Diamond Street Hudson, New York – the story of the little town with the big red light district by Bruce Edward Hall

Bruce Edward Hall’s Diamond Street Hudson, New York – The Story of the Little Town with the Big Red Light District1 is every new resident’s introduction to a part of the history of Hudson missing from conventional touristics materials. Turns out that Hudson has depended on weekend traffic far longer than the current economy of Manhattanites (and others) coming to enjoy the mile of antiques and art along Warren St. For over a hundred years up to 1950 Hudson served a different weekend crowd, almost all men, men in search of sex, alcohol, gambling, and other male excitements. According to Hall’s history, Hudson ( a city of just 2.7 square miles and never more than 11,000 inhabitants) had over 60 bars and dozens of brothels, floating crap games and telegraphic feeds of horse race results from upstate and down. Hudson was a sleepy factory town that was transformed by arrivals via car and rail into a thriving hub of vice every weekend.111909Diamond-Street

Virtually very public official was on the payroll or at the very least winking broadly. There would be sporadic attempts at ending the corruption but it seems that for most of this period, occasional police raids, mostly netting the female side of the traffic and leaving the “johns” to wander home unscathed, was the norm. During periods in the 1920s and 1930s, the city attempted to normalize the prostitution by imposing weekly blood tests on the prostitutes for venereal diseases.

As a newcomer to Hudson it is interesting to learn that the divide between the North and South sides of Warren St. is not a new phenomenon. One block, the 300 block of Columbia St (long named Diamond St.) was the center of the prostitution for much of the city’s history. Today it is a truck route with ramshackle housing.

Somewhere in this story may be an explanation for why Hudson was one of the few cities to be offered a Carnegie library that turned it down leaving the city without a public library until 1949.

The book appears to be very well researched with ten pages of Notes and Bibliography as well as a serviceable Index. Hall’s writing is fluid and journalistic with lengthy stories that dig into key moments and bring to life the details of how the city became so interwoven with it life of crime and dependent on it. There is a five page “Diamond Street – The Hudson “Red Light District” Tour – A Self-Guided Low Life Adventure, 1994″ at the end of the book for those who want to visit the scenes in person. The 223 pages are a delightful read.

Who is the author, Bruce Edward Hall? He died in 2003, but lives on at his own eponymous website. It is not clear what brought a Chinese American who grew up in NYC’s Chinatown to research and write about Hudson. Perhaps it is just the delight in a good story that also happens to be history receding into the mists.

  1. Black Dome Press Corp. 1011 Route 296 Hensonville, NY 12439 www.blackdomepress.com © 2005 []

Yottabytes and the National Security State

The current New York Review of Books has an article by James Bamford, “Who’s in Big Brother’s Database” that reviews the new book by Mathew M. Aid, The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency . I have gotten in line at my local library to read this book and will make further comments after that.

Meanwhile, the Bamford article mentions the construction boom at NSA (National Security Agency) with a doubling of its headquarters and million sq. feet of data storage in the Utah desert costing some $2 billion. This to store the data from all of NSA’s spying that by 2015 will be spoken of in terms of yottabytes.

Now, before you think that Bamford is mainlining old Star Wars characters, a yotta- is the largest large number prefix officially recognized in the scientific lexicon. At our house we are approaching 1/2 Terabyte (1012) in our total digital stores, mostly photos. Really large corporate databases are measured in Petabytes (1015). A Yotta is 1024.

Are you feeling safer?

Do you really think that any email sent or telephone conversation you have had since 2002 or 2003 is not logged in the vast secret Security State Apparatus??

I guess that a National Security State (Empire) that has had over 800 military bases throughout the world (see an earlier posting on this topic) to assure our influence elsewhere can not resist the opportunity the state of so-called war we have been in since 2001 to penetrate into every American’s life.


Industrial Archeology – Columbia County, and, closer to home, Hudson

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A few months back I was in the Spotty Dog cruising the books. I stumbled on a large format book with a great title: Looking for Work: Industrial Archeology in Columbia County, New York – the emergence and growth of local industry as revealed in surviving sites and structures1 by Peter H. Stott.2 This 358 page book is a heavy duty monograph replete with endless notes about sources and a practical guide to the existing sites one might visit. There are lots of maps, illustrations, and photographs.

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124 Warren St. - Ezra Waterbury House

One little gem of a note concerns 124 Warren, the Ezra Waterbury House, built in 1870, just a few steps up the street from us. This is the only cast-iron front residential building still standing in North America.

A telling note about the difficulty of getting monographs like this one published is that the original research here in Columbia County and in Albany in the State Archives and elsewhere took place over 18 months. The writing of the book was completed shortly afterwards in 1994, but the book was not actually published until 2007.

  1. 2007 Columbia County Historical Society, Kinderhook, NY []
  2. Besides the attraction of the topic, Peter is a classmate from my prep school days, class of 1965,  at Taft School in Watertown, CT []

North Korea – a visit to the “Axis of Evil”

Recently, in the context of some discussion of the Bush regime, my step-son Jonathan pointed me towards several books on Korea. He said that Bruce Cumings is simply the best author writing in English on Korea. So, a quick trip to the local library and I had this compact little book in my hands.

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The book is organized around five topics: (1) the impact of the Korean War on North Korea, (2) the genesis of Korea’s nuclear programs, (3) the legend of Kim Il Sung, (4) daily life in North Korea, and (5) the current leader (dictator) Kim Jong Il. The text is not what one might expect of an academic from the University of Chicago. Cumings writes in an openly polemic style that is directed to providing maximum exposure to North Korea and our miserable knowledge of this country.

This book is relatively brief and a compelling introduction to North Korea and a portion of our foreign policy history that was substantially new to this reader

Book Review – On Truth

On TruthHarry Frankfurt is at it again. Following up on his popular little book On Bullshit he has written another little book, On Truth, similar size and approach. But, this is really a bit more interesting for what it has to say and perhaps what is missing. I will revise and expand this entry shortly.