Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Getting It Right

I hate it when I publish misinformation, but when I do, I am grateful to those who correct me and try to put things right promptly. Yesterday, in my haste to publish something after a weekend of relative silence, I announced what I had discovered about the history of this building: 251-253 Union Street. I was wrong.

A few hours after I published the post, Kate Johns, the architect member of the Historic Preservation Commission, contacted me to say that she didn't think the building could have been built in 1870. "Stylistically," she told me, "it looks like an intact American Foursquare duplex, 1895-1929." I have to admit it did seem an unlikely school building, but influenced by what I know of Rev. Hague's Hudson Female Academy, which was a boarding school and touted in its advertising the hair mattresses and other elegant appointments in the "sleeping apartments," it didn't seem totally beyond the realm of possibility that the Skinner sisters might have created a very domicile-like structure for their school. After all, when the Hudson Female Academy moved out of 400 State Street, the building became George H. Power's private residence. 

Taking the steps I should have taken before announcing my discovery, I checked the 1873 Beers Atlas map. There was the building that was obviously the School for Young Ladies--a rectangle with its short side facing the street, labeled "Miss Skinner."

The building appears again on the atlas map for 1888, this time labeled "Misses Skinner," but its surroundings are altered. To the right is what appears to be the house at 525 Union, labeled "Mrs. Ossman," and to the left, on the lot that is 521 Union Street, is a structure set back from the street labeled "H. J. Barringer."

I should have taken a clue from Anna Bradbury that the Misses Skinner's school building no longer existed. Writing in 1908, Bradbury would have been well aware of the change in house numbers that happened in 1888-1889, yet in her History of the City of Hudson she gives the address of school as 281 Union Street--a hint I missed that the building, like its address, no longer existed.

Having concluded that 521-523 Union Street was not the Skinner sisters' school but was built to be what it is today, an American Foursquare duplex, I set out to try to learn when the school building had been demolished and the duplex built. I had exhausted the maps available online, so I turned to ancestry.com. There I discovered that, even after they had moved their School for Young Women to the building on Union Street, the Misses Skinner--Sarah and Cornelia--continued to live with their mother, Phoebe Skinner, at 142 Warren Street, in the house where they had started their school in 1867--more evidence that their School for Young Women was not a boarding school. Today, 142 Warren Street is 322 Warren Street.

Erratum: Further research revealed that 142 Warren Street did not become 332 Warren but rather 310 Warren Street--a building that no longer exists. See "Flummoxed by House Numbers."

Phoebe Skinner died in June 1887, and in 1889, the address of the Misses Skinner is listed in the Hudson city directory as 521 Union Street, the house next door to the school, which in 1888, according to the Beers Atlas map, belonged to H. J. Barringer. (The city directory for 1889 has Henry J. Barringer living at 249 Warren Street.) The city directory for 1899 lists Sarah and Cornelia Skinner as residing at 521 Union Street as does the 1900 census. In 1908, according to the city directory, they are still living at 521 Union Street, but in 1909, they are listed in the directory as living at 620 Union Street, the Home for the Aged.

The census for 1910 lists Sarah, then 81, and Cornelia, then 75, as "inmates" at the Home for the Aged. Anna Bradbury is also in residence there. Living at 523 Union Street, according to the census, is Henry B. Seely and his wife, son, and daughter; living at 521 Union Street is Charles E. Hopkins, his wife and daughter, and a servant. (Neither Seely nor Hopkins appears in the 1909 city directory.)

From this information, it's possible to surmise that the school building and the house next door, where Sarah and Cornelia lived from 1889 to 1908, were demolished late in 1908 or in 1909, and the American Foursquare duplex there now was built in 1909.

1 comment:

  1. Good sleuthing, Carole! Love this stuff. It's so interesting to see how Hudson evolved, and what people did way back when.