Today, the Dr. Oliver Bronson House is isolated and inaccessible on the grounds of the Hudson Correctional Facility, but in the 19th century that wasn't the case. There is evidence that the estate and its residents were an integral part of Hudson. For reasons not yet understood, it appears that this was the only estate that did not secede from the City of Hudson when Oliver Wiswall and other major landowners decided to establish the Town of Greenport in 1837.
Throughout the 19th century, owners of the estate took an active role in the affairs of the City. Dr. Oliver Bronson served as a superintendent of schools from 1841 through 1853. A later owner, Caroline Whitney Phoenix, grandmother of architect Whitney Warren, was the patron of the Phoenix Hose Company, headquartered in one of the two firehouses on Park Place. Matilda McIntrye, one of the last owners of the house before it was taken over by the State of New York, was described in her obituary in 1914 as "well known in this city" and "dearly beloved by a host of friends."
One reason for the stronger connection between the Dr. Oliver Bronson House and the rest of the city was that, at one time, it was possible to travel as the crow flies from the house to the corner of Union and Seventh streets. This detail from the 1881 bird's-eye drawing of Hudson shows a footpath leading from the Bronson House to the gate house that stood just behind 701 Union Street.
It is the bridge that carried this footpath over the ravine that is the stuff of legend. The 1881 drawing is evidence that it existed, but no one has ever actually seen it.
Recently, Historic Hudson was thrilled to acquire a Rowles Studio photograph of the bridge, identified as "Phoenix Bridge" and very likely taken in the 1890s, around the same time as this picture of the house was taken.
On Saturday night, during Winter Walk, the rare picture of Phoenix Bridge will be displayed at the offices of Historic Hudson, on the second floor of 611 Warren Street. All are invited to get out of the weather for a bit (whatever the weather might be on Saturday night) and climb the stairs to the second floor to enjoy some eggnog and view the historic photograph of the legendary bridge.
COPYRIGHT 2014 CAROLE OSTERINK