Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Sharing a Discovery

Gossips has more than once shared this picture of Elihu and Eliza Gifford's house, which stood at the corner of Columbia and Sixth streets, where there is now a parking lot.

It's not known when the house was built. Elihu and Eliza were married in 1817, and they moved to Hudson in 1823, when Elihu purchased an interest in the city's only iron foundry. The picture below was found on, identified as "Home of Elihu & Eliza Starbuck Gifford just after Civil War."

Both pictures show the belvedere that was added to the house to serve as a studio for one of Elihu and Eliza's sons, the Hudson River School painter Sanford Robinson Gifford. 

The house was demolished in 1965. At some time prior to its demise, it had been divided up into apartments, and I have many times wondered what the house looked like in its latter days.

Today, while exploring the wonderful archive of Howard Gibson's photographs being made available online by Bruce Bohnsack, I discovered these two pictures taken in February 1955 and identified as "Hudson Fire Apartments 6th & Columbia St."

The building in these pictures can only be Elihu and Eliza Gifford's house, with what was originally a side veranda opening onto a fenced yard turned into the main entrance, now with a very sturdy looking Greek Revival portico.

Afterword: Two readers contacted me with comments about 1955 photographs of the Gifford house. The first noted the fire escape that provided emergency egress probably not only from the third floor of the building but also from the belvedere, which had been Sanford Robinson Gifford's studio and was very likely an apartment in 1955.

Another reader suggested that the architectural style of the portico was not Greek Revival, as I indicated, but rather Colonial Revival. I willingly accept that correction. It makes sense that the new portico would have been added when the house was divided up into apartments, which very likely happened during the Great Depression, when many single-family homes in Hudson became multi-family buildings. Colonial Revival design enjoyed great popularity during the early decades of the 20th century. Support for the conjecture that the house was converted into apartments in the 1930s comes from this fact, shared by Sam Pratt recently on Facebook: "The population of the City of Hudson was never higher than during the mid-1930s, at the height of the Great Depression--almost twice what it is today."     


  1. You're the best, Carole!
    Big Sanford Robinson Gifford fan. To discover the beginnings of his painting career with his parents' encouragement is a treat. I imagine this studio perch was instrumental in inspiring his landscapes. Sad, sad ending to a historic house with a significant back story.