Huguenot Street Historic District
The Huguenot Street Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1960. It was one of the first properties listed on the newly-established National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of 1984 documentation of the National Register.  Adaptation copyright © 2010, The Gombach Group.
The Huguenot Street Historic District is a linear, three-block stretch of buildings along a single street in the village of New Paltz, New York. Its nationally significant resources consist of five stone houses dating from the late 17th and early 18th centuries. These are in nearly original condition and occupy a setting which has been only slightly impacted by three centuries of later development. The Huguenot Street Historic District as a whole contains 12 buildings. All but two of the buildings in the Huguenot Street Historic District add to its sense of time and place and historical and architectural development.
Huguenot Street is now a quiet tree-lined side street on the northwestern fringes of modern New Paltz. It runs north-south on the eastern edge of the Wallkill River flood plain and is bordered on its east side by the tracks of the West Shore Railroad. At its southern end, immediately beyond the landmark boundary, there is a modern apartment complex, separated from the Huguenot Street Historic District visually and topographically. At its northern or upper end, Huguenot Street curves sharply east; the Huguenot Street Historic District is thus visually closed at both ends. Two streets, West Broadhead Avenue and North Front Street, intersect with Huguenot Street on its eastern side.
Because construction on Huguenot Street continued after the early stone houses were built, seven later buildings are interspersed among the older houses. These range in date from 1799 to 1890. Other buildings of similar age abut the Huguenot Street Historic District. The majority of the later buildings within the boundaries of the Huguenot Street Historic District are an integral part of the setting of the early houses and have individual architectural merit. Two late 18th century houses and an 1839 church have historic architectural merit, although not relating directly to the nationally significant themes of the Huguenot Street Historic District. Another of the district buildings was originally built as a stone house not unlike the other five, but was transformed into a two-story, late Queen Anne house around the turn of the century. The Huguenot Street Historic District's newest addition is only ten years old [in 1983], but is a faithful reconstruction of an 18th century church and does not betray its true age to the majority of visitors. There are also two late 19th century frame houses. Unlike the other buildings constructed subsequent to the period of national significance, these two frame houses do not have individual architectural merit, nor do they reflect the pre-industrial era character of the rest of the district.
The Huguenot Street Historic District, encompassing approximately three blocks, contains perhaps the most intact concentration of late 17th and early 18th century stone houses in the United States. Of the twelve buildings in the Huguenot Street Historic District, six are entirely or partly of stone construction. One of these was later altered, and it is principally because of the five intact survivors, and their physical and associational relationships to each other, that the Huguenot Street Historic District is nationally significant. Within the boundaries of the Huguenot Street Historic District are several later buildings which provide an appropriate setting for the nationally significant Huguenot buildings and contribute to the district because of their State or local architectural significance.
New Paltz was founded in 1677 by Huguenots who had originally settled at what are now Kingston and Hurley several miles to the north. Hurley had been burned by the Esopus tribes, who kidnapped several of the settlers in 1663, at least partly because of the taking of their lands. In 1677, therefore, the heads of the twelve Huguenot families negotiated a deed with the Native for approximately 39,683 acres. Governor Andros ratified the agreement by issuing the New Paltz patent. The patent covered 144 square miles or about 92,126 acres, including in its limits the present town of New Paltz, Lloyd and part of Esopus.
Early the next spring, the Patentees left Hurley with their families to establish on the banks of the Wallkill, their new home which they called "New Paltz," in memory of the old Palatinate on the Rhine which had been their first refuge. Their household goods were stored in three large carts and the first camp on the journey was made on the lowlands on the west side of the Wallkill. These lands like those along the Esopus and Shawangunk Kills had probably been cleared long before by Native Americans and used for the planting of corn and beans.
When the Patentees arrived at their ground and were ready to build, they were advised by the friendly Natives to choose the other side of the river where spring freshets could not bother them. The first buildings are believed to have been log structures, no longer extant. It was not until several years later, at the end of the 17th century, that the first of the surviving stone houses were built.
The Huguenots were French Protestants, followers of John Calvin. As religious dissidents they were persecuted for many years, and eventually began migrating to other areas of Europe as well as to the New World. The founders of New Paltz began arriving at what is now Kingston, by way of Die Pfalz, Germany, as early as 1600.
The New Paltz settlement was governed by a council of the heads of the twelve families to whom the patent was issued. This council, known as the Dusine, was empowered to grant lots within the patent, exercise judicial powers over the inhabitants, and perform other governing functions. The system was acknowledged by the Colonial government, and remained in place until the town was incorporated in 1785. At that time the New York legislature confirmed the grants and partitions made by the Dusine.
The colony was thus politically and culturally self-contained, if not isolated. Its members seldom intermarried with the neighboring Dutch, for instance. It is tempting to see this system as an outgrowth of the years of persecution in France, and equally tempting to discern the same mentality at work in the physical arrangement of the settlement. One of the most striking aspects of the Huguenot Street Historic District is that it is clustered along a single street. Unlike the typical pattern of taking up lands, in which a settler builds on and cultivates a tract of several dozen acres, the New Paltz Huguenots arranged themselves into a village. Surviving villages from the 17th century are, of course, extremely rare in America.
Architecturally the four most intact of the houses — the Jean Hasbrouck House, Bevier-Elting House, Abraham Hasbrouck House, and Hugo Freer House — are significant because of their nearly direct transmission of the architectural traditions of the homeland. The use of stone as a building material is possibly a combined result of this tradition and its abundance nearby. Another possible explanation is the memory of the burning of Hurley, although that had occurred thirty years earlier.
Huguenot Street has been called "the oldest street in America with its original house." As such it is a unparalleled nationally significant resource. Its value has been recognized formally since 1899, when the Jean Hasbrouck House was purchased by the Huguenot Historical Society. Beginning in the 1950's, the acquisition, restoration and interpretation of the remainder of the houses began. Still operated by the Huguenot Historical Society (headquartered adjacent to the Huguenot Street Historic District boundary described herein) the houses have generally been restored and maintained in good to excellent condition and are open to the public.
Later development of New Paltz has contributed substantially to the Huguenot Street Historic District's preservation. At an early date, the town center shifted southeast of Huguenot Street, so there have been few threats of redevelopment. Later construction on the street seems to have stopped near the turn of the 20th century (two examples of which are within the national landmark district as non-contributing buildings). In recent years an apartment complex and a Christian Education building have been constructed nearby, but both are outside the Huguenot Street Historic District boundaries, and do not have a visual impact on the Huguenot Street Historic District.
Crouse, W.M. "The French in Colonial New York." A History of the State of New York II, 145-148. Ten volumes, edited Alexander C. Flick. 1933-37.
Eberlein, Harold Donaldson and Courtland Van Dyke Hubbard. Historic Houses of the Hudson Valley. New York: Bonanza Books. 1942.
Hasbrouck, Kenneth E. Historic New Paltz. 1959.
Hasbrouck, Kenneth E. A Guide to Huguenot Street and Preservation Efforts of the Huguenot Historical Society, New Paltz, N.Y. New Paltz, N.Y.: Huguenot Historical Society. 1982.
Hasbrouck, Kenneth E. and Erma R. DeWitt. The Street of the Huguenots. No date.
The Junior League of Kingston, N.Y. Survey of Buildings in Historic Ulster County. Kingston, N.Y.: The Junior League of Kingston, New York, Inc. 1969.
The Junior League of Kingston, N.Y. Early Architecture in Ulster County. Kingston, NY: The Junior League of Kingston, New York, Inc. 1974.
Reynolds, Helen Wilkinson. Dutch Houses in the Hudson Valley Before 1776. New York: Holland Society of New York. 1929 (Reprinted: Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1965).
Van Buren, Augustus H. A History of Ulster County Under the Dominion of the Dutch. Kingston, N.Y. 1923.