The Old Dutch Church
Corner Wall and Main Streets, Stockade District
Organized in 1659, the Old Dutch Church is just one year younger than the City of Kingston itself and is listed on the A National Register of Historic Places. The current church was built of native bluestone in 1852 in the Renaissance Revival style and was designed by ecclesiastical architect Minard Lafever of New York. The vaulted ribbed ceiling is reminiscent of the work of Christopher Wren, and the Palladian windows are echoed in the arched aisles. George Clinton, New York State’s first elected governor and 77 local Revolutionary soldiers, are buried in the churchyard.
The Old Dutch Church Yard
Corner Wall and Main Streets, Stockade District
The historic burying ground, whose earliest tombstone dates back to 1720, contains the bodies of the descendents of Kingston’s earliest settlers. The centerpiece of the cemetery is the large monument to New York’s first elected governor, George Clinton, who is also buried here. Clinton served as governor for 21 years — longer than any other governor in New York’s history. He went on to serve as Vice-President of the United States under both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. A Brigadier-General in the Continental Army, Clinton is befittingly surrounded in the church yard by 77 Revolutionary War soldiers from the area.
Ulster County Courthouse
285 Wall Street, Stockade District
Built in 1818 in the late Georgian style, the courthouse was erected on the same site where the original smaller limestone county courthouse stood. It was in the original Ulster County Courthouse that New York State was officially born in 1777. The New York State Constitution was written in its rooms and adopted on April 20, 1777. On July 30, New York’s first freely elected governor, George Clinton, took the oath of office at the courthouse. That same year, New York State’s first Supreme Court session was held here, headed by Justice John Jay. The 1818 courthouse was the site of a history-making event too when an Ulster County slave woman, Sojourner Truth, sued to regain her son who was sold to a family in Alabama. Truth won the suit, won her freedom from slavery and went on to become a nationally noted Abolitionist.
296 Fair Street, Stockade District
One of Kingston’s oldest and most venerable stone houses, the Senate House is a New York State Historic Site. Construction on the original portion dates back to 1676, when Wessel Ten Broeck, an immigrant from Westphalia, built a home on the eastern border of the Stockade District overlooking the early settlers’ farmlands below. In the fall of 1777, New York State’s first senate met in the modest house, then the home of merchant Abraham Van Gaasbeck. The burning of Kingston by the British on October 16, 1777, caused the senate to depart from the city.
Kingston City Hall
In 1872, the Villages of Kingston and Rondout joined to form the new City of Kingston with a city hall to be built between the former villages on connecting Union Avenue (now Broadway). Arthur Crooks, the architect who won the design competition, envisioned a building reminiscent of the famous Palazzo Vecchio (Old City Hall) of Florence, Italy but with touches of polychrome brick and slate influenced by English Gothic. When completed in 1875, the building became the inspiring seat of local government. In 1927, following a fire, the building was restored with a simpler but still impressively contoured center tower. Almost fifty years later in 1971, following an urban renewal that saw the loss of many historic buildings, the Friends of Historic Kingston obtained a designation for the building as a historic landmark.
In spite of its landmark status, in 1972 the City government made the decision to vacate the building in favor of a new smaller building in the commercial neighborhood of Rondout. Almost immediately, the City began to forget the now vacant old City Hall. As early as 1973 when the roof began leaking, the Friends offered the City $800 toward roof repair but the offer was turned down. In 1975, in spite of picketing and lobbying by the Friends, voters turned down a poorly-worded referendum to match a state grant to restore the building.
By 1987, the interior of the historic building had become a virtual dovecote, the home of hundreds of pigeons who had invaded it through broken windows and a leaking roof. that year, the Friends helped establish a restoration fund that raised $14,000. Unavailing efforts were made to have various national, state, and local agencies come to the building’s rescue. People suggested new uses for the building – a museum, or an arts center, or medical offices. Then, in 1998, following earlier studies and recommendations and a new sense of the building’s importance, Mayor T. R. Gallo with the approval of the Common Council began plans to restore the building and move back into it as the City Hall. A state grant enabled an $8 million restoration. The funds raised by the Friends and other citizens were used to reproduce the original aldermen’s desks and restore the gold leaf lunettes in the Common Council Chamber. In 2000, the magnificently restored building at 420 Broadway once again became home to our city government.
Kingston Point Park
In 1897, on the same site where British troops landed in 1777 to burn Kingston, a park opened that became known throughout the eastern United States. Built by Rondout entrepreneur Samuel D. Coykendall, the park featured a lagoon, dance hall, penny arcade, shooting gallery, bandstand, ferris wheel and carousel set amidst a magnificent landscape of winding brick paths. The average daily attendance in 1903 was 3,000 people. Well into the mid 20th century, the Hudson River Dayliners discharged and picked up passengers at the park.
The Original Site of Kingston Academy
82 John Street
This building served as the original home of Kingston Academy, founded in 1774. The private school offered classical studies and students were required to speak in Latin during the school day. In addition to tuition, students had to provide two loads of firewood. Women were not admitted until 1809 and were offered a curriculum not as heavy in mathematics and science as the men. The school attracted students statewide and distinguished alumni include artist John Vanderlyn, Governor Dewitt Clinton (Erie Canal), and Edward Livingston (Secretary of State under Andrew Jackson and later Minister to France). Exams were held twice yearly and bleachers were set up so an audience could watch. It became a tourist event that people from all over state came to watch. The day began with a parade starting at the Bogardus Tavern (the site of the first New York State Assembly meetings, formerly on northwest corner Fair Street & Maiden Lane) and proceeded to the Academy. Led by a brass band, the parade included the Academy Trustees, teachers, and students. The Old Dutch Church tolled its bells. After exams, dinners and balls were held in evening.
The original building had a hip roof and bell tower. The main entrance was on John Street. Over the years, commercial adaptations, such as the large first floor windows, have compromised the original architecture. The Academy occupied the site until it moved to a new larger building on the Academy Green in 1830.