You don’t need to download “The Walking Tour of The Chestnut Street Historic District and Neighborhood” only the Friends of Historic Kingston (fohk.org) came together for a perfectly enjoyable stroll through one of Kingston’s most impressive neighborhoods. But if you do, you’ll be able to open a time capsule of a pivotal and captivating period in the city’s history and look inside.
Chestnut Street is a designated National Historic District which is roughly bounded by West Chestnut Street, Broadway, East Chestnut Street, Livingston, and Stuyvesant streets. It’s a part of town that highlights Kingston’s history in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when advances in technology and science fueled the second industrial revolution and created a wealthy entrepreneurial class. The tycoons returned home to the mansions they built on West Chestnut Street, many of which are still residences today.
In 1851, James McEntee – an engineer who helped build the Delaware and the Hudson Canal – purchased 52 undeveloped acres on the hillside above the village of Rondout and divided it into building lots that would attract large and powerful families. . Their influence and fortune would extend far beyond the tree-lined streets of their favored enclave to shape the lives and landscapes of America and beyond.
This was a time when generations of Huttons from the Hutton Brick Works lived in West Chestnut. William, the patriarch, and his wife Jane were in the Italian villa-style house at No 32. Their seven children and family members would live in four different houses across the street.
George Washburn, another brickmaker, lived at No. 28 with his wife Eleanor. By 1905 there were over 30 brickyards along the Hudson, and the Hutton and Washburn yards were among the largest.
Around 1895, Samuel D. Coykendall, principal owner of the Cornwell Steamboat Company, and his wife Mary moved into the imposing, three-story, 5,000 square foot Victorian Gothic mansion atop West Chestnut. The architect was Calvert Vaux, co-designer of Central Park and business partner of Frederick Law Olmstead in the firm Olmstead, Vaux and Company. The only remaining evidence is the round stones in front of the houses now at numbers 80 and 84 which mark the entrances to what was once the grandeur of the Coykendall estate.
George Coykendall, Samuel’s brother and president of the Stony Clove Railroad, lived across the street at No. 77. His house is still there with an iron pole by the sidewalk that is said to be the only gas lamp post still standing. life in Kingston.
Samuel Coykendall’s house is gone, but not his Coach and Stable building. In 1894 he purchased the property at the corner of West Chestnut and Augusta streets to build a place to keep his horses and carriages. By 1950, that need was long gone and the shed was up for sale for a few thousand dollars.
A young local community theater group formed a nonprofit corporation in New York State, purchased the building, and changed its name to Coach House Players (coachhouseplayers.oug/). The Coach House Theater has not missed a season for over 70 years, with four performances a year. It is the oldest community theater company in Ulster County.
The historic building’s original pedigree is unmistakable, but the horse stalls have been replaced by the fixtures store. The upstairs hayloft is a huge closet with thousands of costumes collected over the years. The old coaches’ room is the performance space, with a stage and 99 refurbished theater seats donated by UPAC.
Air conditioning, electrical system upgrades, on-site parking expansion – all of the work is done by unpaid volunteers. “Drinking Habits,” a light comedy from Tom Smith, opens its 72nd season on April 1 and runs through April 10 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
Lowell Thing lived on Chestnut Street for over 40 years in the ten-room Victorian at No 55 and wrote The street that built a city: McEntee’s Chestnut Street, Kingston and the Rise of New York, the definitive book appeared in 2015. House by house, the author leaned on the street and learned about all the inhabitants of the district.
Alongside the rich and powerful, the industrial growth of the time created a comfortable and prosperous middle class of workers – the artists, actors, lawyers, doctors, cigar makers, shipwrights, teachers, the merchants, many immigrants who worked on the boats and docks and brickyards who had lived in the neighborhood. Lowell Thing writes about them. The walking guide takes you to where they lived on Broadway and East Chestnut, Syuyvesant and Livingston streets.
McEntees, Coykendalls, Huttons, and most of the other early residents of the West Chestnut Street neighborhood are buried at Montrepose Cemetery (75 Montrepose Cemetery), one block from West Chestnut Street. The cemetery, formed in 1850 by the main citizens of Rondout, wrote the history of the region through the hilly and naturalized landscape which today has become a special park for walkers and joggers.
The tour begins at the junction of Broadway and Delaware Avenue, winds through East Chestnut, Livingston, and Stuyvesant streets, then climbs straight to the end of West Chestnut. The free pdf is available on the City of Kingston website (Kingston-ny.gov). Search “Chestnut Street” to download.
So be smart. Take your guide and start walking.
Check out the other articles in this series.