Saturday, July 5, 2014

Piecing Together a House's History

Once upon a time, in the latter half of the 19th century, this is what Prospect Avenue, across the street from what is now Columbia Memorial Hospital, looked like.

The parterre garden in the foreground is believed to have been in front of the home of Dr. John Conover Smock, now Cavell House, the location of New York Oncology and Hematology.

A while back, when Gossips was exploring the 1905 promotional booklet Illustrated Hudson, N.Y., it was discovered that the house on the hill was pictured in that publication. 

In 1905, the house was the home of W. Frank Holsapple. The eldest son of a well regarded local family, Holsapple had studied law and had built a large and successful law practice in Hudson, but he left the bar to devote his energies to business as the president and general manager of the Union Knitting Company. A biographical sketch of W. Frank Holsapple in Columbia County at the End of the Century (1900) concludes by mentioning his residence: "The family home is the beautiful Rossman homestead, where hospitality is bestowed upon a large circle of friends of the family."

This weekend, while perusing newspapers from July 1944, I discovered the house again, this time in a notice of its upcoming sale at auction on July 12, 1944.

It is not clear why the house was being auctioned. The previous year, in July 1943, the house had been offered for sale in the usual way by Wheeler Realty Service.

Dr. Louis Van Hoesen was the mayor of Hudson from 1911 to 1914, and in 1933, he was appointed to be Columbia County's first health commissioner, a position he held until early in 1940. Prior to that, according to an article in the Chatham Courier announcing his appointment on February 16, 1933, he had been "physician for the Hudson schools." 

His wife, Minnie Sheldon Van Hoesen, predeceased him in 1963, and it is from her obituary in the Chatham Courier that we learn the Van Hoesens moved from Hudson to Copake in 1943. A hint about why the house was ultimately auctioned may lie in an item that appeared on July 31, 1940, on the front page of the Hudson Register. Under the headline "52 PARCELS OF PROPERTY TAKEN BY CITY," the second paragraph begins: "Dr. Louis Van Hoesen, former county health commissioner, turned seven parcels over to the city for back taxes." The seven parcels were then listed: 5 Rossman Ave., 7 Rossman Ave., 10 Rossman Ave., 11 Rossman Ave., 12 Rossman Ave., 13 Rossman Ave., and 15 Rossman Ave. 

What brought about Dr. Van Hoesen's apparent change in fortune, if indeed that is what it was? Who bought the house in 1944? When and why was this "solidly built two-story brick dwelling" with views "unsurpassed in this community" demolished? These are all questions for another time.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting, good sleuthing, Carole. I understood that the parterre garden you mentionded where the Cavell House is was actually the property of the McKinstry's. Not sure where I got that from. Also is the house behind the Van Hoesen house the house of Mr Rossman - and who was he? It was supposed to be a very grand Victorian.