The Village of Kinderhook (population 1,275) was first settled about 1670 and first called a village in 1697. It is part of the larger Town of Kinderhook, chartered in 1686/7. The location, set on a plateau above the Kinderhook Creek, was named “Kinderhoek” (Dutch for children’s corner) by Henry Hudson in 1609, when he spotted native Mahican children playing at the bend of the river later named for him.
Most of the Dutch colonial settlers engaged in agriculture, and the village was located at a prominent colonial crossroads–the intersection of the Great New England Path between Albany and Boston and the King’s Highway between Albany and New York City. The politically sophisticated community was a hotbed of both patriot and loyalist activity before and during the Revolutionary War. With several taverns, an important stagecoach stop, and one of New York’s earliest post offices, Kinderhook remained a market center for the surrounding farms and a transportation hub through the early 20th century.
Kinderhook was the home of Martin Van Buren (1782-1862), founder of the Democratic Party and the first President of the United States to be born an American citizen. The Friends of Lindenwald organization, which supports the nearby Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, worked with the County Tourism Department and knowledgeable local citizens to develop “Discover Historic Kinderhook–A Walking Tour,” increasing visitation to the village and boosting local businesses. This illustrated guide draws upon 36 years of historical inquiry and preservation efforts and includes examples of local architecture that span nearly three centuries.
Kinderhook is also known for its connection to Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Irving visited this area in the early 1800s and was a friend of Jesse Merwin, the local schoolmaster. Purportedly, Irving modeled his character, Ichabod Crane, after Merwin.
The village has an active Historic Preservation Commission, a local historic preservation overlay district, and a National Register Historic District. It has been granted Certified Local Government status. The Columbia County Historical Society’s museum, library, offices, and historic Vanderpoel House are the centerpiece of village cultural life. The society, the village, and local businesses work together on special events, such as the annual 4th of July People’s Parade, followed by a Revolutionary War militia gathering at the Village Green for a noon reading of the Declaration of Independence.
Designated a Preserve America Community in October 2011.
For more information
Columbia County Historical Society
Teaching with Historic Places Lesson Plan: Martin Van Buren’s “Return to the Soil”
National Register Travel Itineraries: American Presidents