The History of Hudson New York

Hudson, NY is a small city with a rich history and a magnificent location on the east shore of the Hudson River 120 miles north of New York Harbor.

It was originally inhabited by the Mohican Indians. The first known European to navigate the river was Henry Hudson in 1609. Originally called Claverack Landing, there were 10 farming families and fewer than 150 residents. While it was a successful center, it seemed an unlikely place for a whaling port. However, when the Continental Congress voted to suspend trade with Great Britain, the whaling ports along the New England coast were effectively shut down. In 1783 two Nantucket merchants bought Claverack Landing, and for being inconveniently upriver, the whaling trade flourished. The City of Hudson was chartered in 1785 and by 1840 it was one of the most important whaling centers in the country. Additionally, it had become a considerable industrial center, and by 1790 it was the 24th largest city in the country. Over the years it has been the site of farming, cotton mills and, in modern times, cement plants.

The city was settled by Quakers who proved to be surprisingly tolerant of the vices that came with the whaling business. During the period from the late 19th century to the first half of the 20th, Hudson became a center for prostitution, gambling and, during Prohibition, bootlegging. The notorious gangster Jack “Legs” Diamond ran booze out of a Kingston brewery through a secret network of underground tunnels. In its heyday, Hudson became known as the “little town with the big red light district,” aptly called Diamond Street. When the last whaling ship sailed out of Hudson in 1844, the city would have fallen on hard times had it not been for the money brought into the local economy by prostitutes, gamblers and gangsters. During the 1920s and 30s there were 15 brothels providing employment for as many as 50 to 75 prostitutes.

In 1951 this changed dramatically when the state police moved in and cracked down on the illicit activities. The formerly prosperous city fell into decline, with the 1960s and 70s being particular low points. The many homes built in the Federal, Victorian, Italianate, Greek Revival, and Queen Anne styles suffered from neglect and lack of repair. The 1991-92 renovation of the Hudson Railroad Station made travel from New York City a reasonable two-hour trip and sparked a surge of interest in real estate, and more specifically historic restoration of the city’s many exceptional houses in the Warren Street area. With the area’s natural beauty and many attractions, Hudson is enjoying a significant Renaissance, attracting people who are putting down roots, opening shops, galleries and restaurants, and contributing to a vibrant downtown with a strong sense of Hudson pride.

Local points of interest include Olana, the Persian-style home of landscape artist Frederic Edwin Church; the home of Thomas Cole, regarded as the father of the Hudson River School; the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse; and Clermont Estate, the seat of New York’s politically and socially prominent Livingston family for seven generations; and Hudson Hall, an arts and cultural programming venue offering year-round events of broad appeal.

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