Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hudson Avenue--Its History and Its Future

Hudson Avenue had an interesting beginning. Possibly the shortest street in Hudson, it started out, a little more than a century ago, as nothing more than an access route to the new Gifford-Wood plant.

Gifford-Wood Company, c. 1915
We may think that governmental bodies making concessions to keep established businesses from moving to a different location, as happened recently with Ginsberg's Institutional Foods, is a fairly new phenomenon, but it happened in Hudson in 1907, and Hudson Avenue is one of those concessions. 

On May 24, 1907, a letter to the mayor of Hudson, whose name was coincidentally Henry Hudson, appeared on the front page of the Columbia Republican. The letter was from the Gifford-Wood Company. It made reference to a resolution passed by the Common Council on April 25, 1907, "which expressed the wish that our corporation might find a suitable site within the city limits for the location of its Arlington and Hudson plants, and which also assured us of the hearty co-operation of the city government to further such a plan." The letter goes on to say that "the Stackpole property, commonly known as Second Hill, is the only available site in the city of Hudson suitable, under certain conditions, for the location of a factory capable of manufacturing the combined product of their Arlington and Hudson plants." Then the "certain conditions" were outlined. Gifford-Wood sought concessions from the railroad--"the side track and switching privileges usually accorded to manufacturers on railroad lines"--and from the City of Hudson:
. . . the concessions from the city of Hudson to be such as any manufacturer or tax payer would have a right to expect--i.e., adequate water supply, sewage, lighting facilities, and good approaches--the latter to be obtained by improving the road from East Court street to the N. Y. C. freight station via Power avenue, for heavy teaming, the regrading of East Court street hill, the declaring of East Allen street open from Fifth street to a new 50-foot street to be opened and graded from Union street between Fifth street and Sixth street, and ending at the top of Second Hill on an even grade in order that access may be provided to and from the upper part of the city.
Hudson Avenue is that "new 50-foot street," probably named for Mayor Henry Hudson, who it seems was a great proponent of keeping Gifford-Wood in Hudson. But the new street didn't happen by mayoral fiat. There was a referendum to authorize a special tax to pay for the new street. On July 30, 1907, the front page of the Columbia Republican trumpeted the results of the referendum.

In truth, the "Tidal Wave of Votes" doesn't seem like much of a tidal wave today. In all, 694 votes were cast: 502 in favor of the special tax; 192 against it. What is interesting about this referendum is that only taxpayers (i.e., property owners) were allowed to vote, and women--"the largest number ever seen at an election in Hudson"--voted, ten years before women won the right to vote in New York State and thirteen years before the women's suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed. The Columbia Republican's account of the day betrays the paper's bias and merits quoting for the vivid snapshot of Hudson it offers.
At 7 o'clock in the morning, when the voting began, there was a good sized crowd at the City Hall, and it increased every hour thereafter while the balloting was in progress. Many women voted, the largest number ever seen at an election in Hudson. All day long there was a constant line of people in front of the City Clerk's office waiting to vote, there being somebody ready to take the places of those who had voted and dropped out.
Automobiles and carriages were pressed into service by those who were for and those who were against the special tax and all who wanted a free ride to the City Hall and back home again got it with pleasure. The contest started in brisk and during the first few hours it was difficult to tell which side was getting the most votes, but the well-organized forces of those who favored the expansion had the best of it thereafter, for it was plain to be seen that the obstructionists were getting bewildered.
The rivalry, however, did not let up until the poles [sic] were declared closed, and after the women had departed many more men assembled to learn the result when the count had been completed. The announcement was hailed with shouts of approval. The tooting of automobile horns then began and the blowing of steam whistles told the people of the city that the battle of Second Hill had been fought and that a brilliant victory had been won.
The Gifford-Wood plant, which was in jeopardy, will now remain in Hudson, and on Second Hill will be erected the greatest industry that Hudson has ever had. The people of this city should rejoice, for it means more than they anticipate for the welfare of Hudson.
The following may be the most interesting paragraph from the account:
One of the most conspicuous workers at the polls yesterday was Mayor Hudson. He wore a white silk badge, as did all the other workers who were for the Second Hill proposition and a greater Hudson.
Photo: Virginia Martin
All this history of Hudson Avenue is by way of introduction to what could be a new chapter in the life of this street, which never developed much beyond being an access way to the factory building at the end, abandoned now for the past ten years. The Little League field, now Galvan Field, is on the east side of the street, and there is a single mid-20th century house on the west side.

At the Planning Board meeting last Thursday, a new project for Hudson Avenue was presented for site plan review. Walter Chatham, an architect, who described himself to the Planning Board as a "New Urbanist," is proposing to build four rowhouses along the west side of the street across from Galvan Field. 

A stumbling block for the project is that half of its proposed site is zoned R-3 (residential) and the other half is zoned I-1 (industrial). The industrial zoning has been maintained because of the old Gifford-Wood building, whose last industrial tenant was W. B. McGuire, maker of steel overhead doors, which closed the plant and departed Hudson in 2006.

The Planning Board referred the project to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a use variance.


  1. Sure hope all the "urban renewal" landfill will support the proposed structure(s).

  2. Interesting history

    I was hoping that the city would consider this site for the police station and court building. It's 3 acres and has better access. Town homes are good also.

    Redevelopment for tax rolls is what the City needs.

  3. Galvan Field???!!!. How about the Gall-o-Way for Warren Street.