Rondout Business Association
The The Rondout Business Association (RBA)
plans to revitalize Cornell Park in Kingston NY,
as a venue to present two Hudson River Valley
Heritage events as part of the City’s celebration
of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s
voyage and the 200th anniversary of Robert
Fulton’s steamboat voyage.  

Hudson’s attempt to find a west-ward passage to
the Indies and the discovery of the river that
bears his name had important consequences. In
making this historic journey, Hudson claimed the
region for the Dutch and opened the land for the
settlers who followed. Although no passage was
discovered the area turned out to be one of the
best fur trading regions in North America. From
the very beginning, the Hudson River was a
conduit for a thriving merchant economy.

Three decades after the launch of Robert Fulton’
s successful steamboat trip from Albany to New
York, the exponential growth of the City of New
York and its insatiable demand for goods and
services, created opportunities for
entrepreneurs such as business owner Thomas
Cornell.  Under his vision, the Rondout-based
Cornell Steamboat Company became a dynamic
force in the region’s economy, transporting
freight as well as passengers to New York.

Changing economic conditions eventually made the steamboats that were once the backbone of the Hudson River economy obsolete.  Today,
Thomas Cornell and the Cornell Steamboat Company are almost forgotten.  Only Cornell Park, located on Wurts Street between Spring and
Hunter Streets, which was adjacent to Cornell’s mansion, reminds us of his legacy.

The Project encompasses plans to build the first permanent stage in Kingston.  The stage will be located on the lower slope of Cornell Park.  
The park’s terraced slopes create a natural amphitheater with amazing acoustics and breath-taking panoramas of the Rondout Creek and the
Hudson River.   
In keeping with the significance of the Quadricentennial celebration, consulting architect Alan Baer (member of the Kingston Historic
Landmarks Preservation Commission) has intentionally focused on a minimum palette of components.   Elements such as bluestone and brick,
reminders of the 19th century river industries, along with cor-ten steel, symbolic of the many bridges spanning the Hudson River, will frame
the panoramic view of the Rondout waterfront.  This deliberate use of easily maintained materials that are also characteristic of the district
allows the stage to be in harmony with its surroundings.  The added plus of a multi-functional stage design for showing movies, hosting music
performances and other events has elicited enthusiastic support from the park’s immediate neighbors and the community at large.  

The first event planned to commemorate Hudson’s discovery of the Hudson River and its history will be a film program.  A local historian
and/or film maker will curate a series of films centered on the early development of the Hudson River and its surrounds.   

The second event continues a tradition that has been taking place in Cornell Park for the past couple of years.  The inaugural Folk Festival in
2006 held on a make-shift stage, was a resounding success, bringing Cornell Park back into the public eye after almost 15 years of disrepair.  
For many of the thousands in the audience, being in the park brought back memories of their childhood and a glimpse of the vitality that the
waterfront community used to have.   The 2008 Music and Art Festival, supported by Scenic Hudson and Rondout Savings Bank, (of which
Thomas Cornell was a founding member), again using a temporary stage, drew over 3000 people.  In keeping with the diversity of the area,
the program highlighted regional performers and singer/songwriters such as Erin Hobson, Denise Jordan Finley, Montgomery Delany, Todd
Guidice and Rex Fowler of Aztec Two Step.    

Next year’s 2009 Quadricentennial music festival will again feature various regional musicians, including members of the Hudson Valley Folk
Guild, in a celebratory program of historic folk music incorporating old sea chanteys, historic ballads, Dutch folklore and oral history of the
Hudson Valley.

After the special Quadricentennial events have concluded, the stage will continue to be a casual outdoor venue for music concerts and
movie series. It will encourage new programs from local theatrical groups and educational organizations, as well as provide unique
opportunities to partner with cultural and artistic events.  

Our region and Kingston, specifically, has gained fame as an art community recognized by Business Week as one of America’s top ten leading
places for artists.  Of the $960 million tourist dollars spent in the Catskill region in 2006, approx half- $440 million- was spent in Ulster County.  
Over the last few years, the RBA in partnership with the City of Kingston, has successfully presented artistically themed festivals as part of
their campaign to promote Kingston and the Rondout waterfront district.  The Ice Sculpture Carving competition, held as part of the mid-
winter Kingston Mardi Gras celebration, has drawn participants and spectators from far and wide. This year’s Rondout Waterfront Festival
combined the 2008 Music and Art Festival with the Hudson River Maritime Museum’s annual Shad Fest honoring the Shad and the Hudson
River.  Donskoj & Company’s Artists Soapbox Derby has become an annuity, this year’s event drawing over 50 entrants and over 8000

The Rondout waterfront, once home to thriving river-borne industries is now poised on the brink of a new economy.  The RBA and the City of
Kingston welcomes the opportunity to play host to visiting boaters, tourists and local residents at next year’s Quadricentennial Celebration.