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History & Properties

Clermont: A Town Rich in History and Strong in Spirit

Clermont Post Office, 1791, one of the first 100 post offices in the United States

by Jessica Kahle
from the Hudson River Sampler, January 2012

Clermont is a small town in southern Columbia County that often goes unnoticed, but this town with its beautiful mountain scenery and Hudson River views is more than just a small town – it is a place of early American history. The Clermont Estate, from which the town of Clermont received its name, is from the French actually meaning “clear mountain” because of the view of the Catskill Mountains. The estate was built in 1730.

In 1686 the King of England granted the Livingston family 160,000 acres that became known as the Livingston Manor or Clermont Estate. Robert Livingston Jr., who was a member of a well known family in the days of the revolution and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, built up Clermont in the mid 1700’s. Though, under the British troops during the Revolutionary War, Clermont underwent the devastation of being burnt in 1777. After fleeing the perilous effects of the British influence, Margaret Livingston returned to Clermont and went about the process of rebuilding.

Clermont is like a town version of other historical areas such as Boston and Philadelphia. The famous steamboat of Robert Fulton was named after Clermont and had its port of registry here as well. Robert Livingston, or The Chancellor, as he was called because he held that position of highest judicial officer in New York State, administered the oath of office to George Washington. Clermont is also home of New York’s first public school and its post office was one of the first hundred post offices in the United States. Another notable landmark is the picturesque and quaint St. Luke’s Church sanctified in 1859.

Farms have been a part of Clermont since 1730. During the 1960’s most of the land was farmland. There was a local Chapter of Dairymen’s League Cooperative Association which had fifty-seven members forty years ago. Presently, many varieties of apples are grown locally and shipped to different areas of the U.S and even foreign nations, including South America and Iceland.

Throughout the years, Clermont has seen many generations of families, working together as a small community, and have stayed strong for over two hundred and eighty years of being a town. The spirit of America is truly portrayed and seen in this small town and the heart of American history lies within. May Clermont proceed and grow, not fading into just a memory, but instead contributing to future generations and riding on with time to experience more history.

The Bouwerie

Master Craftsmen Restored Historic Clermont Home to Original Grandeur
By W.V. Miller, Columbia County Historian

Ten Broeck House at Clermont is typical of the Dutch-style architecture of early Hudson River homes. Said to have been built by Dirck Wessel Ten Broeck in 1762, it is now the residence of Mrs. C.C. Townsend.

A true lover of the antique, and endowed with the taste and knowledge so necessary to make the project a success, Mrs. Townsend was fortunate indeed to have the assistance of two men, members of that fast-vanishing group, the old-time master craftsmen who took pride in their work.

One of these men, Paul Poleschner of Clermont had the skill and ability, acquired over the years, that enabled him to repair, or duplicate, the many examples of the early blacksmith’s art that were such essential parts of the old building.

Shutter tie-backs, hand wrought nails and hinges, and the manifold other fittings of like nature which now grace the house are, in many instances, products of this man’s skill.

All carpenter work on the house was done by, or under the direction of, the late Philip H. Clum, of Clermont. This man, then nearing 80 years of age, was one of the few men still living at the time who was master of the skills and techniques of the old-time master woodworkers and carpenters.

The many repairs and restorations to the house were done by this man, or under his direct supervision. Mason work on the building was done by the late Charles Proper of Linlithgo, another master workman.

St. Luke’s and Historic Churches

St. Luke’s – 1859

St Lukes had its beginnings in services held in the nearby Academy and other places in the first half of the 19th century. The rector of St. Paul’s Church, Henry de Koven, together with Judge William H. Wilson, Robert Dibblee, and Harold Wilson actively solicited funds with which to build a church, and by June of 1859 plans had been drawn by the noted Gothic Revival architect, Richard Upjohn. Judge Wilson gave the land for church and cemetery. The new parish was named “St. Luke’s” because it was on St. Luke’s Day (October 18) 1858 that the first subscription list was drawn up. The building was consecrated on St. Luke’s Day, 1859.

The ministers who served St. Luke’s in the early days were either the clergy of Tivoli or Red Hook. Then followed a succession of resident rectors (1856-c.1895). After that, services were held by clergy at St. Stephen’s (Bard) College, Tivoli, Red Hook, and Hudson. As time went on, the church became the responsibility of Christ Church in Hudson and later was again served by its original godfather, St. Paul’s in Tivoli.

Because of recurrent disuse, the building suffered a long period of few repairs, and its future was uncertain until a handful of public-spirited people restored it for services. There is a very small Endowment Fund, wisely administered by the Bishop of Albany, that enables us to provide minimal upkeep. All other expenses must be borne by worshippers and interested people of Clermont who now own the Church.

Later, a “parsonage” was built, but is not now part of the Church properties.

Another area church: Clarkson Chapel – 1860

The Academy and Historic Schools

The Academy, built 1834 (Photo courtesy LaVerne Saulpaugh via Bill Banks)

The first public school in the State of New York was established in 1791 on the edge of the road in front of the site where the Town Hall now stands. The Clermont Academy in the village was built in 1834 on land given by Edward Livingston. The south room was rented to the district for school purposes, the north room was used by the Christian Endeavor Society. The large room in the upper part was used for religious services and Sunday School.

In all there were 5 school districts in Clermont:

  • District 1 “Clermont Academy”
  • District 2 School House at Nevis this building was moved and is now the home of Mrs. Purdy.
  • District 3 School House at an intersection of roads running E. of Clermont and Nevis, this is now the home of Mary Hinkein
  • District 4 Near the “Cross” farm on a road running N to Germantown. This building is now the Clermont Fire House No. 2
  • District 5 School in the NE part of town, Tomlins live there now.

On June 16, 1944, Clermont School District No. 1 closed its season and also saw the ending of the school’s usefulness in teaching the children of Clermont, Site of NY first Public School in 1791. New York State’s 1st Public School was established in Clermont in 1791. It was located on the Village Green where the Academy now stands. The Academy open in 1834 as a high school, and is presently used for community affairs.

Now the Academy is called “The Community House”