History of the Hudson House

John Ashbery’s fascination with houses and collecting began at a very early age. While most young children draw pictures of houses and objects, Ashbery’s initial curiosity steadily developed and deepened throughout his adolescence into a subject of serious study.

At his grandparent’s homes in Rochester (at 69 Dartmouth Street) and in Pultneyville (on Washington Street across from Lake Ontario), he was surrounded by evidence of the past.  He found newspapers from the nineteenth-century lining drawers in the Dartmouth Street dining room, diaries and scrapbooks of ancestors in Pultneyville, and old toys, games and decorative objects on shelves.  These mysterious, attractive objects intimated other lives and histories.  At age thirteen, about the same time Ashbery began to write poems, he and a friend also started antique hunting; one of his earliest collections was of a small group of ink stands and one of his earliest poems was about an antique iron penny bank he discovered on one of these outings.  He was simultaneously taking drawing classes and reading widely about English and American architecture, including histories of Victorian houses, country houses and haunted houses.

One of his sketches (done in 1947 during a Harvard College history course) bears a striking resemblance to the Hudson house.