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U.S. Route 9W and New York State Route 32 pass through the town, converging at the center of the village and overlapping to the south. These routes parallel the New York State Thruway (Interstate 87), which passes through the town just west of the village.
The village land of Saugerties was obtained from Esopus Indian Kaelcop, chief of the Amorgarickakan tribe. Governor Edmund Andros purchased the land on April 27, 1677, for the price of a piece of cloth, a blanket, some coarse fiber, a loaf of bread, and a shirt. The village was incorporated in 1831 as "Ulster," and changed its name to "Saugerties" in 1855.
In 1710, during the Palatine immigration, over 3,000 German Palatines were sent to Saugerties by the English Crown to manufacture naval stores, tar, and turpentine. In 1730, a subdivision "Katsbaan" was established. The Palatine settlers and Dutch settlers built a stone church in Katsbaan in 1732.
In 1777, During the American Revolution, a British Squadron came to Saugerties during October 18–22. Raiding British parties burned Clermont and Belvedere (these reside on the east side of the Hudson River). In Saugerties, the raiding parties burned sloops, which are rigid sail boats with one or two more head sails, in the Esopus Creek area, and several homes and barns. This is where General Vaughan learned that another general named John Burgoyne had surrendered his army at Saratoga, which is elsewhere in upstate New York, on October 17. On October 22, 1777, the British fleet had left from the Mid-Hudson Valley, never to return.
In 1825, a man by the name of Henry Barclay purchased land known as Esopus Creek. After Barclay bought Esopus Creek he soon began to build a dam and a rock cutting project. Between 1826 -1827, Barclay built Ulster Iron Works and a paper mill, thus beginning what became the largest water-powered industry in the world.
On January 3, 1851, Henry Barclay died and the Sheffield Company took over the paper mill. In July 1872 Henry Barclay's mill was destroyed by fire. It was then rebuilt out of all brick within one year. The roof of the rebuilt mill was then made completely made of slate. In 1903, the Cantine Company bought out the Sheffield mill. The Cantine mill was closed in 1975 after a long 72-year run, and later (in 1978) the Cantine mill burned to the ground.
The U.S. Congress gave $5,000.00 to the town of Saugerties for a lighthouse in 1834. The lighthouse was placed at the mouth of the Esopus Creek to guide ships away from shallow areas when daily commercial and passenger transportation come into the port. Construction began in 1835 by Charles Hooster, a residence of Saugerties. He won the job with the low bid of $2,988. The pier the lighthouse was built upon was made of chestnut cribbing and filled with stone. The original source of light came from 5 whale oil lamps with parabolic reflectors, but in 1850 the whale oil lamps were replaced with mineral oil lamps.
Yet after strides with this lighthouse, Congress passed a budget in 1867 for $25,000 to construct a newly developed lighthouse. It was built on a circular stone whose base is 60 feet (18 m) in diameter. The carpenters used the old mineral oil lamps from the original lighthouse in the new lighthouse building. Two years later in 1869 the newly built lighthouse became functional. This lighthouse is still the present-day light of the town of Saugerties.
Then in 1870, the population of the town of Saugerties sustained a 4000 resident count. In 1873, there was a lantern room made out of cast-iron installed in the lighthouse with an iron-plate walkway that wrapped around for cleaning the outside panels of glass.
Saugerties harbor was enlarged in 1888 to grant access for dredging the Esopus Creek and to construct a small jetty. Then there was a small road made to connect the mainland and the lighthouse on top of the jetty which was created from the dredging spoils. During this year a man by the name of Martin Cantine built a paper mill on the north side of the dam that was built on the Esopus Creek by Henry Barclay in 1825.
In 1889 Robert A. Synder, John and George Seaman, Henry L. Finger, and James and William Maxwell started the "Saugerties and New York Steamboat Company". In 1890 the Orpheum Theater was built by John Cooper Davis. It was a center for movies, basketball, Vaudeville acts and roller skating. In February 1891, Electric Light and Power Company provided electric service t Saugerties for the first time.
In 1909, a fog bell was installed in the lighthouse. By 1940 the lighthouse was in dire need of repair. In the late 1940s telephones were added in the town as well as steam heat. In 1954, the automation of lights in the town made the need for light keepers obsolete. Shortly after this the coastguard closed the lighthouse and then over the years fell into a decay state.[clarification needed] The art council of 1976 formed a committee to save the lighthouse. Town historian Ruth Reynolds Glunt and architect Elise Barry succeeded in placing the lighthouse on the National Register in 1978. In 1986, the Saugerties Lighthouse Conservancy obtained the lighthouse and wetlands next to it. In 1990, the lighthouse was restored to operation after 36 years of no use. The Coast Guard installed a solar-powered beacon, and the lighthouse was re-commissioned as an aid to navigation.
In 1987 The Saugerties Village became the first commercial district on the National Historic Register. The Garlic Festival was established in 1989 by Pat Reppert of Shale Hill Farm and Herb Gardens. The Garlic festival is the biggest festival in the Mid-Hudson. The Kiwanis Club of Saugerties took over the Garlic Festival and moved the festival to the central town baseball field known as "Cantine Field" where now the Festival is held every September. It attracts about 50,000 people within a three day weekend.
In 1994, Saugerties was the home of the Woodstock '94 music festival, held on the 25th anniversary of the original Woodstock Festival. Saugerties is just 10 miles (16 km) east of the town of Woodstock, New York. The original festival was held some 70 miles (110 km) southwest of the town of Woodstock (on Max Yasgur's farm in Bethel, New York), while the 1999 festival in Rome, NY was 160 miles (260 km) away from Woodstock.
One of the towns biggest is HITS("Horseshows In The Sun"), opened in 2003. They occupy 200 acres (0.81 km2) of land and have a 10 ring, Olympic-status horse show facility in central Saugerties.
In 2005 the Esopus Bend Conservancy formed and acquired over 150 acres (0.61 km2) with a little more than 2 miles (3.2 km) of the shoreline on the upper Esopus
In 2014, Saugerties was home to the Hudson Project- which notoriously became known as the "Mudson Project". After 2 days of music and other festivities, the festival was come to an abrupt halt on the third and final day as rain and mud infested the concert and camp areas. Hundreds were left without food and water as they became stranded when cars became stuck in the ubiquitous muk that dominated the camp ground.
The town has a total area of 100.0 square miles (176.2 km²), of which, 64.5 square miles (167.2 km²) is land and 3.5 square miles (9.0 km²) of it (5.13%) is water (United States Census Bureau statistics). The north town line is the border of Greene County, New York, and the east town line, marked by the Hudson River, is the border of Dutchess and Columbia counties. Esopus Creek enters the Hudson River south of Saugerties village.
As of the census of 2000, there were 19,868 people, 7,478 households, and 5,062 families residing in the town. The population density was 307.8 people per square mile (118.9/km²). There were 8,257 housing units at an average density of 127.9 per square mile (49.4/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 91.99% White, 4.06% Black or African American, 0.24% Native American, 0.77% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.65% from other races, and 1.28% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.61% of the population.
There were 7,478 households out of which 32.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.4% were married couples living together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.3% were non-families. 25.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 and the average family size was 3.02.
In the town the population was spread out with 23.7% under the age of 18, 7.5% from 18 to 24, 31.9% from 25 to 44, 24.1% from 45 to 64, and 12.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 105.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 104.9 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $42,401, and the median income for a family was $50,033. Males had a median income of $36,400 versus $25,025 for females. The per capita income for the town was $20,374. About 6.5% of families and 8.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.1% of those under age 18 and 6.8% of those age 65 or over.