DOWNTOWN MAIN STREET POUGHKEEPSIE 2012
Founded in 1686 when two gentlemen, one English and one Dutch, purchased uppu qui ipis in (reed covered hut by the water) from Native Americans, Poughkeepsie, NY is midway between New York City and Albany on the Hudson River.
Known mainly for whale rendering in times past, the mid 20th Century ushered in IBM’s main plant as Poughkeepsie’s largest employer. A bustling downtown Main Street was central to dining, shopping and entertainment.
The Arterial Road, ringing the city, was built in the early ‘70s as a solution to downtown’s mounting traffic congestion. Instead, it diverted traffic away from Main Street to new shopping plazas and malls in outlying areas.
Attempting to cash in on the mall craze, the city closed off the two blocks of Main Street between Market St. and Academy St. to make a pedestrian mall in 1973, but the idea failed as shoppers and diners continued to flock to suburban malls and shopping centers.
When Main Street’s premier department store, Luckey Platt, closed in 1980, the downtown area was soon home to vagrants and the homeless. In 1981 Dutchess County’s Department of Social Services moved in nearby bringing welfare recipients into the mix.
Downtown Main Street quickly became host to crime, drug activity, gangs and prostitution. Seemingly nightly gang and drug-related murders ensured no one in their sane mind ventured down to Main Street for any reason.
The city reopened the street in 2001 planting the seeds for a slow recovery.
Even at its lowest point of adversity, downtown Main Street retained much of its Victorian Renaissance beauty. The area’s urban deterioration mixed with such regal architecture makes for a startling yet beautiful contrast.