New York City isn’t the only draw in New York State. If you travel about 90 miles north of NYC, you’ll find yourself in the historic Hudson Valley. This area is well-known for the incredible fall leaf colors that dapple the Shawangunk and Catskill Mountain ranges; the local farms and markets that promote a healthy agricultural culture; and the incredible hiking trails in Minnewaska and Mohonk Preserves.
But there’s another aspect of the Hudson Valley that’s worthy of intrigue. The colonial activity along the Hudson River valley dates back to the early 1600s; the area is steeped in history. Many original buildings still stand, dotting the Hudson River Valley with locations of intrigue, battle, history, and haunting.
Next time you visit the Big Apple, take the less-than-2-hour trip to the Hudson Valley to immerse yourself in some historic haunts in the Hudson Valley:
1. Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz, NY
The small college town of New Paltz, NY, has a laid-back vibe, a prominent arts scene, and one of the earliest colonial streets in America. It’s a strange feeling to leave the hustle and bustle of Main Street and walk a few blocks down to Huguenot Street, where majestic old sycamore and pine trees and old stone houses radiate history.
According to the Huguenot Historical Society, the settlement along this simple street in a small town actually had its roots in the early 1500s. During that time The Protestant Reformation, sparked by Martin Luther’s act of opposition to the Roman Catholic Church, had spread rapidly throughout Europe.
By the 17th century, French Huguenots were being mercilessly killed due to their religious beliefs. When Catholic King Louis XIII took the throne in 1610, the violence escalated. A group of Huguenots (including the Hasbroucks, LeFevres, and Deyos, many of whose descendants still live in New Paltz) decided to strike off to the New World to escape persecution.
By 1678, after a long journey overseas, the Huguenots took up residence along the Wallkill River, where seven of the original stone houses still stand. Every October, tours take place to highlight some of the historical (and reportedly haunted) features of the street. From Maria Deyo’s infamous murder spree to the apparent ghostly sightings of a young Huguenot woman who died of tuberculosis, Huguenot Street is rife with history, myth, and legend.
2. Bannerman’s Island in Beacon, NY
People who take river cruises on the Hudson are often mystified by the crumbling ruins of what appears to be a Scottish Castle on a small, uninhabited island near Beacon, NY. Created by Frank Bannerman in the early 1900s, the building was built as a staggering homage to his cultural origins in Scotland.
Frank Bannerman, a former Union soldier in the American Civil War, was born in Scotland in 1851. When he eventually purchased the property on what’s now known as Bannerman Island, he designed the Scottish-style fortress as a way to store his huge collection of munitions. According to an article in Historic Hudson River Towns, Bannerman worked on the fortress for seventeen years, doing most of the architectural and engineering work himself. He made the fortress incredibly elaborate, which made it all the more tragic when a mysterious fire destroyed the buildings in 1969.
According to Jane Bannerman, the granddaughter-in-law of the fortress’s builder, Bannerman island used to be known as Pollepel Island and was considered haunted by local tribes. Most recently, the fortress was devastated by a fire that has made the historic site inaccessible to visitors except by boat. Seven years before the fire, Frank Bannerman’s grandson Charles issued a prophetic statement:
Time, the elements, and maybe even the goblins of the island will take their toll of some of the turrets and towers, and perhaps eventually the castle itself…
Also, visitors can’t set foot on the grounds, you can take an informative and scenic river cruise to pass by the crumbling Scottish castle on Bannerman Island.
3. Hoffman House, Kingston NY
Before Albany, the Hudson Valley town of Kingston held the distinction of the capital of New York. During the American Revolutionary War, Kingston became the prime target of a British attack, a fact in the biennial Burning of Kingston event.
After capturing New York City in October 1777, the British sailed up the Hudson River to target the prosperous colony at Kingston, landing at Kingston Point. The British marched along the Rondout River, burning houses as they went along. Though some locals fought back, the British quickly set the entire city alight, burning over 300 buildings to the ground.
Incredibly, the resilient city of Kingston soon bounced back and rebuilt. Now, visitors can visit the Stockade District where British soldiers indiscriminately burnt down houses. One of these is the Hoffman House, which along with the rest of the city was severely burnt in 1777.
Built in 1679, the Hoffman House is a typical example of Dutch colonial architecture. When it was restored in 1976, the new owners took care to use traditional materials—even using the house’s old nails in the restoration process. Now, it’s a restored tavern and restaurant where visitors can enjoy a pleasant meal inside one of the oldest houses in the third oldest settlement in New York.
4. Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz NY
Fifteen minutes outside of the same town that holds the stone houses of Historical Huguenot Street, the famous Mohonk Mountain House is nestled into the beautiful Shawangunk Ridge. In person, the hotel is incredible and eclectic. Built at different times with different architectural styles, you can feel the history on each floor of the hotel.
Originally built around Stokes Tavern, purchased by Albert K. Smiley in 1869, the Mountain House officially opened in 1870. Since then, it’s seen several rounds of renovation, growing from a ten-room inn on a lakefront to a sprawling—yet isolated—265-room resort in the Shawangunks. With towers, an ice skating rink, a massive pure-blue lake, and all the raw wonder of the surrounding forest and ridge, Mohonk is both a historical and natural retreat. To this day, it remains in the Smiley family through six generations of ownership.
Its age along with the castle-like feel have contributed to speculation that Mohonk is haunted. It is believed by some to be the inspiration for the massively haunted Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s novel The Shining. Mohonk Mountain house does indeed feel like something out of a storybook with its Victorian castle-like appearance, its giant hedge maze, and the now-unused carriage roads that used to bring horse-and-buggy travelers up to the mountain lodge on the lake.
Upstate New York is steeped in history and culture going back hundreds of years. From strange Scottish simulations to giant Victorian mountainside resorts, the gem of the Hudson Valley exists only 90 miles north of NYC. And it’s worth the trip.