The revery alone will do.
The giant Ferris wheel, the merry-go-round, the formal gardens, the, bandstand and boat rentals … none of it is there any more. The amusement park that once greeted the steamboat passengers landing at Kingston Point Park when it opened in 1896 is gone, and so is its reason for being.
Samuel Coykendall, probably the most prominent of Kingston’s industrial titans, built the park. His empire, in part, included the Ulster & Delaware Railroad, the Cornell Steamboat Company, the Hudson River Blue Stone Company, the Rondout savings and commercial banks, a brickyard, a cement company, and the Grand Hotel, one of the three largest resorts in the Catskills.
When Coykendall saw that the Hudson River Day Line steamboats were docking on the Rhinecliff side of the river, he purchased the land that jutted into the Hudson at Kingston Point and put in a pleasure park to lure boats away to the western shore. There tourists could spend their money, have some fun, and get the chance to board a Coykendall train at the park depot and be whisked to the Catskills mountain houses.
That was a time when Kingston Point Park was about making a rich man richer, But not anymore. Today, the razzle-dazzle is gone, replaced by the soul-satisfying purpose of giving you and me and anybody in the world the chance to know the simple pleasures a day out in nature by the river can bring — without having to spend a dime.
On a recent morning when spring was in the air, I headed down to the Rondout, turned left on Delaware Avenue, and followed it to the end into the Kingston Point Beach parking lot where Ralph Perreca was getting ready to launch his sleek Melonseed skiff, the alvina del viento, his soul of the wind. I’d never met Ralph, but we shared the same desire to escape into a beautiful day.
The Melonseed is an elegant fiberglass and teak reproduction of an 1870 duck-hunting boat that had captured his heart 15 years ago. This is his 56th season on the water. He sails and races with the Kingston Sailing Club (kingstonsailingclub.org), but today he’d come to Kingston Point to be out on the water alone on a morning when the winds were low and strong, and nobody else was out there.
In no time, he’d rigged his daysailer and was waving goodbye as he tacked north up river toward the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge.
The industrial era
History washes up on the beach here in the many thousands of scoured bricks that line the shore. There were more than 100 brickyards along the Hudson during the industry’s turn-of-the-century heyday, turning out more than a billion bricks a year!
Kingston had eleven of the 65 yards in Ulster County. From the beach, you can see the skeleton remains of the Hutton brickyard, the most successful of the lot. Samuel Coykendall owned one in Port Ewen.
It’s worth it to go to Kingston Point Beach just to see the brick-washed shoreline, pick up a battered relic from that bygone era, and hold a piece of history in your hand. Even better, bring your lunch and take along a copy of George Hutton’s book, The Great Hudson River Brick Industry, that tells the whole story.
When I left the beach, I walked back out to Delaware Avenue, across the road, through the Kingston Point Park wrought-iron gates, down the path, over the knoll, past the picnic benches, over a little bridge, to join up with the Kingston Point rail-trail runnings along the river and the tracks that Samuel Coykendall originally built for his railroad. You can still take a short scenic rail ride, thanks to the volunteers at the Trolley Museum of New York in the Rondout at 89 East Strand Street (tmny.org).
Offshore, the Rondout Lighthouse (hudsonriverlighthouses.org) beams in another page of history. One of seven lighthouses on the Hudson, its original wooden structure was built in 1837, then replaced with a bluestone version in 1867. In 1915, the light was lit on the current lighthouse that stands as a beacon by night, and an emblem of grace in the daylight. The lighthouse is only accessible by boat, Tours operated by the Hudson River Maritime Museum are available, Saturday and Sundays, June to September (hrmm.org).
Interacting with the elements
While the lighthouse feels familiar in its setting out in the river, Tyler Borchert’s earthwork stone-stack sculpture along the riverbank appears as a kind of natural wonder with question marks — What is it? What’s it doing there? Where did it come from?
I met the artist at his studio on the Rondout Creek (StoneStyling, 440 Abeel Street, Kingston, stonestyling.art) to get some answers.
Tyler explained that he built the first “Teardrop” in 2015 to bring attention to the destruction of our waterways and oceans, and the harm being done to our natural resources by human development and industrialization. He had sited it to interact with the elements, the eastern horizon, the sun, the moon, the river, and the people with an invitation to look through the peepholes of his sculpture for a new appreciation of nature in every season.
He has had to rebuild “The Teardrop” four times. April 15, 2022 marks the one-year anniversary of the latest version.
All along the trail, there’s reason to stop and to listen to the sound of the restless wind through the trees or watch the shadow of clouds sweeping across the river or catch a green-wing teal in your camera lens and remember the poetry of your own existence.
Kingston Point gives a place for revery, a chance to take a walk and daydream, to sail out in solitude, have an outing with yourself … no Ferris wheels, no merry-go-rounds, no credit card required.
Samuel Coykendall and Emily Dickenson were contemporaries. She died in 1886, and her first volume of her work wasn’t published until 1890, right around the time Kingston Point Park opened. She wrote a poem about revery titled “To Make a Prairie.”
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
The revery alone will do.
If bees are few.
I doubt very much he read it.