Kingston is a city in and the county seat of Ulster County, New York, USA. It is north of New York City and south of Albany. It became New York's first capital in 1777, and was burned by the British on October 16, 1777, after the Battles of Saratoga. In the 19th century, the city became an important transport hub after the discovery of natural cement in the region, and had both railroad and canal connections. Passenger rail service has since ceased, and many of the older buildings are part of three historic districts, such as the Stockade District uptown, the Midtown Neighborhood Broadway Corridor, and the Rondout-West Strand Historic District downtown.
The city of Kingston was first called Esopus after a local Esopus tribe, then Wiltwijck (sometimes anglicized to Wiltwyck). Settled in 1651, it was one of the three large Hudson River settlements in New Netherland, the other two being Beverwyck, now Albany, and New Amsterdam, now New York City. In 1777, Kingston became the first capital of New York. During the summer of 1777, when the New York State constitution was written, New York City was occupied by British troops and Albany (then the second largest settlement in New York and capital of the newly independent State of New York) was under threat of attack by the British. To escape attack, the seat of government was moved downstream to Kingston, which was deemed safer. Ironically, the British never reached Albany, being stopped at Saratoga, but they did reach Kingston. On October 16, 1777, shortly after the Battle of Saratoga, the city was burned by British troops moving up the Hudson River from New York City, disembarking at the mouth of the Rondout Creek on the formation the Dutch had named Ponck Hockie. Contrary to popular belief there wasn't a large conflict between the townsfolk and the British invaders. This is because the denizens of Kingston knew of the oncoming fleet. The city had been evacuated by the time the British arrived, residents and the government having removed to Hurley, New York, which the British did not attack. Kingston celebrates and re-enacts the 1777 burning of the city by the British every other year (2013 is the next "burning of Kingston), in an all-city theatrical staging of the event that begins at the Rondout.
The area was a major granary for the colonies at the time, so the British burned large amounts of wheat and all but one or two of the buildings. There is some debate over exactly how much of a fight was put up against the British; one third of the local militia regiment was still to the north at Saratoga, and one third was to the south manning several forts (which were captured days before by the British). This would have left approximately 150 militiamen to defend the city against approximately 2,000 British regulars.
The Dutch cultural influence in Kingston remained strong through the end of the Nineteenth Century.
Bluestone and cement
The town of Rondout, New York, now a part of the city of Kingston, became an important freight hub for the transportation of coal from Pennsylvania to New York City through the D & H canal. This hub was later used to transport other goods, including bluestone. Kingston shaped and shipped most of the bluestone made to create the sidewalks of New York City. Natural cement deposits were found throughout the valley, and in 1844 quarrying began in the "Ponchockie" section of Rondout. The Newark Lime and Cement Company shipped cement throughout the United States, a thriving business until the invention of the cheaper, quicker drying Portland Cement. Large warehouses of ice sat beside the Hudson river from which the ice was cut during the winter and preserved all year to be used in early refrigeration. Large brick making factories were also located close to this shipping hub. Rondout's central location as a shipping hub ended with the advent of railroads which ran through Rondout and Kingston but could transport their loads through the city without stopping.