Freer Family Association

Hugo Freer

Hugo Freer is a partial enigma; of the original Patentees, the least is known about him. Family tradition has it that he came from Normandy escaping into the German Palatine hidden in a barrel to avoid his persecutors. Exactly who it was that was chasing him, or why, is lost to us. Whether Hugo had converted to Calvinism while in France or converted after arriving in the Palatine is not clear. But it is assumed his conversion happened in France and that is the cause of his need to flee.

There is speculation that he was the son of a Catholic family. As a result of his conversion to Calvinism he changed his name to "Frere," French for "brother" (frére). This spelling of his name is actually supported by contemporary documentation. Family traditions say he adopted this name to indicate his association with the Huguenots, declaring himself as a "Huguenot Brother" to the world.

What is definitely known of Hugo Freer is that he arrived in the Wiltwyck area (now known as Kingston) in 1675. In Wiltwyck and Nieu Dorpf he met the other Huguenots and became associated with the group that became the original Patentees of New Paltz.

Text from Hudson Valley Network, Inc.

The Freer-Low House


In 1692 the Freers began the building of their stone home, finished in 1694. Like most of the other structures built at this time it was configured as three rooms stacked one atop the other. There was a cellar, a ground floor room and a loft. The fireplace was located in the main ground floor room and originally would have been jambless, the style of building at the time.

Unfortunately, Hugo's wife Jannetje died in 1693 before the house was completed. Hugo himself died in 1698 just four years after completion of the original section of the house. Both Hugo and Jannetje are buried in the cemetery of the old French Church on Huguenot Street.

By 1720, the house had passed into the Low family through marriage to Rebecca, granddaughter of Hugo the patentee. In 1735, the house went through a second building phase having a new room added on the south end. This addition doubled the size of the house. The new room mirrored the original structure with a fireplace directly opposite the original in the middle of the south wall. The original door was converted to a window and the new door for the front of the house was added to the center hall, created at the time of the addition. Above the ground floor, the loft was extended as a continuous space the full length of the house and a "mow" door was installed on the south gable end.

Later generations of the Low family put on a second addition in the form of a "frame shed" running the length of the back, or east, facade of the house. This addition to the house was undertaken at the time of the American Revolution. With this addition, the house took the form that we see today. Most likely, the shed addition acted as a workshop attached to the house.

The Freer-Low House has something unique among the original houses of New Paltz. On its south facade is the only remaining "mow" door. When you look at the house from the south, on the level of the loft, or attic, there is a door leading directly into the loft space. In the houses of New Paltz, the loft was primarily used for storage of goods and supplies. The Freer-Low House is the only one with its door remaining intact. In addition to the door, there would most likely have been a device extending from the door to act as a hoist.

During the 19th century, the original small windows of the house were replaced by the windows that are currently visible. In the process, the openings were expanded substantially. To enlarge the windows meant the knocking out of large sections of the original stone structure. Rather than replace the stone to the new sized openings, it was simpler to fill in with brick. The Freer-Low House is one of the best of the New Paltz houses to display this transformation. 

The house continued in the Low family into the early 20th century when it was sold out of the family. From that point, its history became that of a tenement. In 1943, the house was purchased by a Reverend Follette, a descendant of Hugo Freer the patentee. During his ownership, he undertook major renovations of the interiors, transforming the house into a Colonial Revival inside. At the same time, he modernized the amenities by installing central heat, plumbing, and electricity to make the house more comfortable for himself and his family. The result of this series of renovations was the near complete transformation of the original 17th & 18th century interiors. All that is still visible from the original interiors are the beams and floor in the original ground floor room. Rev. Follette occupied the house until 1955 when the Huguenot Historical Society purchased it with the help of the Freer-Low Family Association.

Text from Hudson Valley Network, Inc.