Thursday, December 13, 2012

Just When You Think You Know the Answer . . .

Frank Langlois's letter to the editor of the Evening Register, written in 1913, said Allen Street was named "in honor of the man who gave to the city a great industry." That could only be Richard N. Allen, the inventor of the Allen paper car wheel, and what could be more reliable than a one-hundred-year-old primary source? What indeed.

Two readers--both history buffs who live on or near Allen Street--were quick to point out that Allen Street existed, with that name, long before Richard Allen established his Paper Car Wheel Works in Hudson. (Early on, when the street extended up from the river only as far as Second Street, it was called Federal Street.) One of these readers lives in a house that was built on Allen Street in 1850. Even my own humble house on Allen Street predates the Allen Paper Car Wheel Works by six years. So, Langlois's letter notwithstanding, Allen Street couldn't have been named for the inventor of the Allen paper car wheel. So, as with Warren Street, we are left with two possibilities: Allen Street might have been named for William Henry Allen or William Howard Allen, both naval heroes.

William Henry Allen was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1784. As a lieutenant in command of the USS Argus in the War of 1812, Allen captured twenty British ships before being mortally wounded by cannon fire in a battle with the HMS Pelican. Allen Street in New York City (First Avenue below Houston) was named for him, as was Allen Street in Albany.

Another possibility is that Allen Street was named for Hudson's own Lieutenant Allen--William Howard Allen. This William H. Allen was born right here in Hudson in 1790. In 1822, he was in command of the USS Alligator when it was sent to the West Indies to battle pirates. He was mortally wounded while attacking three pirate ships and was buried with military honors in Matanzas, Cuba. The citizens of Hudson, however, wanted their heroic native son returned home, so the Common Council passed a resolution asking the Navy to bring Allen's remains back to New York, and five years later, in 1827, the request was fulfilled. His remains were carried by steamboat from New York City to Hudson and interred beneath this monument in the Hudson City Cemetery.


  1. Great monument and family plot!

  2. According to Anna Bradbury it was renamed on honor of our own William Howard Allen: "The fine marble monument which marks the grave of
    Lieut. Allen was erected to his memory by the citizens of
    his native place in 1833, and on the extension of Federal
    street to Fifth, two years later, it was with one accord
    renamed Allen street in honor of Lieut. Howard Allen." (page 109 of her history).

    1. Thanks, Ray! I'll certainly accept Anna Bradbury as the definitive word on this issue, but it's curious that Frank Langlois, writing his letter in 1913, only five years after Mrs. Bradbury's book was published (1908), has a different explanation. We are a city of contrarians!