Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Suspicious Death in Hudson a Century Ago

On Christmas Eve, Gossips shared an item from the Columbia Republican for December 24, 1918, telling about the Christmas tree lighting that was to occur later that day. That same day, the Republican carried an account of something of a very different nature that happened in the wee hours of Sunday, December 22, just a block away from Promenade Hill, at the Portland Hotel.  

The Portland Hotel, also known as Hotel Portland, was located on the southwest corner of Warren and First streets. It is not clear which of the photographs below shows what the hotel looked like in 1918. 

The first picture is from the booklet Illustrated Hudson, N.Y. and shows what the hotel looked like in 1905. At that time, the Hotel Portland, which was originally known as Waldon House, had recently been acquired by O. A. Quackenbush, who "entirely remodelled it and made it thoroughly up-to-date in every respect." Quakenbush's proprietorship was short-lived. In March 29, 1906, the Columbia Republican reported that the hotel had been sold at auction on the steps of the courthouse. The person acquiring it was "Anna R. Rightmyer, wife of J. Clarence Rightmyer, who held a mortgage of $5,930 against the same. Through her attorney she bid $2,000 over the amount of the mortgage."

Although the old newspapers at provide no clue about when the corner entrance and the storefront were added to the building or when the portico over the central entrance lost its balustrade, they do provide some hints about what the hotel was like over the years. M. Parker Williams, who was for the latter half the 19th century the editor of the Hudson Evening Register, lived at the beginning of the 20th century with his wife at the Hotel Portland, "where the family had taken an apartment on giving up their old home on Union street." At the age of 80, Williams died at the Hotel Portland on April 26, 1906, after a year long illness during which he had been "faithfully attended . . . by Dr. Tracy and a nurse."

In December 1904 the Columbia Republican reported that, after a great Masonic convention at St. John's Hall, where in attendance was a delegation of a hundred Albany Masons who "had with them their famous bucking goat," there was a banquet for the Masons at the Hotel Portland. "It was one of the best that has been attended here in a long time. The tables were tastefully decorated and the best of everything that goes with a banquet was served by a corps of waiters who were attentive to the wants of the diners." The banquet went on until after midnight, at which time the Albany delegation--all one hundred of them, presumably with the goat in tow--headed for the train station. The Republican reports: "The fast train due here at 12:37 a.m., and which is not scheduled to stop at Hudson, came to a standstill when it arrived and the Albanians got aboard and left for home well pleased with their visit."

In October 1907, the Hudson Evening Register reported that the Columbia County Democratic convention, to nominate candidates for local office, was held at the Hotel Portland. In Thursday, October 7, 1915, the Register announced that there was to be a dance that evening at the Hotel Portland, then once again under new management. Music for the evening was to be provided by "a Valatie orchestra."

The Portland Hotel was demolished during urban renewal to make way for "Parkview Plaza," a strip mall built in 1975 with the hope of luring shoppers back to Hudson from the malls of Greenport. Its promise was never realized. Like the Portland Hotel in 1906, the "mall" was foreclosed on in 1978 and sold at auction. 


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