Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hudson's Lost Historic District, Part III

Today, as promised (but a little belatedly), Gossips continues with the inventory of buildings that were part of the 1970 National Register Front Street-Parade Hill-Lower Warren Street Historical District but no longer exist. This time we feature Promenade Hill and the buildings immediately adjacent to it. 


Parade Hill was designated as a public area by the Proprietors on October 14, 1785, a decision which was confirmed by additional resolutions adopted by the Proprietors in 1790 and 1795. Sometime later a two-story octagonal structure, called the "Round House," used as an observatory and a refreshment stand, was built. Other improvements evidently were not made until 1834 (Miller, [Sketches of Hudson]), when a fence was erected and walks laid out. Informally known as "Round-House Hill," it was renamed "Parade Hill" when the 1834 improvements were made, although the earliest directory for the city published in 1852 indicates that the terms "Parade Hill" and "Prominade [sic] Hill" were used interchangeably. In 1878 further improvements were made. A retaining wall was constructed along the west and south boundaries and a new iron fence constructed. Benches were installed, and walks and landscaping improved. In 1896 General John Watts DePeyster, the last patroon of the Lower Claverack Manor, presented the city with a statue of St. Winifred, which was placed in the park.

Parade Hill is bounded by Prison Alley on the north, Parade Alley on the east, Pennoyer Street on the south and the iron fence at the edge of the bluff to the west. It retains its original size and scale and commands an impressive view up and down the Hudson River. The character of Parade Hill is very much dependent on its scale and size, consequently the existing old buildings of Prison Alley, Parade Alley and West Warren Street are crucial for the definition and containment of the public open space, as well as its scale.

WEST PRISON ALLEY North Side (West of North Front Street)

Two and one-half story dwelling, three bays wide on west Prison Alley, four bays wide on North Front Street, gabled roof, wood cornice, modern siding, simple Federal stair railing on interior.

4  Two-story wood dwelling, three bays wide, flat roof, modern siding.

10  One and one-half story wood dwelling, high basement, two bays wide, gabled roof.

12  Three-story wood dwelling, three bays wide, flat roof, verandahs across second and third stories, modern siding.

14  Two-story wood dwelling, three bays wide, gabled roof, modern siding.

16-18  Two and three-story wood dwelling, flat roof, bay windows, bracketed cornice, peaked roof over tower, bracketed entranceways.

NORTH PARADE ALLEY (North of West Warren Street)

Two-story wood dwelling, four bays wide, gabled roof, bracketed cornice, pedimented doorway.

WEST WARREN STREET North Side (Between Front Street and Parade Hill)

One and two-story brick firehouse of Washington Fire Company Number 3; rear portion has bracketed cornice.

This lot has always been used for public purposes. On June 28, 1784, the Proprietors voted that a market house be built on this site at their expense; it was to be 20 x 30 feet in plan. Shortly afterwards stocks and a whipping post were erected on the square, and Thomas Jenkins erected a hay scale. This was called the first or lower market. Another market house was built in 1807.

4  Three-story frame dwelling, brick basement, five bays wide, mansard roof with dormers, bracketed cornice, modern siding.

8  Two-story frame dwelling, five bays wide, flat roof, bracketed cornice, modern asphalt siding.
Imagine what Promenade Hill was like when it was surrounded by buildings oriented toward it and could be seen and approached from different directions. Promenade Hill as it was meant to be was a gracious and integral part of the built environment of west end of the city. Today it is hidden from view, its perimeters defined by a chain link fence, and accessible, like a box canyon, from only one point.  

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