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Ulster County, NY

The county of Ulster, formed on November 1, 1683 was to “contain Kingston, Hurley and Marbletown, Foxhall and New Paltz and all villages, neighborhoods and habitations on the west side of the Hudson River, from the Murderer’s Creek near the Highlands to the Sawyer’s Creek.” When it was erected as a county it was considerably larger including much of the un-surveyed Hardenburgh Patent, (Delaware, Greene and Sullivan Counties) to the north and west, and Orange County to the south. The area was settled by Dutch and English originally and later by French Huguenots and German Palatines.

New York City’s continuing search for new water resources to satisfy the thirst of its endless population surge brought construction of the Ashokan Reservoir at the turn-or-the-century. New Immigrant labor, Poles, Italians and Lithuanians helped to build it. Its construction caused hundreds of square miles of historical development to be destroyed or removed: hamlets, homes and burial grounds. But, out of the process, portions of the county were allowed to share in the pure water system financed by the City. Today, the fascinating records of the Ashokan Reservoir endeavor are preserved in the county’s Archives.

In this century, Ulster has seen the demise of some early industries and changes in others. Since WWII and the coming of IBM, technology burgeoned and the spread of national chains and malls threatened the character of the county’s principal centers. Even before IBM’s late 20th century downsizing, Ulster had decided to reinvest in its history and environment to grow a tourist industry. Waterfront Kingston was designated an urban Cultural Park; the old rail lines became interpretive rides; the D & H Canal is an historic trail and places like the Widow Jane Cement Mine have become history destinations. Small Ulster communities are re-inventing themselves by reviewing their history – Stone House Days, Woodstock and Saugerties music events, a winery/Museum of Illustration, lighthouse trips and bluestone quarry environmental sculptures are the product.

 

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