Glebe House, Poughkeepsie’s Oldest House

By Charlie Blim, Urban Studies, Class of 2024.

On Main Street, in Poughkeepsie, stands Glebe House, the oldest building in the city. It’s been there far longer than the Family Dollar next to it, the popular Pete’s Famous Restaurant across the street, and the arterials that encircle them all. Glebe House dates back to the colonial era when it was built in 1767 for Reverend John Beardsley, the Anglican rector of Christ Church in Poughkeepsie and Trinity Church in Fishkill. The word “glebe” refers to land purchased by a Church to supplement a pastor’s income through farming and tenancy. Poughkeepsie’s glebe was purchased by the congregation for £25.00 and included 87 acres with 200 acres of adjoining commons. Reverend Beardsley’s tenure on the glebe was not long-lasting: he was a Loyalist, an unpopular stance following the Declaration of Independence. On December 5th, 1777, the local Council of Safety arrested Beardsley as a Tory and expelled him from the region.

The Front Façade of Glebe House (Source: paththroughhistory.iloveny.com)

On December 13th, 1777, Reverend Beardsley and his family were shipped downriver to New York City on an American sloop-of-war. They were permitted only to bring bedding, clothes, provisions for their trip, and their four female slaves: one adult woman and three children. Their male servants and slaves and the rest of their property were confiscated. Taking refuge among other Loyalists on Long Island, Reverend Beardsley found a new calling: he was appointed chaplain of the “Loyal American Regiment” in 1778, which saw action against American forces in the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, and the Hudson Valley. 

The view from the printmaking studio (Photo by the author).

Due to its status as a church building, Glebe House was not confiscated with the expulsion of the Beardsleys. The church retained ownership of it until financial troubles motivated the church to sell it to Petrus DeRiemer, a member of a prominent New York silversmithing family, who owned and resided in the house from 1796 to 1809. During his time as owner of Glebe House, he renovated it extensively, putting in a new central staircase, dining room, Flemish brick facade, and a two-room addition on the back of the house. His daughter, Elsie, climbed through one of the windows of Glebe House to elope with her lover, Jacobus Sleight.

Since DeRiemer’s renovations, the house has remained relatively unchanged for the past two hundred-plus years. The doors still tout original hardware, a Dutch oven hangs on a swing arm in the fireplace, and craft details, like the elegant banister, remain as solid as the day they were built. Look up at the ceilings, not only because it’s very easy to hit your head in such a low building, but also because the hand-hewn beams are still in place. Beneath your feet are three-foot-wide floorboards, planed from the trunks of massive pine trees, the likes of which no longer exist in the Hudson Valley after centuries of logging. Nothing creaks in Glebe House. The only modern renovations are a kitchen and bath put in in the 20th century.

Interior space in Glebe House (Photo by the Author).

Now owned by the City of Poughkeepsie, Glebe House is home to Fall Kill Creative Works, a community craft and education nonprofit. On the ground floor of Glebe House, there are spaces for printmaking, weaving, and general artistry –– often utilized by participants in Fall Kill Creative Works’ frequent and free or low-cost art classes and events. Glebe House is well-outfitted for these programs, boasting high-quality printmaking equipment and looms of all sizes, including one that takes up an entire room in the back. Rick Jones, Glebe House’s caretaker, is not quite sure how or when it got there. Founded in 2011 as the Mid-Hudson Heritage Center, the goal of Fall Kill Creative Work is to revitalize the Main Street Corridor of Poughkeepsie by utilizing craft as a catalyst for connection.

The new role of Glebe House as home of Fall Kill Creative Works is an integral part of the City of Poughkeepsie’s vision for arts and culture in the city. To cultivate “a city with community pride and a sense of place, a desirable place to live and work, a tourist destination, and a haven for arts and culture,” Poughkeepsie’s Arts Commission promotes city-wide events that bring diverse parts of the city together. With historic Glebe House so centrally located on Main Street, it has a great potential to serve as a community hub.

The back door (Photo by Author).

Getting there:

635 Main Street, Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, New York

Learning more: 

City of Poughkeepsie. “About the Poughkeepsie Innovation District,” accessed Dec. 8, 2023.

Cutten, G. B. (1946). Ten Silversmith Families of New York State. New York History, 27, (1964), 88–95.

Fall Kill Creative Works. “About Us.” Accessed Dec. 8, 2023.

National Register of Historic Places. “Glebe House.” National Park Service, accessed Dec. 8, 2023.

Platt, E. The Eagle’s History of Poughkeepsie from Earliest Settlements 1683 to 1905. Poughkeepsie, Platt & Platt, 1905.

Reynolds, Helen Wilkinson, ed. The Records of Christ Church, Poughkeepsie, New York. Volume 1, 1911.

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