Rosendale is a hamlet with a population of approximately 1,350 people located in the Town of Rosendale in Ulster County, New York, United States. It is also census-designated place known as Rosendale Village until 2010, when the U.S. Census Bureau designated it Rosendale Hamlet.
The area was originally settled in the late 17th century by Jacob Rutsen, a merchant from Albany, but did not become a major population center until the 1825 discovery of Rosendale cement in the region; the development of the cement industry, and the growth of the Delaware and Hudson Canal along the Rondout Creek and Main Street, gave rise to substantial economic development in Rosendale. The town's cement was used in the construction of numerous national landmarks. The Wallkill Valley Railroad reached the village in 1871, and its depot in the village was the largest station on the Wallkill Valley line. Rosendale was formally incorporated as a village in 1890.
An 1895 fire destroyed half the village, as it had no form of fire protection at that time. Throughout the 20th century, the decline of the natural cement industry caused Rosendale to suffer economically and lose population. The village was also battered by a series of severe floods, and the center of commerce began to shift from Main Street to Route 32. By the 1970s the village was having severe problems with its utilities and tax code, and was no longer producing cement. The hippie movement brought many artists to the village during this time, which led to ideological clashes between the newcomers and the more conservative, established residents. In 1976, the village voted to dissolve itself to solve its municipal problems, and on January 1, 1978, Rosendale became disincorporated. The village's mayor at the time of the vote viewed the dissolution as a work of conceptual art, and published a book on the matter.
After the disincorporation, the commercial center of the former village was revitalized by artists and entrepreneurs, who purchased and restored Main Street buildings that had fallen into disrepair. Since the 1990s, Rosendale has hosted many street festivals. The former village has had a number of notable buildings, including four churches. Two notable bridges span the Rondout Creek in the village: a road bridge that carries Route 32, and the Rosendale trestle, a former railroad bridge currently being renovated as a pedestrian walkway. Joppenbergh Mountain, named after Rosendale's founder, borders the village and has been the site of numerous ski jumping competitions and mine collapses.
The earliest recorded human habitation in Rosendale was a Native American village, which included a cemetery, centered around a spring that no longer exists. The first person of European descent to settle the Rosendale area was a merchant from Albany, Jacob Rutsen (originally Jacobsen Rutger van Schoonderwoerdt). Rutsen received a patent on October 8, 1677, for a tract of land, located in what is now Rosendale, after purchasing it from a local Indian named Anckerop. Anckerop agreed to the sale on the condition that he be allowed, "the right to plant ... maize annually for the duration of his life", and that Rutsen would plow the involved fields.
Dirck (also spelled Direk) Keyser secured a lease to the land from Rutsen on June 17, 1680, and built the first house in Rosendale; the terms of Keyser's lease stipulated that he build a stone house on the property at the base of what is now Joppenbergh Mountain. On June 23, 1682, fifteen members of the Esopus tribe sold Rutsen more land, by the Rondout Creek. This land was surveyed by Philip Wells on May 28, 1685; Wells declared the size of the purchase to be south of the creek, and to the north. There was also a island within the creek. Rutsen was given a patent for the combined area on August 26, 1686.
In 1700, Rutsen took the house from Keyser and expanded it. The settlement was known as "Rosendall" as early as 1700, and was also called "Roasendale" in documents as early as May 28, 1685. The name is thought to be either a reference to wild roses growing throughout the region, or of Dutch origin, as the word existed in period documents from Holland. After Rutsen's death in 1730, he was buried in the area which eventually became the village. His tombstone eulogizes him as the "Founder of Rosendale".
The village remained sparsely populated and only consisted of two houses when the Delaware and Hudson Canal reached it after the materials used to manufacture Rosendale cement, named after the town, were discovered locally in 1825. Early settlers had avoided the area because the northern land, comprising present-day Rosendale Village, was a known floodplain, and the lands south of the creek were less mountainous and at a higher elevation.
The 1825 dolostone deposit was the "single largest natural cement deposit in the United States", encompassing between High Falls and Kingston. The cement was used in the construction of the canal and quickly became the "primary impetus for the town to grow and prosper".
By 1835 the village contained a hydraulic cement plant, a post office, tavern, and several stores and houses. When the surrounding town of Rosendale was created from parts of Hurley, New Paltz and Marbletown on April 26, 1844, the village was referred to by the same name as the town. On December 7, 1847, New York passed a law which allowed the municipal incorporation of villages within the state. The Wallkill Valley Railroad was opened to Rosendale in 1871, with the Rosendale trestle across the Rondout Creek completed the following year. James S. McEntee, a former Delaware and Hudson engineer, was the only person to have seen the opening of both the canal and the trestle. The Rosendale station was the largest depot on the Wallkill Valley rail line. Unlike the other stations on the line, it was designed to have an "L" shape, rather than being rectangular, because the building was "squeezed by the severe slope behind it". In 1888, a pinkeye outbreak killed off many horses in Rosendale and along the canal.
Rosendale was sung about in a canal-related folk song in the 1880s called "Sari Jane". The village's cement mines were mentioned in a poem by D. Taylor, "Carrying Coal On The D & H Canal", and another poem, "Trip Down The Canal", by DeWitt E. Clinton and his wife. An 1840 painting by James Smilie depicting Rosendale was one of the earliest paintings to feature the canal.
The village was formally incorporated in 1890. Rosendale cement was used in the construction of several national monuments, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Washington Monument, Grand Central Terminal, and parts of the Statue of Liberty and the United States Capitol. At its peak Rosendale had fourteen bars on the same street, while the local cement industry employed 5,000 people and was producing four million barrels of cement each year.
Decline and disasters
A fire destroyed half the village in 1895, burning 26 buildings and causing more than $125,000 in damage. The village had no form of fire protection, though there had been an attempt prior to the fire to establish such a utility. Ironically, "those who were the heaviest losers by the fire were the ones who worked hardest to defeat the movement". About 10,000 people came to Rosendale following the fire to look at the charred remains, packing the village in "a scene [reminiscent of] an old-time country fair". In 1900, the village attempted to purchase a water plant for $40,000. The New York & Rosendale Cement Company sued to prevent bonding for the purchase. Before the case could reach the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, the village elected a new board of trustees, which attempted to block the purchase. They were unsuccessful and the village was forced to complete the purchase in 1903. The village enacted an ordinance in December 1901 to remove snow, ice and dirt from local gutters and sidewalks. Power lines were built throughout the village in 1906.
A "strawberry and ice cream festival" was held at Rosendale's Episcopal church on June 12, 1906. Around this time the village had an annual firemen's parades, which included athletic events, such as baseball and tug of war, as well as brass bands, dances, and speeches. Several different fire companies from throughout the region were involved in the parades.
The village suffered a severe flood in August 1928. Several feet of floodwater reached the first floors of buildings on Main Street, and the Kingston Fire Department sent boats to rescue stranded residents. In many houses, "muddy and slimy" water had filled the cellar "to the top step of the cellar stairway". Driveways had been washed out and planking was put down so that pumps could remove the water. Other major floods occurred in March 1936, August 1955, and October 1955. The water was as high as above the level of the street during the 1955 floods. In October 1956, a dinner reception was held to honor the government leaders and flood control officers who had coordinated rescue efforts during the previous year's floods.
The village petitioned the state for a census recount in 1957 in an attempt to secure additional state aid. The recount was performed in March 1957 and showed that the village's population had increased 16 percent since the 1950 census. The village received additional state aid. In December 1963 the federal government approved a $100,000 appropriation for flood control projects along the Rondout Creek in the town of Rosendale; the plan included changes to the shape of the creek itself and "raising a section of [the village's] Main Street to the level of Route 32".
On a clear, sunny day in July 1964, a group of six boys went swimming in the Roundout Creek at a park in Rosendale Village. After getting out of the creek, the boys were struck by lightning. One boy was knocked back into the creek, and regained consciousness as he was being pulled out. Two of the boys, Gary Schmitt and Ronald Morelli, died. Ronald Morelli was the son of Albert Morelli, who served as Rosendale's fire chief. Albert Morelli was part of the team that put out the fire at Reid's Village Inn.
Rosendale had lost its bowling alley to a 1967 fire, and, on January 14, 1969, a local hotel burned down. The hotel, Reid's Village Inn, was owned by village mayor Joseph Reid. Reid and his wife lived in the building, and lost all their possessions in the fire. Total damage was estimated to be between $50,000 and $75,000. Within two days of the blaze, the village purchased a fire truck and scheduled hearings for alternate-side parking and water meter proposals. By this time, the Army Corps of Engineers had built a flood wall, relocated several buildings, dredged the bottom of the creek, and raised a portion of Main Street about . The project caused the island in the creek to become a peninsula, connected to the northern bank. Since the completion of these projects, the village has not suffered floods as extreme as those of 1955.
The storage facility, operated by Iron Mountain Incorporated, consists of street lights amid two-story buildings, all "erected beneath the old limestone caves leased from" the Snyder Estate for 99 years. It was opened for a public viewing in 1976 to quell rumors that the "heavily guarded" facility, described as a "subterranean James Bond set", was part of an underground cave network that connected the village to Kingston, and that the facility was actually a fallout shelter for federal officials; the facility is capable of withstanding a "direct atomic hit on [nearby] Poughkeepsie". Sealed behind a steel door, the facility contains "its own well and ... sewage system", and enough generators to remain self-sufficient for three months.
Reign of Billy Guldy
The man who suggested that the underground facility have a public exhibition was a local personality, Billy Guldy. Guldy was born around 1940 in Kingston, and, by the 1970s, had become a leading figure in Rosendale Village's hippie movement. He declared himself a king, and frequently dressed as one. He owned a bar called "The Well", and a hotel in the village, and his portrait was painted on the door of a local bar. He declared Halloween a national holiday, ran for president, and led 200 people in a parade down Main Street. At one point Guldy took a bus to Yankee Stadium to give baseball player Fred Stanley the "key to Rosendale". Some older residents considered Guldy crazy, and former village trustee Harold Schoonmaker felt "there's something wrong with a man that walks around the streets barefoot, wearing a robe and derby". The village's children viewed Guldy favorably and were quite friendly with him.
Some of the village's more traditional residents felt overwhelmed by the influx of beatniks, and locals were conflicted over whether Rosendale's transformation into an art colony would benefit the village in the long term. A major clash between the hippies and village police occurred at a bar on June 21, 1975, causing over 150 people to show up to see what was going on. Although "there were many people actively involved" in the riot, only Guldy was charged.
A group that opposed the hippie movement managed to keep Guldy off the mayoral ballot in 1975. He became a write-in candidate for village trustee, with his friend, poet George Montgomery, running for mayor. Montgomery lost the election to Raivo Puusemp, a sculptor from SoHo. After his election, Puusemp chided Guldy for being a poor role model for the village youth. Puusemp was not a native of Rosendale and had not lived there long. By early July 1975, Puusemp had appointed a village dog warden after a dog bit a child and was allowed to run about the streets unrestrained.
When Puusemp, a conceptual artist and art instructor at SUNY Ulster, became mayor of Rosendale, the village was plagued by an "overbearing tax structure and problems with its municipal utilities". Though disincorporation was already known as a possible solution to the village's crises, it had been an "emotionally charged issue" and no action had been taken. By this time Rosendale "could [no longer] govern itself". The village and town governments had often been at odds; the town was governed by Republicans while the village was increasingly under Democratic control. This friction manifested in several ways. Town and village officials would frequently disrupt each others' meetings, and the town ordered its snow plows to raise their blades while passing through the village; the village subsequently bought its own plow and banned the town's plow from entering village limits.
During his campaign, Puusemp did not mention disincorporation or how it related to art, though he had already decided two months before the election that the only solution to the village's problems was disincorporation. Beginning in 1969, Puusemp "developed an interest in group dynamics and social and political processes". In some of his early artworks (termed "influence pieces"), Puusemp would manipulate subjects into unknowingly executing his ideas while believing that they, the subjects, had come up with said ideas on their own. He entered politics to combine "influence and concept ... compatibly".
Viewing the "project [as] an artwork in the form of a political problem", Puusemp convinced the people of Rosendale to disincorporate by publicly comparing the village's finances to what would be "need[ed] to maintain a viable town". The village's board of trustees strongly favored dissolution and "forced three separate votes before [reaching] a 179 to 87 majority to abolish the village". A public referendum on the dissolution was held on March 16, 1976, which passed in a 2–1 landslide. Puusemp resigned as mayor on October 1, and moved to Utah with his family. He vowed never to run for office again. During his tenure in office, and in the aftermath of his resignation, Puusemp received widespread popular support.
Marc Phelan, a village trustee and associate of Puusemp, became mayor following Puusemp's departure. He was reelected the following March with 141 votes, beating three other candidates to become the village's last mayor. Rosendale became unincorporated on January 1, 1977, though the village government did not disband until the end of 1977; the village completely ceased to exist "at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, 1977". Ironically, the state and federal government provided funding for new sewage and water systems following the disincorporation, mitigating the primary reasons residents had voted to dissolve.
Puusemp documented the dissolution by collecting "press clippings, council meeting minutes, and public documents" and publishing them after his friend, performance artist Paul McCarthy, urged him to do so. Both the book and the dissolution of Rosendale Village itself can be considered different facets of the same artistic work. The 1980 census listed Rosendale Village as a census-designated place (CDP). The former village is also considered a hamlet, an unofficial term which refers to a named but unincorporated place in New York. Rosendale Village is the largest voting bloc in the town of Rosendale, and of all former villages in the Hudson Valley, Rosendale was the last to dissolve.
After the village's disincorporation, taxes decreased for former village residents, but increased for Rosendale residents throughout the rest of the town. The population of the former village has grown 24.5 percent, from 1,220 to an estimated 1,519 people. The same year that the village chose to disincorporate, the Wallkill Valley rail line that ran through the village also ceased regular service.
The revitalization of businesses in the former village was credited to the influx of artists. Prior to the 1980s, store owners in Rosendale Village had either retired or died, and their shops had become residential or simply abandoned. Newcomers purchased these properties, restored them, and returned them to commercial service.
On September 13, 1991, the Century House Historical Society was formed to preserve historical sites within Rosendale, and to promote research on such sites. The New York State Education Department granted a permanent charter to the organization on June 13, 2000. The Society held a concert in one of the former cement mines, the Widow Jane Mine, around 2002; the concert caused severe traffic and presented a fire hazard, and the society was subsequently sued by the town. The Widow Jane Mine has been the site of "all-night raves, Halloween horror shows and role-playing vampire games". It is also one of the few mines in Rosendale that is almost completely horizontal, and is part of the Snyder Estate Natural Cement Historic District.
Since 1998, Rosendale has held an annual pickle festival. Some people view the pickle festival as a form of social expression, and the "current artisan pickling scene" has been compared to the mentality of early microbreweries. The pickle festival was originally started by Eri Yamaguchi and Bill Brooks, as a way to introduce Ulster County to pickled Japanese food, such as oshinko. The festival has featured Japanese traditional dancing. At the first pickle festival the number of people attending was 1,000, a number five times greater than expected. The following year it was double that, and by 2003, attendance was almost 5,000. Rosendale has had a recurring winter festival known as "Frozendale", and in late September 2010, the hamlet had a zombie-themed festival. Historically, the former village's street festivals have "draw[n as many as] 30,000 people".