Wednesday, November 30, 2016

1851 Recommendations Heeded and Unheeded

Last week, Gossips published a little item from the Hudson Daily Star for April 30, 1851, which explained why Promenade Hill had recently grown "steeper and more frightful" and called for an iron railing to be erected to prevent people from tumbling down the precipice. A month later, the call for a railing was taken up by a visitor to Hudson, identified only as "Iron Pen," in a letter to the editor that appeared in the Star on May 22, 1851. The railing was one of four "improvements that are necessary to the welfare of [the City's] affairs" recommended in the letter.

We know from the 1878 History of Columbia County, by Franklin Ellis, that the practice of lighting the streets in Hudson began in 1798. On October 6 of that year, the Common Council passed the following resolution:
That the City be lighted during the Dark Nights, and that the Recorder and Mr. Kellogg be a Committee to Direct the construction of, and the place for, the Lamps, not exceeding Twenty in number, and are to provide Oil, and agree with Suitable persons to light the same.
Although today we think of every night as a dark night, it seems that in 1798, "Dark Nights" were determined by the phases of the Moon. Apparently only those nights when the moon was new qualified as "Dark Nights," and it appears this practice may have continued in 1851.

In 1851, Hudson was probably on the brink to pursuing the letter's fourth recommendation that "a City Hall should be erected, one that Hudson city would be proud of." As we know, in 1855, construction of the building that was originally City Hall, which we now know as the Hudson Opera House, was completed.

The recommendation that Universalist Hill should be made a "pleasure ground" raises the question: Where was Universalist Hill?  A letter to the editor of the Hudson Daily Register, dated October 7, 1881, and signed simply M., explains what part of Hudson was called Universalist Hill, or Universal Hill.
[Universal Hill] was a broad, beautiful green, fronting the bay, extending from the old church edifice on Third street, which was the only building upon it, nearly to Second street, Allen street, between these points was then little more than a rough road, known as Federal or Church street. . . .
Universal Hill was the great resort for circuses and shows of every description, with an occasional militia "training." By affording as it did a beautiful outlook upon the broad bay and river, it was especially popular as a play ground for boys, an after tea resort for mothers and children, and as a summer evening resort for scores who seated upon the green grass until a late hour drank in the pure, cool breezes wafted from the bay, with no fear of malaria to molest or make afraid. It was a point, too, which was always crowded to watch the incoming and outgoing whale ships. There was a movement at one time made to preserve this as a city park, but it encountered great discouragement from each end of the city as a central project and never got beyond the period of "talk." Third Street was not yet extended when this hill is remembered as in its best condition. Only a cow path led down to the South bay road.
Henry Ary (1802-1859), View of South Bay and Mt. Merino
The reference to malaria is explained elsewhere in the letter, where the writer, in 1881, bemoans the degradation of South Bay.
During the last few years the South bay has often been noticed from a sanitary point of view. Dr. P[orter]'s pleasant article calls it back to my mind as I remember it in the days of my boyhood, a bright feature in the landscape, whose charms so thickly cluster about our city. Looking at it to-day, unsightly, overgrown with rank vegetation, what is left of it filled with mud and filth, fringed with railroad tracks and breeding malaria, only they whose memories go back over a considerable period can realize that is was ever a "thing of beauty.". . . . 
No description given of the South bay to-day will convey to the reader an idea of its beauty as seen from the hill described when the rays of the setting sun fell, as they often did, upon an unruffled sheet of water unbroken from the western shore of the river to the road which skirted it on the East. Mt. Merino was then much more densely wooded than to-day and the road leading thence into the city, around the bay, thickly fringed with elms and willows. On the hill, at the end of Second street, the spacious old Presbyterian Church looked gravely down upon the scene, and the town clock sent its echoes over the quiet waters.
View of South Bay and Mt. Merino from the vantage point of what is now the southern end of Second Street, where the abandoned Kaz warehouses now stand. Painting by Henry Ary (1802-1859)


1 comment:

  1. So, Carole, your house was built on Universal Hill (or the edge of it)? If so, were you aware of this?