Wednesday, January 23, 2013

This Saturday in Hudson

In 1907, expatriate Henry James, on a visit to Hudson with Edith Wharton, spoke of Warren Street in this way in The American Scene: 
At was the queer old complexion of the long straight street, however, that most came home to me: Hudson, in the afternoon quiet, seemed to stretch back, with fumbling friendly hand, to the earliest outlook of my consciousness.
In 2008, the main character in a novel, returning to a fictionalized Hudson called Columbia in 1983, after years of living abroad, describes Warren Street (called Washington Street in the novel) in this way: 
As he walked up the dead-straight backbone of the town, he saw, on brand-new signs announcing each cross street, the same grinning whale. Why whales? He vaguely recalled being taught in school that Columbia had been a whaling port. . . . 
In the haze of this last leg of his journey up Washington, one sight stopped him.
Just over Third Street, across from the neglected Painted Lady Lounge, was the General Worth Hotel. Once grand, it was now falling down. It was three stories tall, nine windows wide, made of brick. Now all the windows were boarded up or broken, graffiti and bullet holes were prominent, and the classic portico held up by four Doric columns was sagging badly to the right. An old sign read GENERAL WO       HOT    . Orville had a vision of his mother, wearing a dazzling cobalt-blue satin gown, as President of the Hospital Auxiliary at the annual Spring Fling benefit, flanked by her beloved candy stripers as she made her grand entrance down the majestic staircase to the ballroom of the Worth.
The novel is The Spirit of the Place. The author is Samuel Shem, known to some in Hudson as Dr. Stephen Bergman. Bergman, who grew up here, "expatriated" in the early 1960s when he went off to college, but he will be back this Saturday, January 26, to celebrate the release of the paperback edition of The Spirit of the Place, his novel set in Hudson, with a reading and book signing. The event, which promises to be enlightening and entertaining, takes place at 2 p.m. at the Hudson Opera House

The archival picture of the General Worth Hotel, taken shortly before it was demolished, is from the Library of Congress.  

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