Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Another Coup for Officer Miller

Yesterday, Gossips shared the report, from the Hudson Evening Register for June 29, 1915, of how Officer Miller took a man and woman into custody for talking loud and acting strange. Today, Gossips discovered an item in the Hudson Evening Register for June 30, 1915, recounting another of Officer Miller's exploits.


Five Years of Schools Reports

To paraphrase Bilbo Baggins, "Change comes slowly, if it comes at all." Gossips has been reporting on the Hudson City School District's ranking in the Albany Business Review's annual Schools Report since 2011. In that time, there has not been a meteoric rise, but there has been improvement. Here are HCSD's rankings for the past five years.
2011--83 out of 85
2012--83 out of 85
2013--82 out of 85
2014--80 out of 85
2015--80 out of 84

During the same period, the HCSD budget rose from $40.9 million for 2010-2011 to $45.2 million for 2014-2015. The approved budget for 2015-2016 is $45,477,121.

How Does HCSD Compare? Part 3

The Albany Business Review continues to roll out the rankings from its 2015 Schools Report. Today it is elementary schools. There are quite a few more entries in this category because most school districts have more than one elementary school. Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School, HCSD's only school considered to be an elementary school, ranked 168 out of 187.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Reason to Get Up Early Tomorrow

Word has it that tomorrow morning at 8 o'clock the loan committee of Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) will meet prior to the regular monthly CEDC meeting, which begins at 8:30. It is expected that a topic of discussion at the regular meeting will be whether or not to respond to the letter that Pat Grattan, chair of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, sent to CEDC last October, asking the agency to repay the $110,000 the County paid for the 33 acres of land that CEDC is now selling to Ginsberg's Foods for $1. It has been reported that Supervisor Mike Benson (New Lebanon) has convinced the group that the letter is meaningless because Grattan wrote it without the formal consent of the full Board of Supervisors. Benson claims that at least twelve other supervisors (there are twenty-three in all) agree with him.

CEDC meetings take place at 4303 Route 9, in the office building that used to belong to Holcim and now is owned by Colarusso.

Not to Be Missed

The current issue of Metroland has an article about the Dr. Oliver Bronson House: "Riverside Revival." The house is also featured on the magazine's cover.

No Fracking in New York

It's official! There shall be no fracking in the State of New York. Read all about it in the New York Times: "New York Formalizes Ban on Fracking, Ending 7-Year Review." Then read what Riverkeeper and the Preservation League of New York State have to say in praise of this watershed moment for our state.

A Historic Instance of Inhospitable Hudson

Even before Hudson decided to assume the moniker "The Friendly City," there is historic evidence that Hudson was a pretty wide-open and welcoming place. Captain Franklin Ellis, in his History of Columbia County, notes that in 1786--just a year after the city was incorporated--there were eighteen public houses in Hudson and seventeen "individuals and firms . . . licensed to retail all kinds of spirituous liquors." Ellis comments:
This list of public-houses certainly seems large, but its size is perhaps in some measure accounted for by the very large country trade, indicated by the daily arrival of twelve hundred sleighs, the greater part of them coming from a considerable distance."  
In 1905, there were twenty-five hotels in Hudson, many of them located near the train station and the boat landings. And, of course, we've all heard tales of Hudson's notorious red light district, which survived until 1950 and is reputed to have attracted visitors to Hudson from all over the Northeast.

From Diamond Street by Bruce E. Hall
Given all this, it was surprising to find this item in the Hudson Evening Register for June 29, 1915, proving that, despite its Rabelaisian reputation, Hudson of a hundred years ago was still capable of being puritanical and intolerant.


How Does HCSD Compare? Part 2

Since Friday, the Albany Business Review has been rolling out its rankings, in different curriculum areas and categories, of school districts in the Capital Region. This morning, it was math, a component of the academic acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) we hear so much about these days. Of the 84 school districts ranked, the Hudson City School District was at the very bottom: 84.

Update on Lehigh Valley No. 79

Watching from Rick's Point, Gossips saw the tugboat Frances heading upriver to where the barge is moored at 9:36 this morning.

It is expected that the tug and the barge will move on up the river on the west side of Middle Ground Flats, and we will not be able to witness its progress from the Hudson waterfront.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Update on Lehigh Valley No. 79

The historic barge Lehigh Valley No. 79, a.k.a. the Waterfront Museum, has been stranded at Peckham Industries in Athens since Friday. The tugboat Frances left the barge in Athens around noon on Friday, with the expectation that another tug, Margot, would come and take the barge the rest of the way to Waterford, where it will go into dry dock for repairs. But alas, Margot experienced mechanical problems on its way from the Erie Canal and never showed, so Lehigh Valley No. 79 had to wait for Frances to return. Gossips received word late this afternoon that Frances, having finished up its duties on the Atlantic, is now on its way and is expected to arrive in Athens at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning.

The Wildness Around Us

A couple of weeks ago, it was a black bear in Worth Alley. A couple of days ago, it was buzzards in the cemetery.

Photo contributed

Where's the Parade?

The Saturday parades are over for a while. This weekend, the action is at Henry Hudson Riverfront Park, where the Hudson River Exchange is drawing an impressive crowd. But two parades, on consecutive weekends in June, inspired Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward) to suggest at the last Common Council meeting that parades should happen someplace other than Warren Street, offering Columbia and Union as possible alternatives. His reason was that parades closed down the street for most of the day and prohibited business. 

There is photographic evidence that parades in the past have gone down streets other than Warren. There is this picture from the 1930s of a Fourth of July parade heading west on Columbia Street.

Of course, there's no way of knowing that this parade didn't make a left turn at Park Place and then head down Warren Street just as the Flag Day Parade does today.

Then there are these pictures of a parade in 1917, for the purpose of inspiring support for U.S. involvement in the war in Europe (World War I) and encouraging people to buy Liberty Bonds. In this parade, the marchers are heading west on Union Street.

In this case, too, the fact that the pictures of the parade were taken in the 400 block of Union Street doesn't mean that the parade was confined to Union Street. A parade two years later, in September 1919, which celebrated the victorious end of the Great War and welcomed the veterans home, followed a route that involved almost every street in Hudson. Called the "Monster Street Parade," its route, which began at the Armory, is described in the booklet commemorating the Welcome Home Celebration.
Up State to 6th, over 6th to Gifford Place to Columbia to Green, out Green to Frederick, through Frederick to Columbia to Eighth to Warren, down Warren to 6th, over 6th to Union, down Union to West Court, over West Court to Allen, down Allen to 3rd, over 3rd to Warren, down Warren to Front, down Front to New York Central station where the column will countermarch to Warren, up Warren to Park Place where the column will disband without form.
Such an elaborate route didn't seem to be reserved for celebrating victories in global conflicts. The parade on Memorial Day, which until the advent of the Flag Day parade as we know it today was the biggest parade in Hudson, took a similarly circuitous route. Here is the description of the route of the Memorial Day parade in 1911, as it appeared in the Hudson Evening Register. The parade started at the Armory.
Down State to Fourth, over Fourth to Warren street, up Warren to Park Place, over Park Place to Columbia street, up Columbia street to Cedar Park Cemetery.
On the return from the cemetery the line of march will be down Prospect avenue to Warren street, down Warren to Fifth street, over Fifth to the armory, where the column will be dismissed.
The question of rerouting the parades was taken up at the Common Council Legal Committee meeting last Wednesday night. In introducing the topic, Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who chairs the committee, mused, "If we decide Columbia Street is where you want the parades to go, the City might spruce up the street." Alderman Tiffany Garriga, who is not on the Legal Committee but was present in the audience, wanted State Street added to the list of possible alternatives, noting that a lot of people live on State Street.

Alderman Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward) declared that he was "totally against moving the parades off Warren Street," recalling that in his lifetime Warren Street has always been the route of the Flag Day parade. Alderman Rick Rector made the point that there were only three parades that actually shut down Warren Street: Flag Day, Pride, and Inspection Day. Haddad adamantly maintained that, with only sixteen Saturdays in the summer season, losing three was substantial.

Friedman defined the dilemma: wanting to help people "who have invested their life savings in their businesses," while at the same time wanting to showcase Hudson's main street "because it's an architectural masterpiece." Council president Don Moore declared himself in favor of considering rerouting the parades. "Warren Street is our tax base. Protecting our tax base is what it's about. We have a business sector that needs protecting and that needs considering."

No decision on the matter was made, and it was suggested that this was a discussion that required input from business owners as well as the rest of the community.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

In Memoriam: Mary Hallenbeck

The sad news was shared yesterday by one of her close friends that Mary Hallenbeck had died. She had been a nurse, training when there was still at nursing school at Columbia Memorial Hospital, and a teacher of nurses, but those careers were behind her when many of us made her acquaintance. For those who knew Mary in the past two decades, she was a tireless and uncompromising defender of Hudson's architectural heritage and an unabashed champion and acknowledged authority on the area's history and traditions.

Mary served on the Historic Preservation Commission at its beginning. With city historian Pat Fenoff, she took on the task of reviewing and updating the inventory of buildings for Hudson's largest locally designated historic district: the Union-Allen-South Front Street Historic District, which encompasses most of the south side of the city. She made it her personal mission to get individual local designation for Cavell House, the grand mansion, now the location of New York Oncology and Hematology, which had for many years been the hospital's School of Nursing. When Mary and her husband Charles sold their house on Union Street and moved to Greenport, Mary was indignant that the preservation law's residency requirement forced her to resign from the Historic Preservation Commission. She and Charles would return to Hudson a few years later to be among the last residents of the Home for the Aged before the venerable institution closed early in 2014.

Mary was the historian of the Reformed Dutch Church in Claverack, and, at one time or another, served on the boards of Historic Hudson and the Friends of the First Presbyterian Church. She was also a member of the DAR and the Fortnightly Club.

Mary's devotion to Hudson was steadfast. During the years she lived in Greenport, she would come to Hudson often but religiously every Friday to have tea at Verdigris. One friend remembers that before Mary went back to Greenport, she would always drive the length of Warren Street down to the river, just to check things out and savor the city.

Mary esteemed Hudson's long history, remembered and valued its recent past, and embraced its present. We shall not look upon her like again.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Update on Lehigh Valley No. 79

Lehigh Valley No. 79 will be spending tonight and maybe tomorrow as well in Athens, at Peckham Industries.

It seems the tugboat Margot, which was to take the barge from Athens to Waterford, developed mechanical problems on its way from the Erie Canal, so now Lehigh Valley No. 79 must wait in Athens until the tug Frances can return either tomorrow or Sunday to take the barge the rest of the way to Waterford.

Alice Would Be Proud

So far as I know, Alice B. Neal, a.k.a. Alice Bradley Haven, was the first to call our little city Rivertown, giving the name to the thinly fictionalized Hudson that was the setting for her 1850 novel The Gossips of Rivertown. It is from that novel, of course, that this blog takes its name. Now Rivertown has moved beyond the purely literary realm. The newly restored and refurbished Warren Inn has a new name: Rivertown Lodge. Its new signs were reviewed today by the Historic Preservation Commission.


How Does HCSD Compare? Part 1

The Albany Business Review has begun releasing information from its 2015 Schools Report. This morning, the ranking of school districts was published. Of the 84 school districts in the Capital Region, Hudson City School District ranked 80.

History Passing on the River

Later today or possibly tomorrow, Lehigh Valley No. 79, the last wooden barge from the Lighterage Era of transportation, will be floating by us on the river.

Lehigh Valley No. 79 passing the Hoboken Terminal   Photo: Annik La Farge
The 101-year-old barge, which today is the Waterfront Museum, is making the journey from Brooklyn to Waterford, where it will be dry-docked. At 7:50 this morning, the barge and its tug, Francis, passed by Tivoli. The plan is to drop off a stone barge, which is traveling with Lehigh Valley No. 79 and Francis, at Catskill. Then Francis will take the historic barge to Athens, where it will wait for another tug, Margot, to take it the rest of the way to Waterford.

You can learn more about Lehigh Valley No. 79, which is the type of barge known as a "lighter," and the Lighterage Era of transportation on the Hudson River at Annik La Farge's blog Livin' the High Line: "History Sailing by the High Line."

Gratitude to Annik La Farge for providing this story

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Fate of the Mural

Last week, Gossips reported on the preparation, then underway, for painting a mural on a brick retaining wall at the entrance to Promenade Hill.

The mural was part--albeit a nonessential one--of a plan by Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) to get the sprinkler located at that spot, which hasn't been used for at least twenty years, working again. At the time, Gossips raised the question of who had authorized the mural. Promenade Hill is part of a National Register and locally designated historic district. Painting a mural on a previously unpainted wall brick would require, at the very least, some kind of public review and a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission.

In an exchange of comments that same day on Garriga's Facebook page, captured before the thread was deleted, a similar question was raised: "Did you have the permit required for the project?" Garriga responded: "Under the Mayor's authority."

Curious to know if this was true, Gossips emailed the mayor last Friday and asked him to confirm or deny Garriga's statement. The mayor never responded, but Gossips has since learned he has ordered that the wall be pressure washed to remove the white primer.

How Are We Doing?

The Albany Business Review's 2015 Schools Report is due out tomorrow, and in anticipation of that report, the results in two major content areas have been released: English and science. In English, the Hudson City School District ranked 78 out of 84; in science, HCSD ranked 81 out of 84.

Eye on the CEDC

Continuing his investigation of the activities of the Columbia Economic Development Corporation, Sam Pratt reports his latest discovery: "No strings attached? County kept paying CEDC without a signed contract."

About Promenade Hill

Most of the people who filled the room for the meeting about Promenade Hill yesterday afternoon expected to see some kind of plan for proposed improvements to Hudson's 220-year-old park, but nothing was presented that hasn't been seen before: an aerial photograph indicating the "Area of Detail" and two possible configurations for a handicapped ramp.

When the two ramp options were shown to the Common Council Economic Development Committee back in February, Option 1 seemed to be the favorite, but that was before the two options were submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office for a recommendation. In an email to Bill Roehr of TGW Consultants, Stacey Matson-Zuvic, historic site restoration coordinator for SHPO, stated: "Based on a preliminary review of the materials submitted it is our recommendation that Option 2--New Ramp & Retaining Walls[,] Reconfigured Planting Area[,] Existing Stairs to Remain is the most appropriate as it retains the existing main entry stairs into the park, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing property in the Hudson Historic District."

At the beginning of yesterday's meeting, Roehr's colleague John "Duke" Duchessi explained that the grant being sought this year "has to do with the City wanting to make Promenade Hill handicapped accessible." He acknowledged that planning for the project had not proceeded beyond the two concepts for a ramp, which had been proposed months ago, "because we wanted to have this meeting first." The purpose of the meeting was "to get ideas for the whole entrance to the park," and Duchessi started out by asking audience members to identify its shortcomings.

Too much asphalt, too much impervious surface, too many brick retaining walls that create barriers were the shortcomings immediately identified. Rick Rector, First Ward alderman and chair of the Historic Preservation Commission, suggested that the entrance to Promenade Hill needed "trees, benches, pots of flowers" to make it more inviting. Sarah Sterling, First Ward supervisor, thought there needed to be music performance space and remarked that the area was not "group friendly."

Tiffany Garriga, Second Ward alderman, suggested that there be "more equipment for the children," explaining that the playground that exists is for children of a certain age and "older kids just sit around." When Kitty Mackey, a resident of the Second Ward, expressed the opinion that a children's park should be closer to the riverfront, and this space should just be a passive park, Garriga asked Mackey if she had something against children.

Peter Frank offered a suggestion that was well received. He said that the steps leading up to Promenade Hill needed to be wider "to reflect the Warren Street axis" and "continue the vista down Warren Street." Rector agreed. "In a city with the name Hudson, you expect to see the Hudson River," he commented. Making the entrance to Promenade Hill feel more like a continuation of Warren Street (which, of course, historically it was) would strengthen the connection with the river.

Mention of trees and flowers and plantings raised the question of who would take care of them. "There's no garden club or anything in this town," lamented Pamela Kungle. Frank advised that the design be "low maintenance," suggesting that there was a "horticultural solution" to the problem of care and maintenance.

According to Duchessi, a conceptual design, which most people expected to see yesterday, "with numbers attached," will be presented at the next meeting. That meeting was tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, July 8, but that may change. Duchessi indicated that the maximum amount for the grant is $250,000--requiring a 25 percent ($62,500) match from the City--but the "sweet spot," he said, is not applying for the maximum. He stressed that the conceptual design used for the grant application may not be the design that is actually executed. The grant application is due at the end of July.

It should be remembered that if the application is not successful and the project is not funded, the Common Council passed a resolution in November 2014 to spend $20,000 to install a "temporary ramp" at Promenade Hill. The nature and appearance of this ramp is unknown, but there's a chance it could resemble the ramp in the picture above.

The Birth of a SWAT Team

Yesterday, there was a press conference to announce the formation of "a combined special force that will respond to high-profile crimes and emergencies." Arthur Cusano reports on the event in today's Register-Star: "Shared tactical response team unveiled." 

The article reports that HPD Chief Edward Moore is "aware of concerns voiced by some city residents about a perceived militarization of his department." The chief is quoted as saying, "I am in tune with their sensitivities about militarization, but I think just like a fire department has a specialized team to attack certain dangers, this is a team that's trained to attack certain dangers. It's not an issue of military-style police patrolling the streets, it's more or less getting a higher level of training."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Back to North Bay

Last Wednesday, Gossips reported that there would be a special meeting on June 25--tomorrow night--at which the Common Council would once again take up the resolution to declare the proposed sewer separation project, which would direct untreated storm water runoff into North Bay, a Type II action. Over the weekend, Gossips learned from Council president Don Moore that the meeting could not be scheduled as intended and another date has not been decided on.

Meanwhile, the South Bay Task Force came up with an alternative resolution--one that determines the project to be an Unlisted action and would allow the City to consider the environmental impacts of what's being proposed. The alternative resolution was sent to the members of the Common Council yesterday. As Council president, Moore would be the logical person to present the alternative resolution to the Council, but he demurred. He did, however, advise that the resolution could be presented by three members of the Common Council. There is no word yet if three members of the Council have agreed to do so.

Exploring Hudson History Through Newspapers

This morning, I resumed my exploration of the Hudson Weekly Star and found, on the front page of the issue for November 25, 1858, this little anecdote about life in Hudson more than 150 years ago.

By a strange coincidence, the news of the death of Peter G. Coffin, for whom the steamboat was named, appeared two weeks later, on December 9, 1858, in the Hudson Weekly Star.

The obituary in the Hudson Evening Register for Coffin's daughter Emily, who died in 1923 at that age of ninety-two, provides more information about Peter G. Coffin and his role in the history of Hudson.
She came from a family that was among the original settlers and proprietors of Hudson, her father coming here with the settlers from Nantucket. He was Peter G. Coffin, who in the days before steamboats navigated a line of sloops on the river, and later ran a steamboat line between Catskill and Albany, one of the earlier river steamboats bearing his name.
This item, which appeared in the Register-Star in 1856, gives insight into how the steamboats of the mid-19th century were used for transporting both freight and passengers.

In his reminiscences, published in the Sun and New York Herald for September 19, 1920, on the occasion of his eighty-sixth birthday, Captain John Lyon, who may well have been one of the crew on the P. G. Coffin when it stopped for the lady who arrived late at the dock in Hudson, tells how the steamboat's name was changed in 1871.
I also sailed on the Peter G. Coffin. She was a good boat, but her name became the topic of so many jokes that in 1871, when the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia visited this county, the Coffin's owners seized upon the popularity of the Duke's visit and changed the name of the boat to Alexis. I sailed on her under that name, too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Of Cameras and Crosswalks

On Tuesday, June 16, the Common Council passed a resolution to install a surveillance camera at the corner of Warren and Second streets, but the discussion of the camera didn't end there. It continued at last night's Police Committee meeting, beyond a simple report from Police Commissioner Gary Graziano that the camera would be up by the end of the month.

The issue of placing surveillance cameras in front of all bars, not just the Savoia--something that Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) wanted included in the resolution--was brought up again at the Police Committee meeting, not by Garriga but by others present. Graziano explained, as he has before, "This is not about cameras outside of bars. This is a camera at a trouble spot"--the trouble spot being the corner of Warren and Second streets.

Jake Walthour, Jr., who accompanied his parents to the meeting, stated "for the record" that his parents do not feel they are being picked on, singled out, or prejudiced against. "Anything," he said, "that can be done to protect them and their livelihood is welcomed."

The perceived inequity of placing a surveillance camera in proximity to the Savoia and not other bars where there have been incidents wasn't the only issue members of the public had with the camera. Audience member Verity Smith reported that "people are nervous about surveillance if they don't have access to the footage." Another audience member, Tysen Fingado argued that the cameras should be live stream "so that people will be able to see what is being recorded." 

Graziano responded, "If it's up to me, the public will not be privy to the footage. It makes no sense to me."

Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward), who sits on the Police Committee, expressed the opinion that it would be "highly, highly irregular for surveillance footage to be out there for anyone to see."

HPD Chief Ed Moore explained how the video record is used: "If a crime is caught on video, [the video] becomes evidence, and through disclosure [those involved in the crime] have access to the evidence." He went on to say that the police often show the video to a victim. This was done recently in the case of a mugging, and, aided by the video, the victim was able to identify his attackers.

The topic of crosswalks was introduced by Supervisor Ed Cross (Second Ward), who said he "needed some help with racing, speeding, and reckless driving in the city." "Pedestrians do not have the right of way," Cross told the chief and the commissioner.

Gossips asked if Hudson could learn from communities where drivers actually stopped for crosswalks how that level of compliance was achieved, citing Great Barrington as an example. Haddad suggested that the laws were different in Massachusetts, requiring drivers to stop at crosswalks rather than just yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Moore, however, spoke of Saugerties as a possible model, where drivers were conditioned to stop at crosswalks by "selective enforcement." For several weeks, the police monitored the crosswalks, first giving warnings to people who failed to give the right of way to pedestrians and then issuing tickets.

The crosswalk on Warren Street at City Hall Place and the crosswalks on Union Street at the post office were singled out as particularly hazardous for pedestrians. Graziano acknowledged that the crosswalk at City Hall Place, from the PARC Park to the Hudson Opera House, was problematic because there wasn't enough clearance around the north end of the crosswalk. People entering the crosswalk were not visible to drivers because it was as if they were emerging from between cars, but he said he was loath to eliminate parking spaces on Warren Street. 

Moore shared a happy coincidence that could ameliorate the situation. The Hudson Opera House has requested more parking spaces in proximity to their building be designated handicapped. If the spaces on either side of the crosswalk on the north side of the street were reserved for handicapped parking, which would mean they might not be occupied at all times, it could address some of the problems of crosswalk.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Meeting Reminder

This Wednesday, June 24, the proposal to redesign the approach and entrance to Promenade Hill and spruce up the park itself will be presented to the public for the first time. The meeting takes place at 3 p.m. at 1 North Front Street.

Landscape architect Dragana Zoric has been working pro bono for more than a year on the plan for Promenade Hill, which incorporates a handicapped ramp at the entrance. A month or so ago, Bill Roehr of TGW Consultants, reported that the State Historic Preservation Office was reviewing the plans. Presumably they have passed muster with SHPO and are now ready for us, the people of Hudson, to see. The City will be seeking grant funding for the Promenade Hill project in this year's Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) process. The grant applications are due at the end of July. Wouldn't it have been nice if public input had been sought during the process of conceptualizing this project instead of now with only a month to go before the applications are due?

If you can't make it to Wednesday afternoon's meeting, another meeting on the topic is planned for Wednesday, July 8, at 6 p.m. That meeting will also take place at 1 North Front Street.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Bert Geer Phillips in Hudson

Our post on Friday about Bert Geer Phillips inspired Neal Van Deusen to share with Gossips his family connection with the Hudson-born artist. As children, Van Deusen's grandfather, Charles Henderson Van Deusen, and his great-aunt, Lulu Brownell Van Deusen, were models for some of Phillips' paintings. It seems Phillips worked from photographs, and Van Deusen provided Gossips with images of a photograph of his grandfather and great-aunt and of the painting Phillips made from that photograph.

According to one biography, Phillips left Hudson at the age of sixteen, which would have been 1884, to go to New York City to study at the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design. This picture is evidence that Phillips did not go to New York and never come back. Charles Van Deusen was born in 1885, and his sister Lulu was born in 1884. In the photograph, the children look to be about six or seven, which suggests that it was taken in 1891 or 1892. So it seems that even though he studied in New York City, Phillips continued to live and work in Hudson until 1894, when he left for London and set out on the course of events that would eventually take him to New Mexico.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Another Newspaper from Hudson's Past

Ever wonder about the Star, the newspaper that merged with the Hudson Register at some point in history to create what we now know as the Register-Star? Recently, seventeen years of the Hudson Weekly Star, from 1858 to 1875, were added to the vast collection of old newspapers at FultonHistory.com, so I decided to investigate and learn about the Star. For starters, here's the masthead:

For a dollar a year, payable in advance, one could subscribe to a publication that defined itself as "News, Agriculture, Temperance, Education." 

The Weekly Star was what today would be called an aggregator. Possibly at the time, it was known as a digest. It primarily published articles that had appeared in other newspapers in the Northeast and sometimes farther afield. For example, on the front page of the Weekly Star for November 4, 1858, there was a story with the headline "A Family Burned to Death," which told reported "one of the most appalling calamities that ever occurred in Kent County." Since I grew up just one county over from Kent County, my first thought was, "I didn't know there was a Kent County around here," only to discover that the story had originally appeared in the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Enquirer.

This same November 1858 issue of the Hudson Weekly Star also contained this interesting piece of very local Hudson news, which provides evidence of exactly when the horse ferry that once carried people across the river was replaced by a steam ferry. 

This drawing, provided to Gossips by a reader a while back, shows what "the old 'floating scow'" that was the horse ferry looked like. 


Gossips Tips for Planning Your Saturday

The Hudson Farmers' Market is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the corner of Sixth and Columbia streets.

Photo: AmericanTowns.com

The Dr. Oliver Bronson is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The opportunity to visit the legendary house--Hudson's only National Historic Landmark--is free, as part of New York State Path Through History Weekend. Enter the grounds at 53 Worth Avenue.

William Guy Wall, c. 1819 New-York Historical Society

The Hudson Pride Parade begins at 2 p.m. The parade route is from Seventh Street Park down Warren Street to Front Street and on to Henry Hudson Riverfront Park.

Photo: Sarah Sterling

Of Interest: The preceding post is something of a milestone: Gossips' 5,000th! Five thousand posts in five years and five months!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Hudson and Taos

Back in May, Gossips shared the information, which appeared in a report from the Regional Alliance for a Creative Economy, that only two counties in the country have a higher concentration of independent artists than Columbia County: Kings County, New York (Brooklyn), and Taos County, New Mexico. What many readers may not realize is that the connection between Columbia County--Hudson, in particular--and Taos County goes beyond mere statistics. The Taos Society of Artists, which drew many artists to Taos in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was founded by a native son of Hudson: Bert Geer Phillips.

Phillips was born in Hudson in 1868, the son of William J. Phillips, a bookkeeper. One biography of Phillips reports that, by his own recollection, he spent the better part of his childhood with a brush in his hand. He was also an avid reader, preferring stories of adventure, such as James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales, and the exploits of the famous frontiersman Kit Carson.

Phillips studied art briefly in Hudson, with George McKinstry, who opened an art studio around 1884. (McKinstry gave up his career as an artist and became a druggist in 1889, when Allen Rossman, his father's partner in the Rossman & McKinstry drugstore, died.) His tutelage with McKinstry didn't last long, and when he was sixteen, Phillips left home for New York City, where he studied at the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design.    

In 1894, Phillips went first to London and then on to Paris to study at the Academie Julian, where he met and became friends with Ernest Blumenschein. When they returned to New York in 1896, Phillips and Blumenschein rented a studio together. In the summer of 1898, Blumenschein convinced Phillips to take a journey to the Southwest. They traveled to Denver, "where they outfitted themselves with horses, a wagon, camping and art supplies, and a large Navy revolver," and then headed for Mexico.

It was on the way to Mexico that a fateful accident occurred. Traveling in the rough terrain of northern New Mexico, they broke a wagon wheel. Blumenschein set out on horseback, with the wheel, for nearby Taos, to have the wheel repaired; Phillips stayed behind with the gear. When Blumenschein returned with the wheel three days later, the two of them went back to Taos, sold the wagon, harness, and one of the horses, and "pitched into work with unknown enthusiasm." Thus the Taos Society of Artists began.

Blumenschein went back to New York three months later, but Phillips stayed in Taos permanently. 

In 1917, Phillips returned to Hudson for a prolonged visit, during which there was an exhibition of his work at Rowles Studio at 441 Warren Street. The Hudson Evening Register for March 15, 1917, reported on the exhibition, and what follows are excerpts from that report:
Persons desirous of an intellectual treat and who adore symphony of color and picturesque scenes should take advantage of the opportunity that awaits them in Rowles' photographic studio on Warren street where is displayed an exhibition of Indian and landscape painting, considered among the country's best, and which are the work of a former resident of Hudson, Bert Phillips. Mr. Phillips is considered by many widely known critics as the country's foremost painter of pictures depicting life in the southwestern part of the United States.
When a mere boy Mr. Phillips displayed an inclination toward landscape painting. Later he studied in a famous art school, and completed his course in Europe. Indian life appealed strongly to him, and in order to study the life and customs of the Indians and to labor in a proper atmosphere, he left here about eighteen years ago for Taos, New Mexico. There he found a splendid variety of Indian characters; the inhabitants were intelligent and congenial, and their surroundings were beautiful and picturesque. The flowers and the colors of the landscape harmonized excellently, and the golden rays of the sun gave the whole surrounding an added appearance. A more beautiful spot could not be found by an artist who wished to delineate Indian character and picturesqueness on the canvass. . . . 
Springtime in Taos Pueblo
Exhibited in the Rowles studio is a pretty creation called "The Boy Hunter," which is typical of the Indian life in New Mexico. This was painted for the purpose of being placed in exhibitions where competition was in order. "Spring in Taos" is another gem of art, as is "The Indian and His Pony." The former is a joyous symphony of vernal season. Another attractive picture is "The Indian's Charm." There are dozens of others, all of which emphatically depict rare artistic ability. 
Each picture carries with it a legend, and Mr. Phillips delights in informing visitors regarding them. He is ever anxious to point out to persons various things which tend to make the pictures appeal to the artistic eye as well as the ordinary layman's sense of beauty. He expects to remain at the Rowles establishment a few more days, and those who haven't as yet dropped in, should not fail to do so to-morrow.
In making a special study of the Indians, Mr. Phillips, his wife and family visit with them in their villages, and camp with them in the mountains. Both Mr. and Mrs. Phillips tell quaint and wondrous tales of these people, of their customs, hospitality, peacefulness and their work. Mr. Phillips expects to return to Taos in the near future, and his family, which is now in Hudson, will go to New Mexico in June.
Mr. Phillips was called here early in January on account of his mother's serious illness. As the children have completed their work in the schools in Taos it is the intention of Mr. and Mrs. Phillips to have them finish their High school course in Hudson, and he remarked that Hudson has an excellent High school curriculum. . . .
In 1917, Phillips' father and mother lived at 19 South Sixth Street.


Gratitude to City Historian Pat Fenoff for her help with this post

"Now We Are Six"

One year ago today, on June 19, 2014, my sweet dog Joey was surrendered to a shelter in Brooklyn. At the time he was surrendered, his age was given as five. So, I am declaring today, June 19, 2015, the day he turns six.

When I was one,
I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me.
When I was four,
I was not much more.
When I was five,
I was just alive.
But now I am six,
I'm as clever as clever.
So I think I'll be six
now and forever.
--A. A. Milne

Of course, six in dog years is something like forty in human years, but if Joey is as long-lived as my beloved William, who came just shy of reaching the remarkable age of seventeen, Joey and I have at least a decade of happy days before us.

Of Interest

In an editorial in Columbia Paper, Parry Teasdale comments on the Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) and its perceived improprieties: "CEDC scandal gets worse."

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Remembering Timothy Dunleavy

In early December, the community of Hudson lost a beloved friend, and the cause of historic preservation in Hudson lost a great champion. This Sunday, June 21, Timothy Dunleavy will be remembered at the place he loved and for which he advocated with great passion and dedication: the Dr. Oliver Bronson House. A reception and concert in memory of Timothy will take place at the historic house from 4 to 6 p.m. The concert, which beings at 4:30, features works for violin, viola, clarinet, oboe, and contrabass, by composers living today, performed by Contemporaneous

Seating for the concert is limited, and it's likely all the seats have been sold by now, but if you come to the reception you will be able to hear the sublime sounds of woodwinds and strings wafting from the house out onto the lawn. 

Visit Historic Hudson to secure your place at this memorial event for Timothy Dunleavy, to benefit the restoration of the magical and awe-inspiring Dr. Oliver Bronson House.