In the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation spread across Europe. Inspired, John Calvin shared new ideas of worship that centered on reading the Bible and developing a personal relationship with God. His followers in France, primarily middle-class artisans, came to be known as the Huguenots. Escaping religious persecution from the Catholic Church, the Huguenots fled to die Pfalz in southwestern Germany. (The word refugee, dating back to 1671, refers specifically to the Huguenots.) After moving to America, they purchased 30,000 acres of land from the Esopus Indians in 1678.
Tours at Historic Huguenot Street are seeing some new improvements. Bill Weldon is an interpretive specialist and the consultant at Historic Huguenot Street. Based in Virginia, he was formerly the Director of Historic Area Programming at Colonial Williamsburg. By the end of February, he had drafted a script for the new interpretation of the tour. He commented how it was important to go back through the historic material and document different elements so that the tour is not based on speculative or conventional wisdom.
Originally, visitors would only see one or two sites in a tour. Visitors will now be guided through all four historic locations in one tour. The new extended tour intends to travel through time, showing the progression and development of the Huguenots as French refugees gaining an American identity. There will also be an emphasis on the new, expanded slave story.
Another new addition to the tours: iPads. Historic Huguenot Street tour guides will carry iPads with them to show historic documents when appropriate, such as land deeds or newspaper articles. The iPad serves as an instant time machine for the curious history lovers to glance back in time. Papers are not easily accessible can now be viewed. One document, the 1677 Indian Deed, details the land agreement made with local Indians. It shows the signatures from all 12 patentees from seven families, as well as a list of items the Huguenots and the Indians traded: wampum, gunpowder, shirts, blankets, and more. The marks made by the Indians are also visible in the document.
Many items, including paintings and new furniture sets, tables, and bed frames, were taken out of storage and brought into new locations.
The store, located in the Jean Hasbrouck house, will now have a collection of colorful polyurethaned food (and other fake food) on display, to give visitors a sense of what life was like living in that time period in the house.
In the Deyo-Broadhead home, a 1910 Melodian Parlor piano will be played on the tour. Donated by Friends of Historic Kingston, the piano will play songs from a collection of more than 200 piano rolls. The Deyo-Broadhead family was very socially active. With the aid of an iPad, documents from the New Paltz Times can be seen in an instant. One particular 1895 document noted the first formal event held at the Deyo-Broadhead house: The “5 o' Clock Tea” where over 100 people attended and Moscow's Orchestra at Newburgh played.
The tour intends to show the evolution of the community from a European frontier settlement to an American town, starting with the oldest site and ending in the 1940s kitchen. Weldon envisions new projects for the future: He hopes to be able to recreate barns and sheds that would have existed during the lives of the Huguenots.