New Paltz was founded in 1678 by French Huguenots settlers, including Louis DuBois, who had taken refuge in Mannheim, Germany, for a brief period of time, being married there in 1655, before emigrating to the Dutch colony of New Netherland in 1660 with his family. Mannheim was a major town of the Palatinate (in German, the Pfalz), at the time a center of Protestantism. The settlers lived in Wiltwyck (present day Kingston, NY) and in 1677 purchased a patent for the land surrounding present day New Paltz from a Lenape tribe known as the Esopus.
The people of Mannheim use a dialect form of the name Pfalz without the "f", pronouncing it "Paltz." Records of the New Paltz Reformed Church, which was formed in 1683, show the name of the settlement was first expressed not in German, nor in English, but in French: Nouveau Palatinat. The community was governed by a kind of corporation called the Duzine, referring to the twelve partners who acquired the royal patent. That form of government continued well past the time of the American Revolution, by special action of the New York State legislature.
The (* or so of the patent, stretching to the Hudson River and augmented soon by the other patents on the south, were eventually divided among those twelve partners, their relatives, and a few friends into large plots – part wilderness and part farm. The farms were grouped principally around the heights west and east of the Wallkill River. The commercial center serving the agricultural base was located on the east shore of the Wallkill River, in the area where the first settlers had built their shelters. The street is now known as Huguenot Street.
There, the church, schools, blacksmith, seamstresses, and stores flourished for the benefit of farmers who required goods such as seed, tools, clothing, and food not available on all farms, including alcoholic beverages. The church, which was also used as a school, was located here. Many of the buildings still stand today, as a living museum community.
Population slowly spread from the Wallkill up along the street now known as North Front Street and then along what is now Chestnut Street. In the nineteenth century, development continued along what is now Main Street. The secession of the Town of Lloyd and parts of Shawangunk, Esopus, and Gardiner, between 1843 and 1853, reduced New Paltz to its present size. In 1887, the Village of New Paltz was incorporated within a town of the same name.
Higher education has been one of the main concerns of the community since the 1830s, with facilities on Huguenot Street and North Front Streets. Late in the nineteenth century, the college was built in the area of Plattekill Avenue and Manheim Boulevard, where the State University of New York at New Paltz now stands.
The Wallkill Valley Railroad reached New Paltz by 1870, and provided passenger service through the town until 1937. After the rail line's closure in 1977, the section of the corridor running through New Paltz was converted to the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, and the former train station in New Paltz was renovated as a restaurant, La Stazione.
History of New Paltz
New Paltz was founded in 1677 by French Huguenots who had taken refuge in what is now Mannheim, Germany for a few years before coming to America. Mannheim was then capital of the area known as the Rheinpfalz or Rhenish Palatine. The French name of the town was Nouveau Palatinat, as given in the founding record of the local Reformed Church in 1683.
New Paltz was dominated for over 150 years by the 12 partners and their heirs, referred to as the Twelve Men or the Duzine--who had acquired the royal patent of over 33,000 acres, which stretched all the way from the Shawangunk Mountains to the Hudson River. More land was added, and eventually it was formally divided among the twelve partners, their relatives and some friends. Farms were primarily found east and west of the Wallkill River, which was called the Palse River at first.
The twelve patentees were Louis DuBois and his sons Abraham and Isaac, Christian Deyo and his son Pierre, Simon and Andries LeFevre (brothers), Jean and Abraham Hasbrouck (brothers), Antoine Crispell, Louis Bevier, and Hugo Frere. Other families, with names like Elting, Schoonmaker, Terwilliger, Ean, and Schlecht, were part of the community from its earliest days. They built wooden homes that were later replaced by sturdy, stone structures. For 200 years after they first settled, New Paltz remained an isolated, small farming community. Farming, particularily of apples, is still one of New Paltz's largest businesses.
The community was clustered on the east shore of the Wallkill River, which is today known as Huguenot Street. Many of the seventh century stone buildings still stand today and have been designated a National Historical Landmark, often referred to as "the oldest street in America in continuous state of habitation."
The population slowly crept from the Wallkill up what is now Main Street and beyond. Areas which are now parts of the Towns of Lloyd, Shawangunk, Esopus and Gardiner split off from the Town of New Paltz between 1843 and 1853. The Village of New Paltz was incorporated in 1887.
Higher education has always been of utmost importance, especially since 1833 when the New Paltz Academy was started and slowly metamorphosed into the State University of New York, College at New Paltz.
The Walkill Valley Railroad was built in 1870 to help farmers get their crops to market faster. In the 1920's, the motor car started replacing the train and in the early 1950's, the New York State Thruway was built and brought New Paltz, as Exit 18, fully in touch with the world.