Mary Hallenbeck

August 3, 2013

Hudson, NY


Robyn Waters

Robyn Waters
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Mary Hallenbeck said that as a child Hudson was a wonderful place to grow up. There were grocery stores, shoe stores, men and women’s clothing stores, furniture stores, dry goods stores. Most were privately owned. There were three movie theaters. The Blue Anchor on North 7th Street was a recreation center for teens. There were also a couple of soda fountains and the pharmacies had snack bars as well delivery services. McKinstry’s had a lending library as well as a snack bar that kids walked to after school. The milkman delivered as did Cushman Bakery. And there were three general stores in Claverack. In the summer farmers came through town with wagons loaded with fruits and vegetables and meats, butter and eggs too. Down street were dry goods stores that sold workman’s clothes for businesses like Coca Cola (which had a local bottling plant, Canada Dry, in Greenport), V&O Press, Universal Match Company, Gifford-Wood, Lone Star Cement on 23B, and Atlas that later became St. Lawrence Cement. Hudson was a very busy place after the Depression in 1929 and WWll. Many of these businesses became defense factories during the War. Women went to work in factories during the war (Rosie the Riveter) like at Gifford-Wood, but none to V&O Press. V&O stamped out bullets and was high security so women were office workers. 

How did women going to work affect Hudson? Children became latch-key kids because there was no no daycare. When her mother, who was a switch-board operator, went back to work during WWll Mary had chores and responsibilities at home. Hudson also had Grey’s Furniture Store next to Crawford’s Assoc or Berman’s, Marsh & Bachman Department Store with three floors, a millinery store on Warren Street: Mrs. Warsher’s for hats, the Baker’s Dress Shop, Maratsky’s Jewelers. There were also dentists, a lab that made dentures, barber shops, Grossman’s Bakery (which now houses TSL, Time Space Limited), and children's clothing stores. There were Kresge’s on 6th Street and Newberry’s, both had lunch counters but not Woolworth’s (which is now the current CVS). There were also many shoe stores, including Florsheim and Speed’s, dry cleaners, and a furrier. The local Brickyards and stone quarries provided material used in local building. Mary thinks the prime time period for Hudson was just before and after WWll because there was so much industry here. 

The notable McKinstry Family were pre-revolutionary settlers. In addition to a farm on County Route 31 they owned the Home for the Aged and later on the McKinstry Pharmacy. Sally, the wife of Robert, a lawyer in the 1800s, started the Orphanage in Hudson. The first building was a red brick house on North 7th Street. The Orphanage was later moved to 400 State Street. 

Doctor Esselstyn was a surgeon from New York City. His family goes way back to pre-revolutionary times. He owned a farm and acres in Claverack on Route 23. He had a vision of opening a central clinic on North 5th Street called The Rip Van Winkle Clinic. He also opened clinics in rural areas of the county because they needed more doctors and helped to start Medicare in the county. Until Mrs. Prentice died she helped to fund these clinics. 

The Day Line boat ran from Albany to NYC making stops along the way (Hudson was a stop) and docking in Albany by 6pm. They would take a ride in summer to Kingston Point, which had an amusement park, or to Poughkeepsie and then take the train home. On a boat you have the best view of all the big estates. In winter during her parents’ youth, they would skate on the Hudson River, also do racing horses, and ice harvesting for their ice box.

Families settled in the areas around their church or where there was room to build a church. Irish settled around St. Mary’s on Allen Street. Catholic Charities Convent was built in the 1930s near there. Further down was Mount Carmel where Italians built a Church on North 2nd Street (near the present day Verdigris Tea and Chocolate Bar), and Sacred Heart Polish Catholic Church. People tended to work in different factories in the vicinity of their church, like harvesting ice or at the cement factories. African-Americans stayed by themselves at that time. They mostly lived on Columbia Street and had their own church. At one time there were three Lutheran Churches, but now just one is left. Out of the Presbyterian grew a Reformed Church but it was destroyed by arson. Jews had a synagogue where Shiloh Baptist Church is currently located near Front Street. The Jews lived on Warren Street and near the Hudson River because many were the shopkeepers on Warren Street. 

In Hudson each neighborhood had a small school; 401 State Street had been the junior high school. The WPA built the Montgomery Smith School and the John L. Edwards School, named after a surgeon. Greenport had good schools as did Claverack. There was the Claverack School, a K-8, that was three miles east. Then students took the bus to high school in Hudson. It was called Montgomery C. Smith School. They would walk into Hudson from the high school.

Mary stated that the Town of Greenport is like a donut and Hudson is the hole. Oliver Wiswall started Greenport because he was fed up with paying taxes for no benefits. He had land on three sides of Hudson, with the Hudson River on the fourth side so Hudson couldn't expand. 

Mary said that history repeats itself; the Proprietors came from Nantucket to settle here.They started having families, becoming the “Natives.” The Proprietors had candle factories, soap factories, boats, sails, breweries, etc. The railroad came and knocked out whaling. Probably in the 1930s to 1950s many residents worked in Albany with good jobs. With immigration Hudson changed and then there was more change during the College Era. Local kids left for college and did not come back. Gradually the plants closed, ending the abundance of good paying jobs. After 9/11, Hudson experienced an influx of New York City people. Professionals were moving here, just like in the late 1800s and 1900s. They had summer houses here and later retired to the country here. Mary said it is happening now again. She said that a change to Hudson is [New York] City people trying to make another Little New York but it will not work because Hudson was not designed for more parking. City people buy property near farms and object to smells. They object to noises from businesses. Mary doesn’t see much economic benefit to the general public from the influx of City people. Only a small segment of businesses see any benefit. Prices are too high, especially for restaurants. B&Bs are too expensive. St. Charles Hotel used to be moderate and busy. Families were prospering at one time whereas today it’s not easy. There are high rents now. In the 1970s during Urban Renewal, Section 8 Housing was built by the riverfront.  

Mary thinks Hudson should stay rural. Railroads create noise and possibly damage the foundations of buildings. Mary said that there is an overload of arts and expensive restaurants. There are few locals left. As new people came Mary got to know them through organizations she belongs to, but now there are so many new people that even the early new people don’t know them, the population is quickly evolving.

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Robyn Waters

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