|Cultural contribution to East Fishkill and Dutchess County|
For thousands of years life in the Hudson River Valley was based on hunting, gathering and farming. Basic life styles did not change very much even when Europeans arrived. Rural farming was the basis of the economy through the colonial era and into the early years of the United States. There was some industrial activity such as iron ore mining and processing for Revolutionary War weapons but most locals relied on farming for a living. Few residents went farther than twenty miles from home during their lifetime. Transportation meant walking, horseback riding, or for those with enough money, riding in a wagon or stagecoach.
Around 1850 the railroads began to transform the Hudson Valley economy from rural farming to the commuter oriented life style we have today. It was an astounding thought that you could board a train in Hopewell Junction and in a matter of hours be in New York City, Albany, Hartford or even far off San Francisco. Equally astounding, farm products could be marketed in major cities instead of only locally.
The original hamlet of Hopewell is on Beekman Road but is not much more than a church and a crossroads. When the railroad came along, business gravitated to the depot location. Business activity sprang up around the depot and Hopewell Junction was born to become the business center of East Fishkill.
The railroads also brought city life to the country in the form of daily newspapers and magazines. An entire industry of small hotels and guest houses sprung up almost overnight. People from the city could spend a weekend in the country and be back to work on Monday morning. By the same token, a local farmer could go into the city for a show and be back home for chores in a matter of hours.
In most small towns the railroad depot became the center of life. The telegraph brought instantaneous news from the outside world. News and weather reports were posted on the depot walls for all to read. Western Union telegrams became a common means of communications. In many small towns the first telephone was at the railroad depot. When you sent off a mail order for a new home appliance or farm tool, it arrived by train at the depot. Town meetings and political affairs were often scheduled at the depot. In essence, the railroad station became the social center of town.
The Hopewell Junction depot embodied all of these changes. Indeed, a new name for the place itself came from the joining of three railroads. Hopewell Depot is the last remaining railroad structure in the area and is the symbol of the transformation from rural farming to today's suburban life style..