Hudson Valley Region Facts
When Henry Hudson first sailed his vessel into what we call the Hudson River, he was hoping to sail on past present day New York. His first passage into the Hudson Strait was in 1609, but he wasn’t looking for land. Hudson and his crew were seeking a new merchant route to present day China. Three attempts over the course of a few years left Hudson a failure. When his crew mutinied and cast him off in a rowboat, it was the last time he was ever seen.
Little did he realize that the Hudson Valley soon would become a destination in the Northeast United States. As populations grew in New York City, people sought greener pastures, but only with easy access to the larger city. In the 18th century, easy access meant waterways, and the Hudson River served the region well.
Cities like Beacon, Poughkeepsie, and Middletown hold the key to some of New York’s earliest history. Before the British burned it almost entirely to the ground, Kingston had been the state capital. There have been a couple U.S. Presidents to call the area home. Railroads flourished in this region, and so did a lot of big companies.
The Hudson Valley has a unique culture that mixes local pride, with New York City weekenders seeking an escape from the Big Apple. With cultural hubs like New Paltz and historical sites Hyde Park, the Hudson Valley is an endless trove of exploration.
Hudson Valley Region Defined
Like all of the regions in New York State, the Hudson Valley can’t be contained within a defined border. Regional definitions set by the New York State Visitors Network have been used on Exploring Upstate. There are six counties included in the Hudson Valley, which are: Columbia, Dutchess, Putnam, Westchester, Orange, and Rockland.
Columbia County Facts
– Martin Van Buren was born in Kinderhook and later became the 8th President. He is the only President for whom English was a second language. [source]
– On December 5, 1782 Martin Van Buren was born in Kinderhook. Later on in 1837, he would become the 8th President of the United States of America. He was the first President that was born here in the U.S. [source]
– One of the rarest coins ever created by the U.S. Mint is a 1935 half-dollar celebrating the sesquicentennial of Hudson, New York. Only 10,008 were produced, but two collectors bought up 8,500 of the coins, and collectors around the country were incensed. They were to be sold by the government for $1.21 each, but almost immediately they were changing hands at $10.00 a piece. Today, depending on quality, they sell on average for about $1,000 per coin. [source]
– The Union Street Guest House in Hudson, NY once had a policy statement on their website that any customer who posted a bad review on any online website would be charged $500. When the NY Post reported on it, the Facebook page and Yelp profile for the business collected thousands of scathing reviews within just 24 hours. [source]
– Martin Van Buren, 8th President of the United States, was born in Kinderhook, as was his wife Hannah. She died of tuberculosis at the age of 35, prior to her husband holding office, and therefore was never First Lady. When Martin Van Buren wrote his 800-page autobiography, his wife of twelve years was never once mentioned in the book. [source]
– Fort Worth, Texas is named for General William Jenkins Worth, who helped liberate Texas during the Mexican-American War in 1794, but he was born in New York. The home he was born in still stands in the town of Hudson.
– In 2010, Hudson High School in Columbia County made national news when it became the first in the country to elect a pair of gay students as prom king and queen. Charlie Ferrusi and Timmy Howard won the vote of their classmates with such a landslide that the school didn’t even bother to announce the runners-up. [source]
Dutchess County Facts
– Camp Sundown out of Poughkeepsie is a camp specifically for children with Xeroderma Pigmentosa, a profound allergy to sunlight. Camp activities are the same as other camps, but they take place at nighttime so children can safely play outdoors. [source]
– Vassar College provides a scholarship to any student who can prove they are a descendant of Calvin Huntington, an 1800’s era benefactor to the college. Furthermore, the financial award is available to any student who agrees to change their middle or last name to Huntington. [source]
– The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library on his former estate in Hyde Park, NY is the first ever Presidential Library. FDR began the tradition that has continued with each president since. [source]
Orange County Facts
– Creator of the “gonzo journalism” writing style Hunter S. Thompson is best known for authoring Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but he started his writing career in Middletown, New York in Orange County. He began working for the Daily Record in 1959 just before it merged with The Times Herald. He was fired in 1961 for using his bare feet to kick in a vending machine filled with candy. [source]
– Between 1778 an 1782, American soldiers looking to fortify the Hudson River constructed a huge chain to be strung across the river at West Point, effectively keeping British ships from passing. What became known as the Great Chain featured 600 yards of links that were two-feet in length and 114 pounds each. [source]
– Cream cheese was invented in 1872 not in Philadelphia, but actually in Chester, NY by A.L. Reynolds. He began distributing it in foil wrappers and called it ‘Philadelphia Brand’. At the time, Philadelphia was nearly synonymous with ‘high quality foods’, so he figured it would be more respected. [source]
Putnam County Facts
– Sixteen year old Sybil Ludington rode through Putnam County on April 26, 1777 to alert the Continental Army of approaching British Troops. Her ride was similar to Paul Revere’s famous ride, but Ludington rode nearly twice the distance–a feat considered monumental for a sixteen year old girl. Ludington and her horse Star 40 are memorialized with statues and historical markers even in other states. [source]
Rockland County Facts
Westchester County Facts
– The first female self-made millionaire in the U.S. spent her final years in Irvington-On-Hudson in Westchester County. Madam C.J. Walker created a line of beauty products specifically designed for black women. With that success, she went on to use her wealth in numerous charitable efforts. The home where she passed away, Villa Lewaro, was designed in 1917 by New York State’s first licensed black architect. [source]