Sunday, August 21, 2022

What's in a Name?

There may be a plan afoot to rename Henry Hudson Riverfront Park, but it seems a bit of renaming has already occurred, though perhaps more by accident than intention. Recently, Gossips noticed a new sign at the park, which gives the name of the park as "Henry Hudson Waterfront Park" instead of "Henry Hudson Riverfront Park." The message about "no smoking or vaping" at the bottom of the sign suggests that Tobacco-Free Action of Columbia and Greene Counties might have had something to do with the new sign.

The original signs--there were two: one welcoming visitors who came by land to the park, the other welcoming visitors who came by water--were designed by Tom Mabley. The picture below shows the front of the original sign. (The only picture I could find in the Gossips files was one taken in the early days of the pandemic.)

On the back of each sign was this text, composed by Mabley:

". . . a seaport far from the sea"
In his fantastical tale Rip Van Winkle, Washington Irving told of how the ghosts of Captain Henry Hudson and his crew appeared every twenty years in the Catskill mountains, across the river from here. According to the story, the Captain could then ". . . keep a guardian eye on the river and the great city called by his name."
What is known from actual history is that in 1609, Henry Hudson, an English explorer sailing under the flag of the Dutch East India Company, passed this point of land while searching for a northwest sea route to Asia. He could not have imagined that this great river would someday bear his name, or that in 1785, a group of American whalers and merchantmen from Nantucket and other Atlantic ports would sail to this very place to establish for themselves a new and more secure port, 120 miles from the sea. They would name their new home the City of Hudson, in honor of that fellow mariner whose seminal voyage of discovery had redrawn the world's trade routes forevermore. Hudson became one of the new nation's fastest growing cities, quickly rivaling New York City as a bustling seaport, but it would miss being named the permanent capital of New York by just one vote.
This park was dedicated during the City of Hudson Namesake Celebration, July, 2009, as part of the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commemoration. 
The text, which survives on the sign at the water's edge, has not been included on the new sign.

It's curious that whoever made the decision to install a new sign chose to replace only one of the signs. The one facing the water is in far worse shape than the one facing Water Street ever was.



  1. Personally I would demand that the older sign be returned and presented. On the City's website the name has already been changed to: "Henry Hudson Waterfront Park, accessible by Broad Street."

  2. Tom Mabley's design reflected his great good taste, though he was lucky not to have to factor in extraneous information like the "action" committee marring the recto of the new Water Street sign.

    Tom also employed a stately font which is less in thrall to the aesthetics of bargain-basement advertising than the vulgar "F" featured on the new sign's new name. (No matter who's in charge, Hudson rarely draws upon its plentiful stock of artists to avoid such pitfalls.)

    As to the park's name, in 2010, Charles Houghton who owns (or previously owned?) Elco Motor Yachts across the river expressed dismay that "Henry Hudson Riverfront Park" was so predictable and unimaginative. There are many things named after Henry Hudson, and perhaps the city's namesake was not such a wonderful fellow.

    Houghton suggested instead that the park should be named after Hudson's Master's Mate, ROBERT JUET, the eloquent chronicler of the voyage up North [Hudson] River whose journals would capture the minds of so many Europeans.

    There's nothing to memorialize Juet other than his own fascinating words. And naming something so important in Hudson's own city after the man who attended Hudson on three voyages then allegedly marooned him seems suitably cheeky for the city's past and present residents.

    If we're not renaming the entire park, then why not change the self-named "Rick's Point," previously a car dump whose landscaping in 2010 evaded every level of environmental review.

    If not the Robert Juet Waterfront Park, then "Rick's Point" could be marooned and renamed "Juet's Point."

  3. So true. Should have left Tom Mabley's sign alone. So many sign's, the self-named 'Ricky's Point' should go. Who makes these decisions?