While under Dutch rule in 1662 Jan Frans Van Hoesen bought land from the Esopus Indians here but settlement never occurred by the Dutch or the English who seized control of New Netherlands in 1666. After the American Revolution in 1783, however, New England whalers began fretting that their coastal operations were vulnerable and sought a sheltered inland location.
Brothers Thomas and Seth Jenkins led a group representing families from Providence, Newport, Nantucket and Edgartown on a scouting expedition and sailed up the Hudson River. They found a harbor deep enough for sea-going vessels here in a place called Claverack Landing for its abundance of clover. The group, who called themselves the Proprietors, paid 5,000 pounds sterling for land and wharfage in 1783.
These folks were for the most part serious-minded Quakers and when they settled, they settled. Some arrived on the banks of the Hudson with pre-made houses on board ship. A grid was laid out and docks and warehouses built in short order. Some two dozen schooners in the whaling, seal and West Indies trade registered Hudson as their home port. Chartered as the first city in the new United States in 1785, it was already the 24th largest city in the country by 1790.
The whaling trade died out when oil was discovered in the western Pennsylvania hills in the middle-1800s but the Hudson economy had already transitioned to light industry by that time. Hudson factories produced woolen knit goods and beer and matches and flypaper and ginger ale and cement.
When those industries began to flag in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century, Hudson became notorious as a center of vice, especially gambling and prostitution. At its peak, or nadir, Hudson boasted more than 50 bars. The officially-tolerated prostitution on what is today Columbia Street made the city known as “the little town with the big red-light district.” It took raids by Governor Thomas E. Dewey to end Hudson’s unique approach to the erosion of its manufacturing base. Today, it is genteel antique shops that churn the economy.
Hudson’s architectural stew is as rich and meaty as any in New York State. Virtually the entire downtown has been designated the Hudson Historic District and features 756 contributing properties from the founding in 1785 until the mid-1930s. Our explorations will follow the progress of that architectural catalog which begins at the edge of the city’s namesake river...
west end of Warren Street at Front Street
The Proprietors designated this hillside as a public open space in 1785 and it has remained a passive park for 225 years. It may be America’s first land set aside for a scenic view. Directly below, the island in the Hudson River is known as the Middle Ground Flats. It was here that Henry Hudson dropped anchor in September of 1609. Downstream to the south is the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse that was commissioned in 1872 with $35,000 to help mariners negotiate the tricky channels around the Middle Ground Flats. Pilings were driven fifty feet into the riverbed and then capped by a granite pier. In order to protect the foundation from winter and spring ice floes, the north end of the base was shaped like the prow of a ship. A two-story, Second Empire style brick structure was completed atop the granite foundation. It was put into operation in 1874 and was a manned light until 1950. In the distance are the Catskill Mountains.
New York City native John Watts de Peyster was brigadier general of the New York State Militia during the Civil War and after the conflict he morphed into one of the nation’s first military critics, noted for his histories of the Revolutionary and Civil wars. One of his passions was erecting statues and here he commissioned his go-to sculptor, George Edwin Bissell, to create an image of St. Winifred. Winifred was a fetching Welsh beauty from the 600s who rejected the advances of a suitor prince. He promptly lopped off her head in a fit of spurned rage. Her uncle St. Beuno burst upon the scene and killed young prince Caradog with some choice words, retrieved Winifred’s head and set it back in its rightful place. From where the head had fallen, there instantly sprang up a well of pure clear water. St. Bueno coaxed Winifred to become a nun, a life path she pursued until her death, always carrying a red mark on her neck. Bissell’s rendering of St. Winifred in a 12-foot bronze imagined her either before or after her momentary beheading.
WALK DOWN THE HILL TO LEAVE THE PARK AND CROSS FRONT STREET ONTO WARREN STREET, HUDSON’S MAIN STREET. IT WAS CALLED MAIN STREET UNTIL 1799.
Shiloh Baptist Church
14 Warren Street
The first Jewish congregation in Columbia County, Congregation Ohav Sholem, was incorporated in 1868 and settled into a meetinghouse on Columbia Street. The Jewish community in Hudson endured stops and starts over the next few decades until moving into this building, designed by Henry S. Moul in 1913. Moul was one of Hudson’s busiest architects. The Jewish Anshe Emeth Synagogue was sold to the Shiloh Baptist Church in 1966. The Star of David can still be seen on the building in the stained glass and stone medallions.
32 Warren Street
Cyrus Curtiss built this Greek Revival house in 1834. He made his money in the whaling trade and the octagonal cupola on the roof is a remnant of the New England seafaring days when anxious wives would stare across the waves waiting for their whaling men to return. Curtiss would be elected mayor of Hudson in 1844.
Robert Jenkins House
113 Warren Street
This splendid survivor of the Federal age of American architecture was built in 1811 by Robert Jenkins, third and fifth Mayor of Hudson. The elegantly proportioned house sports intricately detailed fanlights and sidelights in a pattern that is continued in the iron fence on the entrance steps. Robert was the son of the town’s co-founder and first mayor, Seth Jenkins. At the age of 19 Jenkins was at the head of the first cotton mill in New York; he was 39 when he built this brick house and resided here until his death on November 11, 1819. In 1900 his granddaughter Frances Chester White Hartley donated the house where she was born to the Hendrick Hudson Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution; today it houses a museum of Hudson Valley artifacts.
First Bank of Hudson
116 Warren Street
This three-bay Federal-style brick building housed the First Bank of Hudson when it was constructed in 1805. It features full height Ionic pilasters across the facade and matching Ionic columns on the small entrance portico. The building, currently functioning as an art gallery, is into its third century. The Bank of Hudson, however, was gone after seven years.
306 Warren Street
As the town expanded up Warren Street away from the Hudson River in the mid-19th century fashionable Italianate buildings came to dominate the streetscape. This three-story brick house was in the Benson family for nearly a century and retains its original carved stone windows and cornice.
Hudson Opera House
327 Warren Street
Hudson architect Peter Avery delivered this Greek Revival building in 1855 as the first Hudson City Hall. Besides city business the first floor of the building was home to the Franklin Library and the First National Bank of Hudson. At various times the post office and police station could also be found here. The upstairs was always reserved as a performance hall and around 1880 the building - in the style of the day - took on the name of “Opera House.” The stage saw everything from national lecturers like Henry Ward Beecher and Susan B. Anthony to cotillions to poultry shows. The government moved out in 1962 and the building stumbled along for 30 years, being vacant most of the time. It was rescued in 1992 by the not-for-profit Hudson Opera House, Inc. who began restoration to one of America’s oldest surviving theaters to production-ready quality.
364 Warren Street
Newspapers have been printed in this building for nearly 150 years but it was originally built as a jail. Set back from the street, the front yard was designed for public executions although only one criminal was ever hanged in Hangman’s Square. Beginning in 1835 the building did duty as the city hall and an assembly hall.
First Presbyterian Church
southwest corner of Warren and Fourth streets
The congregation was formed in 1790 by the original Proprietors of Hudson. The present structure was built of locally quarried stone in 1837 on this location where the second Columbia County Court House once stood. The church’s present appearance dates to the 1880s when the facade was enlivened with a rose window and piercing steeples installed under the guidance of artist Frederic E. Church. Since 1910 it has been known as the Town Clock Church.
414-416 Warren Street
Robert Evans was a brewer who proclaimed his success to the town with this three-story brick house in 1861. With its ornate mansard roof, the Evans home was an early example of the Victorian-era French Second Empire style. The roof and attached tower are clad in fish-scale polychrome slate. The house was the first along upper Warren Street to be built with designed side and front yards. Cornelius Evans inherited both the house and the brewery upon his father’s death in 1868. Under the leadership of Evans the Younger the sales of its major product, Evans India Pale Ale, soared and necessitated its own bottling plant, which soon doubled in size. In his spare time Cornelius Evans served as director of National Hudson City Bank and was elected to two non-consecutive two-year terms as the mayor of Hudson in the 1870s. Prohibition in 1920 forced the brewery to close after 124 years of operation. The house was sold out of the Evans family in 1941 and later served as a synagogue and community center before returning to residential use in the 1970s when itwas listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Evans Hook & Ladder Company No. 3
440 Warren Street
This was the home of Hook & Ladder Company No. 3 for more than 100 of its 200+ years of existence. Founded in 1799, the company moved into this Romanesque-flavored firehouse in 1889 and stayed until 2002. The company was named for brewer and patron Cornelius Evans in 1868.
448 Warren Street
This old church building was constructed for the Universalist congregation in 1869. It features early Romanesque Revival detailing in its rounded entranceway and a slender Victorian tower clad in multi-chromatic slate.
520 Warren Street
Michael J. O’Connor came to Hudson in 1879 and for 50 years was the architect of choice around town. Here he executed a Neoclassical headquarters in white Vermont marble for the National Hudson River Bank in 1907. The bank traced its roots back to 1830. The entranceway is dominated by a quartet of Corinthian columnsand the building is capped by a dome of large curved stained art glass. In 1962 the bank became home to the city government.
Farmers’ National Bank
544 Warren Street
The Farmers’ National Bank was organized in 1839, doing business on this block on the north side of the street. The bank prospered rapidly and in 1873 constructed an elegant banking house with a price tag of $71,000. This Colonial Revival building appeared after fire swept away its predecessor.
Hudson City Savings Institution
560 Warren Street
The Hudson City Savings Institution was incorporated by special act of the Legislature on April 4, 1850 and took its first deposit - $80 by Henry C. Hutman - on October 7 of that year. There were only 180 other savings banks in the country at the time. This domed Neoclassical vault fronted by a quartet of Ionic pillars was designed by Whitney Warren and Charles Wetmore, in 1910, two years after they rode up from New York City to create the Columbia County Courthouse. The building does duty today as county offices.
First National Bank of Hudson
561 Warren Street
This is the fourth of the classically-inspired banks that filled this block in the early 20th century - and the only one that is still operating as a bank 100 years later. The First National Bank of Hudson was organized on March 25, 1864 at 167 Warren Street and spent time in the Hudson Opera House before moving here. With pilasters, a recessed entrance and restrained cornice it projects a compact strength from its corner. It is best known for its star turn in the 1959 crime caper Odds Against Tomorrow as the cash-stuffed target for Ed Begley, Harry Belafonte and Robert Ryan.
J. C. Rogerson Company
615 Warren Street
This has been the place where Hudson buys its hardware since 1832 when builders, blacksmiths, carriage and wagon makers found iron and steel of all kinds, nails and small agricultural implements. James Rogerson arrived from Mullingar, Ireland in 1858 to helm the business carved out by his predecessors. During his 40-year reign the Italianate-style cornice was added to the three-story Federal building. Next door at #617 was once the Playhouse Theater. Although the stage is long gone, its Art Deco facade is still visible.
621-623 Warren Street on southwest corner of Seventh Street
This rather mammoth Federal-style building required a lot of bricks to construct in the early 1800s. It was built to store grain but has always had street level openings for storefronts.
717 Warren Street
This prototypical World War II-era streamlined diner replaced an actual wooden sidecar diner that once operated on the park.
723 Warren Street
This late 19th-century building was adapted in 1921 for a run as the Park Theater. Nearly 100 years later it trundles on in decidedly less glamourous fashion. There was, at one time, six theaters operating in Hudson. The Park could handle 450 patrons on a strong night.
731 Warren Street
Here is another former Hudson theater, this one built as the 600-seat Warren Theater and converted into a motel in the 1950s as one of the first - and most imaginative - adaptive reuses of a shuttered movie house.
WALK ACROSS THE STREET INTO THE PARK.
Seventh Street Park
between Seventh and Eight streets and Warren and Columbia streets
This public square was set out back in the 1780s but was used mostly as open space by transportation routes into the town, first by the Columbia Turnpike and then the Hudson and Boston railroad. In 1879 it was formally laid out as a park.
WALK TO THE EAST SIDE OF THE PARK (THE SIDE FURTHEST FROM THE HUDSON RIVER).
J.W. Edmonds Hose Co. #1
10 Park Place
Protection from fire was high on the agenda of the founding fathers of Hudson who, on July 5, 1785, ordained that there “be viewers of Chymnies, Hearths, and places where Ashes are or shall be kept, who shall view and inspect the same once in every Fortnight.” Owners or tenants of every house were required to furnish leather buckets inscribed with the owner’s initials to be hung conspicuously near the front door. The first hose company organized by statute on March 19, 1794. It would eventually be named for John W. Edmonds, a local politician and the first elected chief engineer of the Hudson Fire Department in 1830. He served until 1836, leaving before Hudson experienced two of its most destructive fires in 1838 and 1844 and this Italianate firehouse was built. The Hudson tradition of firefighting is preserved north of town in the American Museum of Firefighting, built in 1925 as a monument to the men who risked their lives to protect property and people. The museum, one of the oldest fire museums in America, owns apparatus and equipment dating from 1725; the oldest engine was imported from London to New York in 1731. On display are hand pumpers, horse-drawn ladder trucks, steamers and motorized fire trucks. Many are ornately decorated with engine art that reflects the pride of the departments using them.
St. Charles Hotel
16-18 Park Place
The St. Charles traces its history back to the 1860s and the days following the Civil War. One of the early proprietors was William H. Van Tassel who came to Hudson and purchased the St. Charles in 1867 at the age of 27, after engaging in hotel-keeping in Greenport and Claverack. He owned the St. Charles for two years before buying the Central House. In 1873 Van Tassel left innkeeping to become sheriff of Columbia County, an election he would seem to have had little trouble capturing as he was described thusly: “There is no business man in the city who has a broader circle of acquaintances, and one who stands higher in the estimation of the community where he is so well known. Thoroughly awake to the local and general public issues, he is always found among the active promoters of all worthy movements.”
EXIT THE PARK AT THE SOUTHWEST CORNER AT WARREN STREET AND SEVENTH STREET AND HEAD DOWN SEVENTH STREET, WALKING SOUTH.
Iron Horse Bar7th Street at Cherry Alley
In 1994 Paul Newman portrayed Sully Sullivan, a ne’er-do-well handyman approaching retirement age and trying to reconnect with the family he abandoned years before in Nobody’s Fool. The fictional Hudson Valley town of North Bath was patched together from Beacon, Fishkill, Poughkeepsie, Newburgh and Hudson. Here, the Street Grill played the Iron Horse Bar where Sullivan came to play pool. After the film crews departed the proprietors kept the name of the bar that stands hard by the railroad tracks last used by Conrail. The Victorian building dates to the 1870s.
TURN RIGHT ON UNION STREET, HEADING TOWARDS THE HUDSON RIVER.
601 Union Street
This Italian villa rendered in brick in the 1850s was constructed on a a design by Richard Upjohn that appeared in the influential pattern book by A. J. Downing, The Architecture of Country Houses (1850). The author called the dual-tower design “one of the most successful specimens of the Italian style in the United States.” After its days as a residence waned it served as the town Elks Lodge for a spell.
Emanuel Lutheran Church
20 6th Street at Union Street Lutheran
Prolific architect Michael O’Connell created one of the Hudson Valley’s finest wooden churches here with a variation of the Carpenter Gothic style.
Christ Church Episcopal
431 Union Street at Court Street
Episcopalians were active in Hudson in the 1790s and were worshiping in a church on Second and State streets by 1802. The current red sandstone church, one of the town’s oldest, was completed in 1857 on plans drawn by Henry G. Harrison. The cost of the Gothic Revival church, including the lots on which the chapel and rectory were subsequently erected, was $30,000.
TURN LEFT INTO COURT SQUARE, WALKING DOWN COURT STREET ONE BLOCK TO ALLEN STREET.
St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church
429 East Allen Street at Court Street
The first Roman Catholic church in Columbia County was organized in 1847 with services held in St. John’s Masonic Hall. The following year the congregation was housed in a new brick meeting house. This stone Gothic church was erected in 1929.
WALK OVER TO THE COURTHOUSE IN COURT SQUARE.
Columbia County Courthouse
401 Union Street
The county seat spent its first twenty years in Claverack before moving to Hudson in 1806. This is the fifth courthouse built in Hudson, the third on this site. Its predecessors met destruction by fire and this building was constructed almost entirely of granite, sandstone and metal. Architects Whitney Warren and Charles Wetmore, most noted for their design of the New York Central’s Grand Central terminal in Manhattan, gave the courthouse a grand classical appearance without overwhelming its neighbors on the square. They diminished the apparent height of the building by setting the main structure on a raised basement and stressing the horizontal appearance. The courthouse was dedicated in 1908.
WALK BACK OUT TO UNION STREET AND TURN LEFT, CONTINUING TOWARDS THE HUDSON RIVER.
402 Union Street
The first mail in Hudson was handled in a store on Warren Street in 1793. Not much changed for Hudson mail for over 100 years until Congress authorized $75,000 in 1906 for the construction of a dedicated town post office. Supervising architect of the Treasury, James Knox Taylor, whose fingerprints are on scores of New York post offices, is credited with the basic Neo-Colonial design in brick with stone keystones and roof balustrade. He added a pair of classically-inspired Doric porticos that echo the recently built county courthouse across the square. Completed in 1911, thebuilding was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the only one in the county on the Register.
234 Union Street
The earliest houses built in Hudson mimicked those its New England whaling founders knew back home. Some were framed in Nantucket and shipped ready-to-assemble to Hudson. Lower Union Street was once lined with such simple frame houses, usually one-and-a-half or two stories with a three-bay facade. Most are gone, many having been lost to conflagrations that torched Hudson in 1838 and 1844 - this house from the early 1780s is a fortunate survivor.
225 Union Street
The core of this house was constructed in the 1780s by Captain Reuben Macy, one of the early money men of Hudson. Richard Bolles, a shoe manufacturer from New London, Connecticut, moved in with his second wife shortly thereafter, in 1793. Bolles died in 1836 and the house picked up its Greek Revival styling that it displays to this day. The house was in the Ryan family from 1880 until 2004.
CONTINUE TO THE END OF UNION STREET AT FRONT STREET AND TURN RIGHT TO RETURN TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT.