The small city of Kingston centers on a peaceful, tree-lined historic district known as the Stockade. A few miles away, down by the Hudson, is the city’s equally pleasant harbor, Rondout Landing. There you’ll find more nicely restored buildings, along with historic vessels and tour boats.
Kingston was first settled by the Dutch in 1652, making it the third oldest settlement—after Albany and New York City—in the state. In 1777, the town served as state capital; in the early 1800s, it was known for its boat-building and cement industries. Remnants of these can still be seen at Rondout Landing.
The landing is also the endpoint of the Delaware & Hudson Canal. Built in 1828 to help transport coal from Pennsylvania to the Hudson River, the canal turned Kingston from a sleepy port into a major commercial center.
Visitors centers are located in the Stockade (308 Clinton Ave., 845/331-9506, www.ci.kingston.ny.us) and at Rondout Landing (20 Broadway, 845/331-7517). Summer hours are 11 a.m.–5 p.m. daily; call for off-season hours. Kingston is one of New York’s 17 State Heritage Areas, which are loosely delineated historic parks linked by a common theme; in Kingston, the theme is transportation.
To reach Kingston from the New York State Thruway, take Exit 19. From Hurley, continue north on Route 209.
Historic Stockade Area
In 1658, hostilities broke out between the new Dutch settlers and the Esopus Indians, prompting Governor Peter Stuyvesant to come up from Manhattan to oversee the building of a stockade. The settlers moved their homes inside the 13-foot-high stockade walls, and no Esopus were allowed in after dark.
By 1700, the stockade itself was gone, but the site continued to function as the village center. Over the next 200 years, many of Kingston’s most important buildings were erected here. Today the eight-block district is lined with shady trees, inviting shops and restaurants, and historic sites.
The district centers on the Old Dutch Church (at Main and Wall Sts.), designed in 1852 by Minard Lafever. Renaissance Revival in style, the church features a vaulted ceiling reminiscent of Christopher Wren.
Nearby stands the 1818 Ulster County Courthouse (285 Wall St.). A plaque out front honors Sojourner Truth, who was born a slave in Ulster County in 1797. In this courthouse on November 26, 1883, Truth won a lawsuit that saved her son from slavery in Alabama. It was the first such case ever won by a black parent.
The ivy-covered Senate House State Historic Site (296 Fair St., off Clinton St., 845/338-2786, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon. and Wed.–Sat., and Sun. 1–5 p.m. Apr.–Oct., adults $4, seniors $3, children 5–12 $1) was the meeting place of the first New York State Senate. Inside the former Dutch home, viewable only by guided tour, is the parlor where the 24-member Senate met in 1777 to ratify the first New York State Constitution.
Connected to the house is a museum with exhibits on Kingston’s history and a collection of paintings by John Vanderlyn, one of America’s first landscape painters. Vanderlyn painted the enormous Landing of Columbus that hangs in the Capitol rotunda in Washington, DC. Nonetheless, he lived most of his life in penury and died of starvation in his Kingston apartment.
A printed guide to the walking tour of the Stockade can be picked up at the visitors centers (308 Clinton Ave., 845/331-9506; and 20 Broadway, 845/331-7517; www.ci.kingston.ny.us, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. daily in summer; call for off-season hours). Many of the area’s shops and restaurants are located along Wall, John, and North Front Streets.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition