Monday, January 5, 2015

Tales of Hudson and Greenport

As is generally known, the City of Hudson originally included all the surrounding area that is now the Town of Greenport. How and why the division of Hudson and Greenport took place is described in Greenport: The Forgotten Town, a booklet published in 1987 to commemorate Greenport's sesquicentennial. 
As the population of Hudson grew, the City became thickly settled in the section nearest the River. By 1787, 1,500 people lived in 500 houses standing shoulder to shoulder down town. This necessitated things like paved streets, street lighting, police and fire protection and a well organized form of local government. Those in the outlying districts of this large tract found themselves paying for services which, at least at the site of their homes, were of very little use to them. There had been unrest for some time, and finally, in 1837, a committee which was probably headed by Oliver Wiswall contacted the New York State Legislature, requesting that a town be raised around the perimeters of the City. This was done on May 13, 1837, and Hudson was thereby clasped in Greenport's confining arms which dipped into the Hudson River on its north and south borders.
There is an unsubstantiated story (unsubstantiated by Gossips, at least) that, early in the 20th century, there was a plan to re-annex part of Greenport with Hudson. This account, from Greenport: The Forgotten Town, of Greenport's first housing development, known as the Friss Tract, sheds some light on that.
Greenport's first real housing development began in 1920, the brain child of William D. Friss. The original purchase covered Homestead Park in the vicinity of Hartwell Avenue, and in May 1920, negotiations were started to make this land part of the City of Hudson. Surveyed by Michael J. O'Hara, the city engineer, it was agreed that Mr. Friss would install sewer and water mains at an estimated cost of $4,700, and with the completion of an anticipated modernized City Charter, he would be reimbursed. Water mains were laid, and a sewer connected with the Aitken Avenue main in Hudson, a facility which is probably still in use by some Greenport residents. But the plan to make it all a part of Hudson was never put into effect. Mr. Friss said Hudson could see no future in the plan, but Greenport bought the idea!
The land covered what had been for many years a popular ball field known as Homestead Park. The original acquisition was the Curry and Storm property and was bought from Timothy Leary who ran the Colonial Inn on what is now Hartwell Avenue. This building had 18 rooms, and the land covered nine acres. In the beginning, a group of well known men in the community were to make the purchase and erect a number of up-to-date houses for sale, but all dropped out except Friss.
From the Inn, he removed the back portion, and this was sold to Carl Tresselt who moved it across the Claverack road where it became his home. The hotel's third storey was taken off, and an elliptical porch was built at the front entrance. The entire structure was remodelled into an attractive private dwelling to which the Friss family moved. The whole area was marked out into building lots, and Friss began to sell them, erecting some of the new homes himself. . . .
It was [Friss's] dream that this project would satisfy the needs of people wishing to live in solitude and quiet, and the original deeds specified that no commercial property could be established there.
When William Friss died, July 3, 1949, more than 90 homes had been completed on the tract, and plans were underway for about 60 more. Among the streets included in the development were Hartwell Avenue, Milo Street, Janis Street, Ten Broeck Avenue, St. Charles Place, Marie Street and Wortman Square.
From the description of the Colonial Inn provided in Greenport: The Forgotten Town, one might conclude that the building that became the Friss residence is 4 Hartwell Avenue.

Greenport historians, is this the case? If so, does the back part of the house, which was sold to Carl Tresselt and moved across the road, still exist?


  1. "This was done on May 13, 1837, and Hudson was thereby clasped in Greenport's confining arms which dipped into the Hudson River on its north and south borders" (from "Greenport: The Forgotten Town").

    "Into" the river can be taken literally, unless Greenport relinquished the underwater lands previously granted by the legislature to Hudson's proprietors.

    In 2012, the state Supreme Court Appellate Division revisited the issue within the city's current limits and concluded that the only underwater lands ever granted lay "directly opposite to the tract of land so purchased by [the proprietors] as aforesaid from high water mark one hundred and eighty feet to the channel of the said river in a course north fifty-seven degrees west ..." (Chapter 83 the Laws of the State of New York of 1785, p. 162).

    In other words, Greenport's clasp reaches 180 feet into the Hudson River wherever there's an unobstructed course "directly opposite," and lying on an axis of north fifty-seven degrees west.

    But rather than solve the city's shore disputes once and for all, the Supreme Court opened a can of worms in Hudson.

    Where the court's decision should be applied equally to all of those properties which, in 1785, were not "in a course north fifty-seven degrees west [and] directly opposite its shore," today it's very clear that the court's decision applies to some properties but not to others.

    The current situation is an unjust double-standard, which cannot have been the intention of the court.

  2. We are all equal shareholders of the shore because,"The land beneath navigable water remains vested in the state."

    Form the National Organization For Rivers:

    Federal courts have confirmed that private ownership of the beds and banks of navigable rivers is "a bare technical title, always subject to public rights to use them...Scranton v. Wheeler, 179 U.S. 141 (1900)

    And that; the right of the public to use a waterway supersedes any claim of private ownership...United States v. Cress, 243 U.S.316 (1917)

    Lastly; This permanent public easement continues "regardless of who owns the riverbed" in various places along the river, and includes public rights to engage in "sports fishing and duck hunting." Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544 (1961)

    1 Riparian

  3. I just wish they would get their own zip code.

    1. In addition to a zip, Hudson and Greenport might consider a mutual (third) sewage treatment plant on the north side of HHS.

      While they're at it, another fishermen's wharf up in the second bay would help solve other "overflow" issues with fisherfolk, duck hunters and recreational boaters.

  4. Your Homestead Park post popped up on my computer tonight as though it was breaking news, and only now do I see it's from 2015. Undaunted, herewith, a dated response to a timeless subject:

    The present two-story house at no. 4 Hartwell avenue is indeed the former (1870s) Currie Mansion House, later owned by Thomas Leary (ca. 1897-1920), who continued its operation (from the early 1890s) as the Colonial Inn. Thomas Leary had been a notable member of Hudson's famous C. W. Hinsdale ball club of the 1880s, and while he owned the Homestead Park grounds, "did much to encourage the game in Hudson."

    The old Currie house and its eight-acre grounds had come to be known as the Old Homestead Park, running along the north side of Route 23B, from the Union Turnpike (Rt. 66) down to the present-day Greenport Fire House (built in 1926).

    The ball field developed at the east end of greater Homestead Park’s eight acres, beyond present-day Milo street, with the extreme end of the outfield almost touching the present-day Greenport Fire House, built in 1926.

    The ball field – with its famous wooden fence – was everybody’s common field of play, from as early as 1891 to at least 1923. The new Gifford-Wood team in the Columbia County Baseball League played there in 1921. Homestead Park served as Hudson High School’s home field for baseball and football as early as 1893. The annual Thanksgiving football game between Hudson High and its alumni was played at Homestead Park in 1923.

    Most famously, Homestead Park was the home grounds of Hudson’s only professional base ball team – the Hudson Marines – a charter member of the Hudson River League in 1903, and one of three teams still standing when the league folded mid-way through the 1907 season.

    Buffalo Bill and his Wild West show played “on the Homestead Park Circus Grounds” in July 1916.

    In ill health, “Teddy” Leary sold the eight-acre greater Homestead Park property, on May 6, 1920, to William D. Friss, who immediately set about developing the upper portion, laying out Hartwell avenue. Plans for “Homestead Park 1924” . . . “The old Homestead Park divided into 47 lots,” were posted in January 1921. But the old ball park portion of the Leary property was held out and was subsequently bought and sold several times before being reacquired by Friss and the Greenport Development Company, in July 1927, and only then did the venerated ball grounds (comprising lots 38-44) become part of the expansive William D. Friss “Little City” development, in Greenport, indeed.