New home in Hudson Valley with brick front entrance, at Sleight Farm in Dutchess County

Community Meets Luxury

Sleight Farm’s blog about building a custom home and living in Dutchess County, NY.

The History of Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County

November 10, 2022

Sweeping view of Sleight Farm new home community in LaGrange NY
Ready for a quick history lesson about Dutchess County? We promise there will be no pop quiz, but we hope this background gives you a sense of why our area is so special.
In 1609, when Henry Hudson sailed up the Hudson River and claimed the region for his Dutch monarchs, the east bank of the river had been home for centuries by the Wappingers people and other members of the Algonquian confederation. They called one of their campsites Poughkeepsie, “a reed-covered cabin by a small body of water.”
The Colonial Assembly established the twelve counties of New York in 1683. Among them was Dutchess, named after Mary of Modena, Duchess of York and wife of the future King James II of England. “Dutchess” is the 17th century spelling of Mary’s title. Until the American Revolution, much of Dutchess County was divided into large land patents owned by a few wealthy men, including the Rombout Patent, which made up most of today’s county.
During the Revolutionary War, the city of Kingston was burned, and in October 1777, Poughkeepsie was made the state capital in its place. In June and July 1788, the Dutchess County Courthouse in Poughkeepsie, New York hosted the state’s ratification debates for the American Constitution. The likes of Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and New York Governor George Clinton were in attendance.
In the post-revolutionary period, Dutchess County’s slow rise to economic prosperity began. Easy access and deep resources enticed wealthy American families from New York City to establish a presence along the Hudson River. The Astors, Rogers, and Vanderbilts built extensive and beautiful estates on the waterfront and in the eastern highlands. When this leisure class arose, so did money and time for study and culture. Learning in Dutchess County began to flourish, from Vassar College to small community libraries. With all this, Poughkeepsie became known as the “Queen City of the Hudson.”
Art blossomed, too. Landscape painters Frederick Church and Thomas Cole became famous during the popularity of the Hudson River School, while landscape architects such as Andrew Jackson Downing and Calvert Vaux chose Dutchess County for several projects, including Springside Poughkeepsie.
In the early 1900’s, Dutchess County re-entered the political stage as the home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. During his tenure as governor and later as the only four-term president of the United States, Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor, turned Dutchess into a trial-run setting for New Deal ideas. The beginning of modern prosperity in Dutchess came in 1942 when IBM bought their well-known property in Poughkeepsie, and the company expanded during the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Like many towns across the country, Poughkeepsie faced challenges in the 20th century, and many of its historic buildings were lost to urban renewal projects. But in recent years, county government has been committed to preserving the landscape’s history through adaptive reuse, designation of areas in the National Register of Historic Places, and development of entire historic districts. They’ve also created agricultural districts that preserve more than 200,000 acres of farmland.
Today, Poughkeepsie is being revitalized and rediscovered by a whole generation. But you’ll see its history wherever you go: Colonial homes, Gothic cottages, limestone farmhouses, Victorian villas, Beaux Arts mansions, stone churches, and farmhouses – the original Sleight Farm home among them. We are proud to be part of the area’s rich history and create communities that bring it forward…honoring the past and building its future.

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