporters hailed the Kingston Community Theater as the most beautiful theater between New York City and Buffalo. Thomas Edison first introduced "Motion Pictures" to Americans in 1896. By the 1910s, opportunistic playhouse managers grasped their money-making potential--Americans would pay for the chance to escape from their ordinary lives into the movies' glamorous worlds of drama, beauty, and wealth--and theaters built specifically to show movies soon appeared throughout the United States. Built during the "Roaring 20s," Kingston's Community Theater is smaller than the giant "Movie Palaces" of large American cities, but architect Douglas Hall made every effort to decorate the theater very sumptuously, and the Community Theater, designed with an elaborate Neo-Classical motif, projects an aura of extravagance and fantasy that adds to the illusions that appeared on the theater's stage and movie screen. The interior of the theater is richly decorated, with fluted Corinthian columns and an entablature above the stage featuring sculpted lions' heads, steer skulls, and elaborate leaf, egg and dart molding. Although other theaters and opera houses operated in Kingston, only the Community Theater survived thirty tumultuous years that witnessed the Great Depression of the 1930s, the hardships of World War II, and the advent of television, all of which affected movie attendance. By the 1950s, the Community Theater remained the only theater in Kingston, a role it did not relinquish until shopping mall theaters were constructed in the 1960s on Kingston's suburban edges. One of only three pre-World War II theaters located in the Hudson Valley, the Ulster Performing Arts Center purchased the building in 1979, brought live large scale performances back to the theater, and embarked upon a restoration of the grand old theater that continues to the present.

The Community Theater, now known as UPAC, is located at 601 Broadway. Call 845-339-6088 at the box office for entertainment information.

A fine example of Victorian architecture, Kingston City Hall stands as a prominent landmark at the community's center. It is a prime expression of the growing wealth and economic importance of the city during the canal and steamboat era of the mid-19th century. At the time of City Hall's construction in 1872, Kingston--an established town since the late 1600s--and Rondout--a small but booming village due to its prime location just off the Hudson and the terminus for the Delaware and Hudson Canal--had just consolidated and incorporated as the City of Kingston. Situated directly on the boundary line between Kingston and Rondout, the location of the city hall was a model of compromise. Erected to serve the new city, construction began during a period of economic hyperactivity in the area's development; Kingston had just been designated the county seat, the area was one of the nation's primary sources for bluestone and cement; it served as a terminal of the Delaware and Hudson Canal, and three Railroads intersected in the middle of town. The lively architecture of the building reflects the community's prosperity and optimism for the future--continuous white brick belt courses break up the red-brick exterior, entry ways are marked with elaborate sculpture and carvings, and a prominent bell tower provides a dramatic and commanding view of the entire town. In 1927, the bell tower underwent alteration after a fire, and certain expensive-to-maintain decorative elements have been removed, but the building today remains largely unaltered. The Kingston City Hall served as the town's municipal office exactly 100 years, until 1972, when the city offices moved to a new city hall. The City of Kingston has recently completed an exstenvise restoration and renovation, and in now reoccupied by the city government.

The Old City Hall is located at 408 Broadway, across from Kingston High School. The building is presently not open to the public.

Kingston City Libary

The Kingston City Library, situated near other prominent municipal buildings in the city, is a vivid reminder of one of the 20th century's most remarkable philanthropic efforts. In 1853, at the age of 18, Andrew Carnegie began work for the Pennsylvania Railroad as a telegrapher. With several shrewd investments, Carnegie soon found himself a wealthy man, but did not begin to accumulate his staggering fortune until he opened his first steel mills in the 1870s. In 1901, Carnegie became the world's richest man when he sold the Carnegie Steel Company for $450 million dollars (approximately $ 8.6 billion today.) During his years as a giant of American industry, Carnegie established a reputation for ruthlessness, instructing his business partners to brutally put down union strikes and repeatedly slash the wages of the workers who made him rich. After the sale of Carnegie Steel, Carnegie threw his full energies into philanthropy and peace, perhaps hoping that donating his wealth to charitable causes would mitigate the grimy details of its accumulation. In the public memory, he may have been correct. Today he is most remembered for his generous gifts of music halls, educational grants, and nearly 3000 public libraries. Kingston, like communities throughout the United States, decided to accept Carnegie's offer to pay for the construction of a free public library. To receive funds, Kingston had to furnish the site, preferably in the center of town, and agree to fund the library at ten percent of its cost per year. Kingston agreed, and in 1902 received $30,000 for the construction of a city library. An excellent example of the Classical Revival style that Carnegie architects used for many of the Carnegie libraries throughout the United States, the building was constructed of polished brown "Norman" brick and rests on a rough bluestone foundation. The entrances central pediment is supported by a pair of Ionic columns, and the frieze features a floral and book motif, reflecting the building's use as a library. The Kingston City Library has been used steadily throughout the 20th century, but was vacated in 1977 when library collections outgrew the building. Now owned by the Kingston Consolidated School System, suggestions have been made to use the building as a student computer center, a use Andrew Carnegie very well might have endorsed.

The old Kingston City Library is located at 399 Broadway, next to the Kingston High School. The building is currently not open to the public.

Chestnut Street Historic District

The middle and upper-class homes of the Chestnut Street Historic District, built during the area's rapid mid-1800s growth, illustrate the wealth and prosperity that new transportation opportunities brought to Kingston. In 1828, with the completion of the Delaware and Hudson Canal, the small village of Rondout began its role as the canal's Hudson River terminus. In the next few decades, Rondout prospered and grew as the village became one of the major shipment points for coal, shipbuilding, bricks, cement, and the locally quarried bluestone. The Chestnut Street Historic District began its development around 1855 as the neighborhood of Rondout's middle and upper classes, the people who owned, managed, and prospered from the banks, stores, and factories created by the Rondout's emergence as a transportation hub. Consisting of elaborate houses built onto the hills overlooking the Rondout Creek, the Chestnut Street Historic District contains houses illustrating the wide range of high style architecture popular from before the Civil War up until World War I. For example, in the 1860s, Dr. Abraham Crispell had a home built in the Italianate style after he returned from service in the Civil War as a surgeon, but by the 1870s, many of the area's new industrialists, like Peter Phillips who was superintendent of shipping for the Delaware and Hudson Canal, had homes built in the popular mansard-roofed Second Empire style. In comparison, large Queen Anne style homes like "Cloverly" were built in the area during the 1890s, and by the twentieth century, the upper class residents of the area were building Tudor Revival style houses. Relatively unchanged since the 1920s, a tour through the Chestnut Street Historic District is simultaneously a lesson in architectural history and the social values of middle and upper-class New Yorkers.

The Chestnut Street Historic District runs along the 100 blocks of West and East Chestnut Streets, intersecting the 200 block of Broadway. The buildings of the district are private residences and not open to the public.

One of the most remarkable buildings in the Chestnut Street Historic District, "Cloverly" was built in the mid-1890s for James VanDeusen, part owner of VanDeusen Brothers, a wholesale drug firm that made "VanDuesen's Ready Remedy" and other "patent" medicines. The Chestnut Street District consists of large houses built for the middle and upper-class beneficiaries of the prosperity created by the Rondout area's role as a Hudson River Valley transportation center. Subsequent owners of the house were engaged in the shipping business, banking and manufacturing interests of the Rondout area. Cloverly is an excellent reflection of the area's late 19th-century exuberant growth and prosperity. Aesthetically, Cloverly offers a rich mix of architectural styles and influences. The gambrel roof of the main section is a Dutch Colonial Revival stylistic feature, but projecting wings are topped with the slanted Second Empire style mansard roofs. Other decorative features point to the earlier Italianate style, while columns, and Palladian windows suggest the influence of the more formal Colonial Revival style. A tower perches on the left side of this amazingly varied building, an obvious element of the Queen Anne style. Over 100 fan-lights, portals, and casement windows adorn Cloverly. Recently restored, Cloverly stands near the top of a hill overlooking the Rondout area, commanding an impressive view of the transportation hub that made its construction possible.

Cloverly is located at 70 West Chestnut Street, within the West Chestnut Street Historic District. The building is a private residence and not open to the public.

Roudout-West Strand Historic District
Through its mix of residential, commercial, and religious architecture, the Rondout-West Strand Historic District illustrates the dynamic and booming prosperity a river could bring to a small town in the 19th century. Located just a few miles south of fertile flood-plains of the Esopus Creek where Dutch settlers built the Stockade Historic District, other Dutch colonists established the small village of Rondout near the confluence of Rondout Creek and the Hudson River. With a larger population and economy, the town of Kingston dominated the area until the 18th century--a description of Rondout in 1776 described the area as "a mere dependency of Kingston." Rondout businessmen were acutely aware of their strategic location on the Hudson River, but repeatedly failed to build up the area as a major transportation hub. In 1828, the Delaware and Hudson Canal linked the Pennsylvania coal fields to the Hudson River (and therefore New York City), and Rondout was chosen as the link from canal to river. River traffic increased exponentially, and Rondout underwent a complete transformation. Growing from a tiny population in 1820, by 1840 the village had a population of 1500; 200 hundred houses, 2 churches, 6 hotels and taverns, 25 businesses, 3 freight companies, a tobacco factory, four boatyards, and the main offices of the Delaware and Hudson Canal. By 1855, the town had over 6,000 residents, larger by 2000 than its neighbor, Kingston. In 1872, the two towns incorporated into the City of Kingston, and the entire area continued to prosper until 1899, when the Delaware and Hudson Canal closed. A new transportation technology, the railroad, was more dependable than seasonal canals, and the Delaware and Hudson transformed itself into a railroad company, leaving Rondout behind. Today, the Rondout-West Strand Historic District, part of the Kingston Urban Cultural Park Heritage Area, constitutes a remarkable set of historic business, residential, and industrial buildings, representing the full breadth of mid-19th-century styles and types.

The Rondout-West Strand Historic District is roughly bounded by Broadway, Mcentee, Dock and West Strand Streets. Many of the buildings of the district are businesses and open to the public.

The Robert V. Dwyer House is an example of the prosperity and population influx that the completion of the Delaware and Hudson Canal brought to Kingston. In With the completion of the Delaware and Hudson Canal in 1828, the small village of Rondout began its role as the canal's Hudson River terminus. In the next few decades, Rondout prospered and grew as the village became one of the major shipment points for coal, shipbuilding, bricks, cement, and the locally quarried bluestone. In the mid-1800s, Robert J. Dwyer arrived in Kingston as one of the businessmen hoping to cash in on the wealth of the booming Rondout area. Dwyer, however, did not commit fully to the Rondout area, but also continued to operate his original business holdings in the city of New Orleans. For several years, Dwyer divided his work between the Rondout area in the spring, summer and fall, and then moving back down to the warmth of New Orleans in the winter. By the 1870s, the Dwyer family businesses had expanded into several facets of the Rondout's river-related enterprises; ship-building, towing, shipping, the sale of equipment for outfitting sailing ships, and even the sale of ice houses (a large winter industry in Rondout). Indicating his obvious prosperity, Dwyer had this house built in the 1890s. Another of Kingston's architecturally eclectic residences, this house incorporates several different design elements, including a gambrell-roofed portico, ornate Corinthian columns, and other classical details. Built on a hill overlooking the Rondout Creek and Hudson River, one can very well imagine Robert Dwyer gazing over his business holdings and the rivers that brought him his livelihood.

The Robert V. Dwyer House is located within the West Strand-Rondout Historic District at 6 Rogers Street. The property is a private residence and not open to the public.

It is tempting to look only to the large, impressive homes of the Chestnut Street Historic District for evidence of the growth the Delaware and Hudson Canal brought to Kingston, but historic places like Tubby Row are important reminders that most people did not live in such elegance. In 1828, with the completion of the Delaware and Hudson Canal, the small village of Rondout began its role as the canal's Hudson River terminus. In the next few decades, Rondout prospered and grew as the village became one of the major shipment points for coal, shipbuilding, bricks, cement, and the locally quarried bluestone. The Tubby family arrived in the Rondout area in the 1840s, when the village had grown from a tiny hamlet to one with a population of 1500, 200 houses, two churches, six hotels and taverns, 25 businesses, three freight companies, a tobacco factory, four boatyards, and the main offices of the Delaware and Hudson Canal. Although shipping magnates and agents of the Delaware and Hudson built large houses in the Chestnut Street Historic District, the laborers who worked on the docks and shipyards of the Rondout area lived in much smaller residences, many of which still line the streets of the Rondout/ West Strand Historic District. Filling a need for affordable working-class housing, the Tubby family had this Second Empire style rowhouse built in the 1860s, another facet of the wealth and prosperity that the Delaware and Hudson Canal brought to the Rondout area. The building consists of six attached houses, each three bays wide. A patterned slate mansard roof runs the length of the building, and all the windows are adorned with plain stone sills and heavy molded lintels. The building's rear descends one full story, creating a basement level built into the side of the hill. Retaining its original elements, Tubby Row is the only rowhouse of its type and style in the Rondout-West Strand Historic District, an important remnant of Kingston's 19th-century population explosion.

Tubby Row is located within the Rondout/ West Strand Historic District at the corner of Hone and Spring Streets. The building contains seven private apartments and is not open to the public.

Ponckhockie Union Congregational Church

The Ponckhockie Union Congregational Church is a very early example of a revolutionary construction technique that eventually transformed the appearance of cities all over the world. Around the end of the 19th century, architects began using steel-reinforced concrete as a building material, lending their designs the structural strength to soar to heights previously thought impossible. The use of cement dates back to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, but it wasn't until the early 19th century that industrialized nations began mass-producing the material. In the United States, factories were built wherever large deposits of limestone and transportations routes closely coincided. Kingston, with its abundance of limestone, and its proximity to the Hudson River, was an excellent spot to start a cement business. In 1845, the Newark Lime and Cement Company began removing and burning limestone from behind the Ponckhockie section in the eastern part of Rondout. This thriving business hollowed out the hill there while producing natural cement which was then transported down the Hudson to New York City. In 1870, reflecting the late 19th-century paternalistic view many companies took towards employees, the Newark Lime and Cement Company erected the Ponckhockie Union Chapel as a non-denominational Sunday school for its workers' families. Built of poured concrete constituted from locally mined natural cement and crushed bluestone aggregate, the structure incorporates rudimentary iron-reinforcing rods and plates in its buttresses, and an ingenious cold-air conditioning system installed within the walls. In 1915, the church organized as the Ponckhockie Union Congregational Church, and purchased the property from the cement company. Foreshadowing the giant skyscrapers that would eventually be built with reinforced concrete, a towering 220-foot tower originally adorned the front of the church. The unfinished surface of the concrete tower deteriorated rapidly however, forcing its removal in 1965. Despite the loss of the tower, the revolutionary construction materials of the church makes it the earliest known example of reinforced concrete in New York State, and easily one of the most interesting.

The Ponckhockie Union Congregational Church is located within the Kingston Urban Cultural Heritage Area at 91 Abruyn Street, near the corner of Delaware Avenue. The property is open to the public.

The 100-room Mansion House was built in 1854 by real estate developer George F. VonBeck. The completion of the Delaware and Hudson Canal in 1828 brought new goods and materials through Rondout, but it also brought masses of people. Some switched their residences to the Rondout and Kingston area, but obviously many more just passed through as travelers. VonBeck built the Mansion House just as the Rondout area began to really grow--in 1840 the town had 1500 residents, by 1855 the town boasted a population of 6,000--hoping to capitalize on Rondout's location as a stopping-off place for steamboat and stagecoach passengers, as well as for semi-permanent residences for the performers of the area's opera houses. Long considered a luxury hotel, the Mansion House is located directly across the street from the Samspon Opera House. The two largest commercial buildings in the Rondout-West Strand Historic District, both buildings are Italianate in style, which is often considered the basic 19th-century American commercial architecture. In the 20th-century, the decline of shipping in the Hudson River Valley (the Delaware and Hudson canal became a railroad) affected the entire Rondout area, and the Mansion House was forced to close in the 1960s. In 1986, when the Rondout area experienced a rebirth, a developer began a restoration of this magnificent building. Today three ground-level storefronts occupy the first floor, and apartments are located on the floors above. With the revival of businesses on the Rondout waterfront, the Mansion House is an excellent example of the adaptive reuse of a 145 year-old historic building.

The Mansion House is located within the Rondout-West Strand Historic District at 11 Broadway. Shops and restaurants occupy the ground floors, and are open to the public.

Since the mid-19th century, the Sampson Opera House has been one of the Rondout area's most prominent commercial buildings. As the trade routes established by the Delaware and Hudson Canal increased the flow of goods and materials through the Hudson River Valley from 1828 on, service and commercial buildings began to emerge in the Rondout area to support the growing population. In 1851, a German-born Jewish businessman, Israel Sampson arrived in Rondout and built the Sampson Opera House. Originally a four-story Italianate commercial building, the top floor was constructed with wood and housed an Opera House. Sampson ran a very successful clothing business out of the first floor, and his sons later expanded the business, turning the store into a chain, and opening shops in nearby towns. By 1874, the ground floor had been subdivided into 5 shops, and another Jewish clothier, Morris Solomon, had a business in the Sampson building when a fire struck the building. Seeking to take advantage of the chaos, a mob gathered and looted Solomon's store, carrying off all of his merchandise. The Mayor of Rondout deputized policeman to halt the looting, but such efforts were unsuccessful, and the city ended up paying Solomon $3002 for the damage done to his business. By 1875 the entire building was reopened for commercial tenants, and a fourth floor, housing the new Sampson Opera House was added. Only ten years later in 1885, another fire gutted the building, destroying the Opera House, which was never rebuilt. In the 20th century, Kingston's leading newspaper, The Daily Freeman, took up residence in the building, staying there until 1974. In the 1980s, the Rondout area experienced a rebirth, and the anchor of the downtown district, the Sampson Opera House, was fully restored by a developer, with two restaurants occupying the first floor, and apartments located in the upper floors.

The Sampson Opera House is located at 1 Broadway within the Rondout-West Strand Historic District. The ground-level currently houses restaurants and is open to the public for lunch and dinner.

Built in 1921 to complete New York's first north-south automobile highway along the Hudson River's West Shore, the Kingston-Port Ewen suspension bridge is an important engineering accomplishment associated with the development of early motoring. A prominent visual landmark, nothing could have pleased the citizens of Kingston and their cross-creek neighbors of Port Ewen more than when the bridge finally opened. For decades, those who wished to cross the creek at the South entrance to Kingston had to embark on a chain ferry named the Skillypot, a derivative of a Dutch word for tortoise, which the ferry resembled. The concept of a bridge spanning the Rondout Creek stemmed from local dissatisfaction with the Skillypot's sporadic service. Hampered by local political and financial difficulties, construction on the bridge was put off until 1916, when the material demands of World War I deferred construction again until 1920. Construction began again in 1920, and slowly the 1,145-foot suspension bridge took form, linking both sides of the water with a roadway 85 feet above the creek. The construction of the bridge took about 1 year, during which the contractors employed a woman as a welder--commonplace during World War II, but unheard of in 1920. Ten thousand people attended the bridge's dedication on November 2, 1921. Eventually, the emerging dominance of the automobile would circumvent Kingston's roles as a transportation center. Today, the Kingston-Port Ewen suspension bridge still offers transportation across the Rondout Creek, a permanent and impressive blend of engineering and art.

The Kingston-Port Ewen Suspension Bridge crosses the Rondout Creek at the foot of Wurts Street, linking Kingston to the hamlet of Port Ewen.

The Hudson River, navigable to ships for 140 miles inland, provided an important commercial waterway into the continent via its western tributary, the Mohawk River. Substantial ship traffic warranted the establishment of a light station to mark the Kingston Harbor entrance at the mouth of Rondout Creek in 1837. The first tower, a flimsy wooden structure, survived until 1867 when it was replaced with "Rondout I", a bluestone house with a granite tower enclosed within the northeast corner. When the harbor entrance was realigned, the current lighthouse, "Rondout II", was built in 1915. Constructed of yellow brick on a foundation of concrete and 50-foot wooden pilings, the two-and-a-half story house has two cisterns for collecting rain water located in the basement level.

One of the station's keepers, Catherine Murdock, served for half a century (1857-1907). She replaced her husband who drowned while bringing supplies to the station. In addition to keeping the light, Mrs. Murdock rescued several seamen and entertained 20 to 30 visitors who came daily to climb the tower during pleasant summer weather. Winters, however, were "cold and dreary," punctuated by "heavy and perilous storms." Her son James became her assistant keeper in 1880, succeeded her as official keeper in 1907, serving until 1915.

Keepers no longer tend the light at Rondout Creek; it was automated in 1954. The U.S. Coast Guard has replaced the sixth-order Fresnel lens with a modern optic and leases the structure to the Hudson River Maritime Museum which is renovating the property and providing public access through tours.

The Rondout II Lighthouse, located within the Kingston Urban Cultural Park Heritage Area, is only accessible by boat. Daily excursion boat tours are scheduled during the summer months by the Hudson River Maritime Museum located at 1 Rondout Landing in Kingston.

Dutch Colonies

Although the Netherlands only controlled the Hudson River Valley from 1609 until 1664, in that short time, Dutch entrepreneurs established New Netherland, a series of trading posts, towns, and forts up and down the Hudson River that laid the groundwork for towns that still exist today. Fort Orange, the northernmost of the Dutch outposts, is known today as Albany; New York City's original name was New Amsterdam, and the New Netherland's third major settlement, Wiltwyck, is known today as Kingston. Unlike New York City and Albany, however, where the traces of colonization can be difficult to find, in Kingston, the history of New York's Dutch colonization is quite evident.

In 1609, two years after English settlers established the colony of Jamestown in Virginia, the Dutch East India Company hired English sailor Henry Hudson to find a northeast passage to India. After unsuccessfully searching for a route above Norway, Hudson turned his ship west and sailed across the Atlantic. Hudson hoped to discover a "northwest passage," that would allow a ship to cross the entirety of the North American continent and gain access to the Pacific Ocean, and from there, India. After arriving off the coast of Cape Cod, Hudson eventually sailed into the mouth of a large river, today called the Hudson River. Making his way as far as present-day Albany before the river became too shallow for his ship to continue north, Hudson returned to Europe and claimed the entire Hudson River Valley for his Dutch employers.

After unsuccessful efforts at colonization, the Dutch Parliament chartered the "West India Company," a national-joint stock company that would organize and oversee all Dutch ventures in the Western Hemisphere. Sponsored by the West India Company, 30 families arrived in North America in 1624, establishing a settlement on present-day Manhattan. Much like English colonists in Virginia, however, the Dutch settlers did not take much of an interest in agriculture, and focused on the more lucrative fur trade. In 1626, Director General Peter Minuit arrived in Manhattan, charged by the West India Company with the task of administering the struggling colony. Minuit "purchased" Manhattan Island from Native American Indians for the now legendary price of 60 guilders, formally established New Amsterdam, and consolidated and strengthened a fort located far up the Hudson River, named Fort Orange. The colony grew slowly, as settlers, responding to generous land-grant and trade policies, slowly spread north up the Hudson River.

The slow expansion of New Netherland, however, caused conflicts with both English colonists and Native Americans in the region. In the 1630s, the new Director General Wouter van Twiller sent an expedition out from New Amsterdam up to the Connecticut River into lands claimed by English settlers. Faced with the prospect of armed conflict, Twiller was forced to back down and recall the expedition, losing any claims to the Connecticut Valley. In the upper reaches of the Hudson Valley around Fort Orange, (present-day Albany) where the needs of the profitable fur trade required a careful policy of appeasement with the Iroquois Confederacy, the Dutch authorities maintained peace, but corruption and lax trading policies plagued the area. In the lower Hudson Valley, where more colonists were setting up small farms, Native Americans came to be viewed as obstacles to European settlement. In the 1630s and early 1640s, the Dutch Director Generals carried on a brutal series of campaigns against the area's Native Americans, largely succeeding in crushing the strength of the "River Indians," but also managing to create a bitter atmosphere of tension and suspicion between European settlers and Native Americans.

The year 1640 marked a turning point for the colony. The West India Company gave up its trade monopoly, enabling other businessmen to invest in New Netherland. Profits flowed to Amsterdam, encouraging new economic activity in the production of food, timber, tobacco, and eventually, slaves. In 1647, the most successful of the Dutch Director Generals arrived in New Amsterdam. Peter Stuyvesant found New Netherland in disarray. The previous Director General's preoccupation with the Native Americans and border conflicts with the English in Connecticut had greatly weakened other portions of colonial society. Stuyvesant became a whirlwind of activity, issuing edicts, regulating taverns, clamping down on smuggling, and attempted to wield the authority of his office upon a population accustomed to a long line of largely ineffective Director Generals.

Eventually, Stuyvesant cast his eyes upon the small settlements that had developed along the Hudson River Valley between Fort Orange and New Amsterdam. In 1652, 60-70 settlers had moved down from Fort Orange to an area where the Rondout Creek met the Hudson River, the site of present-day Kingston. The settlers farmed the fertile flood plains of the Esopus Creek side-by-side with the Esopus Indians, the original settlers of the area. Inevitably, land disputes brought the two sides to the brink of war, with both the Europeans and the Esopus Indians engaging in petty vandalism and kidnaping. In 1657, seeing the strategic practicality of a fort located halfway between New Amsterdam and Fort Orange, Director General Stuyvesant sent soldiers up from New Amsterdam to crush the Esopus Indians and help build a stockade with 40 houses for the settlers. Board by board, the settlers took their barns and houses down, and carted them uphill to a promontory bluff overlooking the Esopus Creek flood plain. They reconstructed their homes behind a 14-foot high wall made of tree trunks pounded into the ground that created a perimeter of about 1200 x 1300 feet. By day, the men left their walled village, which Director General Stuyvesant had named "Wiltwyck," to go out and farm their fields, leaving the women and children largely confined within the stockade. The villagers lived this way until 1664, when a peace treaty ended the conflict with the Esopus Indians.

Though no longer needed, the stockade was left standing well into the late 17th century, and wooden remnants of the wall were actually rediscovered on Clinton Ave during an archaeological dig in 1971. The streets of the original village, however, remain laid out just as they were in 1658. Although the wooden houses of original settlers are long gone, the second generation of homes, built by men like Sergeant Matthew Person, still survive. These stone houses are fine examples of 17th-century Dutch stone buildings, and 21 still stand within the original layout of the stockade, listed in the National Register of Historic Places as contributing members of the Stockade Historic District. Many of these homes began as a single room with a loft above, and gradually expanded, but the simple limestone and mortar materials hauled directly from the fields outside the stockade are still quite visible. Direct links to the age of Dutch colonization, the sturdy construction of these houses have served generations of Kingston residents, and are still in use today.

Although Wiltwyck, the second large settlement established north of New Amsterdam, grew quickly, the very successes of the Stuyvesant administration put New Netherland in danger. The colony was proving quite profitable, New Amsterdam had developed into a port town of 1500 citizens, and the incredibly diverse population (only 50 percent were actually Dutch colonists) of the colony had grown from 2,000 in 1655 to almost 9,000 in 1664. "Problems" with Native Americans were mostly over, and stable families were slowly replacing single adventurers interested only in quick profits. New Netherland produced immense wealth for the Dutch, and other foreign nations began to envy the riches flowing out of the Hudson River Valley.

The Dutch lost New Netherland to the English during the Second Anglo-Dutch War in 1664 only a few years after the establishment of Wiltwyck. Along the West Coast of Africa, British charter companies clashed with the forces of the Dutch West India Company over rights to slaves, ivory, and gold in 1663. Less about slaves or ivory, the Anglo-Dutch Wars were actually more about who would be the dominant European naval power. By 1664, both the Dutch and English were preparing for war, and King Charles of England granted his brother, James, Duke of York, vast American territories that included all of New Netherland. James immediately raised a small fleet and sent it to New Amsterdam. Director General Stuyvesant, without a fleet or any real army to defend the colony, was forced to surrender the colony to the English war fleet without a struggle. In September of 1664, New York was born, effectively ending the Netherlands' direct involvement in North America, although in places like Kingston, the influences of Dutch architecture, planning, and folklife can still be quite clearly seen.

Dutch Colonies

During the American Revolution, the small town of Kingston, New York, twice appears as a key location in numerous historical accounts; once as the meeting point for New York politicians, and once as the focal point of British retaliation. The first meeting resulted in Kingston's role as the birthplace of the State of New York. One month later, in retaliation for aiding the patriots, the British burned Kingston to the ground.

The British viewed New York City and the Hudson River Valley as key strategic locations. After evacuating the patriot stronghold of Boston in March of 1776, the British concentrated on New York as a base of operations. In July of 1776, shortly after the signing of Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, a huge British fleet of nearly 500 ships and 35,000 men--the largest single armed force in America until the Civil War--appeared off New York. Under the command of General William Howe, the vastly larger British forces began pushing back the smaller and less-organized American Army under the command of George Washington almost immediately. By August, Washington had withdrawn from Long Island, pulling back to Manhattan. In September of that same year, Washington and his generals, convinced of the weakness of their position in New York City, debated whether they should burn the city upon retreat, or simply leave it to the British. Under instructions from the Continental Congress to not torch the city, Washington withdrew into New Jersey, where he successfully harassed the British and their mercenary soldiers. Washington's withdrawal from Manhattan, however, had other, non-military consequences.

After the Declaration of Independence was signed, the 13 American colonies found themselves adrift without any governmental institutions. To remedy this situation in New York, New York patriots chose delegates to a Provincial Congress, which first met in New York City, the old colonial capitol. As the British drew their noose around Manhattan, the New York Congress decided to move north up to White Plains, where in July, John Jay was named chairman of a committee to draw up a State constitution. Calling itself the "Convention of the Representatives of the State of New York," the group was forced to move farther north to safety when Washington's army fully abandoned New York City. Stopping in Fishkill, New York, the delegates decided that the town's lodging's were inadequate--and too close to British forces--and moved even farther up the Hudson River Valley to Kingston in February of 1777.

The delegates found Kingston to their liking. A "government on the run" for many months, the city welcomed the delegates, opening several public buildings for the Convention's use. For two months, the delegates met in the Ulster County Courthouse, working deliberately on a State constitution. On April 22, 1777, the bells of Kingston's churches announced approval of the State's first constitution. Largely the work of chairman John Jay, the new constitution provided for the election of a Governor, a Lieutenant Governor, and members of a Senate and Assembly. In June of 1777, the State held its first elections, and George Clinton, a well-known brigadier general of the militia was sworn in in Kingston as the State's first Governor on July 30.

In September of 1777, the new State government convened, still using Kingston as the State Capitol. The Ulster County Courthouse was once again put to use, this time for the first session of the New York Supreme Court. John Jay sat as the State's first chief justice, a position he would reprise later as first Chief Justice of the United States in 1789. The Supreme Court's use of the building, of course, forced the Legislature to find other meeting places. A local resident, Abraham VanGaasbeck, offered a room in his old stone house for use by the Senate, while the larger Assembly met in a local tavern. Known today as the Senate House, the building that held the initial meeting of the New York State Senate is administered as a State Historic Site.

The Supreme Court and the Legislature stayed in Kingston until October, when Kingston found itself a small player in much larger military events. Once again forced to flee, the new government hastily adjourned at word that a British force was slowly moving north, plundering the Hudson Valley.

After George Washington had evacuated New York City almost a year earlier, General Howe had remained comfortable in the city, choosing not to campaign during the winter. In May of 1777, General Howe detached an army from Boston under the command of General John Burgoyne up to Canada. Burgoyne was to bring his troops, approximately 7,000 men, from Montreal down to Lake Champlain, capture the city of Saratoga, and then proceed from there down the Hudson River, meeting Howe's force of some 30,000 men, which was to come north up the Hudson River from New York City. In this manner, the British would secure the Hudson River Valley, which was serving a vital roll as a transportation and supply route for the American armies.

Unfortunately, Howe changed his plans after Burgoyne left for Canada. Trying to force Washington's army out into the open, the bulk of the British army marched on Philadelphia, leaving only a small force in New York City under the command of Brigadier General James Clinton. Howe would not be able to provide any support to Burgoyne's invasion, but instead vaguely instructed Clinton to "act offensively" and "if you can, make any diversion in favor of General Burgoyne's approaching Albany."

Burgoyne, however, needed far more help than Clinton could provide, for British plans vastly underestimated the difficulty of the terrain in Canada, as well as the ability of the Americans to gather dispersed armies together. Burgoyne captured Fort Ticonderoga on July 5, 1777, but when the army began chopping its way south through the thick forests, Burgoyne's progress slowed considerably. Troops throughout New England and New York, sensing blood, gathered around Saratoga, picking at Burgoyne's army throughout September and October.

In October, seeking to relieve some of the stress American armies were placing on Burgoyne's invasion force, General Clinton sent out an expedition force north up the Hudson from New York City. It is news of this force moving up the Hudson that forced the New York State Government to flee Kingston. On October 16, 1777, the British arrived in Kingston. Looking upon Kingston as a "hotbed of perfidy and sedulous disloyalty to King George the Third and His Majesty's Parliament," the British punished Kingston for hosting the revolutionary State government, and for generously providing Washington's army with wheat and other food supplies. Under the command of Major General John Vaughan, the British troops moved into Kingston's Stockade area and set fire to every building, largely succeeding in burning the city to the ground. After burning Kingston, Vaughan continued up the Hudson, coming with 45 miles of Albany before encountering an American army of around 5,000 men and returning to New York City.

Simultaneously, Burgoyne's position in northern New York was deteriorating rapidly. With reinforcements from all over New England and New York, an American army under the command of General Horatio Gates--led brilliantly on the field by General Benedict Arnold--managed to surround Burgoyne's army. On October 17, just a day after Vaughan's troops torched Kingston, British General Burgoyne surrendered his entire army to Gates at the Battle of Saratoga, easily one of the American army's greatest victories during the American Revolution.

Saratoga, and the events flowing around it, became a turning point in the American Revolution. Although Washington's army, which had been drawn to Philadelphia by British General Howe, would suffer numerous defeats in the following years, the American victory at Saratoga established the reputation of the American army. Benjamin Franklin, serving as the diplomat to France, convinced the French to form an alliance with the fledgling republic against France's enemy, Britain. With Britain fighting on two sides of the Atlantic, the country's resources were stretched to the limits. From 1778 to 1783, France provided the Americans with large sums of money, immense amounts of equipment, about one-half of America's armed forces, and a powerful navy. With newfound resources, the Americans carried on the revolution until the British were forced to simply give up. In essence, the Battle of Saratoga helped America become an independent country.

Kingston, however, paid a large price for its role in the American Revolution. With many of Kingston's Dutch buildings made of stone, numerous buildings were simply gutted and not completely destroyed by the fire, but reconstruction was slow and painful. As the years passed Kingston slowly rebuilt, and by the beginning of the 19th century was once again the largest, most dominant town in the Hudson River Valley area. It would not relinquish its dominance until the 1850s, when the Hudson River once again played a major role in the area's development.

Dutch Colonies

Transportation technologies transformed the Kingston area in the 19th century. The reasons for Kingston's 19th-century success lie almost completely with the town's role as a transportation hub. The "canal-building era" of the early 1800s impacted the area significantly when the Delaware and Hudson Canal chose the hamlet of Rondout as the terminus of the canal, and the starting point for river traffic down to New York City. Growing from two small villages in the early 1800s, by the end of the century, the city of Kingston incorporated the small towns of Kingston and Rondout and boasted a booming economy almost completely reliant upon the canals and rivers. Indeed, the town we know as Kingston would not exist without its rivers.

The original Dutch settlers immediately recognized the value of the land between the convergence of Rondout Creek and the Hudson River, and established a small Indian trading post there in the 17th century. The village of Kingston, located a few miles away on a hill overlooking the Hudson, dominated the area during the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries. While Kingston played a prominent role in the American Revolution, Rondout remained completely obscure (and avoided the wrath of the British). A small unincorporated hamlet in 1776, a resident recalled Rondout as "scarcely more than six or seven dwelling houses, a mere dependency of the village of Kingston. One or two storehouses were erected on the banks of the creek, and from there grain and the various products of local farms were shipped to market."

Area businessmen were acutely aware of the Rondout's strategic location as a mid-point on the Hudson River, and even attempted in the early 1800s to build a road to transport more goods from the inland mountains to their "port." Drastic changes were not far off, however, when Robert Fulton first installed a steam engine in a boat in 1807. As a test run, Fulton piloted the ship north up the Hudson River from New York City to Albany, making the run of 150 miles against the current in a then-stunning 32 hours. With the power to go up and downstream, the steamboat transformed American rivers into highways.

Paralleling the increase in steamboat traffic, State governments and independent companies (receiving almost no aid from the Federal government) began building canals. One of the most ambitious programs proved to be New York's Erie Canal, constructed under the aggressive leadership of Governor DeWitt Clinton. Known derisively as "Clinton's Big Ditch" or the "Governor's Gutter," the Erie Canal was begun in 1817 and finished in 1825. The Erie Canal proved to be an economic giant; linking the emerging economies and material resources of the Great Lakes with the Hudson River, New York experienced huge benefits from the canal. Realizing the fortunes to be made from bringing the raw materials from the West (grain, timber, coal, iron, etc.,) to the huge cities of the American Northeast, Americans embarked upon a canal-building craze that would not end until the introduction of the railroads.

In the early 1820s, William and Maurice Wurts found themselves the owners of a series of anthracite coal mines in Carbondale, Pennsylvania. Seeking buyers for their coal, they found the nearby market of Philadelphia saturated with coal provided by the Lehigh and Delaware Canal. Searching for a new market, the Wurts looked for a cheap transportation route from their mines to New York City. Taking the lead from the new Erie Canal, they settled on the idea of a canal linking their mines to the Hudson River, and decided upon Rondout, New York for the terminus for their project, which they called the Delaware and Hudson Canal. Construction began the same year the Erie Canal was completed, in 1825, and Rondout began to feel the effects of the canal immediately.

Laborers and businessmen poured into town as soon as digging began. Irish laborers arrived to dig the canal, and many stayed to work the canal after its completion. Businessmen first established retail ventures to serve the workers in Rondout, and upon the canal's completion wholesale companies were created when coal and other raw materials came up the canal from Pennsylvania. The Delaware and Hudson opened its full 108-mile length in 1828. The canal as completed was four feet deep, 32 feet wide, contained 108 locks, 137 bridges, 26 basins, dams, and reservoirs, and cost an estimated 1.2 million dollars. Originally accommodating boats that weighed 10-35 tons, the canal was continuously enlarged over the next 15 years, finally offering service to boats of 136 tons, which were heavy enough to travel on the Hudson River. As the terminus for the Delaware and Hudson, all goods flowed through Rondout, and as steamboat traffic increased in the 1820s and 1830s, Rondout emerged as the primary Hudson River port between New York City and Albany. Rondout would never again be dominated by Kingston.

From a tiny hamlet in the early 19th-century, Rondout grew quickly with the Delaware and Hudson Canal's help; by 1840, the village had a population of 1500, 200 houses, two churches, six hotels and taverns, 25 stores, three freighting companies, a tobacco factory, a gristmill, four boatyards, two dry docks, and the main offices of the Delaware and Hudson lined the banks of the Rondout Creek--Rondout was a bustling, booming river town. The growth continued and by 1855 the town had 6,000 residents, finally surpassing the village of nearby Kingston.

Although the area relied heavily on the Delaware and Hudson Canal and the Hudson River, Rondout did manage to somewhat diversify its economy in the 1840s and 1850s. Cement deposits were found throughout the valley, and in 1844 quarrying began in the "Ponchockie" section of Rondout. The Newark Lime and Cement Company shipped cement throughout the United States, a thriving business until the invention of the cheaper, quicker drying Portland Cement. The "bluestone" business also emerged in Rondout--used for sidewalks and curbing, and cut into tiles for flooring and architectural details, this regional stone was processed in Rondout, fulfilling demand in cities throughout the country. Shipyards capable of building vessels ranging from coal and ice barges to sloops, schooners, and steamboats lined the shores of the Rondout Creek. Other industries included brickmaking, ice-cutting, and even the manufacture of patent-medicines.

Kingston and Rondout, although distinct communities, were quite dependent upon each other. Kingston, the more established, though static, community possessed more of the banks and professional services, but Rondout, with its vigorous economy, had the industrial facilities and port connections to keep the area growing and competitive in the coming years. In the early 1870s, each town unsuccessfully tried to incorporate as an individual "city." In 1872, the two towns merged into one governmental unit. Rondout, the larger of the two, kept the balance of power by controlling five of the nine wards of the city, but Kingston retained its name.

With business brought by industry and transportation, the Kingston area, incorporating both Rondout and old-Kingston, profited enormously throughout the 19th century. In 1899, however, growth came to an abrubt halt when the Delaware and Hudson Canal closed. Finding it more economical for the company to ship its coal by rail, and as the demand for dependable, year-round supplies increased, the seasonal nature of canals became obsolete, and the Delaware and Hudson Canal became the Delaware and Hudson Railroad. Progress also dealt a blow to other industries--demand for local cement decreased as the faster drying Portland came into use, and so did the demand for the region's "bluestone." Shipping decreased with the decline of local industries, removing the need for shipbuilding and ship-repair industries. By 1932, only 30 years after Rondout was the primary port of the Mid-Hudson River Valley, only a few small industrial companies still operated in the river town. Transportation technologies helped Kingston prosper and made America's amazing Industrial Revolution possible. It is somewhat ironic that an early transportation technology of the Industrial Revolution, the railroad, brought about Rondout's decline.

New York State's innovative Urban Cultural Park Program/ Heritage Area helps showcase the engaging, fascinating, and unique histories of communities throughout the state. Established in 1982 as joint venture between the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and 22 historically significant communities, the UCP Program incorporates 16 Urban Cultural Parks in communities ranging in size from sprawling New York City to charming small-town Sackets Harbor. The UCP area in each designated community includes the historic urban core: traditional parks, public buildings, old mills and churches, and historic neighborhoods.

More than mere collections of restored buildings and green spaces, each UCP/HA follows a central theme, such as "Natural Environment," "Labor History" or "Transportation," through which its special attributes are interpreted and promoted. As a result, the community itself is the park, dedicated to the preservation of its unique cultural heritage through programs such as ethnic festivals, waterfront walks, lively theater, provocative exhibits, and neighborhood walking tours.

Kingston's designation as one of New York State's 16 Urban Cultural Park/ Heritage Areas has yielded innumerable benefits to the city. Once designation took place, the UCP's economic development and revitalization programs have resulted in an improved economic base and significantly increased levels of tourism. With more activity in the area, people soon began expressing interest in Kingston as a place to live and do business. Movement back into Kingston's formerly deserted urban areas resulted in the occupancy of formerly vacant units, the rehabilitation and restoration of existing historic buildings, and even new residential construction. The gradual re-emergence of Kingston's urban core as a viable place to visit, live and do business soon increased property values, which has in turn created even greater interest in Kingston.

The Urban Cultural Park has delivered more than just economic benefits, however. Culturally, the community has also benefitted from the Kingston UCP/HA. Using the area's local history as a framework, the Kingston UCP/HA has created a series of outreach history and educational programs. Kingston UCP/HA staffers have collaborated with elementary, high school, and college students to create local history exhibits. Many of the towns most successful celebrations and festivals were established by the Kingston UCP/HA. Occurring throughout the year, the Kingston UCP/HA helps organize Stockade Day, Artober--A Celebration of Art, and World War II Commemorative Weekend. The well-known "Reenactment of the Burning of Kingston," the Tall Tales Festivals, and holiday tree-lighting celebrations, are all annual events developed through the program, as are Band Concerts on the Waterfront, the city's trolley and walking tours of historic districts.

The first of the 16 designated Urban Cultural Parks to open a visitor center, Kingston's Urban Cultural Park/ Heritage Area works closely with local businesses and the Chamber of Commerce to ensure Kingston's continued successful efforts in combining economic development with good preservation practices. With its use of the visitor center, interpretive signage, exhibits, attractive traditional green spaces and ambitious events aimed at educating the general public about Kingston's history, the Kingston Urban Cultural Park Program is a truly successful project--delivering both cultural and economic benefits to the city.

For more information about the Kingston Urban Cultural Park/ Heritage Area, please call 1-800-331-1518. For more information about the New York State Urban Cultural Park Program, call 1-518-474-0456.

Dutch Colonization

Kenny, Alice, Stubborn for Liberty, Syracuse University Press, 1989.

Goodwin, Maude W., Dutch and English on the Hudson: A Chronicle of Colonial New York, United States Publishers Association, 1977.

Rink, Oliver A., Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York, Cornell University Press, 1986.

Elting, Irving, Dutch Village Communities on the Hudson, Johnson Reprinting Corp., 1973.

New York and the American Revolution

Abbot, W.C., New York in the American Revolution, Haskell House Publishing, 1973.

Tiederman, Joseph S., Reluctant Revolutionaries: New York City and the Road to Independence, 1763-1776, Cornell University Press, 1997.

Diamant, Lincoln, Chaining the Hudson: The Fight for the River in the American Revolution, Citadel Press, 1994.

Kingston and Transportation

Larkin, F. Daniel, New York State Canals: A Short History, Purple Mountain Press, 1998

Steuding, Bob, Rondout: A Hudson River Port, Purple Mountain Press, 1995.

Shaughnessy, Jim, Delaware and Hudson: The History of an Important Railroad Whose Antecedent was a Canal Network to Transport Coal, Syracuse University Press, 1997.

Lowenthal, Larry, From the Coalfields to the Hudson: A History of the Delaware and Hudson Canal, Purple Mountain Press, 1997.

Wakefield, Manville B., Coal Boats to Tidewater: The Story of the Delaware and Hudson Canal, Purple Mountain Press, 1992.

Kingston Related Resources on the Web

City of Kingston Internet Site
Explore the City of Kingston's Official Internet site, and learn more about visiting Kingston in person.

Ulster County Information Pages
Kingston is located in Ulster County, New York; use this site to explore the historic and recreational resources of the entire county.

Hudson River Maritime Museum
Located in Kingston, the Hudson River Maritime Museum chronicles the history and influences of the Hudson River upon New York.

New York State Historic Preservation Office
Learn more about historic preseravation in New York State at the web site of the New York State Historic Preservation Office.

New York Travel and Tourism
Home page of the "I Love New York" tourism program, this site includes various resources for travel in New York, and history themed tours and trips in the "I Love Historic New York" pages.

National Trust for Historic Preservation
Learn about the programs of and membership in the oldest national non-profit preservation organization.

National Park Service Office of Tourism
National parks have been interwoven with tourism from their earliest days. This website highlights the ways in which the NPS promotes and supports sustainable, responsible, informed, and managed visitor use through cooperation and coordination with the tourism industry.

National Scenic Byways Program
This website, maintained by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, includes information on state and nationally designated byway routes throughout America based on their archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities. Visit the America’s Byways Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway website for more ideas.

Kingston: Discover 300 Years of New York History, was produced by the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Department of the Interior, in cooperation with the Kingston, New York Urban Cultural Park/ Heritage Area, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO), and the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions (NACP). It was created under the direction of Carol D. Shull, Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, Patrick Andrus, Heritage Tourism Director, and Beth L. Savage, Publications Director. Kingston: Discover 300 Years of New York History is based on information in the files of the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmark collections. These materials are kept at 800 North Capitol St., Washington, D.C., and are open to the public from 9:00am to 4:00pm, Monday through Friday.

Under the direction of Kingston Mayor T.R. Gallo, Christine Howard, former Director of the Kingston Urban Cultural Park/ Heritage Area, conceptualized, compiled and oversaw project production. Property descriptions and contextual essays were written by Kingston City Historian Edwin Ford and Nathan Poe (NCSHPO). The travel itinerary was designed by Nathan Poe (NCSHPO).

Deputy Fire Chief Wayne D. Platte, Jr., the Senate House State Historic Site, Mary Alice Cahill, the Kingston Historic Landmarks Commission, the Friends of Historic Kingston, and NETSTEP Access Services furnished invaluable research materials, supplemental information, and technical support. National Council of Preservation Education intern Frederick MacVaugh provided research assistance and editorial support. Additional property information was provided by the State Historic Preservation Office of New York. Sara Dillard Pope (NCSHPO) provided design and editorial support. John Matthews, John E. Reinhardt, and Bud Walker provided historic and contemporary photographs.

Thank you to all of the individuals, organizations and institutions who worked so diligently on this project.

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