James Baird GC
The Town of LaGrange was formed as the Town of Freedom in 1821, reportedly from a partitioning of the Towns of Fishkill and Beekman, as they existed at the time. A section broke away from Freedom in 1827 to form Union Vale. In 1828 or 1829 the Town was renamed LaGrange after the name of the Marquis de Lafayette's estate in France; Lafayette had visited Dutchess County in 1824.
The original name of Freedom remains as part of the Freedom Plains place name for the area surrounding the proposed Town Center, and in the historic Freedom Plains Presbyterian Church at Stringham Road and NYS Route 55. Other old hamlet or place names include Lagrangeville, Arthursburg, Noxon, Billings, Moores Mill, Titusville and Manchester Bridge. These hamlets remain on Town maps and are familiar as part of the names of many of the Town's main thoroughfare roads.
The LaGrange area was primarily agricultural until well into the 20th century, apples being a primary farm product. Steep terrain forced development to be limited to the more level ground in the western and southern areas of the Town, while the remainder remained quite rural until recently. Freedom Plains Road, or Route 55, runs east/west through LaGrange, and eventually to Pawling and the state line to the east (becoming Connecticut Route 55), while to the west it traverses through the Manchester Bridge area into Poughkeepsie and thence across the Mid-Hudson Bridge. The road was and remains the primary east/west roadway through Dutchess County.
The Town Center district contains other buildings from early American times in addition to the Freedom Plains Church: Schoolhouse No.3, later to house the Historical Society, Sandbank House, and the Grange Hall. Also in the Town Center area are the remains of the Beekman Patent line stone wall, marking the boundary between the Beekman Patent lands to the east and the Rombout Patent lands to the west. This wall will be reconstructed in the course of the creation of the Town Center, and one proposed new road is intended to parallel its course with the reconstructed wall running alongside.
In the late 1920's the Taconic State Parkway was authorized by the NY Legislature, and its course intersects with Route 55 just east of the Town Center area. The Parkway was originally conceived as a touring roadway lined with parks and scenic areas, but over the last several decades it has fueled Dutchess County's and LaGrange's transformation into a more suburban community. Those who now live in LaGrange and surrounding areas use the Parkway for auto commuting to points south in Westchester County or New York City. The Route 55 interchange with the Parkway has become one of the most traveled in the area.
Over time Route 55 has become LaGrange's main thoroughfare; the LaGrange Town Center Plan seeks to make it LaGrange's Main Street.