October 2, 2009 | The official seal of the city of Hudson, New York, depicts a whale—which strikes the first-time visitor to a town more than one hundred miles from the Atlantic as odd. But then, Hudson has had an odd history. The site—on high land between two deep-water bays—was noted by Henry Hudson in 1609, during his expedition up the river that bears his name aboard the ship Half Moon. Later in that century Dutch farmers bought a large tract of land encompassing the present-day city from the Mohican natives and named it Claverack.
Beginning in 1783 a group of Quakers, and later whalers and fishermen from Massachusetts and Rhode Island, settled in Claverack. For their purposes, the area was perfect: two ports, on a river teeming with fish and offering easy access to the ocean whaling grounds. These transplanted New Englanders platted a street grid and chartered the city of Hudson in 1785.
Prosperity came almost immediately via a thriving maritime industry, and within twenty years the streets were lined with handsome Federal and Greek revival houses and public buildings. The synthesis of kerosene as a lighting fuel, however, eventually crushed the market for sperm whale oil. And while the building of the Erie Canal and the arrival of the railroad encouraged the growth of manufacturing in Hudson, the city moved through a long cycle of booms and busts. By the 1970s it was another forlorn Rust Belt town.
But toward the end of the next decade, hope arrived in an unusual guise. Many New Yorkers, priced out of the ever-tonier Hamptons, began to look upstate for vacation retreats, and a cohort of antiques and vintage design dealers began to trickle into Hudson to serve them. Hudson's moribund business spine, Warren Street, began to blossom with design shops and galleries. Restaurants, art galleries, and vendors of wine, couture, and jewelry followed. Today Warren Street alone is home to some forty antiques stores and vintage furniture dealers, with another half-dozen or so located on nearby side streets. The Hudson Antique Dealers Association puts out a map—available in any member shop—to center city stores, and has an attractive and informative Web site: hudsonantiques.net. Hudson is about a two-hour train ride from New York City (the tracks skirt the majestic river). Intrepid collectors can hit the bulk of Hudson's antiques stores in a day. Most offer a mixed inventory, where an eighteenth-century sideboard might share space with a high modernist desk. Our advice: take your time. Hudson is a city best suited to what the French call a flâneur—an observant, judiciously minded stroller. What follows is a brief, selective guide to the stores of the city that antiques rescued.
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