Sunday, June 6, 2010

Thurston Park

Back in the 1990s, this little park in the 200 block of Warren Street was a dusty vacant lot used as a boccie court. That's when Carrie Haddad had the idea of turning it into a park--a restful place where people could sit and enjoy being outdoors. She took her idea--which also involved landscaping around the Boys & Girls Club--to Ann Vedder, who then headed up HCDPA (Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency). Vedder told her to submit a plan, and she would see what she could do about funding it.

Working with Ramon Lascano and various landscape designers, Haddad came up with a design: an elegantly simple allée of Bradford pear trees lined with park benches--vaguely reminiscent (in miniature) of Literary Walk in Central Park. Jeremiah Rusconi found the vintage fence to separate the park from the street, and HCDPA provided the funding: $14,000 for developing the park and for landscaping at the Youth Center. The plan for the park originally included beds of flowers and a second fence to separate off the children's playground at the back, but those elements of the plan were never implemented.

Early on, one of the trees in the middle of the allée, on the west side, died. DPW removed the dead tree but never replaced it. Now another tree--the one closest to the street on that side--is dead. With two trees gone, the imbalance in a park that was meant to be symmetrical will be hard not to notice.

The park was completed in 1997--coinciding with "The Secret Gardens of Hudson," a garden tour cosponsored by the Hudson Opera House and Historic Hudson. The new pocket park was included in the tour, and for the occasion, Historic Hudson gave the park a name: John Thurston Park. John Thurston was one of the original Proprietors and the first to own this plot of land after the City of Hudson was established.

When Ellen Thurston was named Citizen of the Year by the Hudson Rotary Club, Victor Mendolia arranged for City Hall Place, next to the Hudson Opera House, to be temporarily renamed "Thurston Place." He said at the time that he was going to try to get the Common Council to make the name change permanent. A better idea--and one that would not set a precedent for the kind of wholesale renaming of streets now going on the New York City--would be for the Common Council to make what was unofficial official and name the pocket park Thurston Park--for John Thurston, who was one of the founders of Hudson, and for Ellen Thurston, who 225 years later is one of its leading citizens. While they're at it, the Council should also officially designate the pocket park as parkland.


  1. Good idea. And why doesn't the City replace the lost trees in 'Thurston' Park. Surely it wouldn't cost too much.

  2. David William VoorheesJune 6, 2010 at 9:39 PM

    Naming Thurston Park for both Ellen and John Thurston is an excellent idea, particularly honoring Ellen for the work she did in arranging Mrs. Greenthumbs Day garden tours. They remain one of my favorite events in Hudson, and I hope one day the event will be revived. It provided a chance to gain a whole new perspective on the beauty of Hudson through its hidden gardens. And, yes, since my house faces the park, I'd like to see it fixed up.

  3. Does the city actually ever plant or replace trees?
    Or is it the responsibility of the property owner ?

  4. If Victor had pursued the idea of renaming City Hall Place after me, I would have declined the honor, on the grounds that "City Hall Place" is an historic name that peaks people's interest and reminds us of what was once there. Meanwhile, I have thought to do some research on John W. Thurston. I am sure we are related, since my ancestors supposedly worked in the mills in New England and migrated to New York State.

    Thanks to Victor (and I think Sarah Sterling had a hand in the temporary renaming too), and thanks for the thought about Thurston Park, Carole. Much as I would be honored to have a park named after me and my ancestors, I think a better tribute would be to name it after one of the New Proprietors and call it Haddad Park. --Ellen Thurston

  5. Carrie has done and will continue to do much for our community, but Ellen, you are too humble. Given its "historic name" I think the future, official name rightfully belongs to you. Hudson residents would be pleased to call it Thurston Park, in your honor.