April 22, 2012

City Escape: Discovering Local Color in Hudson, NY

Please forgive this post for not focusing on New York City, but we all need to get away from time to time. For quick escapes like this, I like Hudson, New York, an historic river town that's just two hours north of the city by train. There, I can wander quiet streets on the weekdays, listen to a multitude of birds and train whistles and the soft sound of doors opening, and I can enjoy unobstructed views of the Hudson River at sunset. I am having fun there, too.

Warren Street. Hudson, NY, at 2nd Street intersection.


In the late 18th and early 19th centuries Hudson was associated with the New England whaling community, and it served as home to many prosperous merchants. In the late 19th century and early 20th, Hudson took to the wild side, stimulating vigorous business in over a dozen brothels and fifty bars. After state troopers broke up the vices in the early 1950s, the town languished for a couple of decades before being discovered and renewed. The downtown Hudson Historic District, with over 700 properties in a range of architectural styles, served as a most useful launching point for its rediscovery.

historical detail with a splash of color on drain pipe


A two-night trip this week confirmed that activity has considerably picked up in Hudson over the past year, evidenced by new stores, galleries, and restaurants. In addition to Hudson's architectural heritage from the nineteenth century, extraordinarily preserved, and its well-known collection of antique shops, the town's new energy comes in part from more city dwellers taking a liking to the town. Hudson now even has a hipster area, its own small Williamsburg.


The farm-to-table restaurant Grazin' is in the renovated diner on the right at 717 Warren St.

Hudson is not afraid of color. While homes and commercial establishments of the nineteenth century typically employed varying color schemes, depending on style, Hudson shows off its built history by employing a mix of traditional and contemporary approaches to color. On the main drag of Warren Street, a bright electric orange for one entire facade and then a traditional dark brick for the immediate neighbor works well for them together. A building on Columbia Street cleverly presents itself to the street with panels of ordinary pallets painted in brilliant blues.  The Chamber of Commerce renovated an old building at the foot of Warren Street and painted it a vibrant red.





The most famous colors in Hudson come with the sunset. Near Hudson is Olana, the Persian-style home of Hudson River artist Frederic Edwin Church. Across the Hudson River from Olana, via the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, is the Thomas Cole site. Both are operated as historical sites and open to the public. Watching the sunsets in Hudson certainly enhances an appreciation of the Hudson River School painters.



To take in the Hudson River landscape, walk down Warren Street to the river and then walk up to Parade Hill. The picturesque Hudson-Athens Lighthouse sits in the middle of the river, and the Catskills are off to the west. The town founders established this promenade in 1795 as a public walk, stipulating that it must be used for such strolling purposes in perpetuity. That's forward thinking.

View of the Hudson River landscape, with statue of Saint Winifred,
from Parade Hill, also known as Promenade Hill.

While visiting Hudson, be sure to visit Helsinki Hudson at 405 Columbia Street, a multi-purpose dining and entertainment venue in an impressive renovated industrial building. Also I recommend hanging out in the Wunderbar & Bistro at 744 Warren Street for informal good dining and a chat with the locals. Cafe Le Perche at 230 Warren offers excellent pastries. The cafe opens at 7 a.m. for counter service, perfect for early risers out on a walk. I've included more recommendations in the map.


View Hudson, NY getaway in a larger map

Counting the round-trip train travel from New York, two nights in my favorite guest house, and food (all good), this trip cost me about $400. I traveled lightly, and I didn't need a car. I consider this price a great bargain for the peace of mind and the renewed energy to take on the big city once again.

Train station, Hudson, NY


• Read more about Hudson at this post from 2010 - Day Trip: Up the River to Hudson, New York, and a Visit to Frederic Church's Olana.

• The prominent Hudson Valley artists maintained studios in Greenwich Village on Tenth Street, also a short walk to the same river. Read the post, The Tenth Street Studio Building and a Walk to the Hudson River.

• More information on train schedules and fares to Hudson, see amtrak.com

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from April 18-20, 2012. More in this set on Flickr WOTBA.

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