Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hudson in 1905

Recently a reader shared with me his discovery of a booklet entitled Illustrated Hudson, N.Y., compiled by the Industrial Advertising Company of America, located in Kinderhook, and published in 1905. It's a promotional piece--an early 20th-century effort in what we now call economic development--lavishly illustrated with photographs and providing a glowing overview of the city and individual descriptions of all the businesses that existed here in 1905. It's a treasure trove of information about Hudson a century ago. 

Over the next several days, Gossips will serialize the text and illustrations from Illustrated Hudson, N.Y., publishing each day the description of a business, accompanied by a period photograph, if one is included, and photograph taken today of the business's location. Many thanks to Harold and Dolly for all their help and cooperation in making this possible. 

We begin with the overview of Hudson, attributed to Roland Bunten.

A General Illustrated Review of the City of Today.
For the last half century the city of Hudson has gradually regained much of its old time splendor and prosperity. Like a great many of the very old cities of the country, it has experienced its rise and its decline; but unlike the majority of such municipalities, it has passed through the period of decadence with no great or lasting harm to itself and is once again assuming that position among the other cities of the State which bespeaks much for the highest future success.

Hudson is the third oldest city in the State of New York, having been chartered and incorporated in 1785. The site upon which it now stands was chosen by those sturdy whale fishermen from Rhode Island and Nantucket, the first proprietors of the township, because of its trade facilities and the healthfulness and picturesqueness of the locality. That these men made no mistake in their selection cannot be doubted. Although other cities have sprung into existence not many miles distant since that early time, places that command greater trade conveniences and are nearer to the business centres of the world, the ancient city of Hudson still stands preeminent among the towns along the Hudson River for its invigorating air and the splendor of its scenic surroundings.

It is not to the point, however, in the present work to say a great deal concerning the past history of the city; how the inhabitants prospered for more than a generation, under the superior leadership of those staunch first settlers, with such men as Thomas Jenkins and Cotton Gelston among them; how the business decline began early in the nineteenth century and continued until almost the year 1859; how the city has since risen, Phoenix-like, out of the ashes and ruins of its former self into a healthy, active and flourishing town, where mercantile pursuits and business enterprises are once more recognized and respected, and the population steadily increases year by year. Hudson was never "dead and finished"--as some of its oldest inhabitants have been led to believe. The city was merely dozing because the citizens had become sluggish and inactive in their regard for its highest welfare. What was needed during those years of municipal laziness, and what has since been applied, to the great benefit of the community, was an awakening, a spurring, to goad the city on to its earlier life and activity. Today Hudson is a city worthy of the name.

But the past is dead. Our business is with the present; with those who are now citizens of Hudson; with living men, their ways of living, activities, daily occupations, and what they are doing for the further advancement and prosperity of their native town.

Columbia County Courthouse--Henry S. Moul, Architect
Hudson, the county seat of Columbia county, is situated upon the banks of the noble river whose name it bears. It is one of the finest cities along these splendid shores, and is unsurpassed for the beauty of the scenery surrounding it. The magnificent Hudson River flows past in all its grandeur, while across its charming waters rise the beautiful Catskills in their radiant glory and majesty, an inspiring sight to the traveler and seeker of pleasure and indicative of joy and health. The city is most favorably situated, being a railroad centre on the main line of the New York Central, connected by ferry with the West Shore Railroad and reached in summer by the day line steamers from New York City and Albany. The elevated position of the town is a marvelous benefit in itself. It rises almost fifteen hundred feet above the level of the sea, and the entire country is sufficiently rolling to afford a natural and excellent drainage.

The climate is delightful during every season of the year, and especially cool and refreshing in the summer. By means of a system of city pumps there is provided an abundance of spring water which conduces to the healthfulness of the place and produces that ruddy and jolly complexion met with constantly among the people.

The population of the city has varied at times, but very rarely. Although it has stood stock still for long periods at a stretch, yet the census reports from decade to decade show a gradual but steady increase in the number of inhabitants. According to the latest census the figure is given at twelve thousand.

Promenade Park
The manufacturing interests and commercial welfare of Hudson have changed from time to time, and the occupations that once possessed the thoughts of the old proprietors of the settlement have now given place to modern methods of making money. Whenever the business prosperity of Hudson has been retarded, it was always due to public calamities or the forming of new towns with her citizens. There are located here at the present time thirty-seven incorporated companies, besides numerous other business establishments. The wholesale and retail trades are excellently taken care of by merchants who are perfectly capable; there being a large number of stores representing almost every line and branch of business.

For a city of its size Hudson is especially fortunate in possessing four well capitalized banking institutions, the combined capital of the four aggregating a sum that exceeds $600,000.00. Such a standing, above all things else, indicates the increased prosperity of the community and is an assurance of the best financial backing for inducing new enterprises to establish here and for opening up more home industries.

Besides the banks, the real estate and insurance offices are plentiful, there being fourteen in all. The leading life and fire insurance companies of America are represented and, owing to the abundance of available property in and about Hudson, a large real estate business is annually transacted.

Educational advantages are by no means neglected in Hudson. Free education was begun in the year 1816 and has been supported ever since at the public expense. At the present time the city government affords one of the finest systems of free schools to be found in the Empire State, a system whose usefulness was recognized as early as 1841. The only private schools conducted here are the Hudson Academy and the Saint Mary's School.

Sixth Street School
Allen Street School
High School
The first families that took up their abode in the old colony were of the Quaker persuasion, and they flourished until the downfall of their religious society some fifty or more years later. Now the city can boast of thirteen churches, representing all the most important religious denominations, the Presbyterians being in the lead as the next oldest sect to the Quakers. 

Special mention should be made and the highest praises should be showered upon the Hudson Fire Department. This is a thoroughly volunteer organization, consisting of six superb hose companies, every one of which is made up of men who have their hearts set upon the duties they may at any time be called upon to perform, and men who will fight to the bitter end to protect the city's property. Great service has been rendered to the city at large by these companies in the past, and the citizens are enormously proud of the department and show their gratitude by means of substantial gifts and donations. The hose houses occupied by the firemen have been reared at the instigation of various benefactors to the city and have been named after them. Benefits are attached to membership in the department, and the organization is in every respect regulated to the highest pitch of perfection.

The above facts will, it is hoped, convince all seekers of homes and men who are expecting to establish business enterprises that they can do no better than select for their purposes such a city as Hudson. There was a time when capital, wealth and people were turned away from Hudson by the false report and mysterious feeling that the place was "dead." On the contrary, it has been proved to be very much alive and energetic. The latest and most trustworthy historian of the town has the following summary to make: "We claim for Hudson, and especially from those who have gone from among us, the credit due it for just what it is, a healthy, pleasant, improved, living and growing place, neither dead, deserted, half-populated nor in the midst of melancholy surroundings."


  1. What a find!.Thanks to you and your reader who found this, for sharing it.I look forward to each installment.So many parallels to today and such great insights into the past.
    I have a million questions to drive you crazy,so I will limit my self to one..OK two.
    First ,what cross street on Warren and what buildings are we looking at on the front piece illustration..and Two,What is that large cylinder structure on the left side of Promenade park photo?

    This would have been printed just two yrs before courthouse ,burned to the ground.

    It always makes me sad to see a photo of the 4th St School,that Scalera as Mayor, just tore down for no reason in 1994,for a parking lot,that he is now pushing the CC to sell to his employer GalVan,when it isn't even up for sale.

    1. To answer your first question, Prison Alley, I don't think the cover image is Hudson at all. I strikes me that the entire cover image is a plate, into which "Hudson, N.Y." was dropped, and the city street depicted is a generic city street. I imagine the Industrial Advertising Company of America did similar booklets for lots of cities--in New York and possibly beyond.

      To answer your second question, it's a smoke stack. There was a vast amount of industry on the waterfront in 1905. If I could insert images into comments, I would show you a photograph of the area south of Promenade Hill almost solid with buildings--industrial and commercial--surrounding the ferry slips.

      To be fair, Scalera didn't tear down the Fourth Street School--the old high school--"for no reason." The building, which was then privately owned, was suffering demolition by neglect. The roof, I'm told, had fallen in. That was the justification for razing it--not adequate justification IMO but enough for him.

    2. Thanks Carole.
      I am really excited about this new series.
      Too bad there weren't any roofers or HPC in Hudson in 1994.Since the school was privately owned,I would guess it met the same fate of the ccClub,an ultimatum to fix and stabilize it ,as it was deemed unsafe, or city would demolish it,at owners expense.Meaning taxpayers expense,to be repaid by owner,or City would seize property,which since the city owns the parking lot,it's probably what happened.
      Speaking of which,I have heard nothing about Singletary refunding the over $70,000 of taxpayer's money City spent on demo. ,which was supposed to be on her 2011 tax bill this past April.
      The City fronting the expense of the demo with our taxes, has to pay us back,if she doesn't.The fate of that empty lot on N3rd and Columbia concerns me, as it is one door down from me.Scalera really wanted his hands on it,but Singletary wouldn't give it to him and walk away free and clear of demo costs,that Scalera offered.
      The "City" is us.So if she doesn't eventually pay, that land will belong to us.Not Scalera or any other City Official.Same with that parking lot on 4th and State.How can CC be able to sell any land that belongs to the citizens ,without them approving the sale or price?I do not understand how this works.

    3. Prison Alley--My apologies. When I told you the column you asked about was a smokestack, I thought you were asking about the "large cylinder structure" at the RIGHT of the picture not the LEFT. A flag has flown from that spot since at least the mid-19th century, so I always took the structure you asked about to have something to do with the base of the flagpole. I certainly don't think, as a reader suggested, think that "some subterranean facility existed below Promenade Hill, and exhausted its airborne waste via a stack, in the exact location of our flag pole."

    4. After you replied,I
      figured you meant the the stack on the left,which is equally interesting.Maybe they had that wooden structure around flag pole base ,to keep mischief makers from "shimming up the flag pole",or the flag pole itself,really needed to be shimmed up?

    5. We're both having problems telling right from left!

  2. I went to school in the old 4th street building. At that time, it was used primarily for 7th grade. The students traveled between the two buildings (the 4th street school and the Junior High, which is now the building where the Board of Elections is housed). Prior to that, in 1960, 61, or 62., the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the building burned, the City closed the third floor but still used it for many years. I can remember wanting to sneak up and see the 3rd floor but pad locks prevented that. I understand what burned was a beautiful auditorium.

  3. Carole:
    You do for the History, reporting, & open communications relative to the City of Hudson & its residients better than anyone.
    I can only imagaine the amount of time you put in for your blog each day.
    But I will continue to say this until I die (I'm 61, born in Hudson)it is time that a committee is formed to compile a report on the funding & future development for a Hudson City Museum. I do not have the necessary talents to do so.
    Your readers are quick to send in Historical facts, documents, photos, etc. but then what happens to them. I always wonder what's out there that is not being shared.
    I imagine a museum that includes details of the American Indians, Henry Hudson, The Dutch, (at one time I believe Hudson had a "sister" city in The Netherlands) Whaling, Manufacturing, of course the Prorietors, geneology, Hudson River School, Bard Bros. etc., River Steam Ships, Diamond St., Architecture, even a gift shop.
    Could someone help me please?
    Historic Hudson, HPC, City of Hudson, NYS, Gossips readers.
    Where do I send my donation?

    1. David Voorhees submitted this reply to tmdonofrio:

      At the time it was learned that 400 State Street was being put up for sale, I attempted to organize a museum board with the intention of creating a City of Hudson Museum similar to the Albany Institute of History and Art. I have always been amazed that a city with as ancient a history as that of Hudson's and having been the center for for not only the American industrial revolution but our nation's one truly indigenous art school, does not have a museum and study center related to it. I put together a proposal, spoke with numerous people, and put out feelers on the Internet. Numerous people did express interest.

      The idea has not died and I would be happy to reinvigorate it if enough people are so disposed.

      David William Voorhees, Ph.D.

  4. Those interested in a Hudson history museum might want to contact the Colimbia County Historical Society, which has been in business for almost 100 years. You might save a lot if effort by teaming up with them, perhaps creating a Hudson unit or branch. They have a collection, a curator, proper non-profit status &c &c. Plus a lot of material related to Hudson. Starting and then maintaining a proper museum is not easy.

    -- Jock Spivy

    1. Very sound advice.This might be a way to get the DAR's small museum ,involved as well.