The unknown builder of this picturesque Italianate villa in Downtown Hudson turned to a popular guide on the architecture of country houses for design inspiration.
The sprawling building, which once held the local Elk’s Club and in more recent years served as the winter home of the Hudson Farmer’s Market, was originally constructed as a grand single family home. Set just a short jaunt from the main shopping stretch of Warren Street, the property at 601 Union Street is now on the market and perhaps in need of a buyer with a bit of vision and funds to spare.
The house is known locally as the Terry-Gillette house after two early owners and usually given a construction date of circa 1850. The origin of that construction date attribution is likely owed to the builder patterning the manse after a plan published that year in Andrew Jackson Downing’s “Architecture of Country Houses.”
Published as a “villa in the Italianate style,” the house was one of the picturesque styles promoted by the landscape designer and architect. Before dying tragically young in a steamship accident in 1852, Downing produced two hugely influential books on country houses. Downing was part of a group of architects who would shape the American home in the 19th century, including Alexander Jackson Davis, Calvert Vaux and Frederick Clarke Withers.
This particular design for a villa was contributed by another luminary of the time, Richard Upjohn. He wasn’t a locally grown architect — like Calvert and Vaux he was born in England. But Upjohn did have ties to the Hudson Valley. He was a 19th century Brooklynite, settling here in the 1840s, who nabbed a country home along the Hudson in the early 1850s. Mandeville, his house in Garrison, became his permanent residence during his retirement and he died there in 1878.
While Upjohn had multiple commissions in the region, including alterations to Martin Van Buren’s Lindewald in Kinderhook, the Italianate villa he contributed to Downing’s book was constructed in 1845 in Newport, R.I. There isn’t any suggestion that he was involved in the Hudson house, but the builder certainly used Upjohn’s pattern as inspiration. The house on Union Street has lost some original decorative details, visible in early 20th century images of the house, but its kinship to the Upjohn design it still evident it the arched windows, square towers, bracketed towers and general massing.
The first owner of the house is typically credited as William H. Terry and indeed a map of 1873 confirms his ownership of the house, which was originally known as 325 Union Street. Terry was a partner in the dry goods store Guernsey & Terry that was located on Warren Street at least as early as 1862. A perusal of city directories shows that Terry also resided on Warren Street until the 1870s, making it unlikely that he was the original owner of the house.
That honor instead appears to go to one Thomas J. Best, who is listed at 325 Union Street in the city directory of 1866. Further support is given in an extensive Hudson Evening Register article of March of 1867 that goes into lengthy detail on the many fine residences of Union Street, including the “palatial residence” of Best built less than two years ago. This gives the house a likely circa 1865 construction date.
Best died in 1869 and William and Harriet Terry moved in a few years later. They would reside there until William’s death in 1899. The house was then sold to John W. and Grace Gillette, who in turn appear to have been in residence until John’s death in 1921.
A 1935 floor plan included in the listing images shows that local architect William J O’Connor converted the property for use as the local Elk’s Club. The Hudson Lodge of Elks sold the property in 2003 and it changed hands again in 2009 but has continued to operate largely as a retail and event space since the Elk’s conversion.
While no doubt many original interior details were lost in the conversion from single family home to clubhouse, there are still some glimpses of 19th century grandeur, including the curving center stair. The roughly 13,000 square foot house includes amenities expected in a building that has largely served as a clubhouse and event venue for the last 85 years, including a large banquet hall and a commercial kitchen. There isn’t a floor plan but according to the listing, there are also seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms. All this is set on several acres of land, with the area surrounding the house paved for parking. The listing pitches the property as a potential bed and breakfast, boutique hotel or grand single family home.
In 2009 the property sold for $860,000. It now comes with a price tag of $6 million and is listed with Leah Angela Witko of Coldwell Banker Prime Properties.
[h/t: Gossips of Rivertown]
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