Street Whys: Book Review


kingston Beers_Atlas_Page053-054
This is a picture of Kingston New York, c. 1875, from the Beers Atlas of Ulster County. Copyright expired

E. M. Ford

Street Whys was given to me by a friend who knew I had grown up in a Hudson Valley community. Kingston, where all the streets identified in the book are located, is located along the Hudson River and is one of the oldest cities in New York State. This book represents a lifetime of research by E. M. Ford, a local historian. The breadth of Mr. Ford’s knowledge is impressive. While the intended audience may seem to be limited to those who live in or near Kingston, this is by no means the case. The book is a study in the development of an American city. By tracing the history of every highway and byway, Mr. Ford delves into the lives and biographies of people responsible for Kingston’s growth from its earliest days.

One of the more delightful aspects of the book is its attention to detail. Mr. Ford is not careless. He displays a historian’s temperament as he fastidiously acknowledges uncertainty about the provenance of certain street names. Of course, many streets are named after significant townspeople. I did amuse myself by looking for the names of my ancestors and found among the many who were listed some who were distant, long-deceased relatives. These family names were common in the Northeast and throughout the United States during the Colonial era.

E.M. Ford deserves great credit for creating such a responsible book of local history. Though it is not likely to attract a wide audience, the book nonetheless is a valuable contribution to the historiography of the early settlement of the U.S. This is not the kind of book that a reader ever “finishes”. Rather, it will become an accustomed presence on the shelf, one that brings pleasure each time it is perused and the wealth of information contained within is rediscovered.

If you like history and are curious about the foundation of the U.S., read this very interesting book.


A. G. Moore

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