Shared History: Upper Landing

Picturesque Upper Landing Park rests on the ancient shores of the Hudson River in an area known to the Dutch as Slangen Klip or “Snake Cliff.”  Approaching the metal gates on North Water Street at the entrance to Upper Landing, the din of time takes over.  A Metro-North train idles on the tracks above.  The Fall Kill was once “sweetly called the Winnakee signifying ‘leap stream.’”  The cataract defies the ages eternally pounding a familiar rhythm and spilling into the Hudson River offering a shimmering dance in the sunshine.  Here centuries of riverfront stories linger waiting to be revealed.

Upper Landing is a place for contemplation and to enjoy the sweeping vista, the majestic Walkway Over the Hudson, and to allow the conversation between the past and the future to begin.  Safeguarding the history of the City of Poughkeepsie’s riverfront is the responsibility of residents that spans centuries, from the Native Americans who lived here to our diverse community of residents today. This historic land developed after a late 17th-century grant offered land rights to Dutch settlers and Poughkeepsie grew along the banks of the Fall Kill.  An influx of new settlers continued to arrive in the area and Upper Landing, a natural cove on the Hudson River, became a valuable dock.  Sloops with merchants and travelers sailed here and Poughkeepsie met trade and commerce with ambition and promise.   

Upper Landing Park plaque
Upper Landing Park includes several plaques such as this one telling the story of this historic place. / HV Observer

The fast-moving Fall Kill delivered the energy a mill would require and early colonizers recognized this in the late 17th century.  Transporting mill goods hastened the first ferry service established at Upper Landing in the 1790s.  By the mid-19th century, prominent local industrialists George Oakley, Martin Hoffman, George Reynolds and Aaron Innis were engaged in freighting, milling and manufacturing.  As was the practice, these men built large stately homes near their factories so they could be on-site and manage their industries closely.

The Reynolds and Hoffman Houses are important historic resources to the City of Poughkeepsie and to Dutchess County.  Historians estimate that both houses were built between 1807 and 1810.  The Reynolds House is a five-bay Federal design that is indicative of the architectural trends of the period.  The family lived on the upper two stories and operated their dry goods store and the Reynolds Poughkeepsie Ferry Service Operations.

The Livingston family operated wood and plaster mills at Upper Landing from the late 18th century and sold the Hoffman House property to Martin Hoffman of Rhinebeck in 1800.  Hoffman House experienced architectural renovations updating to the Greek Revival style in the early 19th century and later a Colonial Revival entry was added in the 1920s.

After the Reynolds and Innis families, both historic buildings served as homes to other prominent Poughkeepsie families who defined Upper Landing’s riverfront history, including the Shermans, Giffords and Arnolds.  They not only shared this river peninsula in daily life but nurtured business partnerships and engaged socially and politically with each other. Eventually, the Reynolds and Hoffman House became the property of Poughkeepsie Electric Light and Power Company (now Central Hudson) before the Dyson Foundation purchased them.  Just recently, Dutchess County purchased the property from the Dyson Foundation, marking the next chapter in this important site’s history.  Upper Landing cove and the Fall Kill cataract with the Reynolds and Hoffman Houses illustrate the impact its historic events and persons represent in the expansion of early Poughkeepsie.

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