by Dominick Lizzi
What A Village Should Be
Valatie, from the Dutch Vaaltje meaning “Little Falls,” was settled about 1665 as part of the Kinderhook Settlement. The original inhabitants were Mohigan, an Algonquian Indian people.
The Dutch established grist and lumber mills on the Kinderhook Creek and Valatie Kill. About 1820, large cotton mills began being built. Eventually there were about nine mills. Valatie became one of the nation’s earliest industrial centers.
The mills attracted workers, tradesmen, merchants, and professionals. By the 1840’s, Valatie was a vibrant village (of c1400) filled with stores, churches, and other facilities, making its Main Street the commercial center of Northern Columbia County. It remained so until the mills closed or moved South after WWII.
Recently, the village has undergone a rebirth with its population reaching about 2,000.
The village, which was incorporated in 1856, is noted for the Valatie Santa Claus Club, “First In The Nation,” its outstanding military service record, and as the home town of Gov. Martin H. Glynn. Glynn was a progressive leader and a founder of Ireland.
Because of its community spirit, institutions, services and social activities, its slogan for the 150th Celebration became “what a village should be.”
A TOUR OF VALATIE
(Starting Point, Gov. Glynn Square, Church Street)
1. Gov. Martin H. Glynn Village Square, established 1994, contains Gazebo, War Memorial Garden, and Santa Claus Club marker. The War Memorial Garden with its five markers represent the village’s extensive military record. During WWII the village suffered 14 deaths, making it per capita (1,200) one of the highest in the State and Nation.
The Santa Claus Club, “First in the Nation,” established in 1946, provides a Santa visit and gifts to every child in the village annually. It has received national and international fame. Interestingly, Virginia O’Hanlon Douglas (1890-1971) of “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa,” spent her last years in the village. The editorial written in response to her question helped establish Christmas as we know it. The Square itself honors Gov. Glynn and is on the site of the Union School 1876.
2. Martin H. Glynn School, built in 1929, dedicated by Franklin D. Roosevelt, honoring the famed Valatian.
(Proceed down Church Street towards Main Street)
Note throughout the tour, many of the buildings have historical markers.
3. First Presbyterian Church – 1878. The edifice, on the National Register, is designed in the mode of an old Germanic Church. It has a unique European-type sanctuary.
4. Site of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church – 1828. It was a classic white country church, complete with clock and steeple. It was one of the three churches on Zion Hill.
(Proceed down to Village clock on the corner of Main and Church Streets)
5. Main Street, for over 150 years, was filled with many businesses including general stores, groceries, clothing, millinery, hardware, butchers, barbers, saloons, pharmacy, ice cream, cobblers, tailors, jewelers, and tradesmen, making the village a vibrant commercial center.
6. James Purcell Fire House site – 1891. The Firemen’s Park honors the many volunteers, as well as Charles Osborn, who died fighting a fire. The Valatie Fire Department was incorporated in 1837. The Purcell Fire House bell is located adjacent to the Lafayette Fire House on Mechanic Street.
7. Valatie Community Theater, est. 1926, is an intact Arts Deco house which ran movies until about 1970. The theater’s front section is a mid-19th century brick commercial building.
8. Dr. John Vanderpoel House – c1825. Dr. John was part of the prominent Vanderpoel family of Kinderhook. He was the village’s first Postmaster, political ally, friend and physician to President Martin Van Buren.
9. Beaver Cotton Mill Overlook. The overlook has a good view of the Kinderhook Creek and Beaver Pond and Falls. It is built on the site of the famed Cotton Mill, which was destroyed by fire during the blizzard of 1888. Harry Houdini filmed scenes of his last movie, “Haldane of the Secret Service” in 1921, at the base of the Falls.
(Possible side trip)
Proceed over the bridge to Chatham and you will see a fine view of the Beaver Falls and the Kinderhook Gorge. A short distance up Chatham Street (Route 203) you will pass the site of the Valatie Cotton Mill and Foundry – 1834. Across the street from the site, off Elm Street, is the 40-plus acres Pachaquack, forever wild Preserve. Pachaquack, ‘cleared meadows’ was an Indian meeting place and settlement appearing on maps as early as 1686. There is a hiking trail along the Kinderhook Creek providing views; the Knox Caravan marker locating the site of the famed Revolutionary War Military Journey, 1775-1776 is along the trail.
10. Brick Store – c1829, located on the corner of Main Street and Mechanic was a very early commercial building and company general store. The building is considered one of Columbia County’s oldest surviving mercantile buildings. Mechanic Street is named for the various blacksmiths, wagon makers, tanners, and mechanic shops which were once located there.
(Proceed Easterly on Upper Main Street – many of the houses are dated Early 19th Century, or earlier)
11. Opera House Site – 1878. The Opera House was the entertainment center of the area providing minstrels, vaudeville, silent movies, and sports events. Here, Martin H. Glynn gave his famed speech, “He Kept us out of the War.” This famed speech had become the slogan which helped re-elect Wilson in 1916. The Opera House was originally the First Presbyterian Church c1835, before it became a public hall.
12. John Rogers House – c1830. Rogers was a civic leader, member of the first Board of Trustees of the village (1856), and a founder of the National Union Bank.
(Return to the Village Clock; Proceed Westerly)
13. U.S. Hotel – c1871 (3015 Main Street). The largest of several hotels which existed in the village. It also is the site of an earlier Inn in which it is thought that young Martin Van Buren tried his first case.
14. Glynn Tavern and Home. From here Martin H. Glynn (1871-1924) went on to become a Progressive Congressman, State Comptroller, First Roman Catholic Governor, famed orator, publisher and owner of the Times Union, and a founder of the Irish Free State.
15. Nathan Wild House – c1826. National Register. Wild (1790-1867) was one of Valatie’s founders and a major mill owner.
16. Valatie Kill (Dutch Vaaltje). The creek and falls gave the village its name. Also the site of Wild’s first cotton mill (1828).
17. Trolley Depot -1905. Is a classic small town railroad station. The electric trolley connected Valatie to Hudson and Albany.
(Cross Main Street)
18. Wild’s Mill Site – 1846. The mill was once one of the largest in the Hudson Valley.
(Cross Southerly on Route 9 and go to River Street)
Note: Railroad Express Depot on corner of River Street entrance
19. Gimp Mill – 1896. Is the last built and smallest of Valatie’s textile mills. It is the only surviving mill building.
20. Hoes House – c1760. The Hoes family was one of the earliest settlers of Valatie, and the house was the home Marie Hoes, mother of Martin Van Buren. Van Buren visited often.
(River Street Park at the end of River Street has about 23 acres of trails and vistas of Kinderhook Creek.)
(Return up River Street and cross Route 9, using the cross walk, and proceed to and up Albany Avenue opposite the Trolley Depot)
21. Swallow House – 1845. Famed house built from the remains of the steamboat Swallow wrecked on the Hudson River, April 7, 1845.
22. Prospect Hill Cemetery, Inc. – 1852. A classic Victorian Cemetery containing many interesting markers and a pond. It contains graves dating from 1796, and also includes a broad section of village residents and prominent people such as Nathan Wild, Rensselaer Reynolds, the Corning family, and General Morgan Chrysler. (See Prospect Hill Cemetery Tour, “A Walk Through the History of Valatie,” by D.C. Lizzi.)
Other points of interest in the village are St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church – 1906, containing a much noted post Vatican II sanctuary, Dr. Abbott House- 1830, and St. Luke’s Lutheran Church which contains many artifacts of the original church, as well as its bell, located on the side of the edifice, and the Railroad Freight Barn-c1890 (No. 1036). These are on Kinderhook Street (Route 9) south of Albany Avenue.
Also Callan War Memorial Park, which is on Mechanic Street. Albany Avenue and Upper Main Street contain many lovely 18th & 19th Century houses. Also, throughout the historic sections of Valatie, there are many interesting vernacular houses.
The author of this tour is Dominick C. Lizzi, Valatie’s Village Historian. Lizzi has written Governor Martin H. Glynn; Forgotten Hero and also Valatie: The Forgotten History, which is a detailed study of a rural mill village.
A note of thanks to the Village of Valatie, Columbia County Tourism, the Columbia County Historical Society, the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, and the Town of Kinderhook.