Rondout-West Strand Historic District
The Rondout-West Strand Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination documentation. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
The Rondout-West Strand Historic District is situated on a series of undulating hills which rise steeply from the Rondout Creek. The Rondout-West Strand Historic District is located approximately two miles south of the uptown Kingston area and one mile west of the Hudson River. Included in the Rondout-West Strand Historic District are two hundred and seventy-eight residential, public, and commercial structures located on approximately fifty-seven acres of land. The Rondout-West Strand Historic District constitutes the major portion of the extant nineteenth-century village of Rondout. While the Rondout-West Strand Historic District includes building lots of varying size, most of the streetscapes show moderately scaled nineteenth-century buildings in both village and residential settings with an additional dense urban area. Numerous period details such as iron and stone fences and bluestone sidewalks and curbs remain throughout the Rondout-West Strand Historic District.
The predominant type of architecture is urban residential with some outlying residential areas of lower density. The concentration of commercial buildings, located on lower Broadway and along the Rondout Creek on the West Strand, illustrates a rich and diverse assemblage of architectural designs for business use. Many of the commercial buildings retain their original storefront designs and often incorporate cast-iron columns, sills and lintels from local nineteenth-century foundries. Types of buildings, in the predominately commercial section include numerous churches, a hotel, the old Kingston Freeman newspaper office, and two firehouses, as well as the before mentioned commercial/residential storefronts. In the residential areas, the dwellings are primarily of the single family type though numerous double houses and several significant row houses are extant.
The architectural styles in the Rondout-West Strand Historic District include Federal, simple Greek Revival, Gothic, Italianate, Romanesque, Renaissance Revival, Second Empire, Queen Anne, and Colonial Revival. Many of the mid-to-late nineteenth century structures, both residential and commercial, show Italianate and Eastlake detailing. Although there is some relatively high-styled decorative detailing, especially in the later commercial structures, the majority of the applied decoration is more vernacular in nature. The earlier Federal and Greek Revival buildings exhibit a restraint in exterior decoration characteristic of the mid-Hudson Valley while the later examples in the Renaissance Revival, Romanesque and Second Empire styles are often quite flamboyant. Streetscapes exhibit a noticeable conformity in scale. Residential areas are almost exclusively comprised of two-story, three-bay structures while commercial areas consist mostly of three- and four-story, densely grouped buildings of from two to nine bays. The primary building materials in the commercial sections are brick, stone and cast iron; residential areas exhibit a mix of brick and frame construction with a lesser use of stone.
Though there has been some demolition with the district, the streetscapes generally retain their original mid-to-late nineteenth century integrity. Twentieth century intrusions are minimal and, through a generally well-thought out revitalization plan, the City of Kingston Community Development Office is in the process of refurbishing, stabilizing, and restoring many of the more significant nineteenth century facades.
The significance of the Rondout-West Strand Historic District lies in its importance to the development of Kingston and in its preeminence as the major nineteenth century Hudson River port between Albany and New York City. In the early 1800's, it was only a small cluster of buildings. However, after the 1828 completion of the Delaware and Hudson Canal, it burgeoned and continued to thrive until the turn of the twentieth century, when the canal closed and local industries did not invest in modernization. Although a large eastern portion of the Rondout area was demolished in the recent past, this section remains and, through its mix of residential, commercial, and ecclesiastical architecture, well illustrates the nineteenth century character of what was a booming trading and industrial community.
Rondout, first known as "Ronduit," was established by the Dutch in the seventeenth century as an Indian trading post; furs were brought from the inland areas down the Rondout, Walkill and Esopus Creeks and sent by boat down the Hudson River to New York City. During that period, the village of Kingston, known also at various times as Esopus and Wiltwyck, was settled a few miles away on the fertile flood plain of the Esopus Creek. Kingston dominated the area during the seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It served briefly as the seat of New York State government until it was burned by the British Army in October, 1777. After the wartime destruction, the villagers rebuilt and continued their agricultural and trading pursuits. Rondout escaped harm during the Revolution because of its unimportance. As late as the 1820's, Rondout was a small unincorporated hamlet; in 1776, a resident recalled it as "scarcely more than six or seven dwelling houses, a mere dependency of the village of Kingston. One or two storehouses were erected on the banks of the creek, and from there grain and the various products of local farms were shipped to market." There was a flour mill nearby and boat traffic consisted of two sloop trips and four steamboat trips a week to New York City.
Area businessmen were acutely aware of their strategic location as a midpoint on the Hudson River, and they tried, in the early 1800's, to build a road to transport more goods from the inland mountains to their port. Their efforts failed, but the work of Pennsylvania mine owners and New York City financiers would succeed. In the early 1820's, William Wurts and Maurice Wurts were developing their anthracite coal mines in Carbondale, Pennsylvania when they found the Philadelphia coal market saturated with Lehigh coal which was more accessible to that city, and, therefore, cheaper. In searching for a new market, they looked for a cheap transportation route from their mines to New York City. Taking the lead from the new Erie Canal, they settled on the idea of a canal linking the mines to the Hudson River and, after some study, decided upon Rondout as their terminus. Construction began in 1825, and the canal was opened its full 108-mile length in 1828. This canal contributed dramatically to the growth of Rondout and, in turn, the city of Kingston. Originally accommodating ten to thirty-five ton boats, over the next fifteen years the waterway was enlarged to finally serve one hundred and thirty-six ton boats that could travel on the Hudson. Besides coal, the canal opened up trade with the hinterland. Non-coal tonnage increased five-fold between 1831 and 1860.
As soon as digging began on the canal, laborers and businessmen arrived to take advantage of the situation. First, Irish laborers came to dig the canal and many of them stayed to work on it after its completion. Businessmen established retail ventures to serve the workers, and then wholesale concerns were created when trade became heavier. River traffic increased greatly and cargo and passenger service on steamboats boomed. In addition, the Delaware and Hudson Plank Road into the Catskills was finally built in the 1830's, and farm and lumber products from another inland area could easily be brought to market.
By 1840, the village had a population of fifteen hundred, two hundred residences, two churches, six hotels and taverns, twenty-five stores, three freighting establishments, a tobacco factory, a gristmill, four boat yards, two dry docks, and the office and dock of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company. By 1855, it had more than six thousand inhabitants and had surpassed Kingston which had somewhat less than four thousand. Rondout was finally incorporated into a village in 1849, and it remained distinct from its neighbor. The two villages were, though, quite dependent upon each other with Kingston having more of the banks and professional services and Rondout having the port and industrial facilities. In 1872, after each had tried to gain incorporation as a city, they merged into one governmental unit; Kingston retained its name but Rondout kept the balance of power by constituting five of the nine wards of the city.
Despite its dependence on the Delaware and Hudson Canal and its importance as a transportation center, Rondout did have a diversified economy. While the canal was being built, cement deposits were found upstream. Quarries were opened along the creek from Rosendale and High Falls to Rondout itself; the Newark Lime and Cement Company quarry was adjacent to the area now comprising the Rondout-West Strand Historic District. Quarrying began in 1844 and a processing plant opened in 1851. This cement was of a very high quality and was exported throughout the United States. Another large industry was the bluestone business. Also getting its beginning in the 1830's, the stone was quarried in the nearby towns of Hurley, Marbletown and Woodstock, and transported to the Rondout for processing and shipment. Used for sidewalks and curbing and cut into tiles for flooring and other architectural elements, North River bluestone was in demand in cities across the country. As would be expected, shipbuilding and repairing was an active industry and local shipyards were capable of building vessels ranging from coal and ice barges to sloops, schooners and steamboats. Other industries included brick-making, ice-cutting, and the manufacture of patent medicines.
With business brought by industry and transportation, Rondout continued to prosper. By the early 1890's, Rondout had three banks, three hotels, a brewery, and retail and wholesale establishments that dealt in everything from food staples and imported fruits to clothing and furniture. The area's decline began in 1899 with the closing of the Delaware and Hudson Canal. It was more economical for the company to ship its coal by rail, and, as the demand for dependable, year-round supply increased, the seasonal canal became obsolete. Progress also dealt a blow to the other industries. Demand for local cement decreased as the faster drying Portland cement came into use; replaced by other materials, such as Portland cement, the demand for bluestone also decreased. Shipping decreased with the decline of these industries, and there was little need for the shipbuilding and repairing industries. By 1932, there were only a few small industrial concerns remaining in the immediate vicinity and, except for two dressmaking factories, they generally served the local community.
Rondout began, as noted above, as Kingston's landing, or the Strand. As the area grew, it expanded up the steep hill. The busier streets, the sites of the commercial buildings and churches, ran down the incline to the creek. The routes parallel to the creek developed into residential areas, but residences also appeared on the perpendicular streets, especially near the top of the hill. Many of the large commercial/residential structures, which date from around 1870, remain. Located on the West Strand and on Broadway, these brick, three to four story buildings often boast their original cast-iron storefronts, cornices, and lintels. In addition, many of them have sills made of local bluestone. Smaller commercial/residential buildings are located further up the hill among the residences. Important examples of commercial/residential structures remain at 3 Broadway, 17 West Strand, and 101 Broadway. The former two buildings are located on the Rondout Creek, while 101 Broadway is half way up the incline. The Freeman Building at 3 Broadway is a massive structure of brick illustrating High Victorian Italianate treatment with its decorative stone banding, fanciful brickwork and heavily bracketed cornice. Its canted corner and two storefront elevations signify its location at the juncture of two main commercial streets. Number 17 West Strand and 101 Broadway are more typical, three bay, commercial structures. The West Strand building has a formal stone Renaissance Revival facade, embellished by a cast-iron storefront and balcony, while the Italianate building at 101 Broadway is of brick construction with an arcaded treatment of the display windows. All three buildings retain their original cast-iron storefronts.
The village of Rondout had no governmental buildings, and the only public structures in the Rondout-West Strand Historic District are the two firehouses; both of them were built around 1860. The Cornell Rescue Building at 88 Abeel Street is the larger one and is characterized by a tall cross gable on its facade. There are arched windows and the three bays are emphasized by vertical brick panels; a horizontal, bracketed, stone band further divides the facade into sections. The smaller Raid Hose Company No. 1 at 85 Hone Street is built of brick in the Italianate style and features round arched windows with arched lintels.
Rondout is the site of numerous churches that were built, often with large contributions by local businessmen, to serve the diversified population. There were Catholic churches for both the Irish and German communities; in addition, there were Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Baptist churches. Two Romanesque Revival churches, both built for the German community, are Trinity Evangelical Lutheran at 64-72 Spring Street and St. Peter's Roman Catholic at 91-93 Wurts Street. Built in 1873 and 1892, respectively, they both recall northern Italian Romanesque architecture. St. Peter's has a square tower and Trinity has a tall broach spire, but both are characterized by their corbelling and their round arched windows.
Residential areas of Rondout spread across the streets parallel to the creek and filled in empty spaces between churches and commercial buildings on the perpendicular streets. By 1870, the area was almost fully developed and after that time, buildings either filled in the few empty lots or replaced earlier, probably less substantial houses. Abeel, West Union, and Hunter Streets have numerous small, two-story, three-bay residences that were occupied by working-class families. Apartments were also built, as were several rowhouses. An early example of these is the Greek Revival brick rowhouse at 14-22 Adams Street. Built before 1850, some of the entrances received later nineteenth century alterations, but several retain their original doorways and simple porticoes. Another exceptional multi-family residential building is Tubby Row at 78-88 Spring Street. Built shortly before 1870, the long, eighteen-bay structure was designed in the latest Second Empire style. Besides its two-and-a-half stories visible on the facade, it has two full basement stories at the rear.
During the nineteenth century, the middle and upper classes of Rondout chose to live close to their work and, therefore, also to the noise and dirt of the docks, quarries, and working-class districts. Four notable and substantial pre-1860, single family residences are located on Hone, Abeel and Spring Streets. The Federal style house at 17 Hone Street is among a handful of early residences extant in the district. Its notable features include pedimented dormers, delicate entablature, and a classical door surround with fanlight. The Jane Forsythe Colligan House at 83-85 Abeel Street is another exceptional early nineteenth century house. It represents a transition from the Federal style with its low hipped roof, to the Greek Revival style, seen in its eyebrow windows and bold classical porch. Both the modest Gothic cottage and the small bracketed style house on Spring Street illustrate different decorative treatments of the mid-nineteenth century picturesque styles. The Gothic cottage located at 49 Spring Street is brick with cross gables, polychrome slate roof, and pointed-arch window, while the bracketed style house at 61 Spring Street is of clapboard construction with bracketed cornice and an ornate porch typical of its style.
Later nineteenth century family residences are predominant in the Rondout-West Strand Historic District. Two houses built in the third quarter of the nineteenth century are those at 23 Ravine Street and 109 Hone Street. Number 23 Ravine Street is a simple structure except for its bracketed cornice and elaborate High Victorian Italianate porch. On the other hand, 109 Hone Street has no highly decorative features, but represents an academic understanding of the Second Empire style in its slate mansard roof, classical entablature with brackets, and similar porch. An example of the Queen Anne style is located at 19 Hone Street. Its canted corners with ornate incised brackets, gables with alternating rows of scalloped and diamond shaped shingles, fanciful gable trim and elaborate porch with spools, and carved brackets and balusters bespeak the opulent variety of this style. An unusual example of the turn of the twentieth century Colonial Revival style is the residence at 6 Rogers Street. The massive gambrel roof portico mirrors the main roof treatment and is a unique design in the district and the mid-Hudson Valley.
Until his death in the 1890's, Thomas Cornell, owner of the Cornell Steamboat Company and numerous other enterprises, maintained his estate within the boundaries of the Rondout-West Strand Historic District. His residence has been demolished, but it was located in what is now Cornell Park, a grassy, wooded area in the center of the district. The carriage house to the estate remains at 50 Post Street. Designed by J.A. Wood of New York City, and built after 1870, the structure's Second Empire style is demonstrated by its bracketed cornice, mansard roof with dormers, arched windows and projecting central pavilion. After Cornell's death, President's Place, once part of his estate, was developed and numerous substantial eclectic and Colonial Revival residences were built. The construction of the houses on President's Place was the last major development in the area.
The Rondout-West Strand Historic District remains as a relatively intact nineteenth century commercial and residential community. Due to the decline of business and building activities after the turn of the twentieth century, there are few modern intrusions. As a result, the historic one-and-a-half- to four-story scale has been maintained. The residential streets such as Adams Street, Hone Street, President's Place and Wurts Street provide cohesive streetscapes with a variety of nineteenth century architecture. The rows of commercial buildings on Broadway and the West Strand are significant for the large umber of original storefronts, most from local cast iron foundries. In addition, period accoutrements such as stone fences, bluestone sidewalks and curbs enhance the Rondout-West Strand Historic District.
The Rondout-West Strand Historic District is important to the Kingston vicinity because it is the remaining vestige of the thriving port town that supported the economy of the area for close to eighty years. The local trading and industrial activities and the workers and businessmen who lived in this area changed Kingston from a small, rural community to a thriving transportation and industrial center for the mid-Hudson Valley. On a larger scale, because of its link to the Pennsylvania coal fields and because of its unique export products, Rondout was an equal to any of the commercial cities along the Hudson between Albany and New York City.
Bacon, George. Kingston and Rondout: Their Representative Businessmen and Points of Interest. Newark, N.J.: Merchantile Publishing Co., 1892.
Blumin, Stuart. The Urban Threshold: Growth and Change in a Nineteenth Century American Community. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976.
DeWitt, William C. Peoples' History of Kingston, Rondout, and Vicinity, 1820-1943. New Haven: Tuttle, Morehouse and Taylor, Co., 1943.
Industrial Survey of the City of Kingston, January 1, 1932. Kingston, N.Y.: Printed under the authority of the Common Council, 1932.
Sanderson, Dorothy H. Delaware and Hudson Canalway: Carrying Coals to Rondout. Ellenville, N.Y.: Rondout Valley Publishing Co., 1974.
Schoonmaker, Marius. History of Kingston, New York... New York: Burr Printing House, 1888.
Smith, Agnes S., ed. Kingston's Hudson — Champlain Souvenir Booklet, Three Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary, 1609-1959. Kingston, N.Y.: N.P., 1959.
Sylvester, Nathaniel B. History of Ulster County, New York... Philadelphia: Everts and Peck, 1880.
† C. Sharp and T. sharp, Consultants, HADAC and Larry Gobrect, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, Rondout-West Strand Historic District, Kingston, Ulster County, New York, nomination document, 1979, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.