Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Documents in the Case: The General Worth Hotel, Part III

On his blog, Sam Pratt quoted part of Ada Louise Huxtable's comments about the demise of the General Worth Hotel from her 1976 book Kicked a Building Lately?, but it's worth doing it again here. What she had to say about Hudson and the General Worth appears in a section called "Goodbye History, Hello Hamburger," in a chapter entitled "Failures." 

Usually landmarks are demolished for parking lots. . . . This is one of the most popular sports in cities. Urban renewal has drawn its demolition lines around uncounted (has anyone ever counted?) historic buildings and districts. Waterfronts, Federal survivals, Greek Revival enclaves, anything that has meaning in terms of the history, style, or sense of place of American communities is x-ed out first as the oldest, shabbiest, and easiest to demolish. . . .

In Hudson, New York, the same kind of senseless urban renewal plan claimed the 1837 Greek Revival General Worth Hotel. The Hudson YWCA was willing to take over the building and the Hudson River Valley Commission, the State Historical Trust, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation urged that it be saved. But political heads prevailed and Hudson demolished its National Register property. Ready for the biggest gag of all? Read it in the Hudson Register-Star:

"A modern Dairy-Queen Drive-In will be constructed on the site of the historic General Worth Hotel that fell victim to the bulldozers last year. The Common Council in special session voted to sell the site for $1,700. Council President Thomas Quigley said the purchase 'was a step in the right direction to develop downtown Hudson.'"

America the beautiful,
Let me sing of thee;
Burger King and Dairy Queen
From sea to shining sea.
March 31, 1971
Curiously, the Dairy Queen that was to be the engine of redevelopment in downtown Hudson ended up being built on Green Street, and after decades of being used for different purposes--a pharmacy, part of a car dealership--the building recently returned to its roots and became a local version of a Dairy Queen: Davi's Delights, owned by the last franchise owner of the Dairy Queen. Fortunately, a Burger King was never built in Hudson. That went to Greenport.

On the subject of Hudson demolishing its National Register properties, in 1970 the Front Street-Parade Hill-Lower Warren Street Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places. At that time, it included 95 buildings. In 1985 the boundaries of the district were decreased. The newly defined district contained only 25 buildings. The other 70 buildings had been lost to the bulldozers.

The picture above shows the General Worth Hotel in 1937, when it was a hundred years old. The quotation is from Ada Louise Huxtable, Kicked a Building Lately? (New York: Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1976), which is available through interlibrary loan at the Hudson Area Library.


  1. FYI, in the early 1980s, the federal Hudson Historic District was expanded to include most of Warren, Union, & Allen streets, as well as smaller pockets in other neighborhoods and a few individual sites. See

  2. To iwassupposed2baballerina:

    I wasn't talking about the Hudson Historic District, which, by my reading of the National Register, was created in 1985. I was talking about the Front Street-Parade Hill-Lower Warren Street Historic District, which was created in 1970. It would appear that designating this historic district, like the designating the General Worth Hotel, was a failed last-ditch attempt to stay the bulldozers. It would be interesting to examine the original designation documents for the earlier district to see what the 95 buildings that made up the district actually were.

  3. This demolition for a parking lot bring back memories of The Pryne Library on North Pearl Street in Albany.
    It wasn't a period piece, but an over the top reproduction of a grand Dutch townhouse - a true confection of stepped brick roof line, tile roof, patterned brick decorated walls, leaded glass windows, fanciful ironwork inside and out - and it was a most popular place.
    As soon as I got my license I would drive to the Pryne to study - or pretend to - just so I could be there.
    The Prynes were one of the ancient founding families of Albany and probably funded this folly.
    It was torn down for a gray cement parking garage.