Senate House State Historic Site

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296 Fair Street
Kingston, NY
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Senate House Marker

Inscription

Site of Old Stockade 1658
Southwest Bastion
Plan of Stockade Fort (F) and Streets
Kingston (Wiltwyck) 1658
N.Y. State Historical Marker 1927

Erected

1927 by NY State

What was there

Senate House Garden

History of the Senate House
The building now known as the Senate House was built in 1676 by Wessel Ten Broeck (born about 1636 in Westphalia, modern Germany). It was then a typical one room Dutch style house common at that time in the Hudson Valley. The foundation of the 1676 house is still extant and is beneath the middle section of the house as we see it today. We know that an addition was made to the house in the late 17th or early 18th century, which consisted of a second room added to the north, and a detached kitchen to the west. Sometime later a third room was added to the south, and was initially used as a store, and later, in 1777, as the Senate chamber.

After Wessel Ten Broeck’s death, the house stayed within his family, and by 1744 was owned by Sarah Ten Broeck, who married Abraham Van Gaasbeek in 1751. In 1777 New York served as the major theater of the Revolutionary War and New York’s government was created. In February the Committee of Safety met at Kingston for the first time. On April 20, 1777 the New York State Constitution was ratified in Kingston, and on July 30 George Clinton was inaugurated as the first Governor of New York at the old court house on Wall Street. The Senate began meeting in this house September 9, 1777. Notable Senators not in attendance included John Jones, the foremost American physician of the 1770s, and Issac Roosevelt, ancestor of the future Presidents.

Colonial Ledger in Senate Room

The Burning of Kingston
On October 6, the British took Forts Clinton and Montgomery on the Hudson River, after which little stood in between the British and the rest of the Hudson Valley. Soon after receiving news of the advancing British, the Senate adjourned and fled Kingston. Little is known as to precisely how much of the Senate House was destroyed in the conflagration, or exactly when it was rebuilt. It is likely that reconstruction of most of the town and the Senate House began the following spring. The house remained in the Van Gaasbeek family into the 19th century.

In 1887 New York State acquired the house from a descendant of Wessel Ten Broeck, and made several changes, including taking off the wooden additions, adding living quarters for a caretaker (which was used until the mid-1940s), and building a kitchen designed to recreate a 18th century kitchen. Work was also done on the building in the 1940s, so the building as it stands today is a combination of 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th century fabric.

What is there now

Colonial Games in Senate House

The Senate House today is maintained by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation through the Palisades Interstate Park Commission.

Visitors to the Senate House will see a house that reflects the Dutch way of life that characterized Kingston in the 18th century. You will also see where the first New York State Senate met and helped shape the newly created government. The 18th century objects in the kitchen shed light on how people prepared their food, and where it came from. Rooms contain domestic furniture, portraits, and other objects that help explain how people in the colonial era lived and entertained.

The Senate House welcomes all visitors, including Group Tours and Educational Tours for schools, scout groups, home school groups and other organizations.

The Senate House Museum
The Senate House Museum, located adjacent to the Senate House, was built in 1927 as a museum. Prior to its construction the site’s collections were stored in the Senate House, but as the collection expanded new space was needed.

Today the museum contains three galleries. The Vanderlyn Gallery contains portraits, landscapes, drawings, and other artifacts related to the Kingston born artist, John Vanderlyn.  Theseond gallery features an exhibit on colonial furniture including stunning chairs, tables and other domestic furniture used by colonists in Dutch New York, such as spinning wheels, looms, and kitchen furniture.

The museum is also where you will find major works by Ammi Phillips, James Bard, Thomas Sully, the Kingston born Joseph Tubby, and the Hudson River School artist Jervis McEntee. Another notable object currently on display is the pilot wheel of the steamboat Mary Powell.

The Senate House Archives and Library are also located in the museum. Both are open to the public by appointment. In the library is a collection of local history books, genealogies, and published documents relating to New York State colonial history. The library also contains the published papers of George Clinton and Kingston City Directories dating as far back as 1857. The archives hold a large collection of 18th and 19th century documents, including manuscripts, deeds, wills, diaries, almanacs, maps, photographs, and other ephemera. Of note is the 1652 deed granting Thomas Chambers the land for what is now Kingston, documents from the 1770s relating to the Revolution, and John Vanderlyn’s correspondence.More information

Hours of Admission/Fees

April 15 through October 31
Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m and Sunday 1-5 p.m.
Also open Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day.
Adult – $4
Senior (62+) – $3
12 & under – free

Group Tours – $3 per person
School Group Lesson – $3
School Outreach Lesson – $3

November 1 through April 14, by Appointment Only
Group tours must be scheduled in advance but are available year round.

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We would like to thank the following for helping us with this entry:
Constance Snyder



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