BY JARED RODRIGUEZ
Every great town or village has its showcase residential street. Nyack has North Broadway. Grand View has River Road. Suffern dons stately Victorians on Washington Avenue. In the historic Village of Haverstraw, Hudson Avenue belongs on a postcard. One can argue that the riverfront village boasts two separate trophy Victorian streets, Hudson Avenue and Front Street (a.k.a. First Street), but today we’ll focus on Hudson.
Hudson Avenue was actually one of the last streets laid in the Village of Haverstraw. When Haverstraw’s main means of transportation was river-based, the village’s commercial and residential activity sprung up on the shores of the Hudson; hence, Front Street’s preeminence. When the West Shore Railroad came through first in the 1860s and then the Erie opened on a second rail line in the 1870s, development crept further and further west toward the cliffs of High Tor Mountain.
The accumulated wealth from centuries of brickmaking was spent sprucing up downtown with opera houses and regal bank buildings. The village titans of industry, and the wealthy upper-middle class, chose Hudson Avenue as their new enclave. From there, lawyers, bankers, doctors and brick company owners (and their offspring) could look down upon the village they and their ancestors built. Notable Hudson Avenue families included the Malleys and the Allisons, who both controlled much of the village’s clay holes, short-line railroad, and barge operations.
On and near Hudson Avenue, these kings built their castles. From Leonard Street to Fairmount Avenue and Clove Avenue, imperial Victorian, Queen Anne, Second Empire, and Italianate splendors dot the landscape. These homes vaunt towers and Mansard roofs (concave and convex, and sometimes a combination of the two), widow’s walks and massive front porches. In some cases, wealthy brickyard owners built twin and triplet houses for their children.
The Bricktown Inn is the northernmost of the “triplets;” three brick Italianate homes with Mansard roofs. At the southern terminus of Clove and Hudson Avenues sit massive Second Empire twins and to my knowledge, they are the largest examples of twin Second Empire mansions in America. We can’t forget the famous ‘House by the Railroad’ painted by Edward Hopper; the painting inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s Bates Mansion in the film ‘Psycho.’ That house sits just across the railroad tracks on what is now Route 9W. Don’t miss the Civil War Soldier’s Monument at the corner of Hudson and West Broad Street and the former Freemason’s Lodge at Hudson and New Main.
And here’s the kicker: so much wealth had become concentrated on and near Hudson Avenue that the mostly-Presbyterian residents there decided to build themselves a new church, nearer to their homes. The Central Presbyterian Church is a magnificent example of the Gothic Revival style, with elements of Victorian eclecticism. The church contains nearly extinct American Chestnut ceilings and 13 stained glass windows designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany himself. Tiffany was all the rage at the time, so while he was in Haverstraw working on the church, he was selected to design custom stained glass for several homes along the Avenue.
Hudson Avenue is Haverstraw’s crowned jewel. As new owners continue to restore and rehabilitate these historic homes, the village is moving toward regaining its former grandeur. Hidden beneath the vinyl on surrounding streets, there exist equally magnificent homes waiting to be revealed.
The author, Jared T. Rodriguez, writes a monthly column in the Rockland County Times entitled Reconnecting Rockland