A Brief History of the Hudson River

hudson riverThe source of the Hudson River is the poetic-sounding Lake Tear of the Clouds, in the Adirondacks.  Running for 315 miles, it empties into Lower New York Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. But it’s what has transpired between the source and where it empties that makes the Hudson River so fascinating. The region is one of America’s treasures. Long before English explorer Henry Hudson sailed up the river in 1609 for the Dutch East India Company, the waterway was a major travel route for Native Americans, such as the Algonquin and the Mahicans. The Lenape tribe called the river Muhheakantuck, “river that flows two ways.”

 

The river opened trade routes north to Canada and west to the Great Lakes. Until the Mississippi Valley was settled two centuries later, the Hudson was America’s most prominent, and profitable, waterway with a prodigious history of commerce, transportation, culture, and recreation well before European settlement. In Colonial times, the river supported a lucrative fur trade and conveyed Hudson Valley wheat and timber to New York City from where it was distributed throughout the western world. For more than 200 years, sloop-rigged sailing craft carried the bulk of the commerce on the Hudson River. When Robert Fulton invented the North River Steamboat in 1807, commerce along the Hudson changed dramatically for the better. Transportation in the Hudson region was arduous before the introduction of these steam-powered boats. Travelers and trade goods moved unpredictably often stalled by unfavorable winds on the river or mired in the muddy roads paralleling it. Steamboats’ ability to carry passengers and freight between New York and Albany on schedule revolutionized water travel and ushered in a new age of technological advancements in transportation. Water transportation and travel were at a peak in 1850, when railroads began to compete for freight and passengers.

With all this traffic on the Hudson River, safety in maritime river travel was becoming an issue due to various hazards and channels. In 1826, the Stony Point Lighthouse was the first to shine its light on the Hudson, starting a system of lights that eventually grew to 14 lighthouses and numerous post lamps to guide mariners safely the length of the river. The many lighthouses of the river have protected shipping insuring safe passage and delivery of both goods and people to their destinations. Only 8 of the original 14 still stand today.

Tourists came from all over of the United States and Europe to see the scenic Hudson. It was an important leg in trips to Saratoga Springs, the Adirondacks, Niagara Falls, and Canada, as well as a destination itself, particularly in the Catskills where many tourist hotels were located. West Point and other Revolutionary War sites were as popular with visitors throughout the 19th century as they are today, but for most travelers, the region’s natural scenery and its splendid river houses were the principal attractions and these sights were best appreciated from the water. The river’s dramatic scenery – the Palisades, the Hudson Highlands, and the Catskills – soon became renowned around the world, carried on the tongues and in the letters of travelers. The Hudson and its scenery became a popular subject for artists and writers, inspired by its beauty and facilitated by its convenience to the port of New York.

Claimed by the Dutch, colonized by feudal patrons, and settled by a mix of immigrants from Europe and other New World colonies, the Hudson Valley is a uniquely American cultural region. It played a pivotal role in winning the Revolutionary War from the battles fought along its banks to George Washington’s call to end the war. In Newburgh, General George Washington established his headquarters at Jonathan and Tryntje Hasbrouck’s fieldstone farmhouse from April 1, 1782, to August 19, 1783. Here he welcomed a steady stream of guests, negotiated with Congress, oversaw troops, and rejected the suggestion of an American monarchy. On April 19, 1783, Washington’s order for a “cessation of hostilities” was announced from the house on the Hudson River.

History along the Hudson is history of America. Come and visit fascinating, historic sites and stay with us at the Mount Merino Manor, located in the center of such great American history and beauty.

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