Rhinebeck, NY exists within Dutchess County and is comprised of two governmental jurisdictions, The Town of Rhinebeck and The Village of Rhinebeck. Residents of the village are citizens of both the town and village. Town residents who live outside the village are citizens only of the town.
The Town of Rhinebeck has a rich historical and cultural past spanning over 300 years of European settlement and several thousand years of pre-historic habitation by Native Americans. In 1686, land on the east bank of the Hudson River was acquired by three Dutchmen from Kingston. In a separate transaction, another Dutchman, Hendrick Kip, acquired additional acreage which he divided with his brother Jacob, land which is now just north of Rhinecliff. This settlement, on the east bank, became known as Kipsbergen.
In 1695, Henry Beekman acquired the remaining land in what is now known as the Town of Rhinebeck. In addition to a sale of land to citizens from Kingston, Henry was able to settle 35 families from Germany on his property. This settlement became the nucleus for a community which soon was known as Rhinebeck and was located north of the present 9 & 9G intersection.
Early Commerce and Development
Throughout its early development, Rhinebeck prospered because of the many mills along the Landsman Kill and the docks along the river. The Albany Post Road, which is now State Route 9, carried stagecoach passengers and mail between New York and Albany. Boats made regularly scheduled trips between the docks in Rhinecliff and New York City. Commerce flourished, and so did the area.
During and after the Revolutionary War, wheat provided much of Rhinebeck's economic growth until the advent of the Erie Canal. The canal opened the fertile lands along the Mohawk to commerce, causing local farms to rely more heavily on dairy farming. Dairy products could be shipped economically to the city, especially with the railroad lines along the Hudson (1851) and from Rhinecliff to Connecticut (1871).
The present village, once known as Rhinebeck Flatts, grew up around the intersection of the Sepascot Trail and the King's Highway. By the nineteenth century, the village assumed the name Rhinebeck. The village was well located on important travel routes, and prospered.
Following a devastating fire in the central business district in 1863, the Rhinebeck village was redeveloped with three story commercial buildings and many auspicious Victorian homes, providing a gracious atmosphere. Agriculture prospered in the surrounding countryside. In the early twentieth century, apples became an important crop and their by-product, applejack, was sought during prohibition.
Today, Rhinebeck's ongoing commitment to planning, natural resource protection and historic preservation, as well as its excellent quality of life, has made it an attractive community for those who seek a place with these attributes. Dutchess County is one of the fastest growing counties in New York State. Rhinebeck's population declined in the 1990's due to the closure of IBM Kingston, but between 2000 and 2003, the population of the town (excluding the village) increased 6.8 percent - almost double Dutchess County's rate of growth for this same period.