While our population is equivalent to many small towns, Hudson is, and behaves much more like, a city, with an historical richness and contemporary vibrancy far bigger than its size would suggest. Hudson’s compact urban core makes it an eminently walkable city—one linked by rail to a great metropolis, built beside one of America’s great rivers, and situated at the heart of an agricultural district at the head of the farm-to-table movement. This mix—history, farming, art, culture—makes Hudson an extraordinary city to visit, offering history, sights, sounds, curiosities and great food around every corner.
A Colorful Past
How did a city so far upriver become a whaling port in the 1700s? Simple—it was a matter of necessity being the proverbial mother of invention. As the British shut down ports along the coast, two enterprising Nantucket brothers—Seth and Thomas Jenkins—sought a port that could get ships out to sea without drawing the attention of the Royal Navy. This they established on a piece of land known as Claverack Landing. The name of the port changed to Hudson when the city was chartered in 1785. Hudson was, incidentally, the first city chartered in the United States. It was also the first planned American city based on a modern grid.
As whaling declined, Hudson became a thriving industrial hub. But it was also a city that, throughout its history, offered sailors and laborers some added “entertainment.” From New York to Albany, everyone along the river knew about the “other” Hudson: the bars, gambling dens and brothels that existed all over the city in semi-secrecy. This underbelly attracted its share of characters, including gangsters like the notorious Legs Diamond, a frequent visitor for whom Diamond Street (now Columbia Street) was supposedly named.
All along Diamond Street, houses were converted to brothels, and it is said that the longest-running craps game in history—two and a half years—took place in Hudson. During Prohibition, Hudson became a major supplier of illicit beer to New York. According to legend, beer runners used a tunnel to the waterfront to secretly fill barges with brew.
Hudson’s wild side came to an abrupt end in the 1950s, after the FBI sealed off every entrance to the city and began making arrests. The Feds raided every brothel on Diamond Street and pulled everyone out. Among those facing ignominious arrest were eight or more officers of the law.
A Trove of American Architecture
Hudson is called a “dictionary of architectural history” because of its great wealth of exemplary buildings, many of them restored and meticulously maintained. Within the city, there are examples from nearly every major American period, from 18th-Century Nantucket townhouses, to solid Federal-style buildings, to rambling Victorians and early 20th Century Arts and Crafts structures. With the river fueling economic activity, each generation left its mark, starting with the whaling Quakers and including, thereafter, owners of everything from ironworks to cement plants. A prime example is North Sixth Street, where the city’s sea captains lived, and where many houses include such nautical details as round windows with hand-etched glass.
When Hudson’s fortunes eventually declined, the city was mostly (and luckily) spared the large-scale urban renewal that erased the architecture of many other small cities. This gave people plenty to work with as they preserved and renewed building after building. The result is that a walk around Hudson today is a walk through architectural history. From early Dutch farmhouses, to Queen Anne mansions, to weathervaned Victorians to Art Deco lofts—all of it is found in Hudson, with much of the original detail intact.
A City of Proprietors
One thing you’ll notice as you walk along Warren Street, and the nascent commercial district on Front Street, is the nearly complete lack of national chains—the lone exception being the CVS on Warren. Hudson is, first and foremost, a city of individual shopkeepers, with over 200 independent establishments shaped by the vision of their owners. Whether you’re looking for antiques, artisanal perfumes, gourmet cheese or a cappuccino, hand-made furniture, unique textiles, vinyl records or a farm-to-table lunch, you’ll find a vibrant mix of businesses rarely found in other downtowns. A city founded by proprietors, Hudson has reverted—strongly—to its entrepreneurial roots.
Best Antiques Browsing in the Northeast
Hudson’s late 20th Century revival was predominantly led by antiques dealers who were faced with a scarcity of space and rising rents in New York City. While they first used Hudson to store inventory, by the early 90s, they opened shops on Warren Street, which led them to realize the economic potential of restoring the picturesque city itself. By the early 2000’s, Hudson boasted nearly 70 antiques dealers and the New York Times described the city as top destination for antiques hunters. Today, over 50 antiques dealers do business on Warren Street and in warehouses by the waterfront. From furniture to collectables to vintage clothing—all of these are within easy walking distance of each other.
A World of Art, Artisans and Makers
Hudson has been a cultural hub since the early 1800s, with two of the most prominent members of the famed Hudson River School—Thomas Cole and Frederic Church—residing within a few miles of town, along with Sanford Gifford, who was born and buried in Hudson. In recent years, creatives of all stripes have migrated to Hudson, whether for more affordable workspace, a better lifestyle, and in most cases both. Hudson’s established art scene, high quality shopping, surrounding landscape and train access have brought a tidal wave of gallerists, artists, artisans and tastemakers to town. Today, the city boasts dozens of art galleries along with music venues, performance spaces, and shops offering makers’ wares and carefully curated design collections. Together with the city’s antiques dealers, this makes Hudson an art lover’s and browser’s paradise.
A Foodie Mecca
Long called the breadbasket of New York City, the Hudson River Valley has a rich agrarian history and reputation for innovative farming. This has made the city, with its restaurants and food shops, a leader in the farm-to-table movement, fueled by a bounty of produce and products from local farms, including many organic, heirloom and biodynamic growers.
Given this wealth of choice ingredients, it’s not surprising that the city has attracted both star and up-and-coming chefs to open establishments in town. For chefs, being in Hudson allows them to serve fresher food (by six to 12 hours or more) than most restaurants in New York. The result has been an explosion of restaurants that is the delight of locals and weekenders alike.
Hudson, New York, is located on the east side of the Hudson River in Columbia County, 120 miles north of New York City, 45 miles south of Albany and 160 miles west of Boston. The city is surrounded by the town of Greenport to the north, east and south, and by the Hudson River to the west.
Driving from New York City and points south
If going on the Taconic Parkway , take the Ancram/Hudson exit to Route 82. Take Rte. 82 north/west to Rte. 9 (2nd traffic light). Follow Rte. 9 North into the City of Hudson. At the first light in Hudson, take a left on Warren Street; or,
If going on the New York State Thruway, take exit 21 to Rte. 23. Cross the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. Take left on Rte. 9G. Follow 3 miles into the City of Hudson. Take right on Warren St.
Driving from Albany and points north
Follow Rte. 9 South through Kinderhook to Hudson, about 25 miles. Follow Rte. 9 into the City of Hudson. Take a right onto Warren Street, or
Take the New York State Thruway, Exit 21, to Rte. 23. Cross the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. Take left on Rte. 9G. Follow 3 miles into the City of Hudson. Take a right onto Warren Street.
Driving from Massachusetts and points east
Take the Massachusetts Turnpike (Interstate 90) onto the Berkshire Spur of the New York State Thruway (also Interstate 90). Continue west to the exit for the Taconic State Parkway. Take the Taconic State Parkway south to Columbia County Exit at Rte. 82 Ancram/Hudson. Take left from exit (Rte. 82) to 2nd traffic light to Rte. 9. Follow Rte. 9 North into the City of Hudson. At the first light in Hudson; or,
Take the Taconic State Parkway south to the Columbia County exit for Route 217, Philmont. Drive through Philmont on Route 217 to Claverack and Route 23. On the western side of Claverack follow signs for Route 23B into the City of Hudson. At the first light in Hudson, take a left on Warren Street.
On Saturdays and Sundays, parking in Hudson’s municipal lots is free, with the exception of the lot across from the Amtrak station. On-street, metered parking is enforced Monday through Saturday 9am-5pm, except for federal holidays. The cost of parking is $.25/hour. Most meters will take only quarters.
If you plan to stay overnight, please keep in mind the city enforces an alternate side of the street parking rule. From midnight to 8am, cars must be moved to the odd side of the street when the morning’s date is an odd number. Conversely, if the next day is an even-numbered date, cars should be parked on the even side of the street by midnight. Confused? Ask a local for help.
Amtrak’s Northeast Regional trains provide service to and from Hudson daily. Travel time from Penn Station, New York City is two hours; from Boston, three hours; and from Albany, 25 minutes. The handsome Hudson Amtrak station is located on South Front Street.
Pronto Taxi, 518-822-9500
Hudson City Taxi, 518-822-8880
Columbia Transport, 518-822-1010
Howards Taxi, 518-828-7673
Warren Taxi, 518-828-4040
Riverview Taxi, 518-828-3355
Enterprise Rent-A-Car is located at near Hudson. Reservations can be made in advance online at www.enterprise.com. or by calling the local office at(518) 828-5492. Ask about arrangements for pick-up and drop-off.