NEW PALTZ, N.Y.
-- New Paltz is the German name of a town founded by a handful of
French Huguenots. The Huguenots were
relocating from a largely Dutch town that had come under British
control and had been renamed Kingston.
If that sounds
convoluted, such was the mix of European cultures in colonial New
York, and knowing this, it is small wonder that numerous
sightseeing attractions in New Yorks Ulster County are today deemed
I joined a
walking tour of Huguenot Street (a National Historic Landmark
District), which formed the core of the village established by 12
families in 1678.
The families had
left France, where Protestants were persecuted at the time, to live
in Pfalz, Germany, before putting an ocean between themselves and
the French king.
walking tours, at $7 or $10 depending on tour length, are conducted
daily except Mondays, May through October.
point is one of the original houses, called DuBois Fort because it
was the house all villagers would repair to in case of attack;
there are gun holes in the window glass. The house is a shop and
The full walking
tour, lasting an hour-plus, takes in three of the nine 18th- and
19th-century homes owned by the Huguenot Historical Society, plus
the French Church.
building is the Bevier-Elting House, believed to date from 1705; it
was built by one of the 12 first families, and fortuitously owned
from then until purchased by the historical society in the 1960s by
Bevier descendants (eventually, through marriage, the Eltings) and
It sits sideways,
meaning one of the narrow sides of the house faces the street. In
Europe, its owners would have been taxed based on the amount of
street front the house used.
Once the only
room in the house, the front room shows off 18th-century
furnishings suitable for a kitchen-cum-living room-cum-bedroom; two
rooms were added at intervals in the 1700s, and a basement
accommodated slaves in the days when slavery existed in the
The walking tour
ends inside the French Church, a reconstruction of the original,
square 1717 structure; it had to be reconstructed because the
Huguenots from time to time tore down their church and reused the
stones to build bigger.
Inside, half the
pews face the other half, and traditionally, the pulpit would be in
The Bevier-Elting House, other
society-owned houses and the French Church are examples of the
stone construction for which Ulster County is known.
The county claims
the highest concentration of 17th- and 18th-century stone houses in
America. Some are still private homes
or offices, but many are museums and others are restaurants, inns
The Ulster County
Historical Society is housed in the Bevier House Museum in Stone
Ridge. That house-museum (open Thursdays through Sundays, June
through September) is listed on the National Register of Historic
330-year-old Dutch village with 25 stone houses, claims the oldest
private homes in the U.S., and the houses are the core of another
National Historic District. One stone house is the Hurley Heritage
county seat and the first capital of New York state, counts 21
pre-Revolutionary War stone houses, and that is despite the fact
the British burned the city in 1777.
General John Vaughan justified the destruction, calling the city a
nursery for almost every villain in the country.
areas are National Historic Districts, but the relevant region here
is the Stockade District, meaning the area that was inside wooden
stockade walls built to protect the village from
The district is
still laid out as it was in 1658 when the new village, then
Wiltwyck, was settled.
Viewing of stone
architecture in Hurley and Kingston is most often by self-guided
walking tours, or through museum visits.
One of the more
important house-museums is Kingstons 1676 Senate House, the private
home where the New York Senate rented a room for its first-ever
sessions, which were held as the British were approaching the city
suffered fire damage but was repaired soon after. Descendants of
the builder occupied the house until they deeded it to the state in
Guided tours, at
$4, available Wednesdays through Sundays, mid-April through
October, provide further insight into colonial living arrangements,
in this case, among the reasonably prosperous.
includes two rooms where guests would have been welcomed; the host
couples bed sits in the corner of the less formal one.
meeting room ordinarily would have been used as a shop; as it was,
owner Abraham Van Gaasbeek collected rent from the
Ulster County is
rich in Colonial-themed sightseeing attractions, but -- aside from
the lure of a scenic Hudson River Valley setting and the
attractiveness of Woodstocks music events to a subset of visitors
-- the area can be visited with any number of other themes in mind,
such as its wine trails, antique and pottery shops, harvest
festivals, cultural events and even dude ranches.
The Oneida Indian
Nation and the Oneidas Turning Stone Resort and Casino are also
handily located in nearby Oneida County.
deputy director, Ulster County Tourism, said the county receives an
estimated 2 million visitors a year, roughly 40% of them on
created a new promotional CD this spring, called A Place to Call
Home, which travel agents can request by e-mailing Jacobson at [email protected].
the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to Nadine Godwin
at [email protected].