Hudson is a city located along the western border of Columbia County, New York, in the United States of America. The city is named after the adjacent Hudson River and thus ultimately after the explorer Henry Hudson. Hudson is the county seat of Columbia County. Hudson is paired with Pallisa, Uganda, as sister cities.
Hudson is located at 42°15’4”N 73°47’6”W. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.3 sq mi (6.0 km2), 2.2 sq mi (5.6 km2) of which is land and 0.2 sq mi (0.4 km2) (6.47%) is water.
Hudson is located on what began as a spit of land jutting into the Hudson River between the South Bay and North Bay, now both largely filled and partially degraded by industrial-era waste. Across the Hudson River lie the towns of Catskill and Athens, New York and Greene County, New York; a ferry connected the two municipalities during much of the 19th century. Between them lies Middle Ground Flats, a former sandbar that grew due to both natural silting and from dumping the spoils of dredging; today it is inhabited by deer and a few occupants of quasi-legal summer shanties
The land upon which Hudson is built was purchased from native Mahicans by Dutch settlers in 1662 and was originally part of the Town of Claverack; formerly it was known as “Claverack Landing”. Settled by New England whalers and merchants hailing primarily from Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and Providence, Rhode Island, Hudson was chartered as a city in 1785. The self-described “Proprietors” laid out a city grid, and Hudson grew rapidly as an active port, coming within one vote of being named the capital of New York State.
The city grew rapidly and by 1790 was the 24th largest city in the United States, As late as 1820, it was the fourth largest city in New York State. Martin Van Buren opened his first law office in Hudson. Margaret B. Schram’s Hudson’s Merchants and Whalers: 1783-1850 tells the story of the city’s maritime history. On March 1, 1794, General William Jenkins Worth, the future liberator of Texas in the Mexican-American War, was born on Union Street in Hudson. The house where he was born still stands. Worth Avenue in the city is named after him, as is Fort Worth, Texas. Sanford Robinson Gifford, a member of the second generation of the Hudson River School of landscape painters, was born in Hudson on July 10, 1823, and following his death on August 29, 1880, was buried in Hudson’s Cedar Park Cemetery. Hudson obtained a new charter in 1895. In 1935, to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the city, the United States Mint issued the Hudson Half Dollar. The coin is one of the rarest ever minted by the United States Government with only 10,008 coins struck. On the front of the coin is Henry Hudson’s ship the “Half Moon” and on the reverse is the seal of the city. Local legend has it that coin was minted on the direct order of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to thank the Hudson City Democratic Committee for being the first to endorse him for State Senator and Governor. In the late 19th and first half of the 20th century, Hudson became notorious as a center of vice, especially gambling and prostitution, as described in Bruce Edward Hall’s book, Diamond Street: The Story of the Little Town with the Big Red Light District. (The former Diamond Street is today Columbia Street.)
At the peak of the vice industry, Hudson also boasted of more than fifty bars. These rackets were mostly broken up in 1951 after surprise raids of Hudson whorehouses by New York State Troopers under orders from then-Governor Thoomas E. Dewey netted, among other catches, several local policemen.
After a steep decline in the 60s and 70s, the city has undergone a significant revival. A group of antiques dealers opened shops on the city’s main thoroughfare, Warren Street, in the mid-1980s, the earliest being the Hudson Antiques Center, founded by Alain Pioton, and The English Antiques Center. Their numbers grew from a handful in the 1980s to almost seventy shops now, represented by the Hudson Antiques Dealers Association (HADA). Following this business revival, the city experienced a residential revival as well, and is now known for its active arts scene, antiques shops, restaurants, art galleries and nightlife.
In the last few years, perhaps encouraged by the number of gay business owners among the original antiques dealers, Hudson has become a destination for gay people who have opened new businesses, moved here from larger urban areas, and who have been in the forefront of the restoration of many of the city’s historic houses. In 2010, Hudson hosted its first gay pride parade, which was attended by several hundred people.
As of the census of 2000, there were 7,524 people, 2,951 households, and 1,590 families residing in the city. The population was 7,524 at the 2000 census, and has since been estimated at 7,296 in 2003, and at 6,985 in 2006, and at 6,713 at the 2010 census. These numbers include the approximately 500 residents of the local Hudson Correctional Facility. Recent population declines may be attributable to real estate trends in which retirees, young couples, childless couples, singles and weekenders have been gradually replacing larger families and converting apartment buildings to single-family homes, as the number of unoccupied homes and tax delinquency has declined.
The population density was 3,468 inhabitants per square mile (1,338.7/km²). There were 3,347 housing units at an average density of 1,542.8 per square mile (595.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 64.29% White, 24.02% African American, 0.28% Native American, 2.84% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 4.15% from other races, and 4.41% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.41% of the population.
There were 2,951 households out of which 28.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 29.4% were married couples living together, 19.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.1% were non-families. 39.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 3.00.
In the city the population was spread out with 23.7% under the age of 18, 9.4% from 18 to 24, 30.0% from 25 to 44, 21.0% from 45 to 64, and 16.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 106.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 105.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $24,279, and the median income for a family was $27,594. Males had a median income of $26,274 versus $22,598 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,759. About 23.8% of families and 25.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 37.7% of those under age 18 and 13.9% of those age 65 or over.
In the 1990s and early 21st century, Hudson has had five mayors: William Allen, Dolly Allen, Richard Scalera, Kenneth Cranna and Richard Tracy. During that time Scalera has been elected Mayor seven times, but declined to run twice. This period has been marked by unusual levels of friction between elected officials and residents as the demographics and economics of the city have shifted.
This was followed from late 1998 until spring 2005 by a land use conflict between St. Lawrence Cement (SLC), a subsidiary of what was then one of the world’s largest cement companies, the Swiss multinational giant Holderbank (since renamed Holcim), and private citizens. The company proposed a massive, coal-fired cement manufacturing project sprawling over 1,800 acres (7.3 km2) in the city of Hudson and the town of Greenport, Columbia County, New York. Sustained grassroots opposition to the project was spearheaded by business owner Peter Jung and journalist Sam Pratt, co-founders of Friends of Hudson (FOH). The controversy garnered national attention from news outlets such as CNN and The New York Times, as well as media outlets in Canada and Switzerland. The project was withdrawn after Secretary of State Randy Daniels determined that the company’s plans were inconsistent with the State’s twenty-four Coastal policies, an outcome which supporters described as “a colossal relief” and opponents denounced as “flawed in its logic”. Nearly xxx (someone, please enter number) public comments were received by the State’s Division of Coastal Resources (87% of them opposed to the project), a record for that agency.
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Economy and employment
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Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Hudson, including stops by the following trains:
The Adirondack, operating daily in both directions between New York City and Montreal, Canada.
All Empire Service trains, operating several times daily in both directions between New York City and either Albany-Rensselaer, Niagara Falls, or Buffalo, New York.
The Ethan Allen Express, operating daily in both directions between New York City and Rutland, Vermont.
The Maple Leaf, operating daily in both directions between New York City and Toronto, Canada.
Places of interest
Hudson is home to the FASNY (Firemen’s Association of the State of New York) Museum of Firefighting, one of the largest fire service centered museums in the world. It is on the grounds of the FASNY Firemen’s home, the first old-age/nursing home for firemen in the country.
With hundreds of properties listed or eligible to be listed in the State and National Registers of historic places, Hudson has been called “a finest dictionary of American architecture in New York State.” A discussion of Hudson’s architecture, its history, and recent revival, together with a collection of 200 period photographs of the city spanning the mid-19th to the early 20th century, are compiled in Historic Hudson: An Architectural Portrait by historian Byrne Fone.
Columbia County Courthouse, South Fourth and Allen Streets – The current Columbia County Courthouse is the fifth courthouse in the county, and the third to stand on this site. In 1906, the previous building, designed by local architect Henry S. Moul and built only six years before, was destroyed by fire. Within a year, this magnificent Beaux Arts building, designed by the acclaimed architectural firm of Warren & Wetmore, had taken its place. There’s reason to wonder how it all happened so fast, since the firm was involved at the time with the design for New York’s Grand Central Station. It’s been suggested that Warren & Wetmore may have adapted a design they had ready for some other purpose, but the building belies that notion. An exemplar of the City Beautiful Movement with its focus on architectural ensembles, the courthouse brilliantly makes reference to and harmonizes with the surrounding buildings, in particular the library building at the opposite end of the Fourth Street transept.
Dr. Oliver Bronson House
Dr. Oliver Bronson House, Hudson Correctional Facility grounds – The Dr. Oliver Bronson House is Hudson’s most architecturally significant structure (and its only National Historic Landmark) for its association with the influential 19th-century architect Alexander Jackson Davis. In 1839 and again in 1849, Bronson commissioned Davis to make changes to the 1812 Federal-style house that was his country seat. In 1839, the house was “refitted” in the Picturesque style: the eaves were extended, decorative brackets were added, and an ornamental veranda created. The effect was to integrate the house more effectively into the landscape. In 1849, the structure was expanded by an addition that included a central rotunda connecting two octagonal rooms with tall windows, a central tower, and a west-facing ornamental veranda—opening the house to the views that inspired Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, and the other painters of the Hudson River School.
145 and 147 Green Street – Hudson is renowned for its late 18th and 19th century architecture, but these two early 20th century houses on Green Street are among my favorites. They sit side by side, perched on a graceful rise above the street and the sidewalk, shaded by magnificent old sycamore trees. One (147) is a classic bungalow, and the other (145) an American foursquare. Prewar houses like these were the modest external evidence of affluence and stability in the postwar decades, the American dream comfortably realized. Intact nuclear families lived in houses like these: a breadwinner dad, a stay-at-home mom, two or three kids, maybe a dog. If you’re a Baby Boomer who didn’t grow up in a house that this, you may wonder what your life would be like today if you had.
445 Warren Street – To say this building is asymmetrical is an understatement. The main entrance is dead center, surmounted by an oriel topped with a columned turret. The parts of the building on either side of this complicated central element are completely different. The part at the left has three unevenly spaced bays, a Palladian window on the second floor, and a cornice topped by a pediment with bracketed eaves. The part at the right has two bays, a trio of arched windows on the third floor, and a bracketed gable. The building doesn’t make sense until you know that this was the home and office of architect Henry S. Moul, who came to Hudson in 1875. He designed it to show off the variety of architectural elements and designs in which he was fluent.
8 Willard Place – Like 445 Warren Street, 8 Willard Place was constructed to show possibilities. The Colonial Revival house—the last of the original houses to be built on Willard Place—was designed by Michael J. O’Connor and built by William H. Traver as a wedding gift for Charles, his eldest son and partner in the lumber company W. H. Traver & Son. At the time the house was built (1892-93), cabinet and interior woodwork was a specialty of the lumber mill, and the woodwork of the house, both inside and out, are an enduring advertisement for the firm’s capabilities. This may be one of the best preserved houses in Hudson. In its nearly 120 years, the house has had only three owners.
59 Allen Street – This Gothic Revival house never fails to inspire. It’s in lamentable shape. Most of its decorative details are missing, but, with a little contemplation and imagination, you can see it as it was meant to be. The house was built in the 1840s, before most of the surrounding houses existed. There’s some suggestion that it may have been designed by A. J. Downing. Its location provided commanding views of the river and South Bay and the orchards that then existed on the steep slope between Allen Street and Tanners Lane. In 1858, the house was purchased by Charles Alger, who called it The Hermitage. By that time, the view from the house was marred by the fiery, smoke-belching Hudson Iron Works, but it’s unlikely that Alger would have minded. He was the owner of the foundry, and it was making him rich.
357 Allen Street – There are relatively few Egyptian Revival buildings in the United States. For the architects of the 19th century, Egyptian monuments symbolized permanence. As a result, the style was used mostly for things like cemetery gates, mausoleums, and prisons. The Tombs in New York City is a classic example of Egyptian Revival architecture, and there is an Egyptian Revival monument in the Hudson City Cemetery. Domestic examples of Egyptian Revival architecture are very rare. There are only about seventy in the entire country, and this is one of them. What is interesting about this house is that the pillars alone are what make it Egyptian Revival. The rest of the exterior is quite simple with no particularly distinctive stylistic features.
27-31 and 105-109 Union Street – Trios of late 19th-century houses, tucked between the larger houses that preceded them on the block. They are a study in what happens to houses over time. All started out looking exactly alike—except for the cornices, which are taller and slightly different on the center houses. One of the houses was “remodeled.” Three have been restored in recent years. The doors are of particular interest. Each house originally had a half-glass door with three panes of brilliant stained glass, top and bottom. With the exception of the “modernized” house, where the door has been replaced by a 20th-century version of standard design, the front doors are all original. On one of the houses, the stained glass has been replaced with clear glass. On another it’s hidden by a 1950s aluminum storm door.
221 Union Street – This beautifully maintained late 19th century Queen Anne has a great story—a Hudson story. Decades ago it was purchased by a young couple—not weekenders, but locals. They wanted to “fix up” the house—replace the windows and put on vinyl siding—but they couldn’t afford such improvements. So they decided instead to work with what they had. Over time, as they refined their maintenance skills, they developed a deep respect for the quality of the materials and the construction of their house. As “newcomers” bought up the houses around it, this house set the standard for the care and keeping of old houses on the block.
Empire Knitting Mill
Empire Knitting Mill, 561 Washington Street – Probably the most intact and representative example of Hudson’s many knitting mills. Constructed in the early 1880s, the vast four-story factory was one of the largest in Hudson, and its capacity—300 operatives producing 24,000 men’s cotton and wool fleece-lined shirts and drawers a day—one of the largest in the world. Its stair tower, centrally located on the North Sixth Street façade, was originally topped by a steeply pitched pyramidal roof. Vacant for many years, the Pocketbook Factory, as it is now known—for over forty years it was home to a manufacturer of leather handbags—is currently being converted for mixed use, including expansive, wood-floored gallery space.
Hudson Upper Depot, State Street, north of Seventh Street – Built in 1870-71 at State and North Seventh Streets, one of three surviving passenger depots of the 16-mile line connecting Hudson and Chatham, the county’s first railroad. (The others were Claverack and Mellenville). The single-story 26 x 80-foot brick station is dominated by a central half-round window along the track façade. The gable field of each end of the station is punctuated by an oculus. Particularly distinctive are the eaves, lined with Gothic open fretwork and supported by curved iron brackets, and the use of hammered granite for the sills, not a feature of other stations in the county. Today the short section of the operating line serves the ADM Milling Company plant of Greenport, but the station closed in 1957, and is currently vacant.
Hudson Opera House
Marina Abramovic Institute for Performance Art (planned)
Shopping and dining
Fish & Game
The Crimson Sparrow
The Spotty Dog
The Half Moon
Several movies and television shows have been filmed in Hudson:
The Wonder Years
Odds Against Tomorrow, starring Harry Belafonte
Ironweed, starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep
Nobody’s Fool, starring Paul Newman and Jessica Tandy
The PBS documentary Two Square Miles, directed by Barbara Ettinger.
Robert Adams, American sailor and explorer
John Ashbery, New York State poet laureate
Melissa Auf der Maur, musician (The Smashing Pumpkins, Hole)
Rashad Barksdale, New York Giants cornerback
Nicholas Carone, artist
Lynn Davis, photographer
Ella Fitzgerald, singer (She spent part of her childhood in a Hudson orphanage.)
Meshall Ndegeocello, musician
Dawn Langley Simmons, author and famous hermaphrodite (She lived quietly in Hudson during the 1980s while writing her biography of Margaret Rutherford.)
Tommy Stinson, musician (Guns N’ Roses)
Bob Trowbridge, former Major League Baseball pitcher
Rudy Wurlitzer, author and screenwriter.