"A City Hall should be erected, one that Hudson city would be proud of. It is certainly needed, and by a little exertion on the part of our citizens it could be obtained."
With those words, from a letter to the editor that appeared in the Hudson Daily Star on May 22, 1851, Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton cut the ribbon, and the guests assembled last night for the Proprietors Ball climbed the stairs to the newly restored Hudson Hall, the final phase of the restoration of a building constructed a hundred and sixty-one years ago as Hudson's City Hall.
In the thirty-six hours before the ball, Gossips spent some time trying to help identify something historic and appropriate for the mayor to say on this occasion. My research, though it yielded no eloquent statements from the mayor at the time, Peter S. Wynkoop, uncovered a timeline of the construction of the building in 1854, which for us in the 21st century seems truly amazing. Today, as a tribute to the monumental community achievement celebrated last night, Gossips shares a summary of the story of the building's construction, drawn from items that appeared in the Daily Star.
As the quote from the letter to the editor suggests, Hudson's need for a proper city hall was recognized for many years before it was met. Prior to the construction of 327 Warren Street, the Common Council met in rented spaces. There seem to have been a couple of different ones over time, and the legend that the Henry Ary painting of George Washington has to be present whenever the Common Council meets may be associated with this lack of a city hall and an official, permanent Council chamber. The presence of the painting rendered whatever room the Council was meeting in the official Council chamber.
Our story today begins in April 1854, when, on April 4, the Daily Star reported that the legislation enabling the City of Hudson to borrow $15,000 for the purpose of building a city hall had passed in the State Assembly and Senate.
The next step was to find a site for the building, and two days later, on April 6, 1854, the Daily Star reported that a committee of the Common Council had been appointed to do just that.
On April 11, the Daily Star reported that the committee "have not yet fixed upon any definite site," but three days later, on April 14, eight days after the committee was appointed, the Daily Star reported that a site had been chosen.
The following day, on April 15, the Daily Star provides more information about the site.
The next steps were to get rid of the "small wooden buildings of little value" and select an architect. On May 4, it was reported that the buildings had been sold at auction, and on May 30, it was reported that last of the old buildings had been moved from the site.
This building in the 300 block of Allen Street is one of the buildings that was moved.
Where on Diamond Street (now Columbia Street) and State Street the other buildings were relocated is not known nor it is known if they still exist.
On April 21, 1854, the Daily Star reported, "The City Hall plans are in the hands of two or three architects of this city to make drafts." Although the report specified "architects of this city," the first draft to be submitted, on May 8, 1854, came from an Albany architect, Mr. B. S. De Forest. This raised the ire of at least one Hudsonian, who, identifying himself as "An Old Tax Payer," declared in a letter to the editor of the Daily Star: "We have among us men of genius and talent, capable of designing and constructing any work, either useful or ornamental, in as good style and taste as any that can be procured from abroad, and those who are entrusted with the management of our city affairs, would not be justified in giving the funds raised by city taxation to foreign mechanics; and the writer for one, although decidedly in favor of the new City Hall, would have opposed the measure with all the influence under his control, could he for a moment have supposed that our city authorities would adopt such an unjust and impolitic course." The next day, the Daily Star assured "An Old Tax Payer" that "the draft submitted by Mr. De Forest of Albany was volunteered and received with the understanding that it was not to be paid for unless adopted."
A few days later, on May 13, 1854, it appeared that De Forest would be the architect of Hudson's city hall because our local Hudson architects were too busy with other projects to submit their drafts in time.
On May 19, 1854, however, the Daily Star reported that Peter H. Avery had submitted a draft "which is in several respects thought to be better adapted to the purpose and the place than that submitted by Mr. De Forest, of Albany." As we know, Avery, who was both young and local though apparently not a Hudson native, got the job. The account in the Daily Star provides a fairly detailed description of Avery's proposed design. Reading it, one can imagine the building as we know it.
The bids for constructing the building were received on June 28, 1854, and on July 1, 1854, the project was awarded to Mr. A. Calkins, who submitted the lowest bid: $12,975. The ground breaking took place the very next day, on July 2, 1854, and six months later, on January 2, 1855, Hudson's new City Hall opened with its very first event: a Franklin Library Association lecture given by George William Curtiss [sic], entitled "The Secret of Success."
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