It is believed by many Hudsonians that there were and still are houses in Hudson that were brought here--whole or in parts--on ships from Nantucket by the Proprietors, the founders of Hudson. The basis for the notion seems to be this passage from Stephen B. Miller's book, Historical Sketches of Hudson, published in 1862:
In the Spring of 1784, the other proprietors followed with their families, bringing with them several vessels and in some instances the frames of dwellings, prepared in Nantucket, for erection upon their arrival. One of these houses, at least, was standing in the lower part of North Front street until a very few years since, and its frame is believed to be still a portion of the building since erected upon the spot. It was brought by Stephen Paddock. When Mr. Paddock arrived with his family, Col. Van Allen went on board of his vessel and offered them the hospitality of his house which they accepted, Mr. Paddock remarking "if that was a sample of the Dutch, they were are in a happy land."In Hudson's Merchants and Whalers: The Rise and Fall of a River Port 1783-1850, Margaret Schram identifies "great forests of hardwoods suitable for shipbuilding--something that Nantucket and the other highly populated New England towns lacked" as one of the things that attracted the Proprietors to Claverack Landing. If the sources of hardwood that been exhausted where the Proprietors were coming from it seems unlikely that they would or even could create the frames for new houses before making the move.
Then there's this. In the 1930s, as the story goes, someone from the Nantucket Historical Society visited Hudson and made a presentation to the Fortnightly Club. The historic connection between Nantucket and Hudson was, of course, the subject of the talk. According to this account, the economy of Nantucket and other New England whaling ports was so devastated by the Revolutionary War that there was no market for houses. So, rather than leaving their houses abandoned, the frugal New England Quakers disassembled them, loaded the parts on their ships, and brought them along to Hudson. This story supports the notion that some houses in Hudson were "floaters"--transported here from New England aboard ships.
Some historians, however, consider the idea of "floaters" to be a popular and persistent but basically unfounded myth. Claverack Landing was not an untamed wilderness when the Proprietors arrived. There was a settlement here and farms nearby. Most of Proprietors found quarters with people already living here, as Miller reports Stephen Paddock and his family did, where they lived while their houses were being built. One historic document does indicate that two of the Proprietors brought portable, temporary shelters, like fishing shacks, with them and lived in these structures while constructing their houses. It's possible the existence of these shacks gave rise to the myth of the floaters.
There are certainly houses in Hudson that reflect the late 18th-century vernacular architecture of Nantucket--not necessarily because they were transported here from Nantucket but because they were built by and for people who were familiar and comfortable with that style of architecture. Some of the houses, in fact, are evidence of the architectural conservatism of early Hudson. The house that once stood on Partition Street--the house that inspired this post--was built around 1840, more than fifty years after the founding of Hudson, yet its design is that of houses built a half century or more earlier.
For more insight into Nantucket houses, David Voorhees, historian and chair of the Hudson Historic Preservation Commission, wrote an article about his own Nantucket house for Columbia County History & Heritage. Entitled "My Old Hudson Home," it appears on pages 9 and 10 of the Summer 2004 issue.
Examples of Hudson's "Nantucket Houses"
|217 State Street|
|245 State Street|
|418 Columbia Street|
|233 Union Street--a third story was subsequently added to this house|
|234 Union Street|