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Learning about America's 17 Hudsons -- New York

Published: January 18, 2017 12:02 AM
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Located 504 miles east of Hudson, Ohio, on the east bank of the Hudson River, 120 miles north of New York City, is Hudson, New York.

First settled in 1622 by the Dutch as Claverack Landing, the City of Hudson was chartered in 1785. The founders, seafaring men from Providence, Newport and Nantucket, sought safe harbor for their sailing vessels. They feared British retaliation following the Revolutionary War. The city was named after Henry Hudson, the English explorer, who first sailed up what was to become known as the Hudson River, in 1609.

By 1788 Hudson had become a commercial city with warehouses, wharves, and industry. Economic mainstays included whaling and international trade. By 1790, Hudson was the 24th largest city, in terms of population, in the entire United States.

Like its Ohio's namesake, New York's Hudson experienced economic decline in the mid-1800s. With the discovery of oil, the demand whale oil disappeared. A resurgence occurred when railroads supported the growth of area mills, brickyards, ironworks and breweries. By the early 1900s, Hudson again experienced hard times. The city turned to gambling, liquor and prostitution, supported by corrupt politicians. Many of its old mansions along Diamond Street became brothels as Hudson earned the reputation as "the little town with a big red light district." Upstanding locals would claim they were from nearby Albany, rather than admit being from Hudson.

With the repeal of Prohibition, the Great Depression, and finally the departure of the local cement industry, by 1960 Hudson was an endangered city. Threatened by ill-considered planned demolition of abandoned buildings, a renaissance began in the 1980s. Derelict buildings were rescued and restored. Hudson transformed itself into a vital arts and antiques center, surrounded by a rich architectural heritage.

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Today, Hudson's mile-long business district extends along Warren Street. Starting on the west at Promenade Hill, the park provides a fantastic overlook of the scenic Hudson River Valley and the iconic 1874 Hudson-Athens Lighthouse. Located at the park's entrance a historic structure houses Hudson's Visitor Center and Columbia County Chamber of Commerce. Along the eight-block length of Warren Street and adjacent streets, the compact city of just 2.3 square miles contains more than 300 listed historic buildings. Every architectural style of the past three centuries is represented. Hudson now boasts 51 antique shops, 18 art galleries, 24 restaurants, 10 B&Bs plus a number of boutique hotels, 10 live performance venues and 3 museums. The massive Museum of Firefighting is among the world's largest.

On weekends, Hudson's population swells from 6,500 permanent residents to 11,000 or more. It is a weekend destination for many New York City dwellers. Less than a two-hour train ride, visitors arrive at the restored 1874 rail depot. Boston is three hours away, while Albany is just 35 miles to the north.

Annually the city hosts three parades, one honoring volunteer firefighters, another on Flag Day, and the third celebrating Gay Pride. A free Music Festival is held each August. In the Fall, an ArtsWalk celebrates local artists. In December Warren Street becomes a winter playground marking the start of the holiday season.

Area attractions include the Hudson River Valley, the restored homes of famed artists Thomas Cole and Frederic Church, and cruising the Hudson River cruise on the "Spirit of Hudson." In nearby Kinderhook is the grave and home of the 8th U.S. President, Martin Van Buren. Van Buren practiced law in Hudson.

For additional information contact the Hudson Visitor Center, 1 N. Front St., Hudson, NY 12534, columbiachamber-ny.com. or phone 518-828-4417.

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