Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fifty Years Ago in Hudson

Recently, Gossips was the grateful recipient of a copy of Hudson's 1965 Comprehensive Development Plan. There are several copies of this document in the History Room of the Hudson Area Library, and I've seen it many times, but this is the first time I've had my very own copy to peruse at my leisure and scan at will. So be prepared, readers, to learn a lot about Hudson and how the city perceived itself almost fifty years ago. Predictably, the first thing we will share is what the document has to say on the topic of historic architecture.
Hudson's history is reflected in its rich variety of nineteenth century architecture. Some interesting examples:
1. The oldest structure in the City, a small stone building near Power Avenue in "Simpsonville," was once--before the railroad cut the bays off from the river--on the riverfront.
Within five years of when this document was prepared, the houses that made up Simpsonville had been demolished, together with, presumably, this "small stone building" thought to be the oldest structure in Hudson.
2. The present Department of Public Works garage, although now dilapidated and soon to be leveled for a boat launch and parking lot, is one of the oldest factory structures in the City.
3. The present home of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the structure adjoining it to the east were built by Seth Jenkins and his son Robert; nearby is the Miller House on the corner of First Street.

4. The Labin Paddock house still stands, although in poor condition. (Labin Paddock helped Catherine the Great when her warship was in trouble, and the sword she sent him in gratitude is now in the Masonic Temple.)
According to Anna Bradbury, Laban (that's the correct spelling) Paddock's house was 117 Union Street. Fifty years later, it still stands, although no longer in poor condition. The Masonic Temple is now Mid-Hudson Media, and the whereabouts of Catherine the Great's sword is unknown.
5. Worth House, of Federal design, is on Union Street.

6. The Greek revival General Worth Hotel, rebuilt in 1836 after a fire, is across the street from the Howard Hotel, where Martin Van Buren stayed.
The General Worth Hotel, of course, was demolished in 1971. The building across the street did not become the Howard Hotel until 1894, so Martin Van Buren, who died in 1862, could not have stayed at the Howard Hotel, although he may have been a guest in the building when it was someone's residence.

 7. Among the many churches of particular interest are: the early Quaker Meeting House; the Greek revival St. Nicholas Ukranian [sic] Church on the corner of Second Street; Christ Protestant Episcopal Church, designed by William G. Harrison.
The County Courthouse fronts on handsome Washington Square (often called "Courthouse Square" by Hudson residents) which is bordered by some of the best maintained and most attractive nineteenth century buildings in the City. Facing toward the Courthouse at the northern end of Fourth Street is the beautiful stone structure housing the Library, a part of the school complex at the busy intersection of Fourth Street and State Street.
Throughout the older sections of the City box-like Nantucket cottages with large central chimneys are juxtaposed with richly ornamented frame Hudson River bracketed structures, simple Greek revival and elaborate Gothic revival or "gingerbread" homes. Architectural History Professor James Marsden Fitch commented after a recent visit to Hudson that the City contains many examples of Hudson River architectural style well worth preserving, and called the City "a dictionary of nineteenth century architecture." Structures of particular historic interest are largely concentrated west of Fourth Street, and those which are sturdy enough to warrant preservation are almost all south of Prison Alley. The preservation and restoration of Hudson's architectural heritage is an essential planning component for the redevelopment of the older section of the City (complementing the recently designated Historic Site of Olana) as well as an appropriate setting for new development.
Four years later, in 1969, when James Marsden Fitch came to town to advocate for the preservation of the General Worth Hotel, he was nearly run out of town. Despite the recommendation that preservation and restoration be "an essential planning component for the redevelopment of the older section of the City," the plan that was adopted and executed limited preservation and restoration to just a few blocks: the east side of South Front Street, the north side of the first block of Warren Street, and both sides of the 100 block of Warren Street. 

Even one of the buildings in the picture labeled "Warren Street Architecture" that appeared in the Comprehensive Development Plan is missing today.


  1. The demo of Simpsonville was atrocious..as a 13 year old at the time, I was saddened and still am all of these years later.

  2. If you go to eBay and search simpsonville ny you will find eight b/w images.