Street Historic District, a National Historic
Landmark, was created to preserve the oldest continuously
inhabited street in America with its original houses,
a wonderful collection exhibiting Dutch vernacular
architecture and furnishings. The principle houses
on Huguenot Street were built surrounding the turn
of the 17th into the 18th centuries, from 1680's through
the first decates of the 18th century. Descendants
of the first families lived in them for hundreds of
years and some were adapted for their changing needs.
Today, each house is presented in a different time
period from the 18th through the mid 20th century.
Huguenot Street is a unique collection of early colonial
houses open to the public for you to explore and discover.
Both New York City (New
Amsterdam) and Albany (Beverwyck) were
founded by the Dutch, but their old structures have
been razed for later building booms. Kingston, (Wiltwyck),
the third of the original Dutch settlements, and Hurley
(Nieu Dorpf) were burned by the British in
the Revolution destroying their structures. What's
left is houses scattered in the woods and lanes of
the Hudson Valley and New Paltz, a small back water
settlement that has survived the tides of war, boom,
depressions and neglect.
New Paltz is one of
the very few places left in America where you can quite
literally go back 300 years in time and touch the original
emigrants to America. Founded in 1677, New Paltz represents
one of the earliest periods of exploration and true
settlement in our history. The band of French Huguenots
that trekked off into the dark and dangerous woods were
gambling not just on turning the potential of the land
to profit, they were gambling on themselves and their
stamina as well.
Paltz was a rough outpost of European civilization
set well off into the wilderness. In picking this
place the Huguenot had searched for, and found, a
site where they could be alone with their different
culture, their different religion and their different
traditions. And in picking this place, the Huguenot
had paid very close attention to the mistakes of earlier
colonists in seizing the land from the native inhabitants.
The arrogance of the Dutch led them to the discovery
of the Wallkill Valley.
In the Dutch colony through
the mid 17th century there had been a series of conflicts,
known as the Esopus Wars, between the Esopus Indians
and the Dutch arising over the Esopus' continuing
resentment over the Dutch seizure of property rights
and the taking of Indians as slaves to Barbados. In
1663 the Esopus rose again attacking Wiltwyck and
taking captives. A party of colonists was formed to
go out and rescue their women and children from the
Indians, the party including Louis DuBois and Antoine
Crispell, two Huguenots, both of whom had members
of their families taken as hostages.
It was on this expedition
that they first saw the Wallkill Valley and determined
to establish a settlement of French Huguenot there.
Having learned the bitter lessons earlier colonists
they first negotiated with the Indians for the purchase
of the land. Only after purchasing the land did they
go to the Crown, at that point English, seeking permission
and was granted a tract of land comprising roughly 39,000
acres, the land they had already purchased.
In the spring of 1678
eleven Huguenot families arrived on the promontory
and established the settlement of New Paltz. Within
10 years they had began building their permanent stone
houses, erecting their stone church and expanding
their farms and families.
These are the houses that
still remain on Huguenot Street.
Temper Your Expectations
When most 20th Century
Americans think of colonial America they call to mind
Williamsburg, Jamestown, Plymouth and Philadelphia.
They conjure up images of tidy frame or brick houses
with classically proportioned facades, cottage gardens
and quaint little people in homespun and gingham.
We think England.
But England was only
one , if ultimately the most powerful, of the colonial
empires established in the New World. The Dutch were
one of the earliest to establish a colony in the person
of Hendrik Hudson sailing up the river in 1609 now bearing
his name. By 1620 the Dutch had established the colony
of New Netherland and took control of the Hudson Valley
from the Verazano Narrows up past what is today Albany.
To their northwest the French controlled what is today
Canada and the northern sections of the United States.
The English were busy seizing the coast line and eastern
Canada but were too late to get the most important harbor
on the Atlantic coast, the Dutch already had it, New
totally different culture, set of traditions and aesthetics
was already established and flowering in the Hudson
Valley under the Dutch. Combining with the Dutch culture,
the Huguenot and their French traditions had been
flowering as they constituted a large segment of the
population of the colony.
What you see in New Paltz
in the building styles comes from a Northern European
set of traditions. It is heavily influenced by the
Middle Ages which in large part still existed in that
area of Europe. It is influenced by people that had
endured persecution to sustain their religion, had
become refugees and been forced to move from their
homes more than once. And it is influenced by the
Huguenots French culture and traditions layered on
top of the Dutch mileau in which they lived.
Yet all of that aside,
what you are really seeing in New Paltz is a rough
and rude wilderness settlement far from the urban
centers and nearly a day's ride to the nearest neighbors
in Hurley. New Paltz was a band of people not huddling
together out of fear, but gathered together out of
spiritual kinship and common background.
They created New Paltz
and their descendants preserved it. Enjoy New Paltz.
It's probably a story of Colonial America, a rich
Dutch and French tradition, you weren't aware of before.
Huguenot Street Historic
District is open May through October, Tuesdays through
Sundays 10am to 4pm with guided tours. Strollers are
always welcome at all times of the year, but access
to the houses is by guided tour only. During the week,
the 1 1/2 hour tours leave every hour, and on the
weekends every half hour.
For more information,
or to make reservations or book a group tour, contact:
PO Box 339
18 Broadhead Avenue
New Paltz, NY 12561
(845)255-0376 - Fax