Our Blog: At Home in Ulster

Leaving No Stone House Unturned

Posted By: Deb Kaufman Sep 16, 2010 @ 02:55 PM | Comment (58)

Kingston’s Stockade District is a place where history and heritage are still very much a part of everyday life.  Yet all too often I zoom around Uptown Kingston on a mission – Catskill Art Supply for markers, the remarkable Bop to Tottom for a gift, and Hannaford’s for groceries. On these days, I barely notice the rich abundance of history interwoven with the modern amenities of any modern residential neighborhood.

Wanting to take no opportunity for granted, I returned recently on a bright and sunny first Saturday of the month with my husband to take the 2 p.m. tour offered by the Friends of Historic Kingston.  What made this tour so satisfying is that this tiny eight block area is so chock full of history that you really walk away with a very keen sense of the times.

We spent our first few hours strolling down Wall Street’s weekly Saturday morning Farmer’s Market, sampling fresh fruits and vegetables, local cheeses, home-baked bread and more. Then we moved on to the many pre and post-Revolutionary War houses representing over three centuries of rich architectural development. I’ll tell you just a little about my favorites:

The Senate House is the oldest public building in America.  Built in 1676, it was home to the first meeting of New York’s newly organized State Senate where George Clinton was chosen the first governor. The Senate House was burnt to the ground by the British in 1777 as punishment for Kingston’s support of the Revolution. It’s now owned and operated by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

The Franz Roggon House, The Matthew Jansen House, The Matthew Person House and the Kingston Academy are four surviving pre-revolutionary war houses marking the corners of Crown and John Streets. All rebuilt after the burning of Kingston, each bears characteristic architectural elements spanning several hundred years of renovations.

The Old Dutch Church, built in 1852 by renowned architect Minard LaFever, is a must-see. One of the oldest continuously existing congregations in the country, it contains a beautiful  1891 window made by the Tiffany Studios. The church’s tall white spire is a Kingston landmark, whose character is protected by current zoning laws so no new building upstages it.

We strategically planned our last stop of the day at Hoffman House. An amazing example of Early American Dutch architecture with random wide planked floors and many small multi-level rooms with fireplaces, it’s also home to a wonderful restaurant of the same name. Here, we sat and rejuvenated ourselves on their outdoor patio, sipping iced tea and sharing a few treats from their tavern menu – a perfect ending to a well-spent Saturday.

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