A Brief History of Red Hook
Prior to the European settlement of the Kingston region in the 1650’s, the Red Hook area was inhabited by the Esopus and Sepasco Indians. It is said that early Dutch navigators charting the River came upon Cruger’s Island (actually a peninsula or “hoek”) when it was turning red with sumac and Virginia creeper in early autumn: hence the name “Red Hoek”
Sometime before 1688 Colonel Pieter Schuyler, first Mayor of Albany, acquired from the Indians most of what we know as the Town of Red Hook, and in that year the Colonial Governor confirmed “Schuyler’s Patent” and his ownership of the land. By 1752 Schuyler’s tract was owned jointly by four landlords, most notably Colonel Henry Beekman, Jr. and Palantine Ger- man families, moving down from Germantown, had started to take leaseholds and develop an agricultural economy.
At the time of the Revolution there was a small settlement at Upper Red Hook, docks at Tivoli, at Barrytown and at Cruger’s Island, and saw mills on the Saw Kill at Annandale, at Red Hook Mills, at Rock City and on the White Clay Kill near Tivoli. Some of these mills were burned by the British in 1777. The Albany Post Road, which ran from New York City to Albany, was the only road of significance; supplementing it were roads to the mills and the River landings. Thomas’ Tavern in Upper Red Hook and Elmendorph’s Inn in “lower” Red Hook (both are still standing, the latter restored as a local landmark), were important meeting places, and the “Old Red Church” in Tivoli was the only house of worship. Until the early 19th Century most of the land in the Town was still owned by heirs and assigns of the early patent holders, and was leased for long terms to farming families. The area’s first important public official emerged at about this time. He was Judge Egbert Benson of Upper Red Hook, who served as New York’s first Attorney General and as a Representative to the Continental and U.S. Congresses.
When the Rhinebeck Precinct of Dutchess County was established in 1737 for the purpose of defining political jurisdic- tion, Red Hook was included. Red Hook became a separate Township on June 2, 1812. Until the end of the 18th Century, the neighborhood of the present Village of Red Hook was known as “Hardscrabble”. This was merely a crossroads boasting little more than the inn and a couple of houses.
When the postmaster in “Upper” Red Hook, General David Van Ness, moved to the Lower Village in the 1790’s and built the brick mansion known today as Maizeland, he brought with him the post office name, and the Lower Village has been called Red Hook ever since. Maizeland is still standing, a cherished architectural and historical landmark. During the 19th Century the Village grew rapidly in population and commercial activity. The First National Bank was founded in 1865, and for many years tobacco and chocolate factories, a hotel, a village newspaper and other enterprises flourished. Lower Red Hook Land- ing became Barrytown in the 1830’s, named for a U.S. Postmaster General; and Annandale (formerly Cedar Hill) derived its name from that of an adjoining estate.