Part of the magic of Ulster County is the richness and depth of our historical roots, dating back to the mid-1600s when the area was settled by the English and Dutch. They joined with the native Esopus Indians to farm the land and build a new way of life. When relations began to deteriorate in the mid-1650s, the inhabitants petitioned Governor Peter Stuyvesant for protection. He built a stockade overlooking the original settlement, requiring the farmers to relocate their homes and families within its walls for their own protection. Unfortunately, the safety of the stockade was short-lived; Indians soon penetrated its borders, burning the village inside. After ten years of divisiveness and combat, the Dutch signed a treaty with the Indians, allowing the settlers to re-establish their town and lives.
Soon, however, there was danger on another front: the British were coming. During the British invasion that swept through the colonies in the 1660s, many settlements were overtaken as inhabitants of Kingston aligned themselves with the Revolutionary forces. Angered by the rebellious settlers, the British burned Kingston (by this time the Capital of New York State), almost destroying it. But Kingston survived. The villages of Rondout, Kingston and Wilbur merged their corporate boundaries in 1872 to become the city of Kingston we now know.
Today, the County’s vibrant history comes alive in walking and driving tours in many of the villages and townships. Travel visitors are urged to visit the site of the former stockade area in Uptown Kingston, the original Senate House and dozens of stone houses from the 17th and 18th centuries, still standing in Kingston, Hurley, Stone Ridge, New Paltz and in other locations throughout Ulster County.
The City of Kingston boasts the oldest stone house corner in America at the intersection of John and Crown Streets. The Stockade Area features the original Senate House, the oldest public building in the United States; this is where the state government was created in 1777. Kingston has two visitors’ centers displaying a wealth of information about the history of the city and the county. The Maritime Museum, Rondout Lighthouse and Trolley Museum emphasize the close relationship the city developed with industrial activities around the port area. Hurley, known as America’s Stone House Community, is a designated National Historic Landmark Village. Homes are open on the second Saturday of each July. A stroll down Huguenot Street in New Paltz takes you right into the past. As the oldest street in America, it boasts perfectly maintained, original colonial architecture, with many 17th and 18th century buildings open to the public.