Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Pursuing the History of Oakdale Lake

Last month, Gossips reported finding an item in the Hudson Evening Register for January 9, 1916, that shed light on the origin of Oakdale Lake. The item, which promoted ice skating on the lake, identified it in this way: "It's the artificial lake which was made this summer on the Farrand & Watson building tract just above Underhill pond." 

Given their proximity, some have surmised that Oakdale Lake and Underhill Pond were once a single waterbody. The 1888 atlas map shows the original shape of Underhill Pond, when Sixth Street ended at Washington Street and the Boulevards didn't exist.

The shape of Underhill Pond today is quite different.

In her History of the City of HudsonAnna Bradbury explains the origin of the name Underhill Pond: "A fulling mill and flannel factory was built by Josiah Underhill, on the hill below Underhill's pond, which thus obtained its name." Earlier this week, local historian Joe D'Onofrio told Gossips that at sometime between the early 19th century, when it got the name Underhill Pond, and today, the waterbody was known as Lake George and the area around it was called Power's Woods, because the entire area was owned by George H. Power, who in his time was one of the richest men in Hudson. Born in Hudson in 1817, Power owned the New York and Hudson Steamboat Company, the Hudson and Athens ferry, and the Hudson and Catskill ferry. For sixteen years, from 1865 to 1881, Power lived at 400 State Street, which he had fitted up to be his private residence. 

Although the name Lake George seems to have been short-lived (perhaps because there is larger, more famous lake in New York by the same name), the name Power's Woods hung on into the 20th century. In 1911, when F. M. Haviland was promoting his plan for creating a city park, the location of his proposed park was identified as "Powers Woods."

What's interesting about the above map, which appeared in the Hudson Evening Register for August 31, 1911, is that the area proposed for the park contains no waterbody, and the east shore of Underhill Pond retains the shape that it had in 1888. Sixth Street, which now continues north and flows into Glenwood Boulevard, passes over only a small stream that feeds into one of the arms of the pond. It appears that the map supports the idea that Oakdale Lake is an artificial lake.

Recently, Jack Connor, who lives near Oakdale Lake, shared information that provides insight into its origins. "If you kayak on the lake when it is clear (which doesn't happen very often)," Connor told Gossips, "you can see the stumps that were left when trees were cut down and the lake was created."

The search for a newspaper account of Oakdale Lake's creation continues.


  1. On the 1911 'Powers Woods' plan, the southernmost stream entering Underhill Pond is still in existence. It reaches the pond from Railroad Avenue through a ravine behind the Oakdale parking lot.

    This degraded stream collects the runoff from as far away as the new Speedway gas station; from a usual winter's piles of municipal snow from the parking lot immediately above (across from the Central Fire Station); and from a SPDES outfall (#006) on Railroad Avenue. The Combined Sewer Overflows from this outfall may be quite rare, but according to the DPW last year, none of these outfalls are checked.

    I invited a DEC inspector to look at some noxious-looking effluent leaking from a pipe into the ravine, but his inspection was inconclusive, other than to say that the City's sewer map was wrong. He agreed the effluent wasn't pretty.

    If we had a Commissioner of Parks (why don't we?), we would ask her to begin the long-range planning required to improve the water quality of Underhill Pond. That would give a boost to future generations who'll still need to fix what needs fixing, but on the way to a broader and more coherent park which embraces both City-owned water bodies.

    Last night, a few of us considered completing a plan which the unapproved waterfront program could not - the proposal to expand the State's Coastal Area boundary to include Underhill and Oakdale.

    Very small steps, but all in the right direction.

  2. There are great trails behind Oakdale Park that run from Railroad Ave to behind Spring Street. If those were cleaned up, it would make an excellent area for the dog park and recreation area.

    1. Yes, and those trails could connect up with the trail system being installed up and down the mid-Hudson.

      Looking upland from the North Bay, the Underhill to Oakdale to Spring Street gorge is like a little, natural canyon, which has always retained its greenness.

      It should all connect up someday, and I dare say it will.

    2. I failed to mention that people were told that the source of Oakdale Lake was from a spring most likely located in the far Eastern end near today's spring Street.

  3. May I suggest that the research regarding Oakdale Lake & Underhill Pond include the Spring Street area. I do believe that at one time in Hudson's past it was the source for a water supply to the citizen's of Hudson.

    1. Yes, that's exactly what I was thinking too.

      There's someone on our Conservation Advisory Council who's been researching the spring on Spring Street as a private historical interest.

      I noticed on some old maps, there's some interesting, abandoned, municipal plumbing in that area too.