Thursday, February 19, 2009

A visit to Stuyvesant Falls

The old mills from the west bank of Kinderhook Creek

Early 19th century stone mill on left, 1888 brick mill on right
(garage doors a 20th century addition)

Bell tower on the 1888 mill
The dam at Stuyvesant Falls

Above the dam at Stuyvesant Falls

Sluiceway channel running down from dam, carved out of the shale hillside

Pipe of approx. 36' diameter buried in sluiceway
Very early unmortared stone foundations pre-dating existing mills

The Future for Waterpower at Stuyvesant Falls

The Albany Engineering Corporation has the rights to develop the long-unused hydroelectric potential at Stuyvesant Falls and has applied for a license to produce power at the site, listed as capable of generating 1.8 million kilowatt hours. This is only a tenth of that produced by the Mechanicville plant, the oldest continuously operating hydroelectric plant in the United States. Albany Engineering is the leader in hydroelectric power in the Hudson-Mohawk area and successfully operates Mechanicville, Green Island and several other plants.

The falls of Kinderhook Creek was harnessed as early as 1667 by Major Abram Staats, for whom the cascade was at first named. Very old unmortared stone foundations can be seen below the 19th century mills, which probably date from some time after Major Staats and before the water-powered industrial complex grew up around the falls. The great labor entailed in digging out a sluiceway from the rock demonstrates how economically important the falls and its power was in the 19th century. Electricity generation, which began in 1899, furnished power for the Albany-Hudson electric railway that provided completely carbon-free, but not always completely safe, transportation for this area from 1900-1929.

Update 4/18/2009 - Good News
Power plant originally built by the Albany & Hudson
electric railway company in 1899

On February 23, 2009 I spoke with Jim Besha, president of Albany Engineering. He said that he expected to get the Federal go-ahead soon to begin work on renovating the old hydroelectric plant, with the goal of getting it on line in a year or so. By early May, renovation work was well underway.

Update 2 - June 6, 2009

The June issue of the complimentary magazine, Berkshire Home Style, contains an article on local efforts at developing alternative energy that effectively sums up current efforts to again generate electricity at Stuyvesant Falls. Its author, Ned Depew, reports that the town of Stuyvesant and Albany Engineering have been collaborating on a co-licensing agreement to have the power plant up and running by 2010 According to Depew, “AE will provide the expertise to move through the permitting process. They will also bear the capital costs of replacing, repairing and upgrading the equipment required to control the flow of water to the turbines, the operating turbines and generators, and the buildings and grounds at the site. They will oversee the day-to-day operations of the plant.

In return, the company will earn a substantial share of the revenues from the power the plant generates. The Town will participate as a sort of “silent partner,” providing the legal leverage for obtaining the license and sharing in the revenue on a sliding scale that will increase the Town's percentage as gross revenues increase.”

Because of current energy regulations, the partnership will not be able to sell the power directly but will have to wholesale it through a broker into the grid but even so the arrangement should prove profitable both to the company and the town.

The entire article is well worth reading and also contains information on alternative energy efforts in Kinderhook and private homes in our area.


If you visit Stuyvesant Falls during the summer, do not be tempted to dive into the creek near the Falls. There is a small park on the east side of the creek, nice for picnics, but the No Swimming sign is there for a reason. The pool below the falls appears to be calmer than it is. But the water is very dangerous and even an experienced swimmer can find himself powerless and go under. This to a 16 year old boy in 2002.


  1. I love the pictures, Dad! Very beautiful. It makes me feel like I was there.

  2. My great grandfather, William Dennis was scalded to death at the power plant on 27 Mar 1906. He was the chief engineer. Do you know if there are any pictures of him? That would be awesome as he is the only great grandparent I don't have a picture of. He was only 39 when he died. His obituary did not include a picture. You can reach me at Thank you. Debbi Compton

  3. I lived in Stuyvesant Falls from 1960-1968, and I'm very interested in the history. I would especially like to know when the mills and power plant closed. My email is

  4. Do you have a picture of the island in Kinderhook Creek above the upper falls?