Monday, December 10, 2012

A Letter to the Editor from a Century Ago

The information provided in Illustrated Hudson, N.Y. makes it almost possible to reconstruct the west side of Front Street as it was in 1905. The operative word is almost. Seeking to fill in the blanks on a Sunday, without access to the History Room at the library, I turned to another favorite source: That search yielded some unexpected but very interesting results, among them this letter to the editor, written by the proprietor of the New Curtiss House, located on the northeast corner of Front and Allen streets, and published in the Hudson Evening Register on August 4, 1913.

Why the Residents of South Front Street Desire Its Renaming.

Editor of the Register:--

Dear Sir:--I noticed with some surprise an editorial in The Republican of Saturday morning, August 2,--the editorial that discusses the proposed, or rather the desired change in the name of South Front street. This editorial was intended to be humorous and I know it did please a lot pf people who like to see fun poked at others but who do not like to get a jab in the ribs themselves; but it did not please or amuse, even, a lot of people who reside on the street, now called South Front street any more than it would have pleased the Giffords and the Mesicks to have fun poked at their effort to have a portion of Diamond street changed to Gifford place. It makes some difference who wants things, with some people, but, nevertheless, the people of South Front street know just as well as the Giffords, et al, why they want a street name changed, and the reasons for asking the change are as clear and cogent in the minds of the residents of this end of the city, at this time, as were the reasons in the minds of those "other-enders," when they were thinking as we are thinking now.

Streets are given names for many reasons, and, when there is no violation done to sentiment or the memory of great men who have been honored in the naming, there is no reason why a name should not be changed in accordance with the desire of those most interested.

Allen street was named in honor of the man who gave to the city a great industry. Paul avenue was in honor of one whose interest in and devotion to the cemetery is thus most properly perpetuated in grateful memory. Washington, Warren, Franklin (changed to Union), Clinton, Montgomery, Green, Columbia, Worth avenue,--there is no need of telling why they were thus designated, and one, who would attempt to pluck from this galaxy one star to substitute a lesser light, should be dishonored and discredited and properly be made the target for the shafts of satire and crowned in the market place with the fool's cap of lampoon. But Front street! What is there of sentiment or of historic association connected with it that has not been darkened, if not obliterated, by records of crime and evil in the middle period of its history, between ancient aristocracy and the present-day respectability? It may be true that LaFayette and Major Jenkins rode up this street, and that Colonel Cowles marched down, but no one would have dared to suggest for years that this street be given the name of any one of these well known to fame.

Front street, as a name, has absolutely no meaning whatever; but at its mention, at home or abroad, the mind reverts immediately to the period of its history when it was not safe for an unarmed man or an unescorted woman to pass through it after dark--when vile resorts and noisome dens flanked either side; and, as was the case of those who wished one portion of Diamond street changed to Gifford place and another to Fulton street, we wish the stigma of the past removed--we wish to spew out forever the name that tastes nasty in every mouth throughout the land, and give our sons and daughters, as they go out to connect with the social and commercial worlds, a new name, which, when spoken to designate the location of their loved ones and happy homes, will not cast the slur of suspicion upon the virtue, the honor and the respectability that are theirs, and that will not discredit in any degree the attainment and the ability that are giving them positions of honor and responsibility at home and abroad. Let us wipe out, so far as may be possible, the memory of that which was unsavory, and in a new name gain credit that will help the city at home and abroad to every relation, moral, social and commercial.

"The Republican's" editorial intimated that a street name should not be changed without good reason, and with this I quite agree.

Representing the serious thought and the deep sentiment of a large majority of the residents of this section of the city, I have given their very good reasons why the name of the street should be changed, and have answered by inference, if not directly, without bitterness, much in the editorial that, to say the least, was uncalled for. I leave the matter to the fair-minded people and the Common Council of the city, believing that justice will be done, only, when the prayer of the petitioners, now in the hands of the Street committee of the Common Council, is granted. Then, as paved as well as the best, with sidewalks the best and flanked by business places that show in their neatness the prosperity and the civic pride of the residents, the great ones of the land may come and ride up with pleasure and without fear, and the soldier may march down in pride, without anxiety that the glory of the victories to which he goes may be dimmed and sullied by anything unsavory in the attachments of an important name that may become connected with the history of his glorious achievement.

I thank you for the space you have devoted to this communication, and trust I have not trespassed too far upon the time and patience of your readers.
Yours very respectfully,

What trespasses most on the time and patience of readers today is that Langlois never, in his very long letter, mentions the name proposed for South Front Street and never explains, although he clearly seems to know, why Warren Street got that name.

1 comment:

  1. HAHA Exactly the same two questions I hoped to find an answer for while consuming this letter!