By WILLIAM SHANNON
I’ve got a waking dream that settles in every now and then, during which I’m granted the ability to walk from Hudson’s Columbia Memorial Hospital on the morning I was born in ’88, down the hill of Prospect Avenue to the eastern end of Warren Street—and then to stroll down the city’s main street to see how different it was on that day compared to now.
I spent my childhood only about ten miles away, so was close in proximity while what’s often called Hudson’s renaissance continued to shift into ever-higher gears, but kids don’t pay attention to such silly things as changing storefronts and renovation efforts.
It’s only been in the past few years, as million-dollar-plus real estate transactions on Warren Street have become unsurprising and as I’ve interviewed people who saw an earlier era—when globalization had yet to bring modern Fairview Avenue to just beyond Hudson’s border—that I’ve wished I’d always paid an adult’s-level attention to things in Hudson other than the trolley that I called a “Charlie.”
Much better than my scattered, foggy recollections is a photo exhibit titled The Warren Street Project which has been on display this month and which ends this Sunday at Vincent Mulford Antiques at 419 Warren Street.
You can view the exhibit, which is sponsored by Historic Hudson and features hundreds of photos taken by Lynn Davis of the buildings of Warren Street in 1996, on Saturday between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. or on Sunday between Noon and 5 p.m. Framed prints of any of the photos, signed by Davis, can be ordered in exchange for a $500 donation to benefit Historic Hudson.
The display gives the effect of being able to walk up and down Warren Street in 1996. In the photos, there are more boarded-up storefronts and windows than there are now and the mix of businesses was still far from the days when it would earn an annual story from one of The New York Times’ Sunday sections. There are some antique shops in the 1996 photos, but there’s also a shoe-repair store (which may not have been open anymore by then) and places where you could buy or rent televisions and appliances.
There’s a number of buildings for sale in the pictures. The little Warren Street Market at Second and Warren streets and the other storefront in that building are boarded up underneath a sign, that reads, between tilted, painted sea anchors, “Shrimp Box.” The building where Savoia is now has, in the Lynn Davis shot, a Century 21 for-sale sign taped onto the window and a faded sign that reads “Tainted Lady Lounge,” a nod of course to Hudson’s infamous red-light district that thrived into the late fifties.
Overall, though, there weren’t as many boarded-up storefronts as I’d imagined there would’ve been in 1996. Maybe a decade earlier there were more or maybe there wasn’t as much and as clear of a void between bust and boom as I’d figured there’d been.
The story of Warren Street and of Hudson’s recent past—of natives and newcomers, of property tax bills and reassessments, of work and morphing rents, of sparring cultural currents—is a complicated one to tell. Makes me tired to think of trying to tell it.
But I enjoyed my 1996 walk down Warren Street and it was only much later in the day that I thought of the Trolley.
More information regarding the exhibit can be found at www.historichudson.org
The title of this column, “Flash,” is short for “Flash of life: a chronicle of efforts to slow life down.” William Shannon runs the website hudsonriverzeitgeist.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The Minneapolis Star-Tribune. His book 'Hudson River Zeitgeist: Interviews from 2015,' is available at the Artisan Shop at Camphill Hudson Solaris at 360 Warren Street in Hudson and through hrzeitgeist.com.