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Situated about halfway between New York City and Albany, Poughkeepsie is a National Heritage Area. Early on the area was home to the Wappinger Indians, part of the Algonquin federation. The name Poughkeepsie comes from the tribe’s name for the area, which means “the reed covered lodge by the little-water place.” This refers not to the Hudson River, but to a spring just south of the current downtown area.
Founded in 1687, the community became an incorporated village in 1799, and the city was chartered in 1854. Poughkeepsie was the state capital of New York from 1777 through 1783. In 1788, New York State ratified the United States Constitution at the Market Street courthouse.
Early on, the city was a major center for whale rendering, and during the 1800s industry flourished through shipping, hatteries, papermills, and several breweries along the Hudson River, including some owned by Matthew Vassar. Due to the area’s natural beauty and proximity to New York City, families such as the Astors, Rogers, Vanderbilts built weekend resorts nearby. The city is also home to the oldest continuously operating entertainment venue in the state, the Bardavon 1869 Opera House.