The last article in this series covering the history of street names in the village of Saugerties looks at the streets of the historic overlay district south of the bridge, and Barclay Heights.
The streets on the slopes down to the mills and up over Barclay Heights had a past uniquely separate from the rest of the village. In fact, the designers of these streets created the arrangement of the larger village on the opposite slope in order to satisfy an aesthetic need for a scenic backdrop their much earlier homes on the south side had. These were the streets of the master builders of Saugerties.
The primary vantage point for this view was from Church Street. The view from there offered a horizon of steeples and blocky commercial buildings as a base to accent the misty wall of the Catskills receding back into a distant sky, an intellectual theme of the Hudson River School of painters.
The main feature of Church Street is its namesake Trinity Church, and its location was chosen to punctuate the foreground of this setting. There’s little mystery in why the founder of that school of painting’s son, Thomas Cole Jr., ended up spending his life as the rector of Trinity Church here on Church Street.
Hill Street offers the first unobstructed view of the village rising up out of the Esopus gorge. Hill Street is named for the steeper, more direct route from the bridge up to the heights made possible after several spaces between deeply cut breaks in the bedrock were filled with the slag waste of the iron mill over the first decades of its operation.
Hill Street is a trunk to the branch streets it supports. These have been here since the earliest homes were built in the village.
East Bridge Street, which runs off Hill Street immediately at the bridge, is one of the first streets surveyed for municipal development to be recorded in the village minutes. Before Henry Barclay built the dam and flooded the roads to cross the Esopus, traffic from the road to Kingston cut under the rise and met a ferry south of where he built his bridge.
The route of East Bridge Street surveyed in 1832 went up over the rock ridge and proceeded downhill to meet the road to Kingston and continue straight down to the Barclay storehouse and dock. What is interesting is that survey puts the track of the road to Kingston along a terrace of the hillside that reached Valley Street at a point under the present corner above where Church and Hill streets meet. This 1832 survey confirms that Valley Street is the roadbed from the heights down to a ferry before the bridge was built shown on the 1825 Kiersted map. Valley Street from its beginning at the heights in front of Trinity Church to the newly built East Bridge Street followed that serpentine route and was the hub of land traffic on the south side in these early days.
Underwood Street and Mill Street occupy levels on two terraces down from that Kingston road (Valley Street) thoroughfare. The Underwood level, which today blends into Valley Street and Mill Street, lower and parallel to them, was once connected by a long-lost street between them. Both are uphill considerably from the dock level.
In an account of the arrival of an ironworker, James Crump, in the late 1840s, these streets were lined with the houses of the “English Colony” where families that followed John Simmons from Staffordshire in the late 1820s had their homes. Some of the foundations of these can still be spied among the trees that now fill the wooded spaces of the hillside up from Underwood, Mill and the docks to the old Kingston road level.
Theodore Place, the next street that branches off Hill Street up from the bridge, is named after Theodore Barrell, whose brick building at the top of East Bridge Street facing down Theodore Place was the Barrell and Ashley store mentioned in the 1832 survey of East Bridge Street. The ridge this level street sits on forms the base for a grouping of residences that clearly line it in an 1860s period photograph capturing this entire area from the opposite side of the Esopus at an overlook on Lighthouse Drive.
The stonework base of the landmark 1840s firehouse at the corner of Theodore Place and Hill Street is an indicator of the original terrain Theodore Place was perched upon before the walls to make Hill Street were constructed. The gully that the road to Kingston passed through to reach the ferry is blocked now with this wall construction and filled to a level to now blend into Theodore Place in an area that now has the new firehouse.
Ann Street, the third street off Hill Street, dives steeply from Hill Street following the bias of the old gully. The houses that line it and those where it meets Hill Street essentially buttress its side, supporting its downhill side. Ann Street may be named for Ann Livingston, who had an early residence on Valley Street or the Kingston road. That course may have been considered Ann’s street at the time it was named, before East Bridge Street replaced the way toward crossing the Esopus.
Where Ann crosses East Bridge and continues as Ann today was called Canal Street on early maps. This street led into a number of streets that formed a community of millworkers’ houses owned by the Ulster Iron Works. A sturdy stone tenement row built by Henry Barclay that survived up to the 1920s separated Canal Street from a reservoir. Canal Street crossed the canal that linked water from the dammed Esopus to this reservoir which in turn supplied power to the mills below. That side of the canal’s bridge is today’s Cantine Island, formed by the canal’s steady flow of water down to tidewater.
All the level land back around where Ann crosses East Bridge was once dense with hotels with names like the National Hotel and the Saugerties Hotel. Into the 1960s, many were still standing. All are now gone.
Beach Street, off Hill Street at the top of the hill, is named for Moses Yale Beach, an extremely important citizen of the early village, who served as village trustee and organized the first fire company. He was a partner in the paper mill and its chief technician, working the machines brought over from England, the first Fourdrinier paper-making machines to operate in America.
Beach did all this in his twenties in Saugerties, and then left in 1834 to take over the New York Sun from his brother-in-law Benjamin Day. He founded the Associated Press in the late 1840s. He maintained his relations with Saugerties. His Sun was the sole place of exchange in New York City for currency issued by Saugerties’ banks.
Beach Street is short, only going one block and then turning down Beckley Street to Ann Street. Beckley is named for an ironworker who built the first house on it in the 1840s. From these streets one gets the full experience of the Hill Street School from all perspectives. It is the signature restoration of the late Jim Henson.
All these streets precariously cling to the undulating inclines between the tidewater and Barclay Heights. The atmospheres of these two levels, the tidewater and heights, are entirely different, intertwined through these transitional streets. The extremes of these two different atmospheres are in the differences between Ferry Street and Barclay Street.
Below these narrow 19th century streets are the remains of the docks, warehouses and mill bulkheads of the early village’s industrial and transportation base. The steamboat docks were a hive of activity up into the first third of the twentieth century.
Ferry Street had its name since Henry Barclay put it on his map of streets. It passes from East Bridge on out to where it continued a mile over the Long Dock to the center of the Hudson River. Warehousing and carting from Ferry Street was a major business activity for Saugerties. It linked rail and river freight transport on the east shore and road and rail destinations on this side of the river.
Ferry Street was the most highly priced real estate in Saugerties. Its lots played a major part in the investment portfolio of many of the founding families who lived off its leases and rentals. Its broad, level area at tidewater on the river made it the hub of transport in Saugerties for a century.
The village waterfront park sloping up from the bottom of East Bridge Street was once densely packed with a dozen or more multi-leveled mill buildings. Paths that continue from its mowed lawns along the shoreline lead to an encounter with a sense of the mass of these mills. What remains, besides the lone restoration made into apartments just uphill, is a massive ruin where every imaginative teen has for generations found tinder to kindle their imagination and sense of adventure within its cavernous interior. These are the bones of the first paper mill skinned of its century and a half of functional expansions by the wrecking ball to reveal what Henry Barclay built in those medieval-seeming early industrial days of 1825. Around the bend from this, nothing remains on the site of the original iron works of the same time. Period pictures of all of these mills up to the late 1960s are fortunately available.
For all the history that the streets of the village recall in their names, more feel for history is available by getting out on the waterways. These were just as much the streets of the early days of historic Saugerties, when it relied on the shoreline and the flowing waters and tidal land for its livelihood. Because tidewater and any flowing water to it is the property of the people of New York, these are today just as public as the streets and sidewalks.
A unique experience of history from a kayak or canoe is one the village offers, either from the Esopus Creek or from the Hudson River. Into the river, even by foot, low tide offers the perfect opportunity to take the long view from the edges of the Esopus shoals or to stand upon a piece of an ancient footing that once held a bustling mill of the early Industrial Revolution. The village waterfront park at the bottom of East Bridge Street and the nature trail to the lighthouse at the end of Lighthouse Drive are perfect launch points for extending curiosity miles out into the next level.
Up on Barclay Heights, Barclay Street introduces an opposite experience from that of the neighborhoods of the mills. This street splits its identity between two fateful courses. Running west to Church Street it introduces the first of today’s six right-angle turns Route 9W negotiates on its way through the village’s narrow nineteenth-century-width streets. Make a right at this first blinking warning coming north on 9W and you enter the true flavor of the Heights. Church Street and Barclay Street were created to rim the heights and host mansion and town houses situated to capture the views. Everything south of these streets is level, and everything north drops down steeply 150 feet to the river.
There are published accounts of Barclay Street as a promenade with Trinity Church facing down it to the estate gate of its namesake, Henry Barclay, the developer of the infrastructure for both the water-powered mills and the organization of the village. This gated entry was still there in late-1940s photos that also show a picket fence behind which pasturage ran the full length of 9W to the Trinity Church cemetery. Barclay owned all the land that formed Barclay Heights and created there in the late 1820s a “campus” setting for the residences of all those with interests in his enterprises. His Barclay Heights remained an open commons setting with long views over the Hudson and Catskills well into the twentieth century.
Three streets of the village were developed in these commons after 1950 and all the housing there is from that time. These streets followed layouts made a hundred years before back when Henry Barclay’s estate was auctioned off in 1853. The lots were bought by a collective of surrounding estates to be held as open space, and remained that way for the next century.
Named for John Simmons, who ran the iron works and had his home across from Trinity Church facing Barclay Street, Simmons Street runs down the middle of this once-open space. A short spur named Meadow Court off Simmons street remains as a reference to this commons. It was originally the entry to Meadowside, the country estate of the Vanderpoels.
Trinity Place runs between Simmons Street and 9W along the original south fence of Trinity Church cemetery. Trinity cemetery marked the entry to the village from the “road to Kingston,” today’s 9W. In the open views surrounding it of paddocks and pastures for fine horses and manicured estates in the distance overlooking river and mountains, it set a tone for Saugerties right up through the 1920s.
Burt Street is the name given to where 9W enters the village at Trinity cemetery from the south. It is named after William Burtt, manager of the iron works in the years when John Simmons was setting up an iron works in Virginia in the 1840s. Today’s Burt Street is the whole street that runs up from the marinas and all the way south on 9W/32 to the south boundary of the village just past Overbaugh Lane.
Overbaugh Lane is the last street of the village that will be covered in this history. It is named for the largest landholder in all of Saugerties when Henry Barclay arrived. John V. L. Overbaugh served as president of the new village during many years in its first decade. His estate house, sometimes called the mayor’s house, is at the end of this street where Overbaugh Lane enters the town as Kalina Drive in the subdivisions. The town’s subdivision streets of the 1950s, sadly, are all that most who have arrived in Saugerties since the mid-twentieth century can associate the name Barclay Heights with today.