Hi everyone! My sweet husband and I did some thrifting south of us, near Kingston and decided to head into the city to see some of the historical sites. Many of you know that I live in Albany, the capital of New York State, but what many of you may not realize is that the city of Kingston bears the honor of having been NY’s first capital, despite the fact that both NYC and Albany had larger populations. New York’s Constitutional Convention began meeting in NYC in 1776, but they were forced out when the British invaded in early 1777. The members of the convention chose Kingston (the third largest city) over Albany because they expected the British to invade Albany at any moment. [Ultimately the British failed in this endeavor when the Patriots forced their surrender in Saratoga.]
Kingston’s time as capital, however, was short-lived. Within the year, the British had burned the entire city and the state government found itself, again, on the run. This time to the city of Poughkeepsie, though it did return briefly to Kingston for short periods in the 1780’s, until Albany took on the role as state capital permanently in 1797.
But prior to the British conflagration of Kingston, the Convention had the opportunity to adopt a constitution, elected a governor (George Clinton), and established a legislature. The state Senate met in the building you see here, a Dutch Colonial style, stone home belonging to merchant Abraham Van Gaasbeek and dating to 1676. [You may remember that the Dutch settled NY in the early 1600’s. In 1664, the England took it from them and New Netherlands became New York.]
The Senate House sits in one corner of the Kingston Stockade District, a National Register of Historic Places site. A famous name from the New York Constitutional Convention: John Jay, also a member of the (US) Continental Congress, America’s first Chief Justice, and later Governor of New York.
Adjacent to the Senate House, the county built the Senate Museum in 1927.
It’s an impressive building in its own right, built in the Georgian Revival style.
Down the street and around the corner, we found the Old Dutch Church (also within the Kingston Stockade District), built in 1852 in the Renaissance Revival style. Its congregation dates back to 1659.
On this shiveringly cold day in January, we did not find the headstone of George Clinton (NY’s first Governor), whom we read was buried in the Old Dutch Church graveyard. But we found the writing and various shapes of the old headstones fascinating.
This beautifully tinted stone remembers “Nelly the wife of Tunis who was born the 12th of August 1771, died the 3rd of October 1822, aged 51 years and a few days. Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.”
I found this copper-topped headstone lovely (in its way); I’ve never seen one like it.
Saying goodbye to the Old Dutch Church, we meandered about until we discovered some of the stone homes within the stockade district that date to the pre-Revolutionary period. In 1663, the Dutch stationed Sergeant Matthew Person in Kingston. He chose to remain, even after the English had seized control of New Amsterdam (NY). and built this home on the corner of John and Crown Streets. Occupied by members of the Persons family until 1920, the county now owns the building, which houses the 4-H Club, Cornell Cooperative Ext., and the Agricultural Dept.
Said to be haunted, the Franz P. Roggen House also sits on the corner of John and Crown Streets. After the British burned Kingston, locals used beams from the house to build a gallows. Apparently, those same beams were used to reconstruct the home, now owned by a securities firm. Kind of spooky.
The narrow streets and Colonial-era homes remind me of the Schenectady Stockade, which I’ve posted about before. I have a soft spot in my heart for Kingston because my first job out of law school was for Assemblyman Maurice Hinchey (later Congressman), and he ran his district office out of Kingston. I became quite familiar with the city over the five years that I worked for him, travelling there from Albany for various meetings. It’s a lovely city, well worth a visit, particularly if you love American history.
Thanks so much for stopping by!
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Bye for now,
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