History of the Huguenots and Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz
All in the family: Some of the Valley’s earliest European settlers, the Huguenots arrived in New Paltz not long after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock
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Stone simplicity: The Abraham Hasbrouck House (left) reopened last year after an extensive renovation, which included installation of a new roof (above right) with hand-riven planks
Today, all of the houses stand in their original locations and display architectural features, furnishings, clothing, textiles, and collections of other items that depict the life of the occupants. Outbuildings also remain on-site, as does a reconstructed 1717 French church and an original burial ground, where one of the oldest stones records the October 7, 1731 death of Abraham DuBois, the last “survivor of the 12 patentees.” The 1705 fort serves as the site’s visitor’s center.
Upkeep is a primary concern of the HHS. Last year, the 1721 Abraham Hasbrouck House reopened after having been closed, off and on, for 10 years. “It was restored to interpret life at the time from the women’s point of view,” says McNally. “The house held seven children, with four slaves living in the basement, all in this small house in the years leading up to the American Revolution. We now present the life of a large family in small quarters.”
The Hasbrouck Family Association helped to raise funds to restore the house; it is one of more than 10 active groups made up of descendants of the original settlers. Several of these groups maintain their own Web sites, where they post genealogical information, the family’s coat of arms, and updates on reunions and other news. And while Hasbrouck is perhaps the best-known name (there are a number of Hasbrouck stone houses in neighboring communities in Ulster County), other family monikers frequently pop up around the region, too.
“I was always taught about my family history,” says McNally, who is herself a Deyo family descendant and part of the Deyo Family Association. She grew up in Scarsdale and first visited New Paltz when she was eight years old. “I was completely mesmerized by the stone houses,” she recalls. “I was fascinated. I got to learn American history on a personal level, and that made all the difference.”
And what about the lasting significance of the Huguenots to early America? McNally believes it is about much more than just the impressive stone architecture. “The culturally diverse group of settlers who built this community — including Dutch, French, English, Native Americans, and slaves — that’s what the country became,” she says. “They were the precursors, the frontier of the diversity of America. They didn’t know they were making the American story when they left their country of origin and settled here, but that is their legacy.
Visiting Historic Huguenot Street
Guided tours of the historic district are offered from May through October for $16. Refer to www.huguenotstreet.org for specific dates and times. The Visitor’s Center often hosts exhibits and events, and the Web site includes 17 online galleries for visitors to peruse.
May 11: Historic Huguenot Street and the Reformed Church of New Paltz host a Mother’s Day Tea and musical concert at the French Church. 12-5 p.m. Call or visit Web site for tickets. 845-255-6340; www.reformedchurchofnewpaltz.org
June 1: HHS has been selected as one of more than 200 sights on the New York State Path Through History Initiative. To celebrate, historical musician Linda Russell performs In the Good Old Colony Days: Songs of Early America on the lawn of the Visitor’s Center at 2 p.m.
June 9: HHS and the Ulster County Historical Society cohost Appraisal Day in Deyo Hall. A panel of experts evaluates your jewelry, paintings, china, furniture, and other collectibles. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. $5 per item, or $10 for three items; discounted tour coupons available.
July 15-19: What Lies Beneath: Summer Archaeology Camp
Experienced HHS staff members lead campers in an on-site dig, which includes excavating, cleaning, and cataloging archaeological finds. Children learn about archaeology and past cultures, and enjoy a variety of activities such as indoor and outdoor games, tours of the museum site, and a camper-created exhibit of artifacts found during the dig. Visit www.huguenotstreet.org for complete information.