Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Not to Be Missed

Jamie Larson's article in this morning's Register-Star about the restored windows at the Plumb-Bronson House: "New windows help illuminate the details." After referring to the elliptical staircase as an "oblate staircase," Jamie goes on to call it, with an unfortunate bit of alliteration, a "staggering staircase."

Kari Rieser's letter to the editor: "Youth Center garden."

The IDA public hearing on the Kohl's/Widewaters PILOT request--9 o'clock tomorrow morning, March 31, at Trinity United Methodist Church, 555 Joslen Boulevard in Greenport.

Congress on Your Corner with Scott Murphy--from 9:30 to 10:30 Thursday morning, April 1, at Stageworks, 41 Cross Street in Hudson.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Last Wednesday at the Common Council Legal Committee meeting, Victor Mendolia, chair of the Hudson City Democratic Committee, presented a proposal to reform the structure of Hudson's government. There's an article about it in Saturday's Register-Star.

Among the suggestions for change is redefining Hudson's election districts--abandoning the traditional wards and creating seven districts of equal population. The goal is to eliminate the weighted vote in the Common Council, which gives the aldermen of the Fifth Ward and the Third Ward significantly more voting clout than the aldermen of the First and Fourth wards.

Several years ago--back in 2003 or 2004, if memory serves--a plan was proposed by then Common Council President Mike Vertetis to redefine Hudson's wards. That plan called for retaining the five wards but changing their boundaries. For example, the eastern boundary of the First Ward would have moved from Third Street to Fifth to annex a chunk of the Third Ward.

As the wards are now configured, the Third and Fifth wards each have two districts; the First, Second, and Fourth wards do not. Presumably the process of creating the seven districts, as suggested by the Democratic Committee, would start with the seven divisions that already exist and would then adjust the boundaries to ensure that each district had the same number of residents. District boundaries would change with every census, and each district would have one representative, reducing the number of aldermen from ten to seven.

Painful as it is to abandon the ward divisions that have existed in Hudson for nearly two centuries, this is an idea whose time has come. Hudson is very different now from what it was when the wards were originally created. Growth of the city, in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, expanded the Third Ward geographically and created the Fifth Ward. The housing built during Urban Renewal inflated the population of the Second Ward. It's time the inequities were corrected.

Flag Day 2009

I found in my files these pictures from last year's Flag Day parade and couldn't resist sharing them. The first picture shows the City of Hudson Common Council, aboard a replica of the first ship built in Hudson. (The original ship was built in 1785, the replica was constructed in 1985 for Hudson's Bicentennial--and yes, those are Henry Hudson ruffs that many of the aldermen are wearing.) The second picture shows the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, who may want to rethink their form of conveyance for this year's parade.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Share the Pain

Peter Meyer's letter to the editor outlining his "Share the Pain" plan for dealing with HCSD budget deficits is in today's Register-Star.
It's a must-read . . . to be followed up with a call to Superintendent Jack Howe.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hudson in Picture Books

Basket Moon, a picture book set principally in Hudson, was written by Mary Lyn Ray, a Fellow at Winterthur Museum, who started writing the story when she was editing a history of Taghkanic basket making entitled Legend of the Bushwhacker Basket. The book was illustrated by Barbara Cooney, two-time Caldecott Medalist and creator of the beloved Miss Rumphius, who died in March 2000, just six months after Basket Moon was published. The book tells the story of a boy's first experience accompanying his father, a Taghkanic basket maker, on a monthly selling trip to the "big city"--that is, Hudson.

The illustrations are a treat for Hudsonians since it's obvious that Cooney used actual Hudson artifacts as models for some of them.

Basket Moon, published by Little, Brown, is still in print. I recommend it--for the children in your life or just to grace your coffee table.

Plan Ahead

A week from today--on Wednesday, March 31, at 9 a.m., at Trinity United Methodist Church, 555 Joslen Boulevard, Greenport--there will be a public hearing on the latest application from Widewaters for a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) for a Kohl's department store to be constructed in Greenport Commons.

The original application for a 20-year PILOT was rejected by the Columbia County IDA (Industrial Development Agency), but on March 12, the IDA accepted an application for a 15-year PILOT with various conditions: the property tax paid will increase by 1.5 percent each year; Kohl's will guarantee a minimum of 33 full-time jobs; Kohl's must generate at least $90,000 in sales tax revenue in the first year and $100,000 each year thereafter; Widewaters must provide "reasonable opportunities" for local contractors to bid on the construction of the building.

For a retail business to qualify for a PILOT, it must provide goods and services that are not otherwise available in the county. Walmart and Lowe's were denied PILOTs because they did not meet this requirement. The application now before the IDA claims that Kohl's does because, unlike Peebles, it is a "full-line department store," but various people who have gone on fact-finding trips to the existing Kohl's stores in Kingston and Colonie report that Kohl's offers nothing that is not already available to shoppers in Columbia County.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Latest on the O&G Road

Scenic Hudson just announced that they have reached an agreement with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as a result of their appeal to the Freshwater Wetlands Appeal Board.

Click here to access Scenic Hudson's press release.

You can download the text of the stipulation at sampratt.com.

With a Carload of Salt

Anyone going down to the waterfront is aware of the salt pile by the deep-water dock. In the past, the salt came in on the river by barge and was carried away by truck to various municipalities in the Hudson Valley. I can recall more than once being awakened at 3 or 4 in the morning by little convoys of dump trucks from Dutchess County towns and cities, making their stealthy way down Allen Street (NOT a truck route) to the waterfront in the dead of a winter night.

This year there have been reports that, for the first time, none of the salt on our waterfront has come in by barge but all of it has been trucked in--over Hudson streets--and then trucked out again. Now, at the end of one winter and months before the beginning of the next, there are reports of trucks bringing more salt to the waterfront. One witness estimates that 25 to 30 loads of salt have been delivered by truck in the past couple of days.

The picture shows a truck leaving the deep-water dock this morning at approximately 7:45 a.m. Unable to get out along Front Street because of the construction there related to the new wastewater treatment plant, the driver found his way back to Third Street/9G along the south side of the old L&B building. Witnesses say that this route past L&B is regularly used by trucks believed to be carrying salt.

The Mushroom Factory

I often puzzled over this photograph from Historic Hudson's Rowles Studio Collection, unable to identify the building. Then a year or so ago, Lisa Durfee discovered two images of Hudson on Flickr and spliced them together to reveal an intersection where one street deadends into another.

More investigation and contact with the woman who'd posted the snapshots online enabled Lisa to identify the place and time the pictures were taken: the corner of Columbia and First streets in 1953. The big building in the background--the same building seen in the Rowles picture--is the Mushroom Factory, where mushrooms were cleaned and canned, which stood near the corner of Columbia and Second streets, where Providence Hall is today.

Go to Lisa's blog The Tainted Lady Lounge for a comparison of the 1953 pictures with the setting as it is today.

Monday, March 22, 2010

"One of That Amiable Sisterhood"

It's been two weeks since we've heard from the original Gossips of Rivertown, so it's time for another excerpt. This passage features Miss Martin, the seamstress, who carries tales, along with her needle-book and scissors, from client to client in Rivertown.

Miss Margaret Martin was a maiden lady of thirty-nine. She was, as our readers may have seen, a perfect Athenian so far as regards a propensity for "hearing and telling some new thing," and her peculiar mode of life did not tend to lessen this natural disposition.

From Mrs. Smith's her needle-book and scissors were in requisition at Mrs. Miller's, of whom we have before spoken, and who was on intimate terms with Mrs. Jorden. It is not to be supposed that so grand, so peculiar a bit of gossip was long with held from that lady's ears. Of her own part in the discovery, Miss Margaret said not a word, but while commiserating poor Mrs. Jorden, she most innocently wondered who could have started such a story? The way she heard of it was this:—Two young ladies (she couldn't mention names) had been paying a call on Mary Butler, and were surprised to find Mr. Jorden's miniature on her centre-table. They thought nothing of it, of course, (it might have been left there by Mrs. Jorden herself,) but when they were coming out they stopped to fasten the garden-gate, and looking back accidentally, they distinctly saw Mary Butler kiss the very miniature as she stood by the window! Then it was afterwards discovered that he, Mr. Jorden, was in the habit of writing to her two or three times a week, and one of the letters, by the merest accident, had been found, and was full of the most love-like expressions. Moreover, she herself chanced to know that Mr. Jorden frequently passed the evening there, and sometimes without his wife. Miss Margaret had seen him going in once alone; she remembered it distinctly, because it was the night of the terrible high wind that blew down Sprague & Skinner's new sign. She thought it was strange then that Mrs. Jorden should not have been with him—did Mrs. Miller recollect that terrible stormy night?

Mrs. Miller had not forgotten the evening in question, and she smiled as she thought his being out alone was not strange that night at least.

"To be sure," continued Miss Martin, (calling Mrs. Miller's little girl at the same time, to come and have a waist-lining tried on,) "to be sure, Miss Barnard says they practise together; that Mrs. Jorden hates music, and he's all bound up in it, so he goes over and takes his flute. But to my mind it's as clear as day-light, that it's only an excuse. I declare, I can hardly keep still when I think how that girl goes on, and--"

Miss Margaret's attention was here arrested by a sharp cry from the patient little martyr before her. She had become so interested in her story, that she had quite forgotten the particular branch of business she was attending to, and so had gone on drawing up the lining here, and sticking in a pin there, until the poor child could scarcely breathe. At last, as she absently pinned through shoulder and all, the cry escaped which recalled her to her task.

Now the child had just been learning a history lesson for the next day, wherein the misdeeds of the Salem witches were recorded. And as she sobbed with the fright and the pain, the terrible suspicion flashed through her mind that Miss Martin was one of that amiable sisterhood revived; and, indeed, the face that bent over her favoured the conclusion. From that instant, it was only by bribes, threats, and, in fact, ofttimes punishment, that she could be induced to enter her tormentor's presence.

Sketch the Second. More of Mary Butler. Chapter IV

Sunday, March 21, 2010

What's Happening at Fifth and Warren?

There is much talk about an SRO (single-room occupancy not standing room only) proposed for the vacant lot at the corner of Fifth and Warren streets. According to information received, the proposed building would have thirty-two "studio apartments"--60 percent of which would be low-income housing and 40 percent transitional housing--on a pivotal corner of Hudson's main street and commercial thoroughfare. The developer contemplating this project is the Lantern Organization (until recently known as the Lantern Group), which describes itself as "a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to developing and operating permanent affordable and special needs housing in New York City." The president of the Lantern Organization is T. Eric Galloway, whose bio on the organization's website includes this statement: "Mr. Galloway is also active in development and renovation of historic buildings in the City of Hudson, New York."

The Lantern Organization's website provides information about the projects the not-for-profit has done in New York City. Additional background information is provided by this investigative report by the CBS affiliate in New York City, which aired on June 24, 2008. If anyone knows how the situation described in the CBS report was resolved, I would be happy to report it here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Is Their Wetland More Precious Than Ours?

This morning's Register-Star has an article about Stuyvesant's efforts to improve access to the river: "Crossing upgrades mean better river access locally." In the article, Stuyvesant Town Supervisor Valerie Bertram is quoted as saying, “DEC definitively said there will never be a connector road because of the wetland.” Bertram's statement raises the question: Is this the same DEC that issued a permit for O&G to develop an industrial haul road through a wetland, from the Holcim quarry in Greenport to Hudson's deep-water dock?

Hudson in the Life of a French Chef

In 1974, Jacques Pépin was operating his innovative La Potagerie in New York City and living in Hunter with his wife, Gloria, and their young daughter. On a summer night, he hit a deer on the highway and ended up--for a prolonged stay--in Hudson. I'll spare you the description of the accident and just share this excerpt from Pépin's 2003 autobiography, The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen.

I should have died. Once the paramedics had extracted me from the wreckage of the car, I was rushed by ambulance to Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson, New York. My prognosis was anything but good. The tally of my injuries from the accident included a broken back, two broken hips, one broken arm, one broken leg, and a pelvis that was broken in three places. In the first days after the accident, the doctor told Gloria that I would probably never walk again. My left arm was so badly fractured that he had no doubt it would have to be removed--if I lived and gained enough strength. Fortunately, he felt that I was too weak to survive an amputation.

But I was also too weak for them to risk moving me to a hospital with better facilities than Hudson's. For two and a half weeks, I lay there, drifting in and out of consciousness.

Dr. Johnson, my physician at Columbia Memorial, approached a former associate of his, Dr. Arnold, a surgeon at New York City's renowned Hospital for Special Surgery, one of the best hospitals in the world for treatment of injuries like mine and with a waiting list months long that included more than its share of dignitaries, politicians, and noted philanthropists. I was allowed to move to the head of the line for one reason: in all their years of practice, the surgeons in New York had never seen injuries as severe as mine in a living person. Their prior experience had involved only autopsy cases. They cut a deal--they would take on my case provided that they could use me as a teaching device for their students--a living cadaver.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Seeing South Bay Again

In 2000, Don Christensen embarked on a monumental research project to understand how South Bay--once a favorite landscape of Hudson River School painters--deteriorated into a neglected swamp and industrial area. His work culminated in an exhibition that opened in February 2001 at the Hudson Opera House called Seeing South Bay. The exhibition has been mentioned here and is discussed extensively in the comments on the LWRP written by Sam Pratt for Save the South Bay.

I was recently reminded that Seeing South Bay had been documented by the late Bob Ponkos for the website warrenstreet.com and, thanks to Sam and John Merola, Bob's brother-in-law and collaborator on warrenstreet.com, I am able to provide the link that will get you there to explore Seeing South Bay.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Almost Two Decades Later

The picture shows the Fourth Street School, which stood at the southwest corner of Fourth and State streets, across from the library, until 1994. As one of his first official acts after taking office as mayor for his first term, Rick Scalera had the building condemned and demolished.

In the intervening sixteen years, for all but four of which Scalera has been mayor, Hudson has experienced a remarkable renaissance. People have been drawn to Hudson because of its historic architecture and have made significant investments of their own money to restore buildings and revitalize the city. You would think that by now Mayor Scalera would embrace the truth that Hudson's historic architecture has been the goose that laid the golden egg for the city, but it appears not.

There are rumors that the mayor is entertaining the idea of demolishing two historic buildings on the city's waterfront--half of the precious few that remain: the last of the Bentley Meeker buildings at North Front and Dock streets and the former Dunn Warehouse building across Water Street from Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. Both buildings now belong to the City, although there's some suggestion that the Bentley Meeker building may belong to HDC.

The story on the Bentley Meeker building is that a developer might be interested in the property if the building were gone. (Two adjoining buildings were demolished last year, but this building, which is stable, was spared.)

The justification for demolishing the Dunn Warehouse building is persistent contamination that allegedly makes the building unfit for reuse, left over from the days when it was part of the gasification works.

Hudson Terrace Update

Work continues at Hudson Terrace. The southernmost building is now almost completely clad in its new vinyl siding. According to the information I've received, the white at ground level is meant to be painted to match the siding, and the buildings will not all be the same color. They will alternate between this mossy green and dark blue--I expect not dissimilar to the blue used at Crosswinds. I've also learned that Cheryl Roberts has drawings that show what Evergreen Partners is planning for the complex, although I don't know how long she has had them.

If You Can't Say Something Nice . . .

At the end of last night's Common Council meeting, John Musall, First Ward Supervisor and husband of First Ward Alderman Geeta Cheddie, pointed out that there were "twenty-four dissenting comments about the LWRP on the City of Hudson website" and complained that it appeared "the people making the comments were speaking for the City itself." This he said was inappropriate. Whether Musall was objecting to having the comments on the city website at all or was asking for them to be more clearly identified wasn't clear to me, but his statements raise the same question as statements like this from the LWRP: "The City supports plans proposed by Holcim (US) and its tenant to reroute dump truck traffic from the Holcim mine in Greenport, New York to the deep water port via the South Bay causeway." Just who is "the City"?

You can find written comments that were submitted about the draft LWRP, including Common Council President Don Moore's letter to the mayor, on the City of Hudson website.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Principal Is Your Pal

That mnenomic hasn't been taught in schools for decades, but perhaps it should be--not to help people spell the title of the person who's the head of a school but to help them choose the correct spelling in every other situation calling for a noun or an adjective with the meaning "head," "leading," or "most important."

In recent days, I've encountered principle author, principle stakeholder, principle access road, and principle engineer (that one could actually work--an engineer of principles?) not in the Register-Star but in the work of some writers who should know better. (Can you guess what I've been reading lately?)

Principal can be a noun (principal of a company) or an adjective (principal dancer). Principle, on the other hand, can only be a noun. (Of course, principled is an adjective, but I've never known anyone to spell it principaled.)

That's more than enough pedantry for now--especially from someone whose recent late-night post contained one amazing blooper. It's a matter of principle.

Is This LWRP Any Better?

As the public comment period on the current draft LWRP comes to an end, a critical document has been rediscovered by Sam Pratt and Peter Jung: the comments from Nancy Welsh of the Division of Coastal Resources on the previous draft LWRP, which was submitted in February 2004 and rejected in October 2005. The document makes for extremely interesting reading--especially the paragraph about St. Lawrence Cement--and could be a critique of our current draft LWRP as well.

Click here to download the document.

To find email addresses for submitting your comments, go to www.hudsonwaterfront.org.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Time Is Running Out . . .

and we'll be losing an hour overnight when we return to Daylight Saving Time. But before tomorrow ends, if you haven't already done so, add your signature to the Waterfront Petition. Let the Common Council and the State Department know we're not satisfied.

Friday, March 12, 2010

What If . . .

Last month, after I had reported on the unauthorized demolition at State and Seventh streets and Jamie Larson picked up the story in the Register-Star, a woman named Lori Zito wrote a letter to the editor thanking Peter Wurster for "doing his job" and asking me and the Historic Preservation Commission if we would "be able to live next door to a building that was clearly fallen [sic] apart on a daily basis."

I was reminded of a time--ten or so years ago--when Phyllis Herbert, who lived at 114 Warren Street, complained to the code enforcement officer, to the Common Council, to the mayor, about the dangerous state of the building next door to her house. Bricks were falling from the building's facade, and Phyllis warned that it was a public safety hazard. Nothing was done.

The building ended up being seized by the city for back taxes and sold to someone who failed to carry out his plans to restore it. Eventually, however, it was purchased by Juan Carretero and David Osborn, who restored the crumbling house and the adjoining house beautifully. If demolition had been the only solution to the problem, the 100 block of Warren Street would be missing this magnificent row of very Georgetown-like townhouses.

Hudson Terrace Update

The new roof is finished on the first building, and the new vinyl siding is going up, but the exterior alterations to Hudson Terrace have never been referred to the Historic Preservation Commission for a certificate of appropriateness, even though the southern half the complex is in a locally designated historic district. Here's what's been happening while The Gossips of Rivertown has been (annoyingly) unable to keep you informed.

It took a bit of doing to persuade city legal advisor Cheryl Roberts that the southern half of Hudson Terrace really is in a historic district. One of the problems was that Roberts and the mayor were looking at state and National Register historic districts and the local Warren Street Historic District instead of the relevant one: the locally designated Union-Allen-South Front Street Historic District. Finally, after being provided with the relevant excerpt from the boundary description ("around the lot lines of the Hudson Amtrak station property across Ferry Street and along the western lot lines of the Hudson Terrace Apartments back to the southern boundary line of the Warren Street Historic District at South Front Street and Cherry Alley") and the resolution of the Common Council that created the district, Roberts seemed to be persuaded that the south half of Hudson Terrace is indeed in a historic district, but still, on Tuesday morning, she advised the mayor that a stop work order should not be issued.

On December 8, 2009, when the owners of the Hudson Terrace complex inquired about necessary permits, Code Enforcement Officer Peter Wurster made the determination that replacing the windows with "like windows" and installing new siding "similar to the existing siding" did not constitute the kind of exterior alterations that require a certificate of appropriateness. In Roberts' opinion, Wurster's action did not "appear to rise to the level of irrational, arbitrary, or capricious," which is the standard for overturning a decision made by a city official such as the code enforcement officer.

In spite of the fact that things did not work the way--in my opinion--they were supposed to, things could be worse. The new vinyl siding going up on the first building is a dark mossy green--probably the best color available in vinyl siding. Let's hope they're doing the whole complex in the same color and not making different buildings different colors, the way it was done at Crosswinds on Harry Howard Avenue.

Something to note: According to the signs displayed on the site, the project was made possible by the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal and funded by the American Recovery and Renewal Act.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Whose Miniature Was It?

For those who have been waiting impatiently all weekend, the identity of the person portrayed in the miniature is now revealed in this excerpt from The Gossips of Rivertown.

"Do you know whose miniature that is?" were the first agitated words as they regained the street.

"I haven't the slightest idea. I wonder how Mr. Jorden came to send it to her."

"Oh, well,--Adeline Mitchell,--as sure as you're walking Main street, it was Henry Jorden himself!"

Her companion absolutely turned pale. Even she could not believe so entire a confirmation of their worst suspicions.

"But, Harriet," she faltered, "you didn't dare"--

"Yes, but I did; it was lying right before me on the centre table--anything there is always public property--and what's more, the note was half open, and I couldn't resist the opportunity to read just a line. Now if you ever tell, I'll never speak to you again as long as I live."

"Well, I won't--I won't. Mercy, I never should have"--

"Yes you would, though, if you had sat where I did. I couldn't help reading the first line and then I went on a little further--I heard her coming before I got near through. I didn't touch it at all, so it's not so very bad. It was more than half open, and I poked it with my pencil a little nearer."

"What was it about?"

"What do you suppose a man would write when he sends a lady his miniature? It was all love from beginning to end, and I'd swear to the handwriting and signature any day. I remember every word I read--let me think--it began 'Dear Mary,' and then there was something about 'as the original couldn't be always near her, he sent the copy as soon as it came from New York'--(it seems it was painted there)--'and hoped it would prove a substitute until the original was always by her, to 'give her that love which the picture, faithful as it was, could not bestow.' These were the very words; I did not see how it ended, but I read his name signed in full at the bottom of the page, just as I heard her step."

"I can't believe you, Harriet."

"I can't believe my own eyes yet; but I tell you the living truth. What will ma say? such bold-faced, shameless conduct"--(Miss Harriet was not alluding to her own, dear ladies)--"I never heard of before. I think Mrs. Jorden ought to know it."

At this crisis they were interrupted by "ma" herself, who was "cheapening" a piece of bleached muslin at the front counter of Gurnsey & Yerry's, and called to them as they passed. After a wonder at the length of their visit, and a promise to the polite shopman that she would call some other day, (an indefinite promissory note which he well understood, as meaning his goods were too high, and she would go where they could be purchased cheaper,) the happy trio proceeded down the street.

Harriet's information produced an effect even greater than she had anticipated. Mrs. Harden was absolutely horror struck! She protested such things should not be allowed in a Christian community; that every woman in Rivertown ought to set her face against such a bold piece as Mary; and, for her part, Harriet was forbidden, from that day, to darken Mrs. Butler's door.

Sketch the Second. More of Mary Butler. Chapter III

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Seeing South Bay Revisited

With permission, I am reproducing photographs of the South Bay that were part of the presentation at yesterday's LWRP information session. They show the South Bay as it is today and reveal it as a place worth caring about.

Also part of the presentation was a video about the restoration of Gooseneck Cove in Rhode Island. Although Gooseneck Cove is a saltwater marsh and the South Bay a freshwater wetland, the similarities are clear. A memorable and important quote from the video: "Restoring marshes is more important now than ever before."

Friday, March 5, 2010

LWRP Information Session TOMORROW

A Task Force that has been studying the draft GEIS and LWRP since mid-January will conduct an information session tomorrow morning, Saturday, March 6, from 10 a.m. to noon at Space 360. The event will consist of a Power Point presentation and a panel discussion by members of the Task Force, focusing on the issues of wetlands, transportation, public safety, harbor management, the Broad Street railroad crossing, and zoning.

This is the third in a series of information sessions that's been billed as the "LWRP School." If you want to submit written comments about the draft GEIS and LWRP, but you haven't found the time to read and digest the two hefty documents, this event can help you understand what's at stake.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hudson Historic Districts

A map now exists of our locally designated historic districts, which includes a list (along the right) of all the individually designated sites. Enormous thanks go to Bob Mechling for using his considerable skills in the service of historic preservation to put this together and to City Clerk Tracy Delaney for so promptly responding to my FOIL request and providing all the boundary descriptions.

The map is being distributed to all the members of the Historic Preservation Commission and will soon be on the City of Hudson website.

Miss Harden and Miss Mitchell Pay a Visit

Time for another excerpt from The Gossips of Rivertown. In this episode, the younger generation of talebearers--Miss Harriet Harden and Miss Adeline Mitchell--pay a visit to the subject of their gossip: Miss Mary Butler.

Mary Butler was resolutely practising one of Herz's most brilliant variations when the threatened visit was paid. She did not feel quite at ease as the ladies entered, for she had never liked them, and there was an air of remarkable warmth in their salutations that disconcerted her. However, she tried to conceal her vexation, and kindly entered into the brisk conversation which they at once commenced.

The magazines with which the centre-table was strewn, served to commence a discussion on the relative merits of their fashionplates, and Mary was not a little amused at their decision in favor of that which displayed the most ungraceful figures. From fashions to Miss Martin was an easy transition—"Did Miss Butler ever employ her?"

Mary smiled a little as she replied that, from motives both of taste and economy, she had always chosen to make her own dresses.

The young ladies exchanged glances at this open confession, and Miss Mitchell asked if she had never met Miss Martin at Mrs. Jorden's. Yes, Miss Butler remembered having seen her there two or three days before; she recollected it perfectly, for Mr. Jorden was to have come in that evening, and practised a new duet, but something had prevented.

A second fire of glances was here exchanged, and the young ladies looked back at Mary to see if she was not confused. But strange to say, there was no sign of embarrassment upon her face. Yet she did not seem at ease after all, for she started every time the garden gate opened; they noticed that particularly; and once she went to the window, but it was only the boy from a neighbouring grocery store, with his basket of brown paper parcels.

Conversation languished. Adeline waited for her friend to give the signal for the termination of their call. But no--that young lady was determined to know more of the matter which had occupied her thoughts for the past twenty-four hours. So she recommenced the discussion before alluded to, calling Adeline's attention to a new style of mantilla which had before escaped their observation. Just at this juncture a loud knock--few Rivertown houses can boast of bells--startled them all, and much to the astonishment of her visitors, Mary ran to the street door herself.

They had scarcely time to make a whispered comment, when she re-entered the room with a small parcel in her hand, looking very much flushed and excited, and bade the messenger wait until she saw whether an answer was required. A triumphant glance from Harriet directed Miss Mitchell's attention to the person of Mrs. Jorden's man-servant, who stood leaning against the hall-door, and back again to the deep blush, yes, an unmistakeable blush, that rose to Mary Butler's forehead as she perused the note that accompanied the parcel. Then she tore off the envelope, displaying--could they believe the evidence of their own senses!--a miniature case!

At first she seemed quite to have forgotten their presence, but as she gave one hurried glance at its contents she recalled herself, and begging them to excuse her absence a moment, left the room to write a note of reply. The miniature she evidently forgot in her haste, and it was left lying upon the table in dangerous proximity to Miss Harriet, with the note carelessly beside it.

Miss Harden directed a half-guilty, half-curious look towards her friend; a similar glance responded. But no--they could not so fairly sin against good-breeding, even with such a stimulus; and Adeline Mitchell began turning over the music upon the piano. A new waltz was lying upon the rack, and she ran her fingers over the keys to try it. She really possessed some little musical skill, and becoming interested in the beautiful melody, did not look up until the re-entrance of Mary Butler. As she turned, she noticed that Harriet seemed deeply absorbed in a book she had opened, and that she started with a heightened colour as Mary Butler made an apology for keeping them waiting so long.

Moreover, she did not quite understand why she rose in such haste directly after, and declared she had forgotten an engagement to shop with her mother that morning. As they closed the garden gate, on leaving the house, Harriet called her attention to the parlour window, and she distinctly saw Mary Butler press the miniature to her lips as she took it from its resting-place.

Sketch the Second. More of Mary Butler. Chapter III

Whose miniature it is? All--well, almost all--will be revealed in the next excerpt from The Gossips of Rivertown.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Footnote to History: Stephen T. B. Heermance

From The Evening Register, May 5, 1874:
Samuel T. B. Heermance, Esq., was next called upon, and seizing the spade in his brawny hand, like one innured to work, and in earnest in whatever he undertakes, he said:

Gentlemen:-- Spades appear to be "trumps" to-day, and as I have been invited, I cannot refuse to "take a hand." The officers of the New York Coral and Shell Marble Company, I think, will bear out my assertion that I have aided them all in my power to further their enterprise. I have not only parted with my land that they might run their railroad track through it, but I sacrifice my quiet repose to the resounding of the steam whistle and the rattling of railroad cars through these solitudes. But as I have been guaranteed a "free pass" over the road, I am reconciled to all the threatened discomfitures.
Stephen Heermance participated in the groundbreaking for the new railroad, offering these rather wistful remarks, and even hosted a "bountiful repast" afterward in his home, but he didn't stay living in the stone house beside the railroad.

Although the Heermance family had lived on the site and farmed the land that sloped down to South Bay since the seventeenth century, after he sold the parcel F. W. Jones needed for his railroad, Stephen Heermance moved into Hudson and lived in this house at the southern end of "brick row" on East Court Street. Later he moved to Brooklyn, where he lived for the remainder of his life.