Attractions April 04, 2016
Guest Contributor 7 Reasons Why Hudson, New York Is One Of The Coolest Small Towns In The Nation
Hudson is a destination that has had it all; from Mohicans to celebrities, from economic downturns to a thriving creative economy that now includes Etsy. Discovered by tourists, celebrity chefs, world-famous artists, motion pictures, and major magazines, Hudson is a go-to destination just two hours north of New York City becoming known nationally and internationally as a place of art, culture, and fine food. Local people and visitors say that there is a palpable vibe with a vortex of creative energy. For centuries, there have been reports of energies of another kind also, described in some of its folklore. Here are just a few of the things that make Hudson one of the coolest small towns in the nation:
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The town was named after explorer Henry Hudson, who in 1609 encountered the native Mohicans in this area as he came upriver in his ship, the Half Moon. In 1783, a group from Massachusetts and Rhode Island arrived in search of safe harbor for their vessels against British naval attacks. In the spring of 1783, they purchased the land that was then called Claverack Landing but is now Hudson and Greenport. By fall, two families arrived, more families followed the next spring, bringing with them prefabricated houses from Nantucket. These settlers called themselves the Proprietors, many of them Quakers. In 1785, the City of Hudson was chartered. It was the third city in the state of New York.
In the Fall of 1609, Patrick Frazier describes in one of his books, “a Mohican walked out from one of the main villages and saw a strange sight on the river. Thinking it was some sort of great fish, he ran back to the village to tell the others.” Returning to the scene with two more Mohicans, they encountered the coming of Henry Hudson and his crew aboard the Half Moon. Pictured here is Captain Robert Waterman who was born in Hudson March 1808. His father was a Nantucket sea captain who died at sea when Waterman was eight years old. His sailing record 74 day trip from Hong Kong to New York has never been beaten by any sail powered vessel.
Hudson’s downtown has been labeled as one of the richest dictionaries of architecture in New York State with examples of Federal, Greek revival, Georgian townhouses, Second Empire Mansions, Craftsman style bungalows, the elliptical staircase at the Plumb Bronson House, and a Victorian with Egyptian-style lotus motifs on its columns. A trip to Hudson should include touring the Inn at Hudson with an extinct wood throughout its grand entry as well as its luminous Heinecke & Bowen leaded glass windows depicting a stag and Henry Hudson’s ship the Half Moon. Take in also the artistic creation of Olana, considered one of the most notable houses in America. The Robert Jenkins House Museum and Library, owned and operated by the Hendrick Hudson Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, showcases Civil War and whaling artifacts.
Legendary Spook Rock Road is nearby; a ghost story that still fascinates locals and visitors with a tale of doomed Indian lovers and their demise. In the 1950s, famed New York Institute of Technology scholar and author Hans Holzer visited Hudson for a reputed haunted house on south sixth street, known as The Deitz House, later including it in his book Ghosts: True Encounters of the World Beyond. The Hudson Area Library on State Street with a history of being an insane asylum and orphanage has left some visitors with tales of otherwordly goings on. The former Weintraub House on lower Warren Street, now a gallery is also reputed to have had ghostly visitors. Overlooking the Hudson River on Promenade Hill is the St. Winifred Statue; St. Winifred had been a noble British maiden beheaded by Prince Caradoc for refusing his advances as the legend goes. Wearing the martyr’s crown, she holds the sword that beheaded her.
The scenery in and around Hudson with its Catskill Mountain views is among the most stunning to be seen in the nation, especially during Fall Foliage. Queen Victoria “could not believe her eyes” upon viewing painter Jasper Cropsey’s Autumn – On The Hudson River. The spine of the city, Warren Street, previously called the “long straight street” when Henry James visited, offers a grand view of what The New York Times called “the best antiques shopping in the Northeast.”
5. Fun Fearless Females
Hudson has hosted and housed women of achievement for a long time. When Amelia Earhart and her co-pilot crashed landed in a nearby field, they stayed at Hudson’s St. Charles Hotel. Earhart would be a frequent visitor campaigning for FDR. In 1933 a Westchester judge sent Ella Fitzgerald to the New York State Training School for Girls here. Ella ran away and within a year was singing with Chick Webb, then on to becoming “First Lady of Jazz.” Hudson’s Titanic survivor Gretchen Fiske Longley, saw its boilers explode, its lights go out, and watched the Titanic split in two disappearing forever under the waves. She would sail across the Atlantic 13 more times “just to see if I could do it.” Walking around Hudson you may spot Sigourney Weaver, Claire Danes or Liv Tyler – all have weekend homes nearby. Celebrated illustrator Lisa Congdon did a residency here last summer at Drop Forge & Tool. Marina Ambramovic plans to open an arts center in Hudson which will no doubt attract more world wide attention to Hudson. The city is enjoying its first ever female Mayor, Tiffany Martin Hamilton whose adventures are just beginning. Pictured here: Amelia Earhart.
The people of Hudson from ancient times to the present are truly inspiring. Hudson School District’s robotics team, known as Weapons of Mass Construction, academic and engineering-minded students, are going to the national championships for competitive robotics. Hudson’s kids will get a chance to excel at the national level. Hudson is becoming known for its many diverse art galleries of distinction. Warren Street gallerists Carrie Haddad, Nancy Cobean of Rose Gallery, and BCB Art owner Bruce Bergmann have seen how art could change other struggling towns and applied those principles to Hudson, where art has turned the city around from one of its economic downturns. Eighties band Psychedelic Furs lead singer Richard Butler will have his art in an upcoming show at BCB Art. Columbia County voted Best Artist 2015 Roger Mason can regularly be seen on and near Warren Street painting Hudson landmarks by day and by night. Trixie Starr’s Bernie cookies with the likeness of Bernie Sanders shows creativity and passion; all proceeds raised from cookie sales benefit the Sanders campaign. Perfect Ten After School Program, The Hudson Youth Department, Hatch and Kite’s Nest all offer enrichment programs for the city’s youth. The strong sense of community is found everywhere; Solaris at Camphill Hudson offers a complimentary weekly community meal open to all, the monthly gathering Artists + Friends Potluck dinner showcases local artist presentations, as well as fine home made meals to share. The Hudson Area Library History Room, created by the late Norma Hart is relocating soon to the library’s new home in the historic Armory on State and Fifth Streets. Staffed by volunteers John Craig and Tom D’Onofrio who generously donate their time and knowledge, the History Room is a treasure trove of artifacts and rare periodicals, and where one can also go to find local house histories.
Before Hudson became known as a tourist destination, America’s first art movement started here. The Hudson River School of painters included Frederic Church and Sanford Robinson Gifford; who were among the original founders also of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These days, Hudson has per capita, the most self employed people in New York State. Creatives have come to settle in Hudson where they do not feel out of place being self employed running a variety of businesses. From whale oil lamp and candle factories in olden times to craftspeople creating in modern times at Etsy among many more shops here, the creativity and entrepreneurial nature of Hudson’s residents has allowed Hudson to reinvent itself over and over. The Hudson Opera House, oldest surviving theater in New York State, soon to undergo an $8 million restoration offers many creative classes for children and adults, some of which are free. The Hudson Childrens Book Festival, the largest of its kind in the Northeast, was started eight years ago and allows all children to leave with at least one book of their choice. Fund-raising in the community recently hosted by Colin and Katrina Stair at Stair Gallery raises money to allow each child to pick out their favorite book from their favorite author so that no child leaves empty handed. This festival annually attracts 4-6,000 visitors. The New York Times praised Writers Studio of the Hudson Valley and Berkshires resides in Hudson to give a literary feast to those seeking to perfect their craft.
Hudson’s vibe is well worth a visit and its never dull atmosphere makes it a fascinating place to reside year round. In a city where strong divisions have sometimes been drawn, there’s something for everyone. Have you ever been to Hudson?