Driving hither and yon in the Hudson Valley this autumn, one is easily captivated by the brilliant hues of the season. Deep golden yellows, luscious reds, and tantalizing oranges seem to dangle over the landscape like a brilliant natural veil. The glorious days of an old fashioned Summer, a Summer of gentle breezes and soaring blue skies, have slowly crept into an intoxicating autumn, one whose brilliance is reminiscent of a patchwork quilt. With each passing day I have found myself marveling at nature’s beauty. Along the way I have dashed from event to event, to museum and gallery tours in Manhattan, and yes, attended a fair number of fairs, festivals and antique markets in my beloved Hudson Valley. It’s been a chain of excursions with the prevailing themes of art, design, and fashion, with splashes of benefits honoring numerous charities and philanthropic individuals. It is with a bit of irony that throughout each of these excursions one name continues to bubble up: The Hudson Company.
Rather than reiterate a lengthy tale of how often I have been confronted by the name of the Hudson Company, I will simply recant a couple of recent scenarios within which the business’s name has serviced. Recently, while attending a cocktail/dinner party in one of Stone Ridge’s more charming homes, our hostess spoke of her recent theater and art tours of Manhattan. “I was simply overwhelmed by the spaces of the new Whitney Museum, it’s glorious use of space, complimented by the most gorgeous reclaimed wooden floors.” During a similar recent evening in Saugerties (as everyone knows I do love parties), a fellow party guest commented to me, “you certainly seem to have connected with quite an array of individuals from the fashion industry of late.” In truth it does seem that between the Vogue girls, the noted fashion photographers, and corporate retailers a reoccurring theme has emerged. The Hudson Valley has indeed become a Mecca for those from the design worlds of fashion, beauty and decorating. Throughout this reoccurring theme one name continued to prevail: The Hudson Company.
How, you might ask, has a Forrest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood mill specializing in reclaimed & select harvest flooring, paneling, and molding, which offers a wide range of architectural products managed to become a prevalent topic of conversation at social gatherings throughout this autumn season? As fate would have it in the Hudson Valley, I was recently invited to tour The Hudson Company’s manufacturing facility and showroom in Pine Plains, New York. Pine Plains is a charming hamlet nestled between the Hudson Valley destination towns of Rhinebeck and Millbrook. A daytrip driving excursion which might begin with breakfast at the Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck and conclude with luncheon at Aurelia in Millbrook. Truth be told I initially visited the Hudson Company, during my first autumn season in the Hudson Valley in 2007. Though at the time, I was mesmerized by the Hudson Company’s selection of centuries old hand hewn beams, salvaged 19th century industrial materials, along with their array of materials salvaged from wooden water tanks and agrarian structures I had in the last eight years allowed the Hudson Company to slip off my radar. In fact when the Hudson Company’s name continued to emerge of late, I remembering thinking, “oh yes! I remember referring a potential client there several years ago.” Therefore, I embarked on my tour of the 300,000 square foot facility with a few preconceived notions. As is often the case these notions were quickly thrown asunder. Suddenly, as they say, the chips of my recent social conversations began to fall into place.
Founded in 1995, the Hudson Company initially served as a resource for reclaimed wood from a variety of sources. In their twenty-year history the Hudson Company has reclaimed and repurposed over five million feet of historical high character wood into new construction projects of every type. In fact, such diverse locals as the Gramercy Park Hotel, Bloomingdales, Patagonia and yes, even the Whitney Museum, all have one common denominator: The Hudson Company. Intricate herringbone patterned ceilings, hand milled floor boards, distinctive assembled wooden columns, towering ceiling beams and captivating wooden surfaces of assorted varieties all had their origins at the Hudson Company. Perhaps as you are reading this article you might be resting under a coffee house ceiling or sitting beside a wooden bar whose conceptualization began in Pine Plains. Because, as I have begun to learn the Hudson Company since 2010 has rapidly become the to go-to resource for a variety of wooden materials. Examples of the types of woods they’ve reclaimed from agrarian sites include silver pine, oak of varied dimensions, brown board and the afore mentioned hand-hewn beams, whereas reclaimed travaux, long leaf heart pine and a variety of softwood joists typify the types materials reclaimed from 19th Century industrial Sites. The industrial materials provide an even greater bonus than their agrarian cousins due to their greater quantities and longer dimensions. However, what I found most astounding is the beauty of the cedar and redwood materials salvaged from early to mid-20th Water Tanks. Have you ever looked along the skyline of Manhattan and become entranced by the mesmerizing silhouette of an antiquated water tower? Frankly, I had never considered the possibility that the constructive materials of these alluring structures could be reclaimed and repurposed. Another of the Hudson Company’s great material resources are select harvest forests. Their select harvest timbers (FSC and non-FSC) come from storm-damaged and dead-standing trees, and from independent, Hudson Valley sawyers who oversee managed forests located near the Hudson Company’s Pine Plains mill. In many aspects it would be hard to find a more “green-sourced” industry than the Hudson Company.
Another component of The Hudson Company which seems to permeate the Hudson Valley is the story of its current President, Jamie Hammel. Jamie’s career path, after graduating Wharton Business School, has included tenure with NBC Universal and a stint as the Senior Merchandising Editor at GQ magazine. Again the reoccurring theme of individuals who redefine their lives in the Hudson Valley emerges. To many the rather charming and witty Jamie is the epitome of a renaissance man. A talented businessman, who in a period of five short years has transformed a productive business into a far acclaimed institution. During my site visit I asked if Jamie had had a long knowledge of reclaimed materials and lumber. With a rather mischievous grin Jamie replied, “I had no prior knowledge of this fun wood adventure until five years ago. I walked in as a novice.” To fully grasp the concept of how radical this statement is, you will need to arrange your own site visit of the Pine Plains Mill. Within this facility is a highly structured, technologically-based factory utilizing a diverse range of machinery and implements. Metal detectors are utilized to locate old fasteners (nails, bolts, screws and staples) before the unwanted debris is removed either by hand or with specialized tools. The process of wood production includes a variety of stages: re-sawing, grading, kiln drying, re-grading, planing, ripping, and molding before the final product is completed. Certainly, within the last five years Jamie could not have restructured his professional career in a more diverse manner.
As I begin to celebrate my one-year Anniversary with Upstater, I am continually amazed how the Hudson Valley has infiltrated itself so firmly into the environs of Manhattan’s five boroughs. In fact, the Hudson Company is a prime example of this phenomenon. A Hudson Valley based business, boasting a Brooklyn showroom facility, whose products accentuate apartments, businesses, restaurants, hotels and museums throughout the tri-state area. A company whose president is emblematic of how the Valley can transform lives. As I have stated repeatedly for the last year, “you might arrive to the Hudson a Valley as a visitor, a weekend guest, or dual resident, but before long you’ll start wondering how you too can call this amazing area your permanent home.”