The Past Is a Tapestry
Shaping Our Future
Hudson' Downtown Rotary early in the century
A present day view, following completion of
the downtown beautification project
Our Layered Past
First, there is only the land. Over thousands of years, glaciers shape the land. A landscape of elongated hills called drumlins, sand-filled valleys and rich wetlands cradling water is carved. The river, omnipresent, swells and recedes a million times. The ponds and lakes grow rich with fish. People come, nomadic families with musical names—Narragansett, Ockoocangansett, Wampanoag, and Nipmuck, living off the land, the river, the lakes. Others from across the ocean follow, determined to make a new home. Land is cleared. Cowpaths, cartpaths, bridle paths and then roads are formed along native routes. The river is tamed. The power of the river is channeled into grist mills, then industrial mills small and large. Within two hundred years, two dozen families grow to thousands. Industries thrive. The
world’s countries send willing workers to fill the valleys. Stagecoaches and then the railroad bring others. Wars rage and end—our men fight in Concord, in Gettysburg, in Europe, in Asia. Countless lives are won and lost as medicine advances. High-technology industries flourish as the region flourishes. Schools, homes, parks, wetlands, old buildings and new—all come and go.
Take a snapshot of Hudson, poised always between the river and the future
Hudson’s recorded history began in the early 1600s, when a group of second-generation settlers, an offshoot of the Sudbury settlement, were granted land parcels. This small group of scattered residents lived peacefully with the native people until the mid 1600's, when King Philip, a Narragansett warrior tired of the newcomers’ intrusive rules, instigated a war against the European settlers. Fourteen settlements, including what is now Hudson, were burned to the ground. During the war, many tribe members, under suspicion of being sympathetic to King Philip’s cause, were moved to Martha’s Vineyard, where they lived out the war years. The original native families never returned to Hudson; the surviving family members were resettled in Natick after the war.
As of 1675, the area was in the hands of the settlers, but the influence of the native tribes remains in the inherited rich language of place names.
The Abolitionist Movement
The early homes of record in Hudson were associated with farming. The Goodale House is such a house and is the oldest known home in Hudson. Dating from the 1600's, it was expanded over time to its present two-story symmetry. This home was a part of the Underground Railroad in the 1800's, sheltering freedom-seekers behind a fireplace wall.
There was a strong abolitionist movement in Hudson, with several local homes serving as stations in the Railway. Except for the Goodale House, these buildings are all gone now.
The Century Begins
Many of the Town’s early buildings were burned in an 1894 fire that destroyed much of the downtown. Following the fire, citizens rallied and the entire town center was rebuilt. This area, lying along two heavily traveled thoroughfares containing routes 85 and 62, is now protected by the Silas Felton District Commission. The architectural significance of the Silas Felton District stems largely from the cohesiveness of the whole—it contains many fine examples of Colonial,
Federal, Romanesque Revival and Victorian architecture along with newer harmonious structures built around the same time. The consistent style gives the center of town its distinctive character and makes it particularly interesting from an architectural standpoint. The dominant style of architecture in this area is Victorian (brick and stone) and includes homes of former leading citizens of the community, as well as churches and meeting halls.
If the Walls Could Talk
The Unitarian Church on Main Street near Town Hall has provided a pulpit for Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison and Mark Twain. The congregation of this church provided antislavery assistance during the Civil War era, when many other communities were silent.
The Town Hall, built in the French Second Empire style, has a distinctive mansard roofline. It was constructed for under $50,000 in 1872. Modern renovations and restoration projects planned for this building are expected to cost considerably more. The Library, built with a grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation, followed in the first part of the century. A restoration of the second floor has just been completed.
The Unitarian Church steeple today.
Within these walls the Abolitionist Movement grew strong in Hudson.
Town hall now . . .
. . .and Then
Hudson’s Famous Residence
Hudson’s Mossman House on Park Street is listed on the National Historic Register. This beautiful turn-of-the-century Victorian mansion was the home of Colonel Adelbert M. Mossman, a civil war veteran who organized Hudson’s first military unit. Colonel Mossman died at 90—then Hudson’s oldest male resident.
Adelbert M. Mossman ran away from home as a teenager
to fight in the Civil War. The colonel subsequently refused
his pension; he felt undeserving because the war ended only a few months after he enlisted.
The Silas Felton District encompasses an area containing over 65 homes and businesses, but there are many other notable and carefully-restored homes in Hudson that reflect the character and charm of a bygone era.
This year Hudson received a grant to restore the downtown business area with brick-lined sidewalks, tree plantings, reproduction gaslight streetlights and other improvements. This project, now completed, has had a major aesthetic impact on the downtown district.