History of Philipstown

A Brief History of Philipstown
by Don McDonald, Town Historian
Written in 2004

The Town of Philipstown came into being resulting from what might seem to be considered the first ever real estate deal in what was then the southwestern corner of Dutchess County. Two obscure gentlemen, originally from Holland, and later taking up residency in New Admsterdam, (today’s Manhattan) obtained a license from New York State in October 1687 permitting their purchase of a deed from the Native Americans then living in what is now Philipstown. Lambert Dorlandt and Jan Sybrant, 4 years later, purchased said deed in July 1691 from the Indian residency, through the sanction of New York State. For whatever reasons, Lambert and Jan, in July 1697, (6 years following purchase from the Indians) sold their property to abundantly rich and politically minded merchant, Adolph Philipse, from New York. (New Amsterdam was renamed New York in 1664.) This pivotal transaction would, down a long road, culminate in Philipstown originating into one of the first townships in the “Philipse Patent”, which was then still a part of Dutchess County. Adolph Philipse could well be considered the first citizen of Philipstown, but most certainly a distinguished member of the family clan from whom our township takes its name.

Philipstown, officially on March 7, 1788, became a township; 91 years following Adolph’s purchase from Dorlandt and Sybrant. It would be another 24 years before what is now Putnam County would break away from Dutchess County, becoming it’s own entity. Incorporated in the new county was the old township, which continues to this day more vibrant than ever, having matured in character and substance through the wisdom of age.

Philipstown Town Hall

Procurement of a site upon which to raise a proposed Town Hall rested with the Supervisor and Town Clerk of Philipstown, and with the presidents and members of both the Cold Spring and Nelsonville Village Boards. Their final choice could not have proven more idyllic; the two story, clapboard structure would stand, for the most part, alone, yet imposingly, on the crest of Cold Spring’s Main Street. The fresh white edifice would oversee a pastoral cemetery to its north, a steepled Baptist church to its south, and to its west, an uninhibited panorama of the magnificent “highlands”, the Hudson River roaming restlessly beneath their ancient cliffs and crags.

Frederick Philipse and Samuel Gouverneur, affluent land owners, were those from whom property was purchased in June 1866, upon which to construct the Philipstown Town Hall. Philipse and Gouverneur were residents of both Philipstown and Cold Spring, and it was the powerfully wealthy Philipse family name from whom Philipstown inherited its designation 78 years earlier. Town government in the westernmost extremity of Putnam County would now, in 1867 be blessed with its own home, shortly becoming the centerpiece and landmark of a township of spirited political activity.

The birth of Philipstown’s Town Hall had, however, been preceded in May 1864, with authorization from N.Y. State Legislature permitting Cold Spring Village to build a jail or “lock-up”. An amendment, in March 1866, to the above action, paved way for construction of a Town Hall (wherein would be housed a jail) situated in Cold Spring Village, an undertaking not to exceed $10,000. Pleasurably received a year later was an additional $3,500 with which to complete the handsome hall. Amazingly, at least by today’s standards, construction of the building had come in under budget, costing around $ 7,000.

Our Philipstown Town Hall has stood respectably in having instituted and sustained 13 plus decades of civic service to her town, village and county. She stands heroically as an historic shrine, allegiance to her calling having given testimony to her stamina and spirit on the “sane old hallowed ground” for 137 years.

Don H. MacDonald
Town of Philipstown