The first chartered city in the United States, Hudson was founded on the river of the same name by whalers and merchants hailing from Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and Rhode Island, who sought an inland port safe from 18th-century piracy.
These initial Proprietors set forth a rational grid of streets and parks over the uneven terrain previously called Claverack Landing. They began building many handsome houses, banks, department stores and other commercial buildings in what would become a living catalogue of American vernacular styles.
The City grew quickly in its early years, missing by only one vote becoming the New York State capital. In addition to whale oil, Hudson was for many decades a thriving commercial center producing a wide variety of goods including beer, matches, mushrooms and pocketbooks.
Over time (as carefully detailed in Bruce Edward Hall’s Diamond Street) Hudson also became infamous as a town of ill-repute. Gambling and prostitution flourished with a wink and a nod from local regional authorities—until 1951, when Governor Dewey finally broke up the rackets with a massive, headline-grabbing raid.
In the 1980s and ’90s, Hudson steadily developed an international reputation as an antiques mecca, with dozens of locally-owned stores lining Warren, the main street. Over the past decade the city has gradually diversified its commercial base to include restaurants, sporting goods, art galleries, housewares, live music and nightlife, and more.
Hudson is also advantageously situated. With an Amtrak station right in town, and both the Taconic Parkway and the Thruway close by, New York City is just under two hours ride or drive away. In under an hour, one can also reach the best hiking and skiiing of the Catskills, the State capital in Albany, or the music and culture of the Berkshires.
The scenery and surroundings are equally spectacular. New residents discover that the intense and vivid sunsets depicted in the paintings of the Hudson River School are in fact realistic, not exaggerated. The City benefits from its setting in a largely rural and agricultural county, where farm stands, scenic drives and historic sites can be found in every direction.
Full of both character and characters, Hudson isn’t a generic or monocultural place. Small-town traditions, immigrant populations, and avant-garde culture manage to coexist here. Hudson’s diverse and active community takes a keen interest in community affairs and local issues such as historic preservation and open government.
HUDSON IN FILM
- Odds Against Tomorrow (Harry Belafonte, Shelley Winters), 1959
- Ironweed (Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep), 1987
- Nobody’s Fool (Paul Newman, Melanie Griffith),1994
- Two Square Miles (PBS documentary), 2006
- Ghost Dance (Independent film), 2007
- The Cake Eaters (Kristen Stewart), 2008
HUDSON IN THE MEDIA
Hudson has been featured in numerous magazines and other publications as a magnet for arts, antiques, and culture. The city has been the subject of articles in The New York Times, New York Magazine, Wallpaper, Elle Decor, Architectural Digest, Preservation Magazine, and many others. Hudson was named one of the “Top 10 Coolest Small Towns in the U.S.A.” in the May 2006 issue of Budget Travel. In 2010, The Times featured Hudson’s growing music scene.
- The Illusionist, by Dinitia Smith
- Center Street, by Leonard Wise
- The Spirit of the Place, by Samuel Shem
- The American Scene by Henry James (1907)
- A Visible Heritage by Ruth Piwonka & Roderic H. Blackburn (1977)
- The Hudson Valley: A History and Guide by Tim Mulligan (1981)
- Diamond Street by Bruce Edward Hall (1994)
- Historic Hudson by Byrne Fone (2005)
- Hudson’s Merchants and Whalers by Margaret Schram (2005)
- At Home in the Hudson Valley by Allison Serrell (2005)
—Written & compiled by Sam Pratt