Over the Wallkill: The Western Hamlets of New Paltz
By Vals Osborne
From Issue 50: Summer 2021
The tenth tour in a decade of annual historic house tours in southern Ulster County is sponsored this year by Historic Huguenot Street. First conceived in 2010 under the auspices of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust, the program evolved into a long-term research project focused on the region’s compelling history and cultural heritage, and its stunning natural beauty and rich resources. Land stewardship has remained the prevailing theme throughout these endeavors – in the hope of stimulating broader and deeper appreciation for, and engagement with, historic preservation and land conservation.
This year’s program explores the legacy of the town of New Paltz’s agrarian communities west of the Wallkill: Springtown, Butterville, and Libertyville hamlets, and the Guilford Neighborhood in Gardiner. Situated on the rich alluvial floodplains and sweeping plateaus above, interspersed with wetlands and wooded areas, western New Paltz lies between Rosendale and Gardiner, and the Wallkill River and the Shawangunk Mountains. Huguenot heritage predominated in this sparsely populated region in the 18th and 19th centuries, except for a small Quaker community around Butterville early in the 19th-century.
It features charming vernacular and stately homesteads nestled in picturesque locations, overlooking the Wallkill River or on high ridges above with commanding views. These homes include the oldest stone houses still standing, Greek Revival and Italianate frame dwellings, stunning Federal and Gothic Revival brick homesteads, and a contemporary vision built almost entirely of salvaged wood from Montana. Several of the houses are on the National Register of Historic Places.
The innovative film presentation is designed by master videographer Robert Fagan, featuring local landscapes and houses, with music by Molly Mason and Jay Ungar, narrative passages, owner interviews, and interior vistas.
The film will begin airing on September 26th. Registration begins in mid-August at huguenotstreet.org and includes the film and a downloadable PDF booklet on the history of the area and the houses.