Once the home street of Jane Jacobs, the revered urban activist and writer who passionately championed multi-use street life, Hudson Street is still marked by its easygoing and casual character. The area is a nice place to linger over a casual French dinner or to sit quietly in the serene gardens of the Church of St. Luke in the Fields. The street is home to one of the city's most famous watering holes - the White Horse Tavern, the place where poet Dylan Thomas fatally drank too much. During the school year, just be sure to schedule your serene moments for any time other than the moment classes are dismissed at the middle school.
South of Houston Street, Hudson Street takes on a different character. More than two centuries ago, before landfill measures expanded the square footage of lower Manhattan, Hudson Street marked the western edge of this area of the island, a pathway on the river's edge. The lower sections of Hudson Street, in the place now known as Tribeca, once belonged to the crowded Lower West Side, a working waterfront where workers unloaded goods and produce from river boats. Housing and health conditions were often unsafe.
Today, the street is lined with a mix of twentieth century corporate and government office buildings, though the occasional older building, such as an Edward Hopper-esque two-story red brick building on the southwest corner of Spring Street, breaks the monotony. The quaint restaurants of upper Hudson give way to warehouses of a more monumental scale and to fashionable lofts. Several of these nineteenth-century structures are worth a long look, such as the Powell Building, the Washington Market School, and the New York Mercantile Exchange. Art deco buildings from the 1920s, such as the rust behemoth of the Western Union building, add additional interest to a walk south on Hudson Street. While on foot, however, be sure to watch out for the frequent road jam of motorists heading to the Holland Tunnel.
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Strolling along such a street as Hudson on a late afternoon does encourage a desire to linger and to savor the light. As a western New York street, the setting sun over the Hudson River dapples the side streets in glimmering light, especially poetic on streets with cobblestones. With many street cafes and restaurants, the look of Hudson Street often fulfills conventional romantic notions of an ideal city. As the sun casts its light on the west side of the buildings, the scene becomes even more painterly.
Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from August 19, 2010.