LIVE History Room on Zoom on Shantytown (The Furgary)

Program Description: The library History Room on Zoom is presenting a special LIVE session on The History of Shantytown (aka The Furgary) in Hudson. Gary Sheffer, member of the library Board of Trustees and chair of the History Room Committee, interviews Leo Bower, lifelong local and a resident historian with a special expertise in Hudson’s Shantytown. A question and answer period follows the program.

Date/Time:  Thursday, March 25, 6-7:30pm.

Registration/Audience: For Zoom registration link click here.

Visit hudsonarealibrary.org, for Zoom registration link or contact Brenda Shufelt at 518-828-1792 x106 or brenda.shufelt@hudsonarealibrary.org.

Most locals are familiar with the fishing shacks at the end of Dock Street in the North Bay area of Hudson just past the Kite’s Nest River City Garden but many do not know the history of these shacks and how far back they go. They are part of a 14.4 acre parcel that was purchased originally in the 1600s by a German immigrant from Indigenous people. There have been businesses on the land including gristmills, slaughterhouses and tanneries. The first Shantytown shacks were constructed in the 1880s and through the middle of the next century they functioned as sites for shad, sturgeon, and herring fishing. Active use of Shantytown continued into the 21st century until the city decreed that the shacks could no longer be used. A project to demolish most of the shacks and restore a few is part of the city’s 2017 NYS Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant.

Shantytown was known, specifically for shad fishing enterprises, which were important in sustaining local families through the Great Depression and World War II. Furthermore, Shantytown now represents one of the few shad fishing sites, an important cultural and economic phenomenon along the Hudson River, still existing. Consequently Shantytown has been deemed a site eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Daria Merwin, co-director of the Cultural Resource Survey Program at the New York State Museum in Albany, and Linda Mackey, a historic preservation specialist, have written that Shantytown has “the tangible remains of a traditional way of life that is rapidly disappearing”, which, “represent[s] a time when sturgeon and shad were abundant in the Hudson River and people made their livelihoods fishing the river and selling their catch on the shore.”

This library’s program will concentrate on the height of the Shantytown’s shad fishing culture in the mid 20th century and the families and lifestyle during this time. Progress and obstacles to the preservation of Shantytown will also be discussed.

Gary Sheffer, host of the video podcast History Room on Zoom, is a member of the Hudson Area Library Board of Trustees and chairman of the library’s History Room Committee. Gary hails from a well-known Hudson family (his father and grandfather were both mayors of Hudson) and has a keen interest in the history of Hudson.
Leo Bower is also a lifelong resident of Hudson and recalls his childhood on Front Street prior to urban renewal fondly despite its hardships. He first became enamored of the culture and characters of Shantytown when he reconnected with his father who had a shack and a fishing business there. He is a Hudson-phile and a resident historian with a special expertise in the history of Shantytown. He and his wife Michele currently reside in Greenport.

The Hudson Area Library History Room houses a special collection that pertains to the history of the City of Hudson, Greenport and Stockport; as well as Columbia County and New York State. The History Room also hosts the Local History Speaker Series at the library, offering free monthly talks on diverse topics related to the history of the Hudson area and Columbia County.

The History Room is by appointment only at this time but online research requests for information on local history are available at https://hudsonarealibrary.org/history-room/. This is a free service to the public. To inquire about an appointment email brenda.shufelt@hudsonarealibrary.org or call 518-828-1792 x106.