16 Iconic Hudson Valley Website Designs from the Wayback Machine

As a company that has been designing and building websites in the Hudson Valley for a long time, we’ve seen design trends that have come and gone… and come back around as cool again. Some things just always look good.

One example of that has always stuck with us has been Armadillo, a tex-mex restaurant in downtown Kingston. Opening in 1987, it was one of the first restaurants in the area to add a website, launching one in 1999. In 2007, with the help of William Reagan, they put up one of the most iconic local web designs ever, with bombastic GIFs of glowing Armadillos, neon black green and red jalapeno icons, and statements like “WE SERVE OUR MARGARITAS COLD AND OUR FOOD HOT” or “Food for the Gypsy in your Soul.”

The site’s design simply embodied the ethos of the restaurant. It was a welcoming, fun place that wasn’t afraid to be sincere, despite a growing wave of hipstery “coolness” invading the region. On a Friday afternoon in the 2010s, there was no better outpost to sit outside with a frozen marg and some fish tacos. And even as new web design trends like responsive design or big hero images began to dominate, the site remained largely unchanged. When something is objectively good and true, it simply doesn’t need to change.

The website remained the same from 2007 to 2019, when the business sold. Despite the glossy veneer of a new website and branding, the restaurant just wasn’t the same anymore.

However, late last year, the business was bought back by some of the original kitchen team, and they’ve been hard at work to bring the restaurant back to its former glory while making critical updates. We were honored to be hired to design and build their new website, taking great inspiration from their classic web design.

Armadillo is so back. The glowing armadillo GIFs and glowing red and black jalapenos have been restored to their rightful place, plus the ability to order online and view mobile-optimized menus. The vaporwave Texas sunset is back. The zany orange and bright blue colors of the restaurant are back, immortalized on the website.

Whether you haven’t been there in years, or are new to Kingston, you won’t regret going there!

In the spirit of classic Kingston web design like Armadillo’s old website, we decided to take a spin through 16 other classic local Hudson Valley websites available on the Wayback Machine:

1. City of Kingston

According to a Poughkeepsie Journal article at the time, the City of Kingston was the first Hudson Valley city to have a municipal website. The earliest available snapshots of it show a sharp, singular focus and vision for the city, without the bloat and scope creep that characterizes most government websites these days. There is a cleareyed emphasis on the role of history and the Hudson River School in charting the future course of the city.

2. Mohonk Mountain House

One of the earliest websites on our list is Mohonk, which has Wayback Machine images available going all the way back to 1998. It’s hard to remember a time when reservations couldn’t be made online, as every page includes a call to action to pick up your landline and give them a dial. In 2003, they added two unique experiences to the website; one for visitors with “high-speed connections” and another, stripped-down version for visitors on 56k modems. Around 2004, they added the functionality to check availability and book online.

3. Tantillo’s Farm

In 2001, Tantillo’s Farm in Gardiner launched their website, touting a “family-run, family fun” farm where you’ll always be greeted with a smile, a handshake, and sincere hometown values.

4. The Gilded Otter

It feels like half of today’s economy in the Mid-Hudson Valley is built around brewing and selling alcohol. But 25 years ago, it was actually quite novel. In 1999, the Gilded Otter’s website said, “The Gilded Otter Brewing Company was founded in direct response to the growing “re-emergence” of premium craft beer world wide.” In 2002, the site was updated with a pre-roll flash animation that featured an otter skittering around and showing snapshots of New Paltz’s local scenery. Today, the Otter is known as Clemson Brewery.

5. Main Street Bistro

Seeing the font and blurry image of the Bistro circa 1999 brings up those Twin Peaks-esque vibes of drinking black coffee in a cozy diner. The preserved website reminds us of how far inflation has gone; imagine eating a giant burger with guacamole and paying under $6.

6. McGillicuddy’s

At the homepage of McGillicuddy’s circa 1999, a leprechaun greets you just above a bright green “914” area code phone number:

“We feature great food at reasonable prices, a place to dance, and just a fine place to raise your spirits. Whether it’s a glass of local wine, a juicy burger, a place to shoot pool or shoot the breeze, McGillicuddy’s is the place to be. Where the beer is always cold, the wings are as hot as you like, and the service always starts with a smile.”

7. Tech City

In 1998, a developer named Alan Gisburg purchased the former IBM plant in the Town of Ulster for $3M. Soon after, a website went up, touting the area as follows:

“From hiking in the Catskills to gourmet dining, the Hudson River Valley puts you close to it all. The region is bursting with artisans and crafts people, culinary wizards, wineries, gardens and galleries and performing arts. It’s the birthplace of “Hudson River School,” America’s first great art movement; and later, the birthplace of the environmental movement. And, for urban adventures ranging from major league sports to Broadway shows, New York City is less than two hours away.”

Another section of the site summarizes a recent visit to the site by New York Senator Chuck Schumer and former Congressman Maurice Hinchey.

“Schumer said upstate was one of only three areas if the country to lose jobs since 1992 – Hawaii and West Virginia are the others – and he asked the chief executive officers from some top firms why.

The CEOs said New York must:

  • Further cut taxes, especially property taxes. Schumer said he approves of state income tax cuts, but called for the local share of any money from a national tobacco settlement to be “given directly back” to property taxpayers.
  • Reduce electric rates through deregulation, which would allow competition and cut costs to homes and businesses “across the board 30 to 50 percent.” “There are companies out there in Texas and in the South and West that want to sell us power at half the cost we now buy it,” he said. “I’m going to push this.”
  • Improve air travel upstate through deregulation, which would allow competition. Schumer said Kodak” marketing division left Rochester and General Electric departed Schenectady, in part, because of poor air service upstate. Schumer said the New York City airports are not deregulated.”

Of those three items, electricity did get deregulated in New York, but it’s a lot more expensive than it ever was. Electricity costs will be a major concern for any chance of manufacturing returning to the former Tech City (now iPark 87) site.

8. Monkey Joe’s

Like many sites at this time, their 2001 site features a pre-roll animation that you have to get past before getting to the site. People were simply in less of a hurry back then.

9. Benedictine Hospital

Kingston’s evolution from being a two-hospital city to a one-hospital city was long and painful. In 1999, both hospitals were still forced to compete against each other for a shrinking pool of in-patient visits. Benedictine scored a major victory by getting a website up before Kingston Hospital did; in 2007, the two hospitals would merge as part of HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley before eventually being folded into the Westchester Medical Center Health Network.

10. Kingston Hospital

Kingston Hospital’s website, which came in 2001, reflects institutional web design practices at the time. Back then, websites were highly utilitarian; communicating the values and vibes of an organization were secondary to guiding people through dozens of menu choices to find the information they were looking for. Today, most people get to information directly via Google, cutting out the middleman of the a website homepage. But back then, people would first go to a website’s homepage and then navigate through to do what they needed to do.

11. HITS Horse Shows

One of the most prominent organizations in the area that’s still running was Horse Shows in the Sun. At the time, they were based in Rhinebeck; today, most HITS activity happens in Saugerties while they’re headquartered in Kingston. A highlight of their site from 1999 is a wiggling GIF of the sun that’s in the top left of every page.

12. The Chance Theater

In 1999, one of the centers of art and culture of the region was centered at the Chance Theater in Poughkeepsie. Longtime Hudson Valley music lovers will be transported back in time with a glimpse at the old Chance website, with upcoming acts like with upcoming shows like SR-71 and Jimmie’s Chicken Shack listed simply on an HTML table. The theater was purchased by new ownership and closed temporarily in late 2023.

13. The Nevele Hotel

The Nevele Hotel is a legendary, ancient resort business that was located in Ellenville. The rise, fall, and years of false starts and broken promises at the site mirror the challenges faced by the Western end of Ulster County, neglected and forgotten by its brethren along the river. The site image is from 1998, and the resort limped along until 2009, when it abruptly closed. The latest news is that there are plans to redevelop it into luxury condos and a hotel.

14. The Daily Freeman

In the days before social media, newspaper sites like the Daily Freeman were the home page of the Internet. In 2003, the earliest available image, the Freeman’s homepage was remarkably austere in its presentation, with five local stories, a handful of national headlines, and a scant few banner ads.

15. Hoffman House Tavern

Around 2000, a popular route for small business owners looking for a website was to purchase a marketing package from the Poughkeepsie Journal, who would run ads for the business and create a website for them. The Hoffman House website at the time was an example of such a website.

16. The Beekman Arms & Delamater Inn

One of the most historic tourism destinations in the Hudson Valley, this 2003 website screams, “I know what I got.” There is no need to oversell and overshare about the Beekman Arms; either you know, or you don’t.

Today, we at Kingston Creative carry on the legacy of communicating about the Hudson Valley and its people, businesses and organizations. See more about our services here.

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