Sunday, February 28, 2021

Hudson's Painting of Washington by Henry Ary

From time to time, I like to check the recent scans at It's rare when I'm not rewarded with something of interest. Yesterday, I discovered this 1978 photograph of Mayor Paul J. Colwell and his cabinet, posing together in the Council Chamber at City Hall.

I don't know what constituted the mayor's "cabinet." Perhaps it was the commissioners he appointed. It seems to be the right number for that. Except for Colwell at the center right, who is recognized because of his portrait which now hangs in the Council Chamber, I have no idea who the people in the picture are. As is often the case, what is interesting to me is what is in the background: in this case, the Henry Ary painting of George Washington, inspired by Gilbert Stuart's 1796 Lansdowne portrait of Washington.

Ary painted his portrait of Washington on spec, sometime between 1841 and 1843, hoping to sell it to the City of Hudson. Gossips has told the story elsewhere of how the Common Council finally voted to buy the painting in December 1845. Of course, in 1845, there was no City Hall. The Council met in a rented room in the building located at 364 Warren Street, and the portrait was installed there. Ten years later, when City Hall (now Hudson Hall) was completed, the portrait was installed there.

When City Hall moved to 520 Warren Street in 1962, the portrait moved, too, and it's been there ever since. 

In the late 1990s, the City invested $16,866 in restoring Ary's portrait of Washington. The first step in the restoration, according a report from the restorers, which Gossips had a chance to see back in 2012, was removing "surface dirt, grime and a heavy nicotine smoke layer." Back in the day, it seems all the members of the Council smoked, and they smoked during Council meetings. The photograph of Mayor Colwell and his cabinet documents the state of the portrait before its restoration.

Update: Thanks to a real community effort, all but one of the people in the 1978 picture has been identified with certainty.

From left to right: Bob Cooper, Fire Commissioner; Bill Loewenstein, Commissioner of Grants; Mike Lewicki, Sr., Common Council president; Paul J. Colwell, Mayor of Hudson; possibly Mary Perry, Commissioner of Purchases; Mary Frances Francis, Youth Commissioner; Sam Wheeler, Police Commissioner. The mayor's cabinet was, as I suspected, made up primarily of the commissioners he appointed.


  1. is amazing!!!

  2. I know a couple:
    2nd from left Bill Lowenstein, head of Urban Renewal. To his left, Mike Lewicki, Sr. Pres of Common Council and on the far left is Sam Wheeler former Mayor.

  3. A reader offered the following identifications by email: from the left: Bob Cooper, fire commissioner and administrator at the Firemen's Home; Bill Lowenstein, "the force behind urban renewal"; Mike Lewicki, Sr., Common Council president from 1976 to 1979. At the far right is Sam Wheeler, who was mayor from 1962 to 1965 and again from 1974 to 1975.

  4. Who is the man in black?

    Two readers have identified the man standing beside Mayor Colwell in the picture as Mike Lewicki, Sr., who was Common Council president from 1976 to 1979. Today, however, another reader told me the man is Reverend John Kulish, who was the priest at St. Michael's Ukrainian Church and served as city treasurer for one term.