Saturday, July 4, 2015


I have to be honest and tell you that I had never heard of Historic Huguenot Street, until I started researching activities to do in conjunction with an automobile trip I was taking to the Hudson River Valley, to attend a week-long Road Scholar ( ) program at Mount Saint Mary's College in Newburgh, New York.  Since I was going to be in the area on the Fourth of July, I googled "Hudson River Valley Fourth of July activities", and Historic Huguenot Street ( ) came up, because they were having special, FREE historical demonstrations/re-enactments that day.  Being a frugal traveler, I put it on my list of possible activities for that day. 

I read on the event listing that this National Historic Landmark was located in the town of New Paltz, which I also had never heard of!  (However, after returning from my trip, I re-watched the movie Dirty Dancing---which was written to reflect this Catskill Mountain area of New York---and the town of New Paltz is mentioned as the location to take a resort staff member to the doctor.  Needless to say, I did not catch the reference, the first time I saw the movie, back in the 1980's!)

The first stop for any visitor to Historic Huguenot Street is the DuBois Fort, which serves as the Visitor Center, exhibit area, gift shop, and ticket sales office.  (They also have a second-story restroom with an old-fashioned claw-foot bathtub in it!)

As part of the Independence Day festivities, a staff member was giving a demonstration inside the Visitor Center, on how to churn butter, using the kitchen implements available during colonial days. 

On the grounds outside the visitor center, the demonstrations had been set up as promised, and were attracting several visitors, in spite of the fine mist of precipitation that was falling. 

The re-enactors in this area were giving a demonstration of Dutch-oven cooking, with promises of samples to taste, as the day progressed!

A black-smith was getting his hot coals ready for a demonstration on how knives were made by the colonists.

These younger-looking re-enactors look different, not only because of their clothing suitable to the colonial days, but also because they are not staring down at a cell phone, the way their peer in the burgundy shirt is doing!

The powerful-looking stance of this blacksmith, as he hammered away on the hot metal, show one reason the colonists burned lots more calories in their work, than we do in present-day activities.  If we want a new knife, all it takes is a few clicks on the Internet, and one will arrive at our door within hours!

New Paltz has been a college town for 150 years, and is now the location of SUNY/New Paltz ( State University of New York ).  An option of ANY college student who is beyond their freshman year, is to apply for an internship at Historic Huguenot Street.  The internships are part-time work, and the intern has the opportunity to earn college credits for the experience they will gain. 

The 10-acre National Landmark Historic District was built in the 1700's and consists of seven stone houses.  The Bevier House shown in this photo has a unique stone cellar, that was used to house African slaves.  The historical record of slavery in New Paltz begins in 1674, 3 years before its founding, when Louis DuBois purchased two African slaves at public auction held in Kingston, New York.  By 1790, 77 slave holders owned 302 slaves, or 13% of the population. 

There have been four sanctuaries built on Historic Huguenot Street.  French speaking Protestants who settled New Paltz built the first church in 1683, which was a simple log building; it was eventually replaced by a stone church.  Note that the language spoken in the church was French, until 1753.  At that point, due to the influx of Dutch settlers, the language spoken at the church changed to Dutch, which was used until 1800. 

The Adam Hasbrouck  House reflects the defining elements  of Dutch Architecture.  One of these is that the gable ends of the structure face the street, which conserves street frontage.  Another is a jambless fireplace.  (This means the fireplace does not have the side "jambs" or vertical supports, one normally sees in a fireplace).

The Freer House has been continuously occupied for 250 years.  That means someone had done continuous preventive maintenance on this abode for generations!  I salute them!

Notice the wooden shutters on the house are not just "for looks", as they actually open and close as needed, to protect the occupants from adverse weather conditions.  Also, notice the rain barrels positioned on the ends of the house to collect fresh water from the roof run-off. 

The fieldstone used to construct the houses, is often seen in the architecture of homes built in the prevailing style of the low countries of Northern Europe, that the early settlers would have been familiar with. 

  This reconstructed stone church built in 1717, reflected REFORM thinking, with the pulpit in the central location and pews  placed so everyone could see and hear more clearly.  This expressed the concept that each person had a direct relationship with God, rather than one mediated through a church hierarchy.
  The Jean Hasbrouck stone house serves as the headquarters for the Huguenot Historical Society, which was founded in 1894!  I find it amazing that these founding fathers had the foresight to preserve this significant religious heritage of our nation's history over 120 years ago!!  I am very thankful that they took it to heart, and put into action the advise given in the Bible in I Chronicles 6:5-9 that says, "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates."
The main topic of the Road Scholar program I was to start later that same week, was on the subject of the Roosevelt family.  Therefore, I was fascinated to learn that the Crispell Church is named after Antoine Crispell, one of 12 founders (patentees) of New Paltz, and a direct ancestor of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Since he had ancestors from this region full of Dutch Christians, it is more understandable to me why FDR wanted his family's Bible to be used, each time he was sworn in as President of the United States of America.  The Bible was turned to I Corinthians 13, which is the chapter on Love.  However, unless the onlookers were fluent in foreign languages, they could not have read the chapter, because FDR's family Bible was written in the Dutch language, and had been passed down through the generations of his family!  I was thankful to get to see that Bible later in the week, when I visited the FDR library in Hyde Park, New York.

This ancient stone wall serves as a boundary marker for the gravestones that denote the lives of the early settlers of this region of New York State.  As an example of the on-going mission of this National Historic Landmark, they are offering a "Gravestone Preservation Workshop" on September 19-20, of this year.  There is a fee for the workshop, and you can check out their website for more information.  Another example of its mission to help the current generation learn about their religious heritage, is the fact that each college student enrolled at SUNY in New Paltz receive a free, one year membership to the Historic Huguenot Site!  Their student ID cards have an imprint on the back, reminding them to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity for free guided tours, free admission to special events, and member discounts.  I think if these students use that membership, they will learn about their history, and it will give them "MILES OF SMILES", as it did for me!  Tricia