Explore the Hudson Valley

Experience The Hudson Valley

New Paltz Then & Now

  |   March 3, 2012  |  Comment

Founded way back in 1677, a look at New Paltz then & now demonstrates the lasting influence of the past. Everything in New Paltz, from the architecture to the social institutions, the core values to its unique name are deeply rooted in local history. New Paltz was based on the notion of freedom of expression and that ideal is still alive and well today. New Paltz continues to distinguish itself as a unique town with a “live and let live” philosophy. Resting on the shore of the Wallkill River and in the shadow of the stunning Shawangunk Mountain Range, New Paltz was chosen long ago for its beautiful & bountiful lands. Today, the river continues to nourish the fields which are still being farmed, and the (now world-renowned) Shawangunks are alive with hikers and climbers from around the world. Education has always been a pillar of New Paltz. What is now SUNY New Paltz and home to thousands of students, started as the “New Paltz Academy”, a tiny school for a small group of families in the 1800’s.  Sure, there are a lot of differences between New Paltz then & now, but the core values that started this resourceful little Hudson Valley town still remain!

New Paltz, NY takes pride in its unique history, where long ago a group of families built a cluster of stone homes that are still standing to this day. Back in 1677 a group of French-speaking, Dutch Huguenots arrived in this wild landscape with the intentions of building a new life. Being practitioners of the religion Calvinism, these brave pioneers were really just a handful of families who had faced discrimination in their native Europe and travelled here to practice their religion in peace and prosperity. The Huguenots chose an idyllic site at the northeastern shore of a flowing river, and New Paltz was born. The origin of the name itself, “New Paltz” is steeped in history. Though not known for certain, it is generally thought that the name is based on the German word “Pfalz” which was the region of Germany that the Huguenots set forth from; hence their new home was “New Pfalz” (over time, evolving into “Paltz”) Another more localized theory is that the Wallkill River was long ago named the “Pals” or “Palse” River and so the Huguenots named their new town after the river upon which they depended for sustenance. Either way, the name “New Paltz” signifies new beginnings and a fresh start. The stone homes that these settlers built are still standing today on Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz. This tiny & peaceful stretch of road has the unique distinction of being the oldest continuously inhabited street in the United States. Talk about a street with a lot of history!

Like Huguenot Street, many reminders of New Paltz’s past are still with us today. A main crop back then, apples, continues to thrive, with New Paltz and surrounding areas maintaining a reputation for some of the tastiest apples on earth.  A deep appreciation for arts and education was established long ago in 1833, when the New Paltz Academy was opened to teach local children.  This tiny school has evolved into SUNY New Paltz, a respected institution as well as a thriving cultural and economic center point for the town of New Paltz and the entire Ulster County.

Today, New Paltz offers so many things to do, for both visitors and locals. Forever watching over the town, the Shawangunk Mountains have become a premiere destination for rock climbers from all over the world. The sheer cliffs and dizzying heights offer an irresistible challenge to even the most technical of climbers. SUNY New Paltz continues to thrive giving the town a refreshingly youthful vibe full of energy. It’s proximity to New York City and the desirability of New Paltz, NY real estate among New Yorkers (not to mention thousands of hungry students) has created a healthy demand for amazing cuisine. Chefs from far and wide, including our most skilled local artisans, are filling that demand with delicious and affordable food. Continuing to thrive just as it did in the past, it’s nice to know that New Paltz then & now aren’t so different after all!

Written by Dylan Taft, Taft Street Realty, Inc


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