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History of the Old Fort

The “Old Fort” built in compliance with Gov. Edmund Andros’ order was to be used “for a place of Retreat and Safeguard”. Although there are three gun ports on the ground floor, it is said no shots were ever fired from them against Indians.

The iron figures on the outside wall suggest the Fort was built in 1705. An early description cites it as “an old fashioned one story house with a basement”. The 1798 tax list indicated a one and one half story stone dwelling.
In the 1830’s the house evolved into the current two story structure with garret. The eighteenth century jamless fireplace was converted to a jammed fireplace. The two story, four bay porch verandas are added.

Until the 1920’s the Fort was lived in by DuBois family members or rented as a home to local New Paltz people. In the ’20’s it became a tearoom, and then in the ’30s a restaurant run by Elsie Hanna Oates. Alice Crans, in 1976 continued the operation of this homestyle restaurant until retirement in 1990.

The Fort now houses the gift shop of Historic Huguenot Street and the HHS Tour Office. The upstairs rooms are used for exhibits. In 2000 the DBFA helped HHS fund an Historic Structures Report that recommends an effective planning framework for appropriate restoration of the building. Tree-ring dating with this report has confirmed the 1705 construction date.

Historic Huguenot Street through its endowment for the Fort, and the writing of grants and the DBFA through fund raising together ensure that the building will continue to be restored and preserved.

The ownership of “The Old Fort” is as follows:

DANIEL DUBOIS (1684-1752). son of ISAAC (1659-1690) and grandson of LOUIS (1626-1696) built the stone house for his widowed mother, Maria Hasbrouck DuBois, about eight years before his marriage to Mary LeFevre. He left the homestead to a son. 

SIMON DUBOIS (1719-1799) who married Catharine LeFevre, and left it to a son.

DANIEL DUBOIS (1750-1817) who married Catherine Bessimer. They had no children, so Daniel bequeathed the homestead to the son of his brother Isaac. 

DANIEL I. DUBOIS (1795-1852) who married Magdalena Hasbrouck. In the division of his estate, the property was left to his daughter.

MARY DUBOIS BERRY (1838-1902) wife of Rowello William Berry. They had two daughters.

MARIE ANTOINETTE BERRY LEWIS, wife of Claude Isaac Lewis, and LOUISE DUBOIS BERRY DINGMAN, wife of Dr. John Clarence Dingman of Spring Valley.  After the death of their mother, Mrs. Lewis and Mrs. Dingman inherited “The Old Fort” and finally Mrs. Dingman obtained full ownership, although she never lived in the house after her marriage.

Mrs. Dingman died July 16, 1966, and bequeathed the property to her husband, Dr. Dingman, with the suggestion that some arrangement be made to transfer the homestead to an historical group to ensure its preservation for the enjoyment of future generations of Americans.  In accordance with her wishes, Dr. Dingman and Kenneth E. Hasbrouck of the Huguenot Historical Society Inc., New Paltz, New York entered into negotiations to affect a transfer of the property.

On April 10, 1968 a conveyance of the land and buildings was made to the Huguenot Historical Society.  This symbol of American heritage is now assured of preservation with six other stone dwellings on “The Oldest Street in America with its original houses.”