Thursday, May 3, 2012

Jane's Walk: Site 3

Site 3 is the first two blocks of Warren Street--or rather the north side of the first block and both sides of the second block, moving up from Front Street. There are interesting and important things that can be said about many of the houses on these blocks. For example, the house at 32 Warren Street, built in the 1830s, originally belonged to Cyrus Curtiss, the wealthy owner of a whale oil and candle manufactory. Its design, which is a variant of Greek Revival style, and its octagonal cupola, or widow's walk, make it similar in appearance to the Jared Coffin House in Nantucket and are evidence of Hudson's early connection with Nantucket.

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: I just learned from a reader that the appropriate term for the structure on the roof of this house, which I called a cupola, is lantern.

Then there are the two Federal style houses that sit side by side at 113 and 115 Warren Street. Built in 1795 (115) and 1811 (113), these were the homes of Seth and Robert Jenkins, the sons of Seth Jenkins who, with his brother Thomas, sailed from Nantucket in search of a safe harbor, found and purchased the site of Hudson, then called Claverack Landing, and established here a seaport far from the sea. 

There is also 116 Warren Street, which, with its decorative swags and garlands, its ornamental marble frieze, and marble pilasters, is a rare surviving example of an Adam style Federal building. It was built in 1805 as the First Bank of Hudson, but the depression of 1807 caused the bank to fail only seven years after its founding, and soon after, the building was turned into a private residence. 

And then there is 124 Warren Street, the Ezra Waterbury House, built around 1870. This house has the distinction of being the only building with a cast-iron facade, in the Northeast, that was constructed exclusively as a residence.

There is much that is engaging about these first blocks of Warren Street, not the least of which is trying to imagine what the street was like at the turn of the 19th century, before the later Victorian houses filled in the spaces between the early freestanding buildings. What Bruce Hall, author of Diamond Street, said of Hudson's main street in an article published in Columbia County History & Heritage in 2003, is especially true of these blocks nearest the river: "With a little imagination one can still see Warren Street as the Proprietors knew it around 1800." 

What is of particular interest to us in the early years of the 21st century is that back in the 1970s during Urban Renewal these two blocks--one and a half blocks really--were all that was considered Hudson's "historic district." To mitigate razing the south side of the first block of Warren Street, all the buildings west of Front Street, and something like 53 acres of buildings north of Warren Street for Urban Renewal projects, the city planners of the era instituted a facade easement program in which federal Urban Renewal funds were used to restore the facades of the buildings on these blocks and a few buildings on South Front Street. The plaques still found on many of the buildings date from that time.

In 1985, the National Register-listed Hudson Historic District significantly redefined what was considered historic in Hudson and created a historic district that concluded both sides of the length of Warren Street and all the neighborhoods south of Warren Street and reached out to embrace some buildings on the north side of Warren as well--the Federal style limestone building that housed the Hudson Area Library and the former Union Mills building, a.k.a. the Pocketbook Factory. 

Today much of the city is included in Hudson's six locally designated historic districts, protected by the city's historic preservation law, adopted in 2003. 


  1. The remains of the original wharf which still poke up next to the new dock and gazebo in our waterfront park is identified as the "C. Curtiss Dock" on the 1839 map (re: the first house listed in the above post).

    In the past year I've approached several people - including the official City Historian - to see whether there's any interest in giving the new dock the same name as the original dock which stood in its exact place.

    The typical reply was "Why would you want to do that?"

    Although the new dock appears not to have a name, I've concluded that there is no interest in the historical significance or continuity of the waterfront itself.

  2. Jane's Walk is great.
    Are you intended to publish a pamhlet or catalog of your Sites?
    Once again hat's off to Gossips for the best Hudson blog.
    T D'Onofrio

  3. I love these posts! Hudson is beautiful.