Sunday, February 14, 2016

The House with the Mansard Roof

The site plan review initiated on Thursday to convert 260 State Street from five apartments into eight short-term rental units and a commercial space inspired Gossips to investigate the history of the house that has piqued the curiosity of quite a few Hudsonians. Mostly, it's the mansard roof that inspires inquiry, for it suggests that once upon a time a person of some affluence owned the house. A little research at Fulton History, that remarkable database of old newspapers, and in census records has revealed who that person probably was.

Mansard roofs, a distinctive feature of Second Empire design, were popular in the 1860s and 1870s. Often, as may have been the case with 260 State Street, third stories with mansard roofs were added to houses to make them appear more fashionable and grand. The person who owned 260 State Street when mansard roofs were all the rage was William F. Ball.  

Before 1870, U.S. census records didn't indicate street address. They only assigned a dwelling and a family number for each entry. In 1850, William F. Ball, then 24, whose occupation was listed as painter and his birthplace England, was living somewhere in the First Ward with his wife, Mary. By 1860, Ball had settled in the Second Ward. His occupation is still given as painter, and he and Mary now have four children--William H. 9, Mary 7, Eliza 5, and Charles F. one month. A domestic named Anna G. Grant completes the household. No street address is indicated in the 1860 census, but it's nice to think that at that point the Balls have taken up residence in the house on the northwest corner of State and Third streets.

On March 12, 1867, a notice in the Hudson Evening Register gives a clue about what sort of painter Ball was. The notice announces the dissolution of the partnership of Ball & Baker.

According to the notice, Ball disposed of his interest in the painting business but retained his interest in the sash, door, and blind business. A year later, the business formerly known as Ball & Baker has a new name: Builders' Furnishing Depot, and the following advertisement appears frequently in the newspapers. (Note that in 1868 the numbering on east-west streets in Hudson had not yet been changed. Hence 133 Union Street is "Near Third Street" not between First and Second streets, as it is now.)

In 1868, William F. Ball is mentioned in the Hudson Evening Register as an alderman for the Second Ward, and in April 1869, he is one of the "property owners and taxpayers in State street" who signed a petition to the mayor and the Common Council "to open a sewer on the north side of State street, between Second and Third streets, on Roap [sic] Alley."

In the 1870 census, the address of William F. Ball household is given: 94 State Street, which undoubtedly was the address of the house before the introduction of "hundred blocks" on Hudson's east-west streets. The value of the house is given as $4,000, and Ball's occupation is listed as brewer. The Balls now have six children. The eldest son, William, is now 19, and his occupation is listed as "house painter." Perhaps he works for his father's former partner, Henry Baker. The eldest daughter, Mary, is now 17. The second daughter, whose name was given as Eliza in 1860, is now listed as Alida, and she is 15. Charles, a newborn in 1860, is now 10, and there are two more children: George 7 and Hattie 4.

In 1880, William and Mary Ball are still living at 260 State Street, and Ball's occupation is still listed as brewer. Two of their six children--William H. and Alida (or Eliza)--presumably have grown and moved on. Still at home are Mary 27, Charles 20, George 17, and Hattie 14. 

On February 3, 1891, the Hudson Evening Register reported that William F. Ball had leased a building on Warren Street and "will fit it up in good style and stock it with a fine line of groceries." On March 21, 1891, the Register reported William F. Ball & Son grocers had opened. The 1900 census reveals that the son who became his father's partner in the grocery store was Charles. The census records for 1900 show William F. Ball, now a widower, still living at 260 State Street with his son Charles, now 39, and his daughter Mary, now 47, whose name appears as Mamie, Charles's wife Josie, and Charles and Josie's two children: William 14 and Arthur 10.

Four years before the 1900 census, on October 28, 1896, a happy event took place at 260 State Street, when Ball's youngest child, Hattie, married Avery McNaughton of Rochester, in "an interesting ceremony." The wedding was reported in the Columbia Republican for November 5, 1896.

The newly married couple must have settled in Albany, because on April 17, 1906, the Albany Evening Journal reports that "Mr. and Mrs. Avery McNaughton and nephew, Harold Smith, spent Easter with Mrs. McNaughton's father, William F. Ball, of Hudson."

On January 15, 1908, William F. Ball died at the age of 82. The Columbia Republican announced that the funeral would be "from his late residence, 260 State street." His obituary in the Columbia Republican provides more information about his life.

As evidence of William F. Ball's long association with 260 State Street, fifteen years after his death, a report of the house having been sold, which appeared in the Columbia Republican for March 13, 1923, notes that "the property was formerly known as the William F. Ball place."


1 comment:

  1. Soon after the current owners bought the building, they dutifully visited the library History Room looking for historic photographs of their new purchase. Unfortunately, even with several of us on the job, we couldn't locate a single photo.

    It's not always that way though. When the History Room moves to its new location, we'll refine the way we search for photos. We're also expanding the photo collection with the help and interest of people who're willing to share their own collections.

    The History Room is becoming very organized and well run. For the moment, though, everything is focused on the move.