Rhinecliff, approximately seven blocks long and three blocks wide, is bisected by Charles and Kelly Streets, the community's primary north-south thoroughfares. The historic core of the hamlet is located at the intersection of Charles and Kelly Streets with Schatzell Avenue, at the center of which is a small, grassy traffic island with a World War I and II monument. The hamlet's only commercial and civic buildings are clustered at or near this intersection. The northwest corner of the intersection is occupied by the Rhinecliff village green, west of which Schatzell Avenue descends to the river. Residential properties stretch to the north, south, east and west of the intersection. Most are one and one-half to two-story frame dwellings on small, modestly landscaped village lots. Many date from the first half of the nineteenth century when the hamlet was a popular steamship landing. The hamlet expanded with the arrival of rail transportation in 1851. New buildings were erected and most of the older buildings were remodelled with the addition of a veneer of picturesque ornamentation. Rhinecliff prospered in a small way throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but its development was eclipsed by the growth and prosperity of the village of Rhinebeck. The demise of the railroad in the early twentieth century left Rhinecliff without an economic base, and the hamlet entered a period of quiescence which has only recently been disturbed by New York City commuters and week-end residents who have made a bedroom community out of Rhinebeck. The present character of Rhinecliff recalls its heyday during the late nineteenth century, although few properties retain sufficient integrity of design and materials to meet the National Register criteria. Extensive twentieth-century alterations to the older buildings and the large number of modern intrusions throughout the hamlet preclude the creation of an historic district.
Six historic properties, however, do survive intact. The Rhinecliff Railroad Station (ca. 1910-1914), a brick and stone building with eclectic design features, is included in the Sixteen Mile Historic District. Five additional properties in Rhinecliff are included as individual components in the multiple resource area. They are the Riverside Methodist Church and Rectory (ca. 1859, Orchard and Charles Streets), the Rhinecliff Hotel (ca. 1855, Schatzell Avenue), the O'Brien General store and Post Office (ca. 1863, Schatzell Avenue and Charles Street), the Morton Memorial Library (ca. 1905, Kelly Street) and the Free Church Parsonage (ca. 1869, William and Grinell Streets). The first four are located at or near the densely settled core of the hamlet. The Riverside Church is a diminutive, rustic, Gothic Revival style chapel executed in stone, and the related parsonage is a restrained, Gothic Revival style cottage with a cross-gable roof and ornamental woodwork. The hotel, which evolved in several stages throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is a large, three-story, five-bay frame building with a cross-gable roof and decorative, second-story verandah. The general store, at the heart of the intersection, is a three-story, three-bay brick commercial building with restrained Italianate style features and a remarkably intact nineteenth-century storefront. The library is a one-story, brick Colonial Revival style building with a side wing that is built in the form and style of an eighteenth century, regional vernacular house. The fifth property, the Free Church Parsonage, is located on the southwest fringe of the hamlet in a low-density, residential section of Rhinecliff overlooking the Hudson River. The parsonage is a restrained, Gothic Revival style, board-and-batten cottage. It was formerly associated with the Rhinecliff Episcopal Church which, until it was destroyed by fire in the 1970s, stood on the opposite corner of the William-Grinell Streets intersection.