Town of Rhinebeck municipal offices are located at 80 Market Street East, Rhinebeck NY 12572; phone: 845-876-3409.
The town of Rhinebeck, generally rural and agrarian in character, covers approximately 40.4 square miles of gently rolling terrain marked by numerous streams that drain the natural watershed west of the Taconic range and feed into the Hudson River. Major streams of both historic and current importance include the Rhinebeck Creek, originating in the north-central section of town near the Red Hook town line, the Landsman Kill, with tributaries as far east as the town of Milan, the Fallsburg Creek, originating in the southeast corner of the town, and the Crum Elbow Creek, flowing from Milan to Hyde Park and defining the Clinton-Rhinebeck town line. The Rhinebeck Creek, flowing south along the route of the Old Post Road (Route 9), and the Landsman Kill, flowing west along Route 308, meet at the Old Fritz Mill Pond, the site of a number of important grist and saw mills during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The stream continues southward under the name of the Landsman Kill along the east side of Mill Road and empties into the Hudson River at the north end of Vandenburgh Cove in the southwest corner of the town. Grist and saw-mills, woolen factories, paper mills and oil mills lined this section of the Landsman Kill during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. North of Fritz Mill Pond, the Rhinebeck Creek flows through relatively flat terrain, providing no sources of hydro-power; thus, there was no industrial development in this section of Rhinebeck. East of Fritz Mill Pond, the rushing Landsman Kill supported several industrial centers, most importantly, "Rutsen's grist and saw-mill at Mrs. Miller's Place" (Smith, p. 252). The Fallsburg Creek, emptying into Vandenburgh Cove just south of the Landsman Kill, also supported a number of manufacturing concerns. (The Crum Elbow Creek empties into the Hudson through Hyde Park and plays a more important role in the histories of Clinton and Hyde Park than in Rhinebeck.)
The courses of these natural waterways determined many of the earliest settlement patterns of the town, including the establishment of colonial thoroughfares and the locations of centers of commerce and farming communities. The Hudson River, an important natural waterway that had the most profound effect on the development of Rhinebeck, played an important role in the history of transportation in this region (from sloops to steamships to rail transportation) and was instrumental in determining the location and character of private resort architecture. The Old Post Road, presently Route 9, generally followed the course of the Rhinebeck Creek and the southern section of the Landsman Kill. Route 308, originally the Sepasco Trail of the native Americans, generally parallels the eastern section of the Landsman Kill. Subsequently, the intersection of these two colonial thoroughfares determined the historic core of the village of Rhinebeck, established in the 1730s for the Low Dutchers. Ryn Beek, laid out in the 1710s for the High Dutchers (Palatine Germans), was located approximately two miles north of Rhinebeck on the Old Post Road along the Rhinebeck Creek.
The current layout of the town reflects almost every aspect of the historical development of Rhinebeck. Much of the town remains sparsely settled, characterized by vast tracts of thick woods, open meadows and undeveloped wilderness. Expansive areas of farmland and cultivated fields also characterize many sections of the town. Current thoroughfares include the north-south routes 9 and 9G through the center of the town which cross in an X-configuration two miles north of the village of Rhinebeck, the north-south Routes 103 (River Road) and 85 through the western corridor of the town, providing access to the river-front estates along the Hudson, and the east-west Route 308 through the center of both the town and village of Rhinebeck. West of the village, Route 308 becomes Rhinecliff Road, providing access to the hamlet of Rhinecliff, a small, river-front community two miles to the west. East of the village, Route 308 intersects Route 9G near the former Rutsen Mills, the Robert Sands Estate and the Grove. One mile further east, at the historic German settlement of Eighmyville, Route 308 veers northeastward and runs past Sepasco Lake to Rock City at the junction of the Red Hook-Rhinebeck Milan town lines. Route 52 continues eastward from Eighmyville to provide access to the town of Milan. East-west Routes 19 and 84 traverse the southeast and south sections, respectively, of the town.
The extant, intact historic resources of the town and village of Rhinebeck and hamlet of Rhinecliff are generally concentrated along these primary natural waterways and man-made thoroughfares. Exceptions to this pattern include several widely dispersed properties, including settlement period farmhouses, early nineteenth century farmsteads and early twentieth century estates. For ease of discussion, the character of the town can be described in geographic sections.