The Hudson River may be the most important waterway in the USA, with 400 years of impact on the nation’s culture and commerce, along with being the birthplace of the environmental movement. And it’s all on exhibit at a new exhibit opening today at the New York Historical Society.
Hudson Rising explores centuries of ecological change and environmental activism through historic artifacts, interactive displays, and celebrated Hudson River School paintings, including a display of all five of painter Thomas Cole’s watershed (pun intended) series The Course of Empire.
There’s also an original book by Washington Irving, who lived and wrote stories along the river near Tarrytown. The book is open to his story of Rip Van Winkle.
NYCOTC Editor Evelyn Kanter got a preview earlier this week, and even though I’ve written two travel guidebooks to the Hudson Valley and lived in NYC all my life, I still learned some new things.
Fabulous Facts About the Hudson River
The Hudson River was once a major supplier of oysters and clams to restaurants throughout the USA?
- Those oyster beds were decimated by sewage in the late 1800s, and are being slowly revived, through the Billion Oyster Project. Eco-friendly “nesting” structures are on display.
In the 1890s, a new technology called dynamite made it easier to quarry rocks from the Palisades, which outraged both politicians and the public.
- The Palisades Interstate Park was created in 1909, to save the Palisades. It became a model for the National Park Service a few years later.
In the 1860s, the scenic beauty of the Hudson River drew artists including Thomas Cole and Frederic Church.
- They became known as the Hudson River School of painting, and their works of scenic charm helped make the Hudson Valley a popular tourism destination.
The 1960s fight against Con Edison’s intent to build a generating plant at Storm King Mountain, in the Hudson Highlands, gave birth to the modern environmental movement.
- Groups including Riverkeeper, Scenic Hudson, Pete Seeger’s Clearwater and the National Resource Defense Council grew from the grassroots effort to stop Con Edison, and the legal precedents they established have helped environmental groups from Maine to Alaska.
More about Hudson Rising
The exhibition reflects on how human activity has impacted the river and, in turn, how the river environment has shaped industrial development, commerce, tourism, and environmental awareness.
The exhibition also explores how experts in various fields are currently creating ways to restore and re-engineer areas of the river in response to climate change, including high-tech offsshore breakwaters to lessen the damage from storms like Superstorm Sandy, which devastated the NYC metro area.
The New York Historical Society has a full schedule of events, including family-friendly events, scheduled for the duration of the exhibit, which replaces the popular Harry Potter exhibit.