In the early 1700s, William Traphagen established a travelers inn in Ryn Beck, which was a small settlement being carved out of a forested area initially inhabited by the Sepasco Indians and colonized since the 1680s by the Dutch.
At about the same time, after the British transformed New Amsterdam into New York, Judge Henry Beekman numbered prominently among the original English Crown land patent owners. Colonel Henry Beekman Jr. expanded and populated his fathers holdings with, among others, refugees from Europes Palatine-Rhine region.
In 1766 William Traphagens son, Arent, relocated Traphagen Tavern to the town crossroads, where the Kings Highway intersected the Sepasco Trail, winding its way down to the river. The Beekman Arms has been here at the center of Rhinebeck ever since.
Bogardus Tavern, as the inn was known during the last third of the 18th century, helped host the American Revolution. The 4th Regiment of the Continental Army drilled on its front lawn before the war, in 1775. The tavern never closed its doors. It was on the main road through the Hudson Valley, and its neighbors played major roles in the creation the United States.
Gen. Richard Montgomery married Col. Henry Beekmans granddaughter Janet Livingston shortly before heroically fighting in, but never coming back from, the Battle of Quebec, in December 1775. Col. Beekmans grandson Robert Livingston participated in the First Continental Congress and helped draft the Declaration of Independence.
A sturdy time and stone building originally built to withstand possible Indian attacks, the Bogardus Tavern served similar purposes - plus rum toddy - against the vicissitudes of waging war on the British Crown. George Washington, Philip Schuyler, Benedict Arnold and Alexander Hamilton slept here, and ate and drank and argued and laughed here during the Revolutionary War. The townsfolk took refuge in the inn while the British burned the state capital, Kingston, across the river.
By 1785 the Kings Highway had become the new nations Post Road. In 1802, Asa Potter bought the inn from Everadus Bogardus. The year 1804 saw an intense race for the governship of New York State. Both candidates had headquarters in Rhinebeck-Gen. Morgan Lewis here in Potters Tavern, and Vice President Aaron Burr down the street at the Kip Tavern. By July of that year, Burr had killed Lewiss friend and Schuylers brother-in-law, Alexander Hamilton, in a duel over quarrels some say began in this town, in these rooms.
As Rhinebeck continued to grow in the early 19th century, in both size and popularity as a stage stop between New York City and Albany, the inn welcomed travelers as well as their horses. It was also the center of the towns civic growth: it served as the town hall, theater, post office, and newspaper office. The ballroom, which some called the Long Room, hosted lodge meetings, teas, public auctions, even Sunday services conducted by traveling preachers.
The famous newspaper editor Horace Greeley was a frequent guest. William Jennings Bryan grandly orated from a second-story window to an enthusiastic gathering on the front lawn. In 1888, when Benjamin Harrison was nominated for president, he and his running mate, Levi P. Morton of nearby Rhinecliff, assembled in the inn with their supporters where they learned the convention had picked them.
During the prosperous years between the Civil War and World War I, many prominent and wealthy New York families built country estates on the banks of the Hudson River. Luxurious private railroad cars terminated at Rhinecliff Station - a handsome building erected under the influence of former Vice President Morton and Col. John Jacob Astor TV (who at about the same time went down on the Titanic). A rail line also connected Rhinecliff and Connecticut, greatly easing travel to and from the area. People called it the Hucklebush Line because the engineer was inclined to stop the train at one of the many good berry-picking patches along the way.
Rhinebeck became known as the Parlor of Dutchess County for its shady streets, village hospitality, gracious homes, and grand estates. The farms black angus and the greenhouses violets gave the small town national attention. Horses and buggies gradually gave way to automobiles and trucks. And the Beekman Arms kept open its doors to the surrounding community and to the many and diverse people traveling through the Hudson Valley.
In 1918 the inn underwent extensive renovation, including the addition of todays ballroom, under the ownership of Tracy Dows. His son, Olin Dows, was a well-known painter whose murals recreate the towns beginnings on the walls of the Rhinebeck post office. His Harvard classmate and close friend Thomas Wolfe frequently visited, and his prolonged retreats here for five years planted the seeds for what became his 1935 novel, Of Time and The River.
Hyde Park neighbor and U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a frequent guest at the Beekman Arms. He concluded every campaign both for governor and for president, four times, talking from the front porch. As an avid stamp collector and amateur historian, President Roosevelt was responsible for the construction by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) of the Rhinebeck post office next to the historic Beekman Arms. The building is a replica of a portion of the Hendrick Kip house, the earliest known structure in Rhinebeck.
As the years rolled by, the Beek, as many locals call it, continued as the center of social and civic life. It hosted thousands of town and service club meetings, weddings, all variety of parties and celebrations - and, of course, leisurely Sunday brunches and dinners. In the 1930s young ladies training to be practical nurses relaxed at the inn after their hospital shifts. Firefighters and World War II soldiers paraded and posed for photographs on the surrounding lawn and streets. Lewis F. Winne was the innkeeper in those years.
In the 1980s, the greenhouse room was added to the front of the ballroom, and in 1995 all of the guest rooms were completely renovated. But few changes have been made to the original structure of strong oaken beams and broad plank floors. In the dining rooms and the tap room, Rhinebeck residents and people traveling through or visiting here continue to gather, and eat and drink and talk, as they have since 1766.
By Paul Szvift
The Beekman Arms and Delamater Inn Route 9 Rhinebeck, NY 12572 (845) 876-7077