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Huguenot Street - New Paltz

In our 21st century mind the history of a place is almost always experienced through the homes and artifacts of the rich and famous. We walk through the magnificent homes and wander the spectacular recreated gardens restored from an earlier age. To a great extent this results from economy, the rich stayed and maintained their ancestral homes, their structures survived because by their nature they were expensive and worth keeping.

Daily life is a harder thing to approach. The homes and places of ordinary people are almost always either torn down or transformed beyond recognition as historic places. We build and rebuild and then rebuild again as time passes and neighborhoods transform from village centers to commercial streets. The early history of a place becomes obliterated by time and the march of progress.

However, every so often a confluence of people and events accidentally happens preserving an area. And even more rarely somehow a series of events, people and economics converge to accidentally preserve the actual original structures and homes of a centuries old place. Huguenot Street in New Paltz is one of those extremely rare and very precious places where the confluence of time and events conspired to pass by and leave the historic and founding heart of a place nearly intact, waiting for you to explore what life was really like.

Huguenot Street, now a National Historic Landmark, is the oldest continuously inhabited street in America with its original houses, a wonderful collection of early Dutch vernacular homes. Built by the original Patentee holders between about 1692 and 1720, Huguenot Street is one of the very few places left in America where you can actually go back in time 300 years and touch the original emigrants to America. Founded in 1677, New Paltz represents one of the earliest periods of exploration and settlement in our history. In these very structures the original settlers of New Paltz gathered together for protection, lived their lives as farmers and shop keepers and gathered together to maintain their unique Huguenot identity and religion.

In the spring of 1678 eleven Huguenot families arrived on the promontory overlooking the Wallkill River and established the settlement of New Paltz. Within 20 years they were building their permanent stone homes, erecting their stone church and expanding their farms and families. It is these very same stone houses that still remain on Huguenot Street waiting for you.

Touring the houses of Huguenot Street is an extraordinary experience. You are guided by well informed locals enthusiastic in their interests and knowledge and wanting to bring you into the experience of Huguenot Street. Amazingly, Huguenot Street is operated by a small typically under-funded historic society constantly struggling to keep up with the necessary preservation as well as struggling to upgrade the reconstruction, restoration and furnishings of this unique collection of houses. Each of the houses is "sponsored" by one of the original family associations that keep alive the pride and history of their family, resulting in a slightly erratic collection of furnishings. Over the centuries, as these houses were lived in changes were made, additions were erected and in one case an entire Victorian structure was superimposed burying the original stone structure.

Despite all of this, or possibly as a result of all of this, Huguenot Street displays the full history of New Paltz. Some interiors and structures are virtually intact back to the 17th century while some show more recent activity. Huguenot Street proudly represents this vital timeline of history and family pride like no other place in the country. You are taken right back to some of the original settlers, their lives and their artifacts. And you are brought forward in time into the middle 20th century with some families, displaying the vast richness of artifacts and collections brought together and made possible only because of the passage of centuries and a dedication to heritage.

Experience Huguenot Street, wander the street beneath the shady trees. Stroll and explore the cemetery where the passage of time is displayed in the stones. Tour the houses and discover the museum, listen to your guide and ask the questions you want answered. You'll discover this most unique location and the richness of American History as it passed through and between this unparalleled collection of historic homes. You'll find nothing like it anywhere else, no matter where you roam.

Explore all of Huguenot Street in our In-Depth Feature Presentation!

Specifics on visiting Huguenot Street were correct at time of publication. We would suggest that you confirm dates and times prior to your visit.
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