Between the Hudson River and the Shawangunk Mountains  lies the small town of New Paltz. New Paltz was founded in 1677 by a group of French Huguenot Protestants who came to the New World seeking religious freedom. The Huguenots first settled just north of New Paltz, in Kingston  and Hurley . But in June 1663, the area’s Esopus Indians raided the two small settlements, kidnapping 45 women and children.
That September, a Huguenot search party found and freed the hostages. While embracing his family, one member of the party—Louis DuBois—noticed the fertile land around him. He returned in 1677 with 11 others to buy and patent a 33,000-acre tract of land, and the next year, the 12 families settled along what is now known as Huguenot Street .
The new town was governed by a kind of corporation called the Duzine, referring to the 12 partners. That arrangement continued until well after the Revolution, by special permission of the New York State legislature. The system apparently worked well; one later commentator wrote, “So fine and free from animosity and greed has been the life of the people of New Paltz that previous to 1873 no lawyer ever found a permanent residence here.”
Today, the center of New Paltz lies just east of historic Huguenot Street , along Chestnut and Main Streets. Here, you’ll find a clutch of attractive stores and restaurants. New Paltz is also home to a State University of New York (SUNY) branch that offers an especially strong arts department, which helps account for the town’s strong cultural scene.
To reach New Paltz from I-87, take Exit 18 and head west on Route 299, which becomes Main Street. For more information on the area, visit the New Paltz Chamber of Commerce (124 Main St., 845/255-0243, www.newpaltzchamber.org , 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–3 p.m. Sat.–Sun).