Friday, January 21, 2011

Hendrick Hudson Chapter House

One of the 1898 news items published yesterday made reference to the efforts of the Hendrick Hudson Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution to raise funds for a public library. Readers may wonder about the outcome of that effort, so today we publish an article that appeared two years later, on May 15, 1900, in the New York Times, reporting the gift of the Robert Jenkins House to the D.A.R. chapter in Hudson. We'll quote the article in its entirety, because it's fascinating and because it provides an example of why Hudson has a reputation for being a "town of breakage."



GIFT OF HISTORIC HOUSE

It Is Presented to Hendrick Hudson
Chapter, D.A.R.

THE HOME OF ROBERT JENKINS

Son of the Founder of Hudson--Latter's
Great-Granddaughter, Mrs. Marcel-
lus Hartley, the Donor

Special to The New York Times
HUDSON, N.Y., May 15--Mrs. Frances C. W. Hartley, wife of Marcellus Hartley, presented this evening to the Hendrick Hudson Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution the handsome old Colonial house in Warren Street in which she was born, and which was built in 1811 by her grandfather, Robert Jenkins, this city's third Mayor. Robert Jenkins was the son of Seth Jenkins, who with his brother Thomas founded Hudson and was its first Mayor.

Mrs. Hartley's conclusion that in no more fitting way could she show honor to her native city and to the memory of her forefathers than by presenting the homestead to her sisters of the Hendrick Hudson Chapter met with hearty response from them. Mrs. Hartley gave with the house the fine Colonial furniture it contains, and caused improvements to be made costing over $25,000. The mansion will be used as a chapter house and library by the chapter henceforth.

There was but one incident to mar the pleasure of the assembled guests. The 4 o'clock train from New York, bearing, among others, Mrs. Heron Crossman, Vice President of the National order; Mrs. Terry of the Fort Greene Chapter, Mrs. Ward of the Knickerbocker Chapter, and many other distinguished guests, was stalled for nearly five hours at Poughkeepsie, and when they saw that it would be impossible to arrive on time, they abandoned the trip and went back to New York.

The grand old mansion was to-day covered with bunting, and the hall was beautifully decorated. One of the most distinguished gatherings this city has even held assembled, and there was round after round of applause as Mrs. Hartley took her seat on the platform with Mrs. John W. Gillette, Regent of the Hendrick Hudson Chapter.

Dr. H. Lyle Smith made the introductory address. It was his book of travel--the proceeds of which were given to the Hendrick Hudson Chapter--that drew Mrs. Hartley's attention to the chapter's work, and it was his earnest plea which convinced her of its need. An address by the Mayor, Charles S. Harvey, followed.

Mr. Harvey said that the citizens of Hudson pointed with pride to the magnificent gift, and that very few cities in the United States could boast of an institution of like character. Mrs. Hartley received an ovation as she arose to make her gift, and it was ten minutes before she could be heard. She spoke as follows:

"Madame Regent, the officers and members of the Hendrick Hudson Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution:

"It gives me much pleasure to meet a society which was formed to commemorate the deeds of the makers of America and the founders of the American Republic. At the time of the breaking out of the War of the American Revolution, Nantucket (the birthplace of two of these founders--Seth and Thomas Jenkins) was noted for its connection with the whale fishery, and was at one time the largest whaling station in the world, but during the war, England had entire control of the marine of her Colonies, and through this control she prevented the natives from doing the things they wished to do; in consequence her commerce and industries were greatly interfered with. And at the close the American Revolutionary War, the flag of the new Republic was first seen at a British port, flying from the masthead of a Nantucket whaling ship.

"In the Spring of 1783, two brothers, Seth and Thomas Jenkins, left Providence, R. I., to reconnoitre the Hudson River for a new place of settlement, taking with them $100,000.

"Upon arriving at New York they called upon Col. Henry Rutgers, an old friend of Seth's, and told him their plan. He listened attentively and finally offered to sell them his farm, embracing now that portion of the city east of Division Street, bounded on the south by Catharine Street and on the north by Scammel or Gouverneur Street. They entertained his offer, but differed $20,000 in the price; Seth offered to divide the difference, but the Colonel held firmly to his price and the negotiation fell through.

"Having reconnoitred all the way up the Hudson River, they fixed on the unsettled spot at Claverack Landing for a town. At this point they found the river navigable for vessels of any depth. The place was bought, the money paid, Thomas Jenkins signing the deed.

"The two brothers then returned to Nantucket for their families, and influenced twenty other families to follow them. In the Autumn of 1783, Seth Jenkins and John Alsop were the first to arrive at Claverack Landing. Seth's family consisted of his wife, (Dinah Folger,) four children, one (Robert) a boy of eleven years, and Dinah Coffin, the mother of Dinah Folger. Seth Jenkins's house was the first to be built, and during its erection his family lived on the ship.

"According to Winterbotham's History, published in 1796, the City of Hudson has had the most rapid growth of any place in America, if we except Baltimore, in Maryland.

"In 1811 this ancestral home was built by Robert Jenkins, then thirty-nine years old. At the age of nineteen he was at the head of the first cotton mill in the State, and held many positions of honor and trust.

"While on a recent visit to Hudson, I was much pleased to learn of the noble work being done by the Hendrick Hudson Chapter in raising a free library. In a conversation with one of your citizens, Dr. H. Lyle Smith, he remarked to me that this home would be a fitting and excellent place of custody for this library, and at this time I want to thank Dr. H. Lyle Smith for the assistance he has given me, and the untiring energy, enthusiasm, and interest he has shown, and it is also my desire to thank the Building Committee and the House Board for their efforts.

"With this deed to the Hendrick Hudson Chapter, through your Regent, passes this ancestral home, conveying with it these words from the Good Book: 'May length of days be in your right hand, and in your left hand riches and honor.'"

Mrs. Gillette accepted the gift on behalf of the chapter. She said in part:

"You have done me the honor of electing me to be your Regent, and for you and in your name I accept this magnificent gift from the benevolent and gracious donor, Mrs. Marcellus Hartley. The beauty of the structure, with its adornments so well suited to its perfection, more than fulfills the highest expectations of us all. Would that it were in my power to utter words that should adequately express the appreciation of Hendrick Hudson Chapter of this most generous gift.

"This great assemblage, gathered together at this time, voices the sentiments of Hudson better than any words of mine. Every citizen says to-day: 'Long may you live to see the fruits of your magnificent gift. May it serve to bring you still oftener in our midst, that you may behold this lasting memorial to your honored family.'

"As Hendrick Hudson Chapter accepts this deed it wishes also to express its deepest gratitude to the Building Committee which has so wisely helped our beneficent donor. We also wish to thank the Mayor and the Common Council for their generous response to our petition for the benefit of the public library, for it is due to them that we are so well equipped to-day and our circulation increasing, and that Hendrick Hudson Chapter can give Hudsonians the benefit of books."

Walter H. McIlroy, the tenor of Garden City Cathedral, sang "America" and "The Star Spangled Banner," the audience rising and joining in the choruses. A reception followed the exercises of presentation.

A tablet commemorating the history of the house has been placed in the building. On it is the following inscription:

This Tablet Is Erected to the Memory of

SETH : JENKINS

who with his brother Thomas founded the
City of Hudson. He was appointed its
first Mayor by Governor De Witt Clinton
which distinction he enjoyed from April
1785 to his death in 1793
Also to his son

ROBERT : JENKINS

who was appointed the third Mayor by Gov. 
Daniel D. Tompkins serving a like period
of 10 years 1808 to 1813 and 1815 to 1819
Robert built this house in the year
1811 where he resided until his
death Nov. 11th 1819

Presented to the Hendrick Hudson Chapter
D. A. R. by his granddaughter Frances
Chester White Hartley
A. D. 1900

To-morrow night a colonial fete will be held in the Chapter House, and a performance by the Hudson Players' Club will be given in the new auditorium on the night following. There will also be a round of receptions during the week. 

5 comments:

  1. Very interesting, Carole. What beautiful shape that fine house was in at the time of this story.

    I'm a bit confused, though. Was there (or is there still) a library at the D.A.R.? Did a library cease functioning? Also, is it true that the City of Hudson turned down Andrew Carnegie's offer of a library?

    I was told that Hudson is the only city (as defined by the Census Bureau) in the State of New York that does not have a City (as opposed to private) library. Is that true? Or has that status changed with support from Hudson for the library?

    -- Jock Spivy

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  2. Jock--The library at the D.A.R. is a topic of interest. I don't know much about it, which is why I am pursuing the topic and publishing my discoveries on Gossips.

    Yes, it is true that Hudson turned down a Carnegie Library in the 1930s, and a referendum to create a public library failed spectacularly in the 1940s. In 1958, when a group of people got together to launch an association library--which the Hudson Area Library still is--Hudson had the distinction of being the only city in the State of New York without a public library. When I used to make that statement back when I was on the library board, someone would often point out that there had been a library at the D.A.R. What the scope of that library was--what kinds of books it had and whom it served--is something I don't know. There is still a library at the D.A.R. (it's the room to the right of the central hallway), which contains, if I'm not mistaken, mostly books for genealogical research. People can use the library as a reference source, I believe, if they make proper arrangements.

    BTW: An association library is a public library in all ways except in funding and governance. The Hudson Area Library now gets $125,000 a year from the City of Hudson (mandated by the voters in a Chapter 414 referendum), $5,500 from the Town of Greenport (a voluntary contribution designated by the Greenport Town Board since a referendum for library funding did not pass in Greenport), and some fairly small amount from the Town of Stockport (also a voluntary contribution determined by the Town Board). The rest of the operating budget must come from fundraising.

    The photograph is vintage, but I don't think it's contemporary with the gift of the house to the D.A.R. There was no photograph accompanying the NY Times article. Pictures in newspapers were very rare in 1900.

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  3. Thanks Carole. Good luck with the Hudson Library. It boggles the mind that it only was organized in the late 1950s.

    The little Village of Kinderhook established the Kinderhook Memorial Library, which is very much in business today, in 1926 -- more or less contemporaneously with the creation of the Columbia County Historical Society with headquarters and prime properties in Kinderhook.

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  4. The neatest item in the DAR collection is the whale jaw bone that used to be displayed on Warren, it sits atop the stacks like a talismanical leviathan from another age.

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  5. I would love to ever so gently tweak a bit of the interior arrangement -
    especially the ceiling lighting - without charge - of course - maybe even out of my pocket - 'donation' so to speak.

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