The Hudson

The Hudson: America's River

Frances F. Dunwell
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    The Hudson
    Book Description:

    Frances F. Dunwell presents a rich portrait of the Hudson and of the visionary people whose deep relationship with the river inspires changes in American history and culture. Lavishly illustrated with color plates of Hudson River School paintings, period engravings, and glass plate photography, The Hudson captures the spirit of the river through the eyes of its many admirers. It shows the crucial role of the Hudson in the shaping of Manhattan, the rise of the Empire State, and the trajectory of world trade and global politics, as well as the river's influence on art and architecture, engineering, and conservation.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50996-1
    Subjects: History, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Sociology, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

    When i was a child my father took me and eight or nine of my brothers and sisters white-water rafting near North Forks in the Adirondacks; the water was so clean it tempted me to drink it, but the guides said it was better not to. I thought about that often in the ensuing years, and in 1984, I had the opportunity to do something about it. That year I began working as an attorney for the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association in Garrison. We worked out of a small farmhouse below Osborn’s castle in the river stretch between Bear Mountain...

  4. PROLOGUE: River of Imagining, People of Passion and Dreams
    (pp. xiii-xxii)
    Frances F. Dunwell

    There is a certain magic about the Hudson River, something that captures the imagination and creates a sense of possibility. The river has personality, energy, and resplendent beauty, a kind of magnetism that attracts visionary people and inspires them to do extraordinary things. That is its nature and disposition. The Hudson nurtures those who are attuned to its voice.

    The river’s mystique and power combine with unique natural features to make it a force for transformation and a wellspring of new ideas for thoughtful people. No other river can match its role in changing the course of America’s continually evolving...

    (pp. xxiii-xxvi)
  6. 1 World’s End, World Trade, World River: Henry Hudson’s Failed Quest, Adriaen Van der Donck’s Utopian Vision, and the Legend of the Storm Ship
    (pp. 1-24)

    At the northern tip of Manhattan Island, where the Harlem River narrows to join the Hudson, is a spot shown on maps as Spuyten Duyvil, from the Dutch name meaning Spitting Devil or Devil’s Spout. Both rivers are tidal here—the Harlem is actually a tidal strait—and this spot swirls and boils with the ebb and flow of colliding currents. The name serves as a warning of dangerous conditions.

    It also serves as a jumping-off point for folklore. It was here at Spuyten Duyvil that Washington Irving’s fictional character, a certain Antony Van Corlaer, drowned after foolishly swearing he...

  7. 2 The River That Unites, the River That Divides: King George and George Washington Vie for the Hudson
    (pp. 25-48)

    On may 25, 1775, five weeks after the opening skirmish of the American Revolution at Lexington, the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and adopted the following resolution:

    Resolved, that a post be also taken in the Highlands on each side of Hudson’s River and batteries erected in such manner as will most effectively prevent any vessels passing that may be sent to harass the inhabitants on the borders of said river; and that experienced persons be immediately sent to examine said river in order to discover where it will be most advisable and proper to obstruct the navigation.¹

    From that...

  8. 3 America’s River of Empire: Robert Fulton’s Folly, Robert Livingston’s Venture Capital, and DeWitt Clinton’s Ditch Spark the Rise of New York Port
    (pp. 49-66)

    In 1807, while the steamboat North River was being built, Robert Fulton would wander by the East River shipyard to watch, and he would overhear the gossip of strangers who gathered to inquire about the strange new vessel. “The language was uniformly that of scorn, or sneer, or ridicule,” he wrote. “The loud laugh often arose at my expense; the dry jest; the wise calculation of losses and expenditures, the dull, but endless repetition of Fulton folly.”¹ Even his best friends shared the feeling as they boarded the ship for its maiden voyage to Albany on August 17, 1807. Fulton...

  9. 4 First Stop on the American Tour: Europe Discovers Sylvanus Thayer’s West Point, a Catskills Sunrise, and a River That Defines the American Character
    (pp. 67-84)

    Fulton’s invention brought great changes to the Hudson Valley, and not just economic ones. Steamboats ushered in an age of leisurely travel and introduced the river to the world. This was a time when international sightseeing gained popularity, and a period of intense nationalistic sentiment among Americans. For Europeans and Americans alike, the river scenery inspired a sense of pride; it came to represent the fresh face of the country, and its Revolutionary War sites became visible symbols of the nation’s democratic experiment. For the curious, both at home and abroad, what better way to see America than from aboard...

  10. 5 America’s First Artists and Writers: The Sacred River of Thomas Cole, the Mythic River of Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper
    (pp. 85-108)

    In the autumn of 1825, while Sylvanus Thayer was still in charge at West Point, a young man named Thomas Cole visited the military post. An English-born itinerant artist, he had scraped together a living painting portraits and designing wallpaper to support his real passion: landscape painting. He had recently moved to New York City, and the scenery of the Hudson Valley captured his imagination. As a friend later wrote, “from the moment when his eye first caught the rural beauties clustering around the cliffs of Weehawken, and glanced up the distance of the Palisades, Cole’s heart had been wandering...

  11. 6 The Industrialized River: Gouverneur Kemble’s Weapon Works, Henry Burden’s Iron Foundries, and Colonel Stevens’s Engine Factory
    (pp. 109-128)

    A visitor to cold Spring today would hardly guess that this picturesque village, across the river from West Point, could have been the site of the largest and most modern iron foundry in the United States. But it was—with all the noise, smoke, and grime that entails. In one of the great contradictions of the nineteenth century, the Highlands region, which symbolized scenic beauty and brought humanity into close spiritual contact with nature, was also a leader in an industrial movement that laid waste to the surrounding forests, tamed vast expanses of wilderness, and turned generations of farmers into...

  12. 7 Going up the River for Health and Fun: New York City Journalist N. P. Willis Survives TB and Discovers an Idle Wild
    (pp. 129-144)

    Cholera, yellow fever, and tuberculosis ravaged New York City and other cities repeatedly throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The contagion was widespread, horrifying, and indiscriminate—claiming young and old, rich and poor, famous and obscure—and precipitated a health crisis of major proportions. The causes and the cures for these ailments were unknown, but it quickly became clear that conditions in the city were very unhealthy. In 1800, the rural Hudson Valley began to develop a reputation as a refuge from disease and a place with healing powers. This image solidifi ed in the 1850s—when one doctor reported...

  13. 8 Design with Nature: The Landscape Gardens of A. J. Downing, the Architecture of A. J. Davis, and the Inspiration for Central Park and Riverside Drive
    (pp. 145-162)

    On saturday, march 14, 1835, an unsigned article appeared in the New York Mirror, titled “America Highland Scenery. Beacon Hill.” The article urged lovers of the picturesque to discover the scenery from a “commanding” summit where beacon fires had been lighted during the Revolutionary War. The sunset seen from Beacon Hill, the author said, surpassed the renowned sunrise seen from the Catskill Mountain House, and the Hudson—a bare line in the distance from the Catskills escarpment—flowed majestically below the summit. The scenery was more cultivated and luxuriant than the bleak and savage countenance of the Catskills, as well:...

  14. 9 Gateway to America, Escape Route to Canada: Immigrants Greet a Beacon of Liberty, John Jervis Creates a New River Route, and a Railroad Goes Underground
    (pp. 163-174)

    Castle clinton at the tip of Manhattan, where the Hudson officially ends, has seen many uses: fort, beer garden, restaurant, promenade, opera house, aquarium, state immigrant processing center, and federal museum. The land on which it stands was once an island and is now on the mainland, surrounded by landfill that typifies much of the expanding edge of the city where it meets the water. A tunnel runs under it. Once nearly demolished, Castle Clinton was later resurrected. Like so much along the Hudson, it has been reinvented to suit the changing needs of the city, the state, and the...

  15. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  16. 10 Millionaires’ Row: The River Castles of J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and Frederic Church, and the Floating Palaces of Manhattan’s West Side
    (pp. 175-196)

    The years following the Civil War have been called the bare-knuckle era—the roughest period in the history of American capitalism. This was the age of the “robber barons,” whose objects of desire and source of wealth were railroads, oil fields, and steel mills. Men like John D. Rockefeller, J. P. Morgan, Jay Gould, Andrew Carnegie, and Edward H. Harriman battled their way to the top, many from junior positions as office boys, messengers, and clerks. Combining cutthroat competition with strategic alliances, they built corporate conglomerates and emerged as the richest men in America.

    Mark Twain’s neighbor, Charles Dudley Warner,...

  17. 11 A Forest to Protect a Commercial River: Land Surveyor Verplanck Colvin, Photographer Seneca Ray Stoddard, and the New York Board of Trade Campaign to Safeguard the Hudson in the Adirondacks
    (pp. 197-214)

    For much of the nineteenth century, nature was worshipped—but was freely sacrificed to the demands of a growing population and burgeoning commerce. However, by the end of the century, environmental abuse was taking its toll and could no longer be ignored. Nationally, the passenger pigeon had been hunted to extinction, and thundering herds of buffalo were all but destroyed. In the Northeast, wild game was disappearing, the commercial fisheries off the Atlantic coast had become critically depleted, and the forests were falling to a lumber industry that marched through the states “like an army of devastation,” leaving the woodland...

  18. 12 An Interstate Park for the Palisades and the Highlands and a New Progressive Vision: Elizabeth Vermilye’s Women’s Clubs, Edward and Mary Harriman’s Park, Mrs. Olmsted’s Fresh Air Camp, and Margaret Sage’s Charity
    (pp. 215-234)

    Ironically, while New York millionaires built their castles and ruins to imitate those along the Rhine, few people gave any thought to the protection of the historic forts and scenery that had given the Hudson its reputation. The walls of Forts Clinton and Montgomery had crumbled and fallen unnoticed until the turn of the century, when a few concerned citizens realized that irreplaceable landmarks of the nation’s early history might be lost. In 1894, an Englishman observed in a letter to the editor published in The New York Times: “I am astonished to find that the very scenery the Americans...

  19. 13 Over, Under, Across, and Through: Civil Engineers Triumph Over Nature, Except in New York Harbor
    (pp. 235-254)

    The hudson–fulton celebration was as grand as any ever held. The commission, whose membership included more than 800 citizens and public officials, spent more than 4 years preparing for it, at a cost of over $1 million. The festivities, lasting from September 25 to October 9, 1909, were a nonstop succession of parades, fireworks, concerts, art shows, historical and art exhibits, light shows, and boat races. The numerous ceremonies included public lectures, receptions for foreign guests, and the dedication of parks and monuments. It was a celebration as much of New York’s scenery as of its history. Preparations helped...

  20. 14 Surviving the Depression, Connecting with Nature: FDR’s River of Dignity, Robert Moses’s Riverside Drive, and John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s Parkway
    (pp. 255-278)

    In 1929, the stock market crashed. Banks began failing, and the clouds of the Great Depression gathered. Fortunes were lost. The roaring twenties sputtered to a close, and the nation turned inward. Soon, half of all engineers were unemployed, and the fancy estates on the Hudson began to shut their doors.

    Over the next decade, an interesting shift happened that would profoundly affect the river. As the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society wrote in its 1940 Annual Report:

    Prior to the collapse of the post-war inflation in 1930, the prevailing public attitude was that while conservation was eminently wise...

  21. 15 The 1960s: Scenic Hudson, Riverkeeper, Clearwater, and The Nature Conservancy Campaign to Save a Mountain and Revive a “Dead” River
    (pp. 279-304)

    On september 23, 1962, the Nature Conservancy set up a committee, chaired by hiker Leo Rothschild, to look into the acquisition of sites in the Hudson Highlands. As Walter Boardman, executive director of the conservancy, later recalled, only the east bank of the Highlands was targeted because Storm King was considered “safe.” While the east bank was still vulnerable to quarrying, no one would dream of touching such a wellknown landmark.¹

    Meanwhile, at Consolidated Edison, Chairman Harland Forbes prepared for a press conference to unveil one of the company’s most ambitious projects. Four days after the conservancy’s first committee meeting,...

  22. Epilogue: A River of Power, and the Power of Passion
    (pp. 305-314)

    Today, the hudson remains a world river, a military river, a sacred river, a river of empire, and a thriving ecosystem. The drumbeat still echoes from West Point, and billion-year-old Storm King Mountain forces the gathering river current into a deep, narrow channel, as it has through the eons. In places, the river flows through dense forest or open tidewater that looks much as it did to native people 6,000 years ago. The play of clouds and light and curling mist transport even the busy commuter to a place of spiritual delight. The spirit of Andrew Downing still calls out...

  23. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 315-316)
  24. NOTES
    (pp. 317-332)
    (pp. 333-344)
  26. INDEX
    (pp. 345-363)
  27. Back Matter
    (pp. 364-364)