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Kinderhook, New York
Main square in Kinderhook
Main square in Kinderhook
Location of Kinderhook, New York
Location of Kinderhook, New York
Country United States
State New York
County Columbia
Settled 1750
Established 1788
 • Type Town Council
 • Total 32.41 sq mi (83.95 km2)
 • Land 31.81 sq mi (82.38 km2)
 • Water 0.61 sq mi (1.57 km2)
239 ft (73 m)
 • Total 8,498
 • Estimate 
 • Density 262.69/sq mi (101.42/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Code
Area code(s) 518
FIPS code 36-021-39573
GNIS feature ID 0979116

Kinderhook is a town in the northern part of Columbia County, New York, United States. The population was 8,498 at the 2010 census, making it the most populous municipality in Columbia County. The name of the town means "Children's Corner" in the language of the original Dutch settlers (Kinderhoek). The name "Kinderhook" has its root in the landing of Henry Hudson in the area around present-day Stuyvesant, where he was greeted by Native Americans with many children. With the Dutch kind meaning "child" and hoek meaning "corner", it could be that the name refers to a bend (or "corner") in the river where the children are. The eighth President of the United States, Martin Van Buren, was born in Kinderhook.

The town of Kinderhook contains two villages, one of which is also named Kinderhook; the other is the village of Valatie. In addition, the town contains the hamlet of Niverville, next to Kinderhook Lake.


In 1609 Henry Hudson sailed as far north as Kinderhook on his exploration of the Hudson River and named the location "Kinderhoek". Kinderhook signifies in the Dutch tongue "the children's corner", and is supposed to have been applied to this locality, in 1609, on account of the many Indian children who had assembled on one of the bluffs along the river to see his strange vessel (the Half Moon) sailing upstream. Another version says that a Swede named Scherb, living in the forks of an Indian trail in the present town of Stuyvesant, had such a numerous family of children that the name of Kinderhook was used by the Dutch traders to designate that locality. Hudson had mixed dealing with the local Mohican natives, ranging from peaceful trade to minor skirmishes. As the Dutch attempted to colonize the area, further warfare broke out with the natives.

Kinderhook was settled before 1651 and established as a town in 1788 from a previously created district (1772), but lost substantial territory to form part of the town of Chatham in 1775. Kinderhook was one of the original towns of Columbia County. More of Kinderhook was lost to form the town of Ghent in 1818 and the town of Stuyvesant in 1823.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 32.4 square miles (83.9 km2), of which 31.8 square miles (82.4 km2) is land and 0.62 square miles (1.6 km2), or 1.87%, is water, including Kinderhook Lake, Kinderhook Creek, and the waterfalls of Valatie.

The north town line is the border of Rensselaer County.

Kinderhook Creek is an important stream in the town, flowing southwest toward tidal Stockport Creek, an arm of the Hudson River. U.S. Route 9 and New York State Route 9H pass through the town.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1820 3,963
1830 2,706 −31.7%
1840 3,512 29.8%
1850 3,970 13.0%
1860 4,331 9.1%
1870 4,055 −6.4%
1880 4,200 3.6%
1890 3,709 −11.7%
1900 3,333 −10.1%
1910 2,947 −11.6%
1920 2,935 −0.4%
1930 3,104 5.8%
1940 3,094 −0.3%
1950 3,284 6.1%
1960 4,185 27.4%
1970 5,688 35.9%
1980 7,674 34.9%
1990 8,112 5.7%
2000 8,300 2.3%
2010 8,498 2.4%
2016 (est.) 8,355 −1.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 8,296 people, 3,165 households, and 2,247 families residing in the town. The population density was 260.6 people per square mile (100.6/km2). There were 3,434 housing units at an average density of 107.9 per square mile (41.7/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 97.31% White, 0.68% Black or African American, 0.23% Native American, 0.86% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.33% from other races, and 0.57% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.41% of the population.

There were 3,165 households, out of which 33.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.5% were married couples living together, 8.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.0% were non-families. 24.0% 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 2.52 and the average family size was 3.01.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 24.5% under the age of 18, 5.8% from 18 to 24, 27.2% from 25 to 44, 27.0% from 45 to 64, and 15.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.8 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $52,604, and the median income for a family was $61,074. Males had a median income of $41,386 versus $27,880 for females. The per capita income for the town was $24,259. About 2.8% of families and 4.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.3% of those under age 18 and 4.4% of those age 65 or over.

Arts and culture


President Martin Van Buren's retirement home, Lindenwald, is in the town of Kinderhook. The Luykas Van Alen House, a National Historic Landmark (c.1737), is thought to be author Washington Irving's inspiration for the "Van Tassel family" farm in his classic story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", as Irving — a friend of Van Buren — was a frequent visitor and sometime resident to the area. The Ichabod Crane Schoolhouse is in Kinderhook and now sits on the Van Alen property. The schoolhouse is a 19th-century rural schoolhouse.

The James Vanderpoel House, known as "The House of History", on Broad Street in Kinderhook village was built circa 1819 and is an important example of high-style Federal architecture that is owned and maintained by the Columbia County Historical Society. The "Old Columbia Academy" was an early Dutch school established on March 13, 1787. The school was renamed "Kinderhook Academy" on April 3, 1824.

Communities and locations in the town


Moving pictures filmed in Kinderhook

  • Pat Solitano played by Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook (2012), also starring Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro, explains during a dinner scene the origin of the word "OK" and its Old Kinderhook roots.
  • Meskada (2009) starring Nick Stahl, Rachel Nichols, and Kellan Lutz was shot partially in Valatie.
  • The Cake Eaters (2006), a Mary Stuart Masterson film, was shot in Hudson, Stuyvesant, and Kinderhook.
  • Hero Hero (2000), starring Alan Gelfant and Julianne Nicholson, was shot in Kinderhook
  • Part of the film The Age of Innocence (1993), starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer, was filmed at the Van Alen House.
  • Haldane of the Secret Service (1923), starring escape artist Harry Houdini and Gladys Leslie, filmed at Beaver Kill Falls in Valatie village.
  • The Sopranos character Pat Blundetto owned a farm said (in "All Due Respect") to be located at 146 Route 9A in Kinderhook, which figures prominently in multiple episodes, culminating in the Season 5 finale. Tony Blundetto (Tony Soprano's cousin), who was murdered at this location, mentions being called Ichabod Crane by others while visiting the farm as a teen.


  • Rasputina's album Sister Kinderhook is centered around the Dutch colonial heritage of the town as well as that of other New Netherland settlements of New York.


  • One of the linguistic legends of the word "okay" has its origin during Martin Van Buren's campaign as an abbreviation of "Old Kinderhook", or "O.K."
  • The children of the American actor Sidney Poitier attended school in Kinderhook.

Notable people

Plaque commemorating birthplace of Martin van Buren
Historic marker commemorating Kinderhook as the birthplace of President Martin Van Buren.
  • Washington Irving, author, lived in the town of Kinderhook for about eight weeks in 1809 after the death of his fiancée; wrote portions of A History of New-York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty in Kinderhook
  • Mariela Jácome, athlete, played on Ecuador women's national football team during the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup
  • Jennie Jerome, mother of Winston Churchill, lived in Kinderhook after her father acquired Van Buren's home
  • Jesse Merwin, Kinderhook schoolteacher known to be the 'pattern' for the character, "Ichabod Crane, and longtime friend of Washington Irving; Merwin maintained correspondence with Irving for several decades (Merwin later retired from teaching and became an attorney).
  • John Woodward Philip, naval officer during the Civil War and Spanish–American War
  • Donald L. Rutherford, 23rd Chief of Chaplains of the United States Army
  • Nicholas Sickles, U.S. representative
  • John Evert Van Alen, U.S. representative
  • Martin Van Buren, the 8th US president, was born and lived in Kinderhook. His nickname "Old Kinderhook" may have given rise to the expression "OK" and its attendant hand gesture. His maternal ancestral home, Hoes House, was built circa 1760 in the Village of Valatie.
  • Cornelius P. Van Ness, 10th governor of Vermont
  • Peter Van Schaack, Kinderhook lawyer and notable British Loyalist during the American Revolution
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