The founders were 12 families of Huguenots, originally from the north of France and present-day Belgium, who came to the New World in 1678 and purchased 40,000 acres of land from the Esopus natives. Their settlement beside the Wallkill River came to be named for the region they had left behind in Germany, die Pfalz; and today, almost 350 years later, 2,500 of their descendents are still associated with the Street, through both Historic Huguenot Street and the Families' Associations.
The stone houses in existence today were initially constructed in the early 1700s, replacing wooden structures. Overall, however, due to changes made by the families over the years, the houses represent 300 years in architectural history. Also on Huguenot Street is a reproduction of the small French Church built by these Protestants. Their journey to America was in part a pursuit of religious freedom. On Old New Paltz Day, introductory talks will be offered to introduce visitors to the history of the Huguenots and of New Paltz.
Vendors will set up shop up and down the length of the Street, with such items available as handcrafted jewelry, folk toys, musical instruments, photographs, salt-glazed pottery and other crafts. Demonstrations throughout the day will teach visitors about quilting, knitting and hand- dyeing yarn, buttonmaking and flint-knapping (making flint into arrowheads and knife blades). A new addition to the annual celebration is the Authors' Tent, where local history scribes will be signing and selling copies of their respective books. There'll also be a table with the Family Association there, for those who think they may have a Huguenot somewhere lurking in their ancestry to find out how to do the research. The New Paltz Reformed Church will be selling substantial foodstuffs, and the grounds of all stone buildings will be open for picnickers.
For $7, visitors will be allowed to visit each stone house, with information provided at each about its unique history. "We want people to come and learn, and feel welcome on the Street," said Oliva. For more information, go to www.huguenotstreet.org or call (845) 255-1660.