Kingston Stockade District
The Kingston Stockade District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
The Kingston Stockade Historic District is the area of the original Kingston settlement located generally within the Stockade bounded by the present Clinton Avenue on the east, North Front Street on the north, Green Street on the west and Main Street on the south. Rear property lines of the far side of each perimeter street form the district's boundaries. The district is extended along the east side of Converse Street to include the Lowe-Bogardus ruin and site.
An eight block district, the Kingston Stockade has developed as the center of the city of Kingston and is now the Kingston business district, as well as an important focus for county government. The district consists primarily of residential and commercial sections with the western half heavily residential in character, while business and commerce are focused in the eastern section. The uptown business district is mainly on Wall and North Front Streets, while Fair and John Streets are partly commercial (professional offices). Crown and Main Streets are partly commercial in function, but quite residential in flavor. Green Street is predominantly residential with single family and multiple dwellings.
Located within the district are eight late 17th century stone houses, plus approximately another dozen such structures dating from the 18th and early 19th centuries. They were symmetrically planned one-and-a-half or two-story residences. Many are still used for this purpose, but some have been converted for commercial purposes. At the four corners of John and Crown Streets a unique grouping of four such stone houses survive.
In addition to the distinctive stone houses are late 18th and 19th century homes of frame and brick. These structures reveal changing influences of styles from the Federal to Greek Revival, Italianate and French Mansard. Most of the residences are two or three story structures, built of stone, clapboard, or brick, with some stucco present. Many of the structures have gable roofs often with an additional projecting center gable or with gabled dormers. Elaborate doorways, many with transoms and sidelights and shuttered windows, are characteristic of the fenestration found on the front facades of the residential structures.
The many commercial buildings on Wall Street were constructed in the highly decorative style of the mid-19th century. They are predominantly three or four story brick structures with flat roofs and decorative cornices.
Within the Kingston Stockade Historic District is the smaller Clinton Avenue Historic District listed on the National Register in March, 1970. That district includes all of Clinton Avenue between Westbrook Lane and North Front Street, North Front Street between Clinton Avenue and Fair Street and the east side of Fair Street between North Front and John Streets.
A few structures within the district of particular interest are described here:
Kingston's Stockade Historic District is a significant historical, architectural and archeological area in the development of New York State. The area is important as one of three early New York State colonial settlements (Fort Orange, Albany, and New Amsterdam, New York being the others), as a planned fortification, as a leading center of early government serving as the State's first capital and as a representative cross section of three hundred years of architectural development.
The Stockade section of the city of Kingston was laid out as a Dutch village in the mid-seventeenth century. The site of the village was carefully chosen in relation to topography on a high delta-like plain which provided good drainage, as well as effective strategic protection from attack.
Settlement of the village began in 1652 when Thomas Chambers left Rensselaerwyck at Albany and settled in what is now uptown Kingston. The settlement became the first between New Amsterdam and Fort Orange (Albany). During the next six years, Dutch settlements along the river were terrorized and devastated by Indian raids. Finally in 1658, Peter Stuyvesant directed that all settlers move their dwellings to the site of a military stockade that he personally surveyed. The log stockade was completed on June 21, 1658, and the streets of the stockade are still intact within 20th century uptown Kingston, encompassing a section of eight blocks, though the stockade was burned in an Indian attack in 1663 and rebuilt.
To this day, the boundary lines of this stockade are formed by Green Street, Main Street, Clinton Avenue and North Front Street and are still intact. Also, amazingly enough, almost the entire bluff promontory forming the perimeter of this area, elevated above the lowland, is still comparatively intact. Therefore, of the three first settlements in New York State, Albany (Fort Orange), New York (New Amsterdam), and Kingston, it is only in Kingston that the authentic elements of an original fortification remain. Documents indicate that this log palisade was in existence until the early 18th century, having been kept in repair as protection against later Indian raids by the townspeople. The northwestern angle of the Palisade formed a bastion. While this area at present is surrounded by commercial development, aerial photography has recently indicated the existence of outlines strongly suggesting that the angle itself may as yet be relatively undisturbed. This area forms a sharp bluff and this may account for its preservation.
Stuyvesant wisely selected the site of what subsequently became the thickly settled part of the old village of Kingston, comprising the tract of land having North Front Street on the north, Main Street on the south, Green Street on the west, and East Front Street (now Clinton Avenue) on the east, thus being protected by very steep banks on three sides and exposed on a level only at the south.
The location of the stockade was such that on the north, east, and west sides, it ran along the brow of a steep declivity (still in existence) with small streams of water, through wet marshy ground at the foot, and on the west was a valley with a brook running through the center.
In 1777 while the Revolution raged about it, this old Dutch settlement became the first capital of the State of New York. When it became necessary to frame a Constitution for the State of New York, the Constitutional Convention was convened at Kingston. In the face of the threat of pursuing English troops, here was framed and adopted the first Constitution of the State.
George Clinton was elected Governor General and was inaugurated at Kingston on July 30, 1777. John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court under the Constitution (who also became the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States) opened at Kingston the First Term of the Supreme Court.
The Senate House, the Old Dutch Church, and the present Court House (built in 1818 on the site of the original structure) are witness to the formation of the New York State Government. While the first Congress was meeting in Kingston on the 16th of October, 1777, the British under General Vaughan landed at Ponckhockie with seven sloops of war, 20 galleys and 1600 troops and reduced Kingston to ashes. 326 houses together with barns were destroyed. The city was slowly and painfully rebuilt, retaining its original form.
General Washington, on his visit to Kingston in 1782, made a circuit of the lines of the ancient stockade and warmly commanded the military sagacity of Governor General Stuyvesant who had planned it. New York State proposed Kingston to be the Capital of the new United States in 1783 when Congress was looking for a permanent place for the national Capital.
Now in the 20th century, 300 years after the building of the Stockade area, it is still very much in evidence. Streets are still intact. Many of the pre-revolutionary houses and post-revolutionary houses built of stone still exist, as well as numerous other buildings of various periods which have produced a cross strata of three centuries of architecture. The Kingston Stockade Historic District contains a number of buildings which individually exemplify the city's architectural development from the seventeenth through twentieth centuries. Together, however, with the street patterns and landscaping they form an environment that is a critical and irreplaceable part of the historical heritage of Kingston and of New York State.
Malo, Paul. "The Architecture of the Stockade District, New York." Unpublished paper — University of Syracuse — February 22, 1969.
Helen Wickinson Reynolds. Dutch Houses in the Hudson Valley.
Eberlein & Hubbard. Historic Houses of the Hudson Valley.
† McDougall, Ellen T. and Levy, Stephen, New York State Division for Historic Preservation, Kingston Stockade District, nomination document, 1975, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.