Friday, August 23, 2019

Hudson's Historic Education Center

The Chancellor Livingston High School, now known as Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School, was completed in November 1937.

The building is generally acknowledged to be one of Hudson's architectural treasures, but what is little known and often overlooked is that the building was part of a grander design: the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Educational Center.

Plans recently made known by the Hudson City School District to develop a new baseball field on the site of what was originally a football field and baseball diamond surrounded by a running track have inspired opposition from those who believe that the playing fields have as much historic significance as the building itself and the entire Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Educational Center should be preserved and protected.   

Yesterday, Ken and Gary Sheffer, advocates for the preservation of the historic recreation complex, located a copy of the program from the "Dedication Exercises" for the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Educational Center, which took place on October 25, 1937, and today they made that document available online. It includes photographs of the interior of the school building and the campus, details about the construction, a description of the building, the architecture of which it describes as "early Dutch Colonial style," and this information about the designer of the grounds:
For the work of developing this 28-acre tract, the Board selected Dr. Laurie D. Cox, head of the Department of Landscape Engineering, State College of Forestry. Dr. Cox is a recognized leader in Education and Community Planning and has directed the development of some of the most notable community and educational centers in the state. He has been the director and general consultant for state park development in New York and Vermont.
The irregular terrain of the Chancellor Livingston tract presented great difficulties but at the same time gave opportunity for obtaining beauty effects rarely found in recreational centers. Dr. Cox gave direction not only for the construction, but also for the later projects in planting.
The program from the dedication also includes this account of how the WPA project--the building and especially the grounds--affected the lives of people in Hudson during the Great Depression:
The works program under the Works Progress Administration has been the instrument for giving work to millions of the unemployed. . . . Illustrating the scope of the work, 3,000,000 were receiving employment under the WPA in February, 1937.
In Hudson, the need for this type of work relief was acute, and, when the city was asked to set up work projects, the Board of Education secured approval of the development of the grounds as one of these projects. During the past four years, the Chancellor Livingston grounds has supplied labor to hundreds of unemployed men, giving them a chance to earn a livelihood in this important public development at no direct expense to the local taxpayers. This construction is one of the show projects of the state. The athletic field, running track, stadia, the lawns, walks and drives, parking areas, grading and planting, fields and tennis courts, irrigation system--all these features of our development are the work of the hands of those citizens, most of whom without it, would have been on public relief.
This enormous park and playground development will stand as a monument to these men and to the wisdom of the Government in setting up an agency for their employment in a time of economic distress.
The current proposal to create a new baseball field on the site is seen by some as showing disrespect for the significance of this historic landscape.


  1. Hudson and Greenport show a remarkable disrespect for their heritage. Time after time they cast off beautiful and historic places for something new. It's shortsighted and very disheartening.

  2. Agreed...buildings that have been standing for 100 or more years are destroyed only to be replaced with short term financial gains or a few..those new building have a short shelf life.