Sunday, February 7, 2021

Rich Resources Now Available Online

We are now living in a post-phonebook era. Too many people have cell phones, whose numbers are not listed, and if we are looking for goods and services, we are more likely to turn to the internet instead of letting our fingers do the walking through the yellow pages. But before there were phone books, there were city directories--compendiums of information about the people and businesses in a given location. The directories listed not only the addresses of the people in the community--both home and business--but also their occupations. This example, encountered some years ago in the Hudson city directory for 1913, is among my favorites.

I believe someone with the occupation of "fresco painter" would have painted signage on the sides of buildings, like this example, uncovered at 623 Warren Street a year or so ago. 

City directories are also rich sources of information about the businesses that existed at different periods in history. Below is an example of the advertisements that appeared in the Hudson city directory for 1870.
The very first Hudson directory was published in 1851, after a concerted effort, involving an ordinance passed by the Common Council, to get the owners or occupants of properties in Hudson to place numbers on their buildings "for the accommodation of strangers." Prior to that, the location of houses and businesses was indicated by their proximity to a well known building or landmark. For example, a newspaper advertisement for E. Simpson, Physician and Surgeon, told prospective patients, "His house can be found a few doors above the Mansion House, and nearly opposite the Presbyterian Church." 

The History Room at the Hudson Area Library has an impressive collection of Hudson city directories, and the staff and volunteers are now in the process of scanning the increasingly fragile volumes and making them available to users online. So far, six directories have been digitized, including the very first one for 1851-1852 and the invaluable one for 1888-1889, the year all the numbers on the west-east streets changed. In this directory, addresses on Warren Street are given with the new number--what the number will become with the introduction of 100 blocks--in parentheses. 

Although the numbering on every west-east street would change, the changes were noted in the directory only for Warren Street, for then as now it was the major commercial thoroughfare.

To explore the history of Hudson as told by its city directories, click here.


  1. When did they stop publishing the city directories? I have one from 1974.

  2. Congrats and a shout out to the Hudson Area Library History Room VOLUNTEERS and HAL for providing unending Hudson Historical information to the general public.
    Wouldn’t it be great if our local government created an office for our City Historian and/or aCity of Hudson Museum? So now the challenge is for all of the “other” organizations to make public their hidden treasures.

  3. The Hudson City directories offer a vast amount of details of trades and careers. The 1888-89 directory lists Artists:
    John R. Billigham, Promenade Hill
    George A. McKinstry, Academy Hill.

    Architects listed are:
    Peter H. Avery, Corner of 3rd and Diamond.
    H.S.Moul, 146 Union.
    Michael O’Connor, 39 Union.

    The advertisements listed are amazing.

    Check out the pages after the residents information.
    Ex: pg. 196
    Overseer of the Poor
    Keeper of Powder House
    City Crier

    You’ll find listings of 5 newspapers, 8 steamboat lines

  4. Hudson needs a historical museum, a building and staff dedicated to our rich history. The old library would be ideal.

  5. Wanted to let you folks know that our auction house at 90 Green Street has been consigned a large collection of historic materials, including many fascinating directories, from Hudson and the surrounding area. The auction will be live online on April 11, and we'll be open for in person preview for the week before that, if anyone would like to see the materials first hand. The catalog isn't online yet, but will be soon. Here is our website if anyone is interested: