New Paltz was founded in 1678 by French Huguenots, Protestant followers of John Calvin who had escaped religious persecution in France and emigrated to religiously tolerant countries around the world, including the United States. With the purchase of nearly 40,000 acres of land from the Esopus Indians, the 12 founding families, referred to as the Patentees (as they held the legal patent to the land), quickly left their young Kingston and Hurley homes and established a permanent settlement and farming community along the Wallkill River.
Peaceful Huguenot Street in downtown New Paltz offers a step back in time to these early days of the village. Charming, Dutch-inspired stone houses, many now active museums, provide a glimpse of what life was like in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Visitors can admire the quality architecture at the Freer House, Abraham Hasbrouck House, Bevier-Elting House, DuBois Fort, Jean Hasbrouck House and the LeFevre House, as well as a reconstructed 1717 church. There is also an 18th century burial ground, a visitor center, educational exhibits and many of the homes are open for tours. Huguenot Street, marketing itself as “the oldest street in America with its original houses”, is listed on the register of National Historic Landmark Districts.
Crispell Memorial French Church and Burying Ground
The Crispell Memorial French Church, to the surprise of many, is actually a 1972 reconstructed interpretation of the first 1717 stone church in New Paltz. The original church, which was also used as a school, served the early settlement for 56 years when a larger church was built to accommodate the growing congregation. The church is named for Antoine Crispell, one of the twelve founders of New Paltz. The adjacent Burying Ground contains many graves of the original 12 founding families of New Paltz. The last burial took place here in 1864.
The LeFevre House, also known as the 1799 House, was built in 1799 by Ezekiel Elting, a descendent of one of the original Patentees that founded the village of New Paltz. The stone-and-brick, Federal-style structure was designed to function as both a residence and as a store. It’s size, symmetry, building materials (partially brick versus all field stone) and location (across from the now gone ferry landing) each demonstrated the growing prosperity of the Elting family, the New Paltz village and the United States.
Jean Hasbrouck House
Jean Hasbrouck, one of the original 12 founders of New Paltz, constructed this charming house over two decades, completing it around 1712. For many years, the family operated a general store on the ground floor. The house remained in the Hasbrouck family until 1899 when it was sold to the local preservation organization known as the Huguenot Monumental, Historical and Patriotic Society (today known as Historic Huguenot Street). It has been operated as a museum since 1899.
The Bevier-Elting House was constructed in 1698 by Louis Bevier, one of the 12 founders of New Paltz. In 1760, Samuel Bevier, Louis Bevier’s son, sold the house to Josiah Elting. It is believed that the Elting family utilized one room of the house to operate a general store. Remarkably, the house remained in the Bevier-Elting families until 1963, when it was sold to the Huguenot Historical Society.
Abraham Hasbrouck House
Daniel Hasbrouck (1692-1759), son of Abraham Hasbrouck (one of the original 12 founders of New Paltz), constructed this charming house in the 1720s and 1730s. The house remained in the Hasbrouck family until 1911, after which it was sold several times and eventually purchased by the Huguenot Historical Society.
The New Paltz Patent approved by the Governor required the settlers to construct a fort as part of the community. In response, in order to meet this requirement and despite good relations with local Native Americans, the DuBois House, also known as the DuBois Fort or the Old Fort, was constructed in 1705. Although it was designed as a place of refuge, it contained little fortification other than a few gun ports but did meet the letter of the law. It was never used in armed conflict. The house was constructed by Daniel Dubois, the grandson of Louis DuBois, one of the original 12 founders of New Paltz. Remarkably, the house remained in the Dubois family until 1968, or 263 years, when it was sold to the Huguenot Historical Society. Today, the Dubois Fort serves as the visitor center for the Huguenot Historic District.
Hugo Freer, one of the original 12 founders of New Paltz, built the 1½ story home in 1694, with Hugo’s descendants adding rooms in 1735 and 1776. Hugo was a prominent member of the community, including being named deacon of the first church in the village. Hugo is buried in the nearby Crispell Memorial French Church and Burying Ground. In 1720, Hugo’s granddaughter Sarah and husband Johannes Louw inherited the house. The house then remained in the Low family until the early 20th century, changed hands several times outside the family before being purchased in 1955 by the Huguenot Historical Society.