Prior to Anglo-Dutch settlement, what is today Dutchess County was a leading center for the native Wappinger peoples. They had their council-fire at what is now present-day Fishkill Hook, and also held gatherings along the Danskammer. On November 1, 1683, the Province of New York established its first twelve counties, with Dutchess County being one of them. Its boundaries at that time included the present Putnam County, and a small portion of the present Columbia County (the towns of Clermont and Germantown). The county was named for Mary of Modena, Duchess of York, second wife of James, Duke of York (later James II, King of England). Dutchess is an archaic form of the word duchess.
The Province of New York and the Connecticut Colony negotiated an agreement on November 28, 1683, establishing their border as 20 miles (32 km) east of the Hudson River, north to Massachusetts. The 61,660 acres (249.5 km2) east of the Byram River making up the Connecticut Panhandle were granted to Connecticut, in recognition of the wishes of the residents. In exchange, Rye was granted to New York, along with a 1.81-mile (2.91 km) wide strip of land running north from Ridgefield to Massachusetts alongside the New York counties of Westchester, Putnam then Dutchess, known as "The Oblong". The eastern half of the stub of land in northeast Dutchess County containing Rudd Pond and Taconic State Park is the northernmost extension of The Oblong.
Until 1713, Dutchess was administered by Ulster County. On October 23, 1713 Queen Anne gave permission for Dutchess County to elect its own officers from among their own population including a Supervisor, Tax Collector, Tax Assessor and Treasurer. In 2013, Dutchess County celebrated its 300th anniversary of democracy based upon a legislative resolution sponsored by County Legislator Michael Kelsey from Salt Point. In 1812, Putnam County was detached from Dutchess.
In the twelve years 1685–1697 lawful patents had been granted securing for their purchasers every foot of Hudson River shoreline in the original county. Three additional patents, to 1706, laid claim to the remaining interior lands.
From 1683 to 1715 most of the settlers in Dutchess County were Dutch. Many of these moved in from Albany and Ulster Counties. They settled along the Fishkill River and in the areas that are now Poughkeepsie and Rhinebeck.
From 1715 to 1730 most of the new settlers in Dutchess county were Germans. From 1730 until 1775 New Englanders were the main new settlers in Dutchess County.
Franklin D. Roosevelt lived in his family home in Hyde Park, overlooking the Hudson River. His family's home is now the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, managed by the National Park Service.
Prior to the 1960s, Dutchess County was primarily agricultural. Since then the southwestern part (from Poughkeepsie southward and from the Taconic State Parkway westward) of the county has developed into a largely residential area, suburban in character, with many of its residents commuting to jobs in New York City and Westchester County. The northern and eastern regions of the county remain rural with large farmlands but at the same time developed residences used during the summer and or on weekends by people living in the New York City urban area.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 825 square miles (2,140 km2), of which 796 square miles (2,060 km2) is land and 30 square miles (78 km2) (3.6%) is water.
Dutchess County is located in southeastern New York State, between the Hudson River on its west and the New York–Connecticut border on its east, about halfway between the cities of Albany and New York City. It contains two cities: Beacon and Poughkeepsie.
The terrain of the county is mostly hilly, especially in the Hudson Highlands in the southwestern corner and the Taconic Mountains to the northeast. Some areas nearer the river are flatter.
The highest point in the county is the summit of Brace Mountain, in the Taconics, at 2,311 feet (704 m) above sea level. The lowest point is sea level, along the Hudson River.
Almost a half mile long border exists with Berkshire County, Massachusetts in the extreme northern end of the county.Columbia County – north
Berkshire County, Massachusetts – northeast
Litchfield County, Connecticut – east
Fairfield County, Connecticut – southeast
Putnam County – south
Orange County – southwest
Ulster County – west
Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site
Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site
Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site
As of the census of 2000, there were 280,150 people, 99,536 households, and 69,177 families residing in the county. The population density was 350 people per square mile (135/km²). There were 106,103 housing units at an average density of 132 per square mile (51/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 83.66% White (80.3% non-Hispanic whites), 9.32% Black or African American, 0.22% Native American, 2.52% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 2.37% from other races, and 1.89% from two or more races. 6.45% were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 22.0% were of Italian, 16.9% Irish, 11.3% German and 6.7% English ancestry according to Census 2000. 88.3% spoke English and 4.8% Spanish
Based on the Census Ancestry tallies, including people who listed more than one ancestry, Italians were the largest group in Dutchess County with 60,645. Irish came in a very close second at 59,991. In third place were the 44,915 Germans who barely exceeded the 44,078 people not in the 105 specifically delineated ancestry groups.
There were 99,536 households out of which 34.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.50% were married couples living together, 10.30% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.50% were non-families. 24.60% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.63 and the average family size was 3.16.
In the county, the age distribution of the population shows 25.10% under the age of 18, 9.40% from 18 to 24, 30.20% from 25 to 44, 23.20% from 45 to 64, and 12.00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 100.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.20 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $53,086, and the median income for a family was $63,254. Males had a median income of $45,576 versus $30,706 for females. The per capita income for the county was $23,940. About 5.00% of families and 7.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.50% of those under age 18 and 6.50% of those age 65 or over.
The per capita income and average home values have increased noticeably in recent years mainly due to affluent residents relocating from nearby and expensive Westchester County, New York. In recent years, there has been a large influx of people that have relocated from New York City, mainly from the Borough of The Bronx.
The decrease in population between 1810 and 1820 was due the separation of Putnam County from Dutchess in 1812.
The county is governed via a county executive and a county legislature. The county legislature consists of 25 members each elected from single member districts.
The Cities of Beacon and Poughkeepsie; Towns of Fishkill, Hyde Park, Pine Plains, Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck, Red Hook, and East Fishkill and Villages of Millerton, Wappingers Falls, Millbrook, and Fishkill have their own Police departments. The remainder of the county is patrolled by the Dutchess County Sheriff's Office and New York State Police. The New York State Police Troop K headquarters is located in Millbrook.
The current composition of the County Legislature is 16 Republicans, 7 Democrats, and 2 Independents. The current county executive is Republican Marcus Molinaro. The county executive is elected in a countywide vote. The majority of the county is located in New York's 19th congressional district, which is currently being represented by Republican John Faso. Dutchess County has historically leaned Republican due to its affluence and large suburban swaths; it has voted for Democratic presidential candidates only five times – 1964, 1996, 2008, 2012, and 2016. The largely suburban southern towns of Dutchess tend to be more conservative, while the small villages and rural areas of the northern tier have become somewhat more liberal. Almost all elected officials are Republican, but in the 2012 Presidential Election, Barack Obama carried Dutchess with 53% of the vote.Interstate 84 traverses the county in an east-west route cutting through the southern quadrant of the county. It is the only interstate highway in the county.
US 9, the Taconic State Parkway, and NY 22 are the main north-south roads in the county.
US 44, NY 55, and NY 199 are the other main east-west roads in the county
Amtrak has stations in Rhinecliff, a small hamlet in the Town of Rhinebeck, and Poughkeepsie, with both stations being served by Empire Service trains as well as other trains that run along the line. The latter station is the terminus of the Hudson Line of the Metro-North Railroad. The Hudson Line also has station stops in New Hamburg (a hamlet of the town of Poughkeepsie) and Beacon.
The Harlem Line, on the eastern side of the county, has station stops in Pawling, Wingdale, Dover Plains, and two stops in Wassaic (one along the Tenmile River and the other the namesake terminus of that line).
Public transportation in Dutchess County is handled by the Dutchess County Department of Mass Transit, branded publicly as the LOOP system. Outside of the urbanized area of the county, most service is limited. The City of Poughkeepsie operates its own limited system as well. Privately run lines connect Poughkeepsie to New Paltz and Beacon to Newburgh.
For intercity bus service, Adirondack Trailways and Short Line Bus also operate some service through Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck, and the southern part of the county. The last time service ran outside that area was in the late-1990s when Peter Pan/Bonanza ran service to New York City in the eastern part of the county.
The Dutchess County Airport, located in the town of Wappinger, is a general aviation facility which once had commercial service. The closest commercial airport, Stewart International Airport, is located across the Hudson River in Newburgh.
Also located in the county is Sky Park Airport, a public use general aviation facility in Red Hook, New York.
Dutchess County Chamber of Commerce holds an annual hot air balloon launch typically in the first week of July. The main launch sites are along the Hudson River. As many as 20 balloons participate in the event.
The Hudson Valley Renegades are a minor league baseball team affiliated with the Tampa Bay Rays. The team is a member of the New York–Penn League, and play at Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill.
The Hudson Valley Bears are one of four founding members of the Eastern Professional Hockey League (EPHL). They play their home games at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie.
The Hudson Valley Hawks was a team in the former National Professional Basketball League. The team's home court was at Beacon High School, in Beacon.
N.B.: Cities, Towns and Villages are official political designations.Beacon
Poughkeepsie (county seat)
Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson)
Culinary Institute of America main campus (Hyde Park)
Dutchess Community College (Poughkeepsie)
Marist College (Poughkeepsie)
Ridley-Lowell Business & Technical Institute (Poughkeepsie)
Vassar College (Poughkeepsie)