Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hudson in 1850

I have temporary custody of a file box containing Don Christensen's research for his definitive exhibition at the Hudson Opera House in 2001, Seeing South Bay. As we approach the deadline for public comment on the draft GEIS and LWRP, I'll be exploring the contents of the box and publishing things that strike me as relevant to the current discussion. First is an excerpt from Wilson's Illustrated Guide to the Hudson River, Eighth Edition, which was published in 1850.

The illustration that accompanies this post is not, however, from Wilson's
Guide. It is an 1841 engraving by Barber and Howe. When it came to our part of the river, the only illustrations in Wilson's Guide are maps, and I've included the pertinent one.

Hudson City (E[ast] S[ide]), the capital of Columbia County, formerly comprised a township, which, bounded north by Factory creek, south by the Livingston patent, east by Claverack creek, and west by the Hudson River, contained nearly 9000 acres. This area was however much reduced by the abstraction of 3 miles in length from the northern end, in the formation of the town of Stockport. The city plat, Lat. 42° 14', north; long. 14' east from New York, distant from New York, north 116 miles, extends about 5 miles along the river, with a mean breadth of 3 miles. The basis rock the precincts is transition carboniferous slate, upon which are imposed several ridges, containing secondary limestone, abounding with animal remains. The compact portion of the city lies upon argillaceous marl, in horizontal strata, containing a considerable portion of sulphate of magnesia. In front of the principal street is a promontory of siliceous slate, projecting into the river in a hold cliff, whose summit more than 60 feet above the surface of the water, has been formed into an agreeable promenade, commanding a beautiful view of the river, the town of Athens, and the country on the opposite shore, bounded by the towering mountains; being planted with trees and shrubs, it him become a desirable resort in summer, and merits a visit at all seasons. Upon either side of this promontory is a bay of considerable extent, with a low and approachable shore, with ample depth of water for all vessels which may ascend the river, and here are the docks, which are carried out on a line with the hill. The bay on the south is locked in by a lofty hill called Rorabuck; but which received the name of Mount Merino, in consequence of the establishment of a sheep farm here many years since. The streets of the city are regularly laid out crossing each other at right angles except near the river, where they conform to the shape of the ground. From the promenade on the river; Warren, the main street; extends south east more than a mile, with a gentle ascent to Prospect hill. This hill gives a full view of the city and adjacent country; but is itself commanded by Becraft Mountain, the hill is about 200 feet high rising in a uniform smooth surface, and falls off in the south east, into a low meadow which separates it from the mountain.

The Court-house is located in a square of about 300 feet, in the south part of the city; the building, including the wings, has a front of 116 feet, the main edifice 40 by 60 feet and 60 feet high, is surmounted by a dome 40 feet in height, towering above the other buildings of the city, and is entered by a portico with six Ionic columns; the wings are severally 34 feet front by 44 in depth and two stories high. The front is of Stockbridge marble and the ends and rear of blue limestone. The whole structure is creditable to the taste and liberality of the county.

There is a small stream on the north part, which from its great fall, gives sufficient power to turn a mill; water is brought in subterranean pipes from the foot of Becraft mountain, for the use of the city.

The Hudson and Berkshire rail road, which intersects the Great Western rail road at West Stockbridge, adds greatly to the commercial advantages of the city.

The City was founded in 1784 by Seth and Thomas Jenkins and 28 associates from Providence, R. I., Nantucket, and Martha's Vineyard. When the town plat was laid out, there was upon it only one house, but within three years it contained 150 dwellings, many manufactories, and nearly 1500 inhabitants.

Hudson was chartered in 1785. Pop. in 1845--5657.

The Hudson and Berkshire Railroad, built in 1838 and now the line that goes to ADM, was the first railroad to transect the South Bay, cutting off a small northern section and creating what became known as Little Bay and Big Bay. The railroad went from Hudson to West Stockbridge, where there was an iron ore mine, and it was used to transport ore from West Stockbridge to the Hudson Iron Works.


  1. Carole,

    I wonder if the "Little Bay" that the Hudson and Berkshire Railroad line isolated (thereby "creating what became known as Little Bay and Big Bay") was the small body of water located at the site of the current, city-owned commuter parking lot? I am referring to the 1873 First Ward map, which I believe you may have posted here at one time (?)


    T. O'Connor

  2. I don't have a digitized copy of that 1873 map, but it does seem relevant, doesn't it? I'll see if I can find one.

    If you look at the path of the CSX tracks today and assume that houses on the south side of Tanners Lane were on the northern bank of the South Bay, then that parking lot was indeed in the part of the bay cut off by the Hudson Berkshire Railroad.

  3. Carole,

    I have another view from that perspective on Academy Hill, painted in 1837 by William Guy Wall as I recall, and published as a steel engraving. You're welcome to have a look anytime. Thanks for the great work you're doing on this wonderful blog..

  4. Is this the map you're talking about? It shows the east-west Hudson & Boston railroad line chopping off a little northern chunk of the Bay:

    This is among the images available at:

    --Sam P.