Kathryn McDonald

July 23, 2013

135 Route 23B, Hudson NY


Melinda Braathen

Melinda Braathen
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Part 1:

Kathryn was born in Hudson. She has lived at Fountain Head since she was two years old. Her parents built the current house. Kathryn’s maternal grandfather bought this property in 1896, known as Fountain Head, which has been in the family over 100 years.

Her father James McDonald, one of 10 children, lived on Front Street. His father ran McDonald’s Ice-Cream Parlor. Her mother was Florence Hiscock. Kathryn has one brother,  Andrew, who lives in Hudson and a sister who passed away five years ago. 

This house, called the New House, was originally the Fountain Head Hotel. It was in poor repair because her elderly grandfather couldn’t maintain it. In 1940 it was torn down and rebuilt, mostly using the original materials. The tin roof was originally on one of the cow barns, which her grandfather had installed in 1907. Florence and James lived there for the rest of their lives. The mountain and the rocks and the cement plant have all been a big part of Kathryn’s life. 

Her grandfather Andrew Hiscox was a cattle dealer and ran the Fountain Head Hotel as a meeting place with a barroom and meals. Next to the barroom was the Justice Office. When the building burned down a new Justice Office was built next to Kathryn’s house. Although a small building, the court/town affairs meetings were held there. 

The name Fountain Head was derived from missionaries who were traveling from the Hudson River to Great Barrington, MA. As they passed through they observed many fountains that had sprung up everywhere. Across from Fountain Head in the rocks is a little building called the Hudson Aqueduct. Kathryn thinks the aqueduct sign is from about 1850.

The water that percolates through the rocks is hard water. However they don’t know from where the water originates. Many years ago this water was used by Evans Ale Brewery at the corner of 2nd Street and State Street. They piped water from the Hudson Aqueduct to the brewery location through wooden pipes. When they stopped using this water, people said that the ale was never the same. Evans Ale burned down in 1932 or 1933. Luckily only the brewery was damaged and no other buildings. 

Kathryn has been actively participating with the Greenport Historical Society and involved with many projects for years, keeping an archive and gifting many pictures. The West Gate Tollhouse was a big project, and a significant part of her life. There were many events sponsored by the historical society. Some of the collaborators in the historical society were Marian Smith, Smokey Schools, Warren Van Deusen, and David Hart, who was a tremendous backbone of society. An excellent history of the Hudson Toll Gate exists at Red Lion Inn. 

Many years ago her grandfather lived on Spook Rock Road. He had to pay a one cent toll on Columbia Turnpike for a horse and wagon to get into Hudson. Sometimes her father had to stop at his father’s house, the house that Kathryn lives in now, to get the penny. 

A second tollgate, located in Greenport and still standing, known as The Toll Gate House is privately owned by the Cooner family. This toll gate changed when she was young to no toll. Another Toll Gate is located towards Hillsdale which is still standing but also privately owned. 

Kathryn was baptized at St. Mary’s, her parents were married there, she graduated from St. Mary’s Academy, and has been active in the parish her whole life. The Polish, Italian and Irish churches merged about 20 years ago. The old St Mary’s Parish Church was a Gothic church. The church and school located on 3rd and Allen, burned down. In 1930 they built the stone church on East Allen and Court Street. It is like a Cathedral with windows of delicate stained glass. 

Part 2:

St. Mary’s Parish Church was built in 1930 and seats about 800 people. Before the school burned down, a new high school was built in 1956. But when the City of Hudson shifted to a smaller, younger age group they used it as a grade school, until closing it in 1971.

In school she remembers that everyone was friends, no one became famous, but that they did well in their lives and were good citizens. The key subjects in school for girls were limited to nurse, secretary or school teacher. Most went to college or business school and then started working.  

Kathryn’s first job after graduating from business school was at Canada Dry in Hudson for $3 a day. Kathryn then went to work in Albany for $15.00 a week for 5 days a week. Her long time employment was with Aetna Life and Casualty for 45 years, starting at $125.00 a month for 5.5 days a week. She took the train to and from Hudson to Albany.

At the Canada Dry factory they made soda, bottled and shipped it. Canada Dry was on Union Turnpike, just over the car/railroad tracks that go up to the cement plant. Next to it was the Universal Match Factory, later bought out by a Scandinavian company who then closed it. Down the road from the match factory was the V & O Press. They manufactured tools and presses. At one time they employed 150 – 200 people. Hudson and Greenport cement plants were the backbone of the community. Citizen taxes were low due to so much industry.

Her father started working at Atlas Cement about 1914 or 1915. First he worked at Atlas then he went to Lone Star for 11 cents an hour more. Some days they had to work 24 hours a day. There used to be a bus that ran from Hudson out to Lone Star run by Paul Hirschman, who charged a nickel a ride, but it’s out of existence now. 

The Lone Star cement process was different from the process used at Atlas. Atlas was bought by United States Steel but Lone Star Industries stayed individually owned. Kathryn’s father was a shovel operator at Lone Star which is near the Toll Gate House. The Powerhouse still stands and brings stone from the quarry, down across the trestle, as it did with Atlas, and crushed it in the crusher to make cement. They also made a quick setting cement called Encore that was used in building the Boulder Dam.  

Life with all these functioning factories in Hudson contributed to a great economy. There were department stores, 10 cent stores, and six grocery stores on Warren Street. Kathryn remembers there being 15 or 20 clothing stores like Marsh’s, Guinan’s and Richman’s, and a privately owned Macy’s for pots and pans. For young people there were movie theaters, The Rialto on Warren Street, the Community Theater, and the Star Theater. The Star played only Westerns on Sunday afternoons, charging 10 cents. On Warren above 3rd and 4th Street was The Playhouse Theater. City Hall became the Opera House. Families would gather together on a Friday night, visiting relatives. Kathryn thinks that children today don’t have the same family connections. 

Driving on 23B out of Hudson, go right at Spook Rock Road, drive past Holmesquest Farms, further down Spook Rock is a big brick house that sits long to the road. It was her great great grandfather’s house, Joseph Hiscox, who came from England. He bought the house in the late 1850s. At the top of the house are 2 little windows, 12”-18” wide, close to the roof. They were used to watch for Indians in order to defend themselves. The house also had Dutch doors and  half doors.

In the cemetery is the Van Tassell School that was once a schoolhouse that Kathryn’s mother attended. Down on the corner of Middle Road and Route 9G is an auto place and a tree, where the Hook Schoolhouse used to be. It was a one-room school house where her aunt taught eight grades for about 25 – 30 kids. It had a pot-bellied stove for warmth. There were several other small schoolhouses in the area: the Swamp Schoolhouse, the Delamater Schoolhouse, and a schoolhouse near Stewart Gardner’s. When the “new” school was built on Union Turnpike, it encompassed all of these small schoolhouses. Today that building is The Falls apartments. 

The Greenport Firehouse on Columbia Turnpike was formed/commissioned in 1928 and has been active ever since. Andrew Hart and Andy Griffin, plus others, started the Greenport Rescue Squad - probably in the 1930s. Now it is the Greenport Ambulance. They bought an old hearse and made it into an ambulance. Marian Smith wrote about this in her book about Greenport, Greenport: The Forgotten Town.

Past the Pizza Hut on Fairview Ave. on a hill (Fabiano Blvd) facing out is a big house that looks like a turtle. Captain Hogan bought and built this house for his wife. It was built to look like a Navy captain’s hat with a curved roof. At some point in time, someone came along who called it The Turtle House. 

The Day Line Boats, named The Alexander Hamilton and The Peter Stuyvesant, ran up and down the Hudson River. At 11am you could board in Hudson, sailing down to Kingston Point, get off and have a picnic. You could then catch a boat sailing north from NYC, returning to Hudson at 4pm. 

The Armory burned down when Kathryn was a child. Then it was rebuilt. Previously, Basilica was a glue factory that smelled terrible. The area near the river and the railroad tracks was not prosperous back then. It was where many of the warehouses were located, like Conway’s Coalyard. Hearing the train whistle reminded Kathryn that the train used to go to Philmont and connect with the Harlem Line to go through to NYC. Now the train just goes as far as the cement plant and also brings up flour that goes to ADM. 

Kathryn enjoys life, being part of a community. She was the first recipient of The Rotary Senior Citizen of Year award in 2004 or 2005 for her work with the hospital, the church, and helping others.

Interviewer Bio:

Melinda Braathen

Melinda Braathen is a resident of Hudson, NY. She graduated from Bard College in 2007. She worked in publishing and the arts for three and a half years in Berlin, Germany and Oslo, Norway. She conducted a series of interviews with her own Norwegian grandmother, who worked underground in the resistance while Norway was occupied by Germany during WWII. She previously worked at Time & Space Limited in Hudson. She completed Suzanne Snider’s Oral History Summer School in 2012 and currently co-hosts the Monday Afternoon Show with Sara Kendall on WGXC Community Radio. The show is interview based and focuses on people, politics, and cultural events.

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