Thursday, July 16, 2015

Unexpected Discovery

No matter what their connection with St. Mary's Academy, whether or not they have happy memories of school days spent there, basketball games played in the gym, or church suppers prepared in the kitchen, most people acknowledge that architecturally the brick school building, constructed in 1956, is an unfortunate intrusion into a 19th-century neighborhood of stately homes. 

Photo: Sedat Pakay
People may be even more inclined to rue the school's presence when they are reminded of what once stood on that site: two quite extraordinary Second Empire mansions.

The first picture above shows most prominently (from right to left) 1 Willard Place and 2 Willard Place. (The rest of the houses to the left survive today, although 5 Willard Place is missing its third floor.) The second picture shows 2 Willard Place. The census for 1880 lists William Traver, whose occupation is given as "lumber dealer," and his family at 1 Willard Place, and Frederick Jessup, whose occupation is given as "coal dealer," and his family at 2 Willard Place.

Gossips has always assumed that the houses were acquired and demolished in the 1950s, to make way for the school, and therefore was astonished to discover that the fate of the houses was already sealed in 1916, just a little more than forty years after Willard Place had been created and these two houses, among the first on Hudson's only private street, had been built. Yesterday, quite by accident, I stumbled upon this news item, which appeared on the front page of the Hudson Evening Register for October 4, 1916.


It is not known--at least not by Gossips--what happened to the plan to erect "a handsome edifice on the newly acquired property within the next several years" or how long the two houses survived after being acquired by St. Mary's parish. We do know that there had to have been a change of heart, because the new church, which was completed in 1929, was erected not on the corner of Allen and Third streets but on the corner of East Allen and East Court.

The photographs that accompany this post are from Historic Hudson: An Architectural Portrait, by Byrne Fone.

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