1923 aerial lithograph sales help Hudson Library

This 1923 dirigible-eye view renders details of the entire City of Hudson as well as 20 close-up views of individual buildings, including the 1818 stone structure on State Street that currently houses the library and its future home, the Hudson Armory.

This 1923 dirigible-eye view renders details of the entire City of Hudson as well as 20 close-up views of individual buildings, including the 1818 stone structure on State Street that currently houses the library and its future home, the Hudson Armory.

By 1923, the field of aviation was still new and exciting, just two decades removed from the Wright brothers’ historic 12-second flight over the beach at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Barnstorming pilots traveled from town to town performing death-defying stunts, and the romantic image of air travel in the 1920s had people not only looking up to the skies in wonder, but also imagining what their everyday worlds would look like as seen from above. And since not many at the time were able to go up in an “aeroplane” themselves, this only increased the public’s fascination with aerial photography.

But many of the photographic images at the time that were taken from planes – the technology developed for purposes of aerial reconnaissance during World War I – were not of the highest quality. Shutter speeds on the available cameras were too slow in relationship to the speed of the plane. Not so for the dirigible; these airships commonly used in aviation at the time had the ability to hover in one place, making them ideal for taking aerial photographs (a short-lived advantage, as it turned out; commercial travel by dirigible ended with the dramatic fire on the hydrogen-filled Hindenburg in 1937, scaring off future travelers despite the fact that most people on board did survive).

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Lithographers in the 1920s saw a market in the public’s interest in aerial views and took to producing lithographic maps based on aerial photographs of cities. The idea was to sell the prints to residents and tourists alike. One such lithograph, Aero-View of Hudson, New York, has now been reproduced as an archival-quality inkjet print to be sold to raise funds for the new Hudson Library, currently in the midst of a $2 million fundraising campaign in order to shift its premises to the spacious Armory building. The original 1923 litho, part of the historical collection of the Hudson Area Library, was carefully cleaned and restored prior to reproduction.

The dirigible-eye view renders details of the entire City of Hudson as well as 20 close-up views of individual buildings, including the 1818 stone structure on State Street that currently houses the library and its future home, the Hudson Armory. In addition, the map depicts a Hudson River ferryboat and documents the riverfront at a time when it was supporting area industry. The archival inkjet print, measuring 43 by 22 inches, is available in a museum-quality frame with conservation glass for $450 or unframed for $150 at Hudson City Books at 553 Warren Street. The bookstore is donating all proceeds from sales of the map to the Hudson Area Library.

The construction to convert the first floor of the Hudson Armory to house the new library is being paid for by the Galvan Charitable Trust and Initiatives Foundation, which offers grants to charitable organizations in Hudson and encourages architectural preservation and conservation. A new Hudson Senior Center will occupy the second floor of the building, which has functioned as an armory for the National Guard and hosted high school proms, auto shows, wrestling matches, Harlem Globetrotters basketball and most recently, the Armory Art and Antique Gallery.

The space formerly occupied by the antique gallery will be repurposed as a flexible open floorplan for a 12,000-square-foot library that will include an 80-seat community meeting room. The history collection will be housed in the large turret at the southwest corner of the building, and classrooms and administrative offices will be located in the front of the Armory. A handicapped-accessible ramp will be built at the entrance portico. The new library will be constructed in keeping with the historical character of the building, blending historic elements with the latest technology, including an HVAC system that is cost-effective to install, maintain and run.

But even with the Galvan Foundation paying for construction costs of renovating the Armory – and giving the library a 30-year lease at $1 per month – the Hudson Area Library has estimated the costs of furnishing the new library at an additional $1.4 million, rounding that figure up to $2 million to enlarge the collections, hire new staff and build an endowment for the future.

According to the assistant library director, Marie Stark, the library has raised $850,000 as of last week. “We’re almost halfway to our goal,” she says. “The funding for the campaign comes from a grant from New York State, gifts and pledges from individuals and businesses and various fundraisers.” The original projected opening date of this spring has been moved back to the fall. “We’ve had a few minor issues that have set us back,” says Stark, “minor construction things and some asbestos at the Armory that had to be taken care of. We’re looking to update everything to current standards.”

The Hudson Area Library is chartered to serve Hudson and Greenport, she says, a population of 10,878, and the library serves other regional residents and visitors to the area as well.

Approximately 40 percent of the funds are earmarked for bookshelves, computers, furniture, lighting and cabinets, tablets and e-readers and a self-checkout station. The balance of the funds will go toward staff and expanded programming, adding more lectures, book readings, performances and classes. A portion of the funds will also be set aside for a long-term reserve account.

Trustees have estimated that the current library building at 400 State Street – originally a poorhouse, then an insane asylum, an art academy for women, a private residence for a two-term mayor of Hudson and finally an orphans’ home before it became the library in 1959 – would require millions of dollars to bring the building up to legally required modern safety and environmental standards. The building was sold in 2011 to the Galvan Foundation, resulting in a net profit of $173,000 for the library to put toward the costs of the new space. When the library moves out of the building, the Galvan Foundation will move its offices to 400 State Street.

To purchase an archival inkjet print of Aero-View of Hudson, New York, visit Hudson City Books at 553 Warren Street in Hudson or call (518) 671-6020. In the weeks to come, a copy will also be on display at the library. For more information about the Hudson Area Library and its capital campaign, visit www.armory.hudsonarealibrary.org or call (518) 828-1792. To see images of the aerial map, visit www.hudsonantiques.net/wideboard/2014/12/vintage-map-of-hudsonproceeds-to-benefit-the-library.html.

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