While Hudson dates back to the seventeenth century, then known as Claverack Landing, the town became a center for the whaling industry after the Revolutionary War when the Whalers, many of whom were Quaker, wanted a safe processing center away from the Atlantic and another British invasion. A group mostly from Nantucket, who were referred to as “the Proprietors,” purchased the land from a Dutch farmer and laid out a grid system of streets and lots that still exists today. Westcott House and its three neighboring townhouses were part of such a land parcel.
Hudson was a straight shot up the river from New York City and still a deep enough port for ocean going ships. By the 1840s, whaling had died and was replaced by manufacturing and brick making, and the railroad built along the river cut the town off from its port. After the Civil War, Hudson was again booming, but several new “industries” had made their way into the fabric of the local economy – gambling and prostitution. Warren Street had always been the main street of town, designed to anchor the commercial enterprises. In the early nineteenth century, the well-to-do lived south of Warren Street, on Willard Place, Allen and Union Streets. North of Warren housed the workers and the less well-to-do, and Diamond Street (now Columbia) was home to a notorious strip of brothels and gambling houses, fueling the economy from the turn of the century through Prohibition until 1950.
Fifth Street was generally outside the area of squalor (the market for the gambling and brothels was generally the sailors coming off the ships so the brothels and gambling locales were mostly below Third Street, closer to the river), and while it had some pockets of lovely upper and middle class homes in the nineteenth century, the area deteriorated in the twentieth century.
Westcott House, a true “house in town,” was one of four attached townhouses built in 1866 by Solomon Westcott with gracious proportions, eleven-foot ceilings and back yards. Solomon Westcott purchased over 15 parcels of land in Hudson between 1819 and 1859 and served as the town’s Postmaster, appointed by Congress in the 1830s. The four townhouses comprise just part of the original lot, which ran from Diamond/Columbia Street to Prison Alley and 100 feet back to land that was, at that time, a farm. Westcott and his wife both lived into their nineties. We understand that the row of houses has been referred to as “Rockefeller Row” and the Columbia County Clerk’s deed books indicate that the young man (and his wife) who bought the property from Westcott in 1867 was the ward of a Rockefeller. We found a small advertisement in the local newspaper from January 1867, which offered these “new desirable dwelling houses…on reasonable terms… constructed after the most approved modern plan, with gas and all other conveniences for general and commodious residences.”
The house was meticulously restored 1999-2001 by then-owners Susanne and Carl Davino who own Eustace and Zamas Antiques on Warren Street. When they purchased it in 1999, there were 33 separate rooms and it was in shambles. Perhaps a rooming house… or a brothel?
The current plan includes six fireplaces (four working). The floors on the parlor level and Caroline’s Room are all original spruce, as are most of the stairs and banisters. The parlor floor would have been covered with carpets wall to wall. The Davinos found fireplaces, light fixtures, doors and doorknobs true to the period, salvaged from other homes in the area. We replaced several of the doors to update the home and create more privacy for our guests. The house has central gas heat and air conditioning and Wi-Fi is available throughout.
Today, Westcott House reflects the life and interests of the current owner, with Italian and American 19th and 20th century antiques, a collection of works by lower Manhattan artists and photographers and pieces collected during your host’s 35 years of travel to Europe, Asia and South Africa. Newly renovated to meet the demanding needs of sophisticated guests, Westcott House is your home base in Hudson. Two baths, a powder room and complete new kitchen were added. Consider it your relaxing retreat from a day’s getting and spending, whether listening to an LP by the fireplace in the living room, reading a book on the side porch, or enjoying a glass of wine in the private garden.