Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Tale of Two Discoveries

Last Sunday, a reader sent me two pictures of a house she had discovered on the grounds of the Hudson Correctional Facility, visible from behind 701 Union Street and from along the railroad tracks.

She asked what I knew about the house, and I told her. It was called the "Engineer's House," for reasons unknown to me. It was believed to have been one of three gatehouses of the Dr. Oliver Bronson's estate. The other two are the surviving gatehouse on Worth Avenue, and the building pictured below, which was located along Power Avenue and demolished along with the rest of the neighborhood known as Simpsonville in the late 1960s–early 1970s.

From 1965 through 1973--the last years of the Girls' Training School--the little Gothic Revival cottage glimpsed through the chain link fence had been the home of a man named Gale Smith. Smith was a social worker hired by Thomas Tunney, the last superintendent of the Girls' Training School (and the last occupant of the Dr. Oliver Bronson House), when Tunney was superintendent of a girls' training school in Madison, Wisconsin. Tunney brought Smith with him when he came to New York to be the superintendent of the training school in Hudson, where after a time, he promoted Smith to assistant superintendent. As Tunney's right hand man, Smith lived with his family in the little Gothic Revival cottage.

When the Girls' Training School closed in 1973, the Gothic Revival cottage, like the Dr. Oliver Bronson House, was abandoned. The Bronson House was put on a list of state-owned properties to be demolished, but it got a reprieve. Thanks to the good efforts of the Columbia County Historical Society and the State Historic Preservation Office, the Bronson House moved, that same year, from being on the list of properties to be demolished to being individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Twenty-four years later, in 1997, the Bronson House gained an advocate in Historic Hudson, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2003, and is now being stabilized and restored. 

The fate of the little Gothic Revival cottage was sadly different. It was basically ignored for forty years. Its last resident was a homeless person, and not long ago, it was the determined that the building, at the very edge of the grounds of the Hudson Correctional Facility, was too great a liability and had to be demolished. The demolition was scheduled for this month, and unlike the Bronson House, the little cottage didn't get a reprieve. Although I knew it was going to happen, it was still a stock when, driving back home on Union Street this morning, after taking a picture of 742 Warren Street, I spied a backhoe on the spot where the little Gothic Revival cottage stood only days before, clearing up the last remains of the building.

The two pictures sent to me by a reader may well be the last ever taken of the house.


  1. This uncalled for loss and Richard Cohen demolishing YET MORE of "his" complex.