Saturday, May 12, 2012

Jane's Walk: Site 11

Jane's Walk skipped a step yesterday--too much to report from the Historic Preservation Commission meeting--so today we'll try to make up for it. The theme of moving houses brought us to the vicinity of Washington Park, where we stopped to contemplate the Warren and Wetmore courthouse and muse about how it relates to the buildings around it. We'll linger there a little longer to share some lore about a few of those buildings. The first is 39 West Court Street.

In the 1870s, new industriestransportation, iron, textilesushered in a new era of prosperity for Hudson, and Hudson's recent immigrants were not excluded from the economic boom. Irish families, who had come to this country only a generation before, were prospering and with their new wealth were buying houses along Front Street and around Promenade Hill. 

The established familiesdescendants of the New England founders and the early Dutch settlersresponded to this influx of new people and new money by moving uptown, to the 300 block of Allen Street and the area around the courthouse. It was during this period (1872-1893) that Willard Placea private, gated streetwas developed as an exclusive enclave for some of Hudson's wealthiest and most prominent citizens. It was around this same time (1894-1895) that John F. X. Brennen, whose parents had immigrated from Ireland six years before he was born, built, at one of the best addresses in Hudson, a stone and clapboard Colonial Revival house for himself and his wife, Anna. 

Brennen made his money as a contractor. His father had trained him and his younger brother, Thomas, to be skilled stone masons and bricklayers, and the brothers together formed the firm J. and T. Brennen Co., Contractors. Among the buildings they built are the original Firemen's Home, the Hudson City Hospital, the firehouse for C. H. Evans Hook & Ladder Company (now Spotty Dog Books & Ale), 317 Allen Street (now the Inn at Hudson), and 347 Allen Street. Several of the buildings they built were designed by architect Michael J. O'Connor, and it was O'Connor who designed 39 West Court Street. Interestingly, the house was built by a firm called H. S. Moul and Co., Carpenters and Builders. One of the partners in the firm was Henry S. Moul, who designed the fourth Columbia County courthouse, built in 1901. The year after the Brennen house was completed, the firm began advertising itself as H. S. Moul and Co., Architects and Builders.  

The Firemen's Home, designed by Michael J. O'Connor
Gossips is indebted to the late James Ryan, who was for twenty years the site manager at Olana, and to a house history he did for 39 West Court Street, which is in the History Room of the Hudson Area Library, for most of the information contained in this post.

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