Since the mid-19th century, the Sampson Opera House has been one of the Rondout area's most prominent commercial buildings. As the trade routes established by the Delaware and Hudson Canal increased the flow of goods and materials through the Hudson River Valley from 1828 on, service and commercial buildings began to emerge in the Rondout area to support the growing population. In 1851, a German-born Jewish businessman, Israel Sampson arrived in Rondout and built the Sampson Opera House. Originally a four-story Italianate commercial building, the top floor was constructed with wood and housed an Opera House. Sampson ran a very successful clothing business out of the first floor, and his sons later expanded the business, turning the store into a chain, and opening shops in nearby towns. By 1874, the ground floor had been subdivided into 5 shops, and another Jewish clothier, Morris Solomon, had a business in the Sampson building when a fire struck the building. Seeking to take advantage of the chaos, a mob gathered and looted Solomon's store, carrying off all of his merchandise. The Mayor of Rondout deputized policeman to halt the looting, but such efforts were unsuccessful, and the city ended up paying Solomon $3002 for the damage done to his business. By 1875 the entire building was reopened for commercial tenants, and a fourth floor, housing the new Sampson Opera House was added. Only ten years later in 1885, another fire gutted the building, destroying the Opera House, which was never rebuilt. In the 20th century, Kingston's leading newspaper, The Daily Freeman, took up residence in the building, staying there until 1974. In the 1980s, the Rondout area experienced a rebirth, and the anchor of the downtown district, the Sampson Opera House, was fully restored by a developer, with two restaurants occupying the first floor, and apartments located in the upper floors.
Sampson Opera House
Photograph by John E. Reinhardt
Sampson Opera House, c. 1913
Photograph courtesy of John F. Matthews
The Sampson Opera House is located at 1 Broadway within the Rondout-West Strand Historic District. The ground-level currently houses restaurants and is open to the public for lunch and dinner.