Sunday, October 9, 2016

Eighty Years Ago in Hudson

Gossips has been paying a fair amount of attention recently to the design for the proposed addition to Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School, the school building of Colonial Revival design that was built during the Great Depression as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. The current situation has piqued my curiosity about the circumstances surrounding the construction of the historic building in 1936-1937.

We know from Walter First's wonderful scrapbook that in the early 1930s the student population of Hudson High School exceeded the capacity of 401 State Street, the school building that was completed in 1915 to be the new high school. The overcrowding was such that the high school took over the school building across the street, which was the original high school building but was then being used as an elementary school. 

The elementary school students of Hudson, now crowded into three school buildings instead of four, could only attend school for half a day. In an appeal to the taxpayers (and parents) of Hudson, the school board assembled all the children and took a picture that ran in the newspaper with the caption: "'Under Privileged': Hudson's children to whom but one-half time schooling is given." 

We know the outcome was building the new high school on Harry Howard Avenue, originally called Chancellor Livingston High School, which was completed in the fall of 1937. 

Curious to learn more about the construction of Chancellor Livingston High School, I turned to my favorite source: that incredible database of old newspapers, Fulton History. Unfortunately, there are no Hudson newspapers in the collection from the years the building was being planned and constructed, but this article, which appeared in the Albany Evening News for June 19, 1936, reveals that the new school building was the cause of a legal "wrangle" in Hudson.

It appears that in this controversy--"one phase of Hudson's many political wrangles"--the Board of Education was pitted against the mayor and the Common Council, who did not support building a new school at the staggering cost of $500,000, because Hudson was a "bankruptcy city." This, of course, demands further research in the Council minutes for those years.

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