Voices of the Hudson
The audio clips featured below give a voice to the history, culture, and natural beauty of the Hudson Valley. The stories provide a sampling of what it’s been like to live and work in the Hudson Valley over many different eras, including the present.
All 28 of these stories are part of the Hudson Train Tour app. Part travel guide, part audio tour, the app not only identifies these waterside wonders-it helps you plan visits to the historic, natural, and cultural attractions located near Hudson Valley train stations.
These clips are organized by the Themes of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area.
Corridor of Commerce Theme
Just north of Cold Spring, is a site that piques everyone's curiosity – a medieval looking castle sitting on an island in the middle of the Hudson River. It’s not a castle made for a king. This Hudson River chateau was built by a teetotaling Presbyterian Scottish immigrant, Francis Bannerman, who used the island for a rather interesting purpose at the turn of the 20th century. Listen to learn what that use was and for more info on this site, visit bannermancastle.org/visit-the-island.
Photo: Bannerman's Castle
Brickmaking in the Hudson Valley
New York City’s skyrocketing need for bricks, the abundance of clay nearby on the shores of the Hudson, and the inexpensive transportation to the market provided by the river were key elements powering the brick industry in the Hudson Valley. European immigrants and African Americans provided a steady stream of men to perform the hard low-paying manual labor. Each performing one of the many steps in the brick making process beginning with excavating the clay from the shores of the Hudson. Runners then brought the clay to a tempering pit- a sort of mixing station where the clay was combined with sand, water and coal. Once mixed the clay was scooped up from the tempering pit and transported to molding machines where they were formed into the familiar standard size brick. Then the bricks were laid in the yard to air dry for about four days before going to the kiln for firing. By the 1930s most of the brickyards were out of business with the last brick fired in 1979. Power plants to event spaces now occupy the 120 former brickyards with some like Dennings Point becoming public parks. Listen to hear about how a devasting fire in Manhattan led to a booming industry along the Hudson River.
Bridges of the Hudson
Kathryn Burke is the author of Hudson River Bridges and the Director of Historic Bridges of the Hudson Valley. And although she might not have a favorite bridge there is one that she thinks is pretty special. The Bear Mountain Bridge became the first vehicle crossing of the Hudson River south of Albany. So it really fits perfectly with the scenery. And it's a beautiful structure. Listen to learn about the Bear Mountain Bridge, and for more info on this and other bridges over the Hudson, visit hbhv.org.
In 1976, New York State closed the Hudson River fishery for eels, striped bass, and sturgeon. Herring and Blue Crabs are the only fish allowed to be caught commercially on the Hudson River today. John Mylod is one of the only fishermen on the river who still sells their catch. But that was not always the case. Listen to hear about the past, present, and future of commercial fishing on the Hudson River.
Hudson River Pilots
When a foreign vessel enters the mouth of the Hudson River, the captain must move aside and a licensed river pilot takes the wheel. The pilot has local knowledge. The pilot knows the local traffic and they know the weather conditions. But the pilot doesn’t actually steer the ship. He gives orders to the ships personnel to keep the vessel safe within the narrow river channel. And back in the 60s and 70s there was no sophisticated GPS. That meant pilots had to know the river like the back of their hands. Listen to learn about the world of Hudson River Pilots. Pictured right: A ship and tug-barge on the Hudson River.
Photo: A ship and tug-barge on the Hudson River
In the days before refrigeration, large chunks of ice were carved from the Hudson River and stored in icehouses until summer when it was needed to keep food cool. In earlier years horse drawn plows used to score the ice for cutting, by the early 1940’s they used gasoline powered equipment to create a grid and the first cuts in the ice. Listen to learn about this bygone era.
Ice Yachts of the Hudson
Most of the year the Hudson is in constant motion with the ebb and flow of tides and waves. Sometimes in mid-winter when temperatures have sunk below freezing for days and weeks, the river is still. A solid sheet of ice shimmering in the sunlight. That's when the iceboats appear. Listen to hear the story of the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club and the Vixen, a century old ice boat with an illustrious history.
Photo: Ice yachts under the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge
Pirates on the Hudson
When you think about swashbuckling tales of colorful pirates on the high seas, you probably don’t think about them cruising the waters around Manhattan Island. But in the late 1800’s when notorious gangs roamed the streets of lower Manhattan, some pirates found raiding boats in New York’s harbor quite profitable. Most of them operated on the East River. Except for one – Sadie Farrel, who saw an opportunity waiting on the peaceful Hudson River.
The Rondout Lighthouse (pictured right), on the Hudson River near Kingston, NY is one of 7 remaining lighthouses on the Hudson River. You might imagine a lonely lighthouse keeper working day and night to keep the light burning and ships safe. But did you know many lighthouses were called family lights because they were built to house not only the lighthouse keeper, but his entire family? And it was not unusual for the lighthouse keeper to be a woman. If you want a closer view of the Rondout Lighthouse visit hrmm.org to sign-up for a tour.
Photo: Rondout Lighthouse
Sing Sing Prison
Just 25 miles north of Manhattan and along the Hudson River, the train goes right through one of the most famous prisons in America. If you’re on the train and look out the window, you’ll see a long stretch concrete wall and if you gaze up, the razor wire that surrounds Sing Sing prison. The prison was built in 1825 and was the filming site of many early films. Listen for the history of this famous prison and for more on the plans to convert a portion of this still active jail into a museum visit singsingprisonmuseum.org.
Freedom & Dignity Theme
The American Revolution
It’s 1778, two years into the Revolutionary War. British troops already occupy Manhattan and the lower Hudson Valley. Their goal? To control the Hudson River - split the colonies in two and stop supplies coming down the river. George Washington knows he needs to keep the British navy from sailing up the Hudson. And he knows the best place to do it. Listen to the audio to hear the story of West Point and how the Hudson Valley played a pivotal role in the American Revolution.
Photo: West Point
Clermont and the American Revolution
In her day, Margaret Beekman Livingston was known as a strong and capable woman. But no one really knew how courageous she was until she had to rebuild her family estate - literally - from the ground up. Listen to the audio for Margaret’s story. More info on this site can be found at friendsofclermont.org.
The Dutch and Enslaved Peoples in the Hudson Valley
When Henry Hudson first sailed his ship, the Half Moon, up the Hudson River, he was looking for a new route to China for the Dutch East India Company. He did not find that passage but he did find a new land for the Netherlands. The Dutch ruled this part of the country for less than 50 years, but you can still see their influence throughout the Hudson Valley. Although they were known for their tolerance of ideas and religion, they also brought the first enslaved people to the Hudson Valley. Listen to the audio to learn about the Dutch influence and their role in bringing slavery to the Hudson Valley.
Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt loved the Hudson Valley. For them it was home. A place they could work, entertain friends and dignitaries and meet with locals to learn what was really on people’s minds. After FDR's death in 1945, Eleanor thought she was done with public life, but President Truman had other ideas in mind. Listen to the audio to learn more about Eleanor Roosevelt and visit nps.gov for more info on the Home of FDR, Top Cottage, and Val-Kill.
Photo: Eleanor Roosevelt voting in 1936
FDR in the Hudson Valley
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was our 32nd president and the only president elected to four terms. He led us through the Great Depression and World War II. He brought us the New Deal and Social Security. He grew up in Hyde Park, NY. Listen to learn about FDR, and for more info and to visit the FDR Presidential Library and estate, visit www.nps.gov.
Hamilton and the Schuylers
Alexander Hamilton has become one of our best-known founding fathers – with a little help from Broadway. He was the first Secretary of the Treasury and the mastermind of our financial system. His likeness is on the ten-dollar bill. And of course, there’s that famous duel. But did you know, that but for the lifelong work of his wife Elizabeth Schulyler-Hamilton, his legacy might not have been secured in our history? For that story we need to travel to the capital of New York State about two hours north of New York City, Albany. Listen to learn how Elizabeth preserved Alexander's legacy and visit nysparks.com to schedule a tour of Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site.
Photo: Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton
Mahicanituck is a Native American origin story handed down for generations and presented here by renowned storyteller Jonathan Kruk. For more info on Jonathan Kruk, please visit his website at jonathankruk.com.
Race and Immigration in Newburgh
As you travel past the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, gaze across the river to the Newburgh city skyline. It’s a beautiful mix of old and new that upon closer look can tell us a lot about the city's past and future. Listen to learn about Newburgh and the people who settled there.
The Underground Railroad
On a quiet side street, not far from the New York State Capital in Albany, there’s a three-story brick building that looks like the other houses on the block except there’s a small gold sign in front. It tells us this house was once the home of African American abolitionists Stephen and Harriet Myers. If you ventured up the wooden stairs to go inside, you’d be entering through the very door where the Myers welcomed hundreds of African Americans escaping enslavement in the mid 1800’s. Listen to learn about the Underground Railroad in the Hudson Valley. For more information about the Stephen and Harriet Myers’ Residence, visit undergroundrailroadhistory.org.
Nature & Culture Theme
Birds of the Hudson Valley
The Hudson River Valley is home to a diverse population of birds. Many of which live along the shores of the river. Spotting them from the train though, can be tricky, so we’ve asked Kathy Schneider, author of Birding the Hudson Valley, for some pointers.
Geology of the Catskill Mountains
Imagine that it’s the beginning of the Ice Age. Over the coming centuries, the Hudson Valley Glacier will continue heading south until it reaches Long Island. There it will grind to a halt. It's too warm for that glacier to keep going. So what happened to that 4000-foot thick glacier? Listen to find out and to learn how ancient events still shape the geology, and culture of today's Hudson Valley.
Hudson River Greenway Water Trail
A 256-mile paddler's dream, extending from northern Saratoga County in the Adirondack Park and northern Washington County at the head of Lake Champlain, to Battery Park in Manhattan. Listen to learn about the Hudson River Greenway Water Trail and visit hudsonrivergreenwaywatertrail.org.
Photo: Kayakers on the Hudson
John Burroughs and Slabsides
If you want to enjoy a hike through pristine woods, there’s no better place than the Hudson Valley to explore. But there’s one trail in the town of Esopus that not only takes you through an enchanted forest, but also has an unexpected treat at the end. A small cabin rests in a sunlit clearing. The roughly hewn logs blend so naturally into the surrounding forest you could almost miss it. As you walk through the door into the one room home it feels as though the owner just stepped out and will return shortly for a chat and cup of tea. Welcome to Slabsides - the rustic retreat of the writer and naturalist John Burroughs. Listen to hear about this magical place from a descendant of its builder, and for more info, visit johnburroughsassociation.org.
Right now underneath the murky water of the Hudson River you’ll find bass, flounder, minnows. Even blue crabs and monster-sized eels as big as your leg. But also swimming closer to the bottom, you’ll find a creature that looks like it escaped from Jurassic park. The Atlantic Sturgeon - the 250-pound prehistoric gentle giant of the river. Listen to learn about Atlantic Sturgeon and for more info on the NYS DEC Hudson River Estuary Program, visit dec.ny.gov.
Photo: NYSDEC staff doing a scientific catch and release, courtesy NYSDEC, permit number 20340
Just a little south of Tarrytown you’ll get your first glimpse of the immense black wall of jagged rock that skyrockets up from the river’s edge - the Palisades. A little past Yonkers, there is one section that looks like a giant scraper ripped the face off the cliff. This is the story of the Geology of the Palisades.
Storm King Mountain
Learn how an image of an iconic mountain overlooking the Hudson River began an 18-year legal battle and ignited a grass roots movement still alive today. Listen to hear about Storm King’s integral role in the modern Environmental Movement.
Photo: Con-Ed rendering of proposed power plant on Storm King Mountain, courtesy NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Thomas Cole’s work brought to the American public a new appreciation for the vast beauty of our nations wilderness. Laying the groundwork for the conservation movement and the National Park System. Visit the Thomas Cole house and experience the surroundings that inspired this great American Artist. Walk in his path on the Hudson River School Art Trail and see the natural settings he painted. Find out more at thomascole.org.
Looking out over the river – do you ever wonder what is hidden beneath the murky water? Down where the eels swim and the giant sturgeon feed - is there evidence of human life too? A team of scientists from the Columbia University Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory used state of the art sonar equipment to explore the bottom of the Hudson River. What they found was like an underwater museum with over 300 anomalies – things that shouldn’t have been there amongst the fish and plants. Listen to to learn what lurks beneath the surface.
Washington Irving and Sleepy Hollow
Every year around Halloween hundreds of people young and old gather in a tiny church just outside of Tarrytown to hear one of the first American ghost stories. But although we’re very familiar with Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, we know less about the man who wrote it. Look out the east side of the train just south of Tarrytown station and you might catch a glimpse of a yellow cottage, the home of Washington Irving known as Sunnyside. Listen to learn about Washington Irving and visit hudsonvalley.org. To learn more about Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, visit sleepyhollowcemetery.org.
Photo: Washington Irving's grave at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery