Historical Highlights Right in Hudson
Historical Highlights Right in Hudson
If you love a mix of history and charm, Hudson, Wisconsin, is the place for you! Filled with both, Hudson is the perfect place to get away, explore, relax, and take yourself on a fun historic tour of the city.
Let’s start with a quick bit of history. Both the Dakota and Ojibwe tribes were settled in west-central Wisconsin by the 1500s. The Ojibwe held more of a woodland culture while the Dakota culture was more centered around rivers and plains. In the 1840s voyageurs Louis Massey and Pete Bouchea became known as the first residents of the town that quickly grew into what we know and love today. They’d bring officers from Fort Snelling on hunting and fishing expeditions. Did you know that Hudson was originally known as Willow River, then Buena Vista, before finally settling on its present name in 1852?
In 1974, Congress designated the St. Croix River as a protected scenic riverway, preserving the beauty of the shoreline for future generations. Whether you’re local or a visitor you’ll be grateful that they did because the St. Croix River area is a beautiful place to be any time throughout the year.
Cruise the Yellowstone Trail
For true history buffs, you may or may not know that Hudson is part of the Yellowstone Trail, which was the first transcontinental highway. Started by an ambitious group of South Dakota businessmen in 1912, this route became the first of its kind when most roads weren’t marked and maps were few and far between. What’s really cool is that you can step back in time and take a drive along the original trail right in Hudson. The scenic trail runs from the old toll bridge road (also known as dike road) to Third and St. Croix Street and onto County Road A and U.S. Highway 12. Make a day of it, grab some lunch and take the road less traveled.
Bonus! Visit Hudson in August during the Yellowstone Trail Heritage Days event to experience old car shows, historical displays and even vintage dance demonstrations. You won’t want to miss it!
Tour Back in Time
A great way to experience Hudson and learn more about its rich history is by taking a self-guided Hudson history walking tour. This tour will take you around the city, through residential and downtown neighborhoods, and past several amazing historical homes and buildings, where each one has its own unique story. Take, for instance, the W.B. Hatch building, which started as a grocery store and has evolved into a movie theater, pool hall, ice cream parlor, office building, bookstore, and even Hudson’s most popular chocolatier.
Photo Credit: Bucklew Photography
Another local favorite to check out is the stunning Octagon House. Built in 1855, this unique eight-sided house was home to Judge John Shaw Moffat, who came to Hudson from New York. The building is now owned by the St. Croix County Historical Society and is maintained as a museum complex including the gardens, garden house, and carriage house. It is furnished with artifacts and antiques from 1850 to 1950 in the St. Croix Valley. The Octagon House hosts guided and self-guided house tours and puts on events including Living History Days. Looking for some great tours? The St. Croix County Historical Society also hosts private Historic Hudson Pub Crawls and Willow River Cemetery Tours by appointment.
If These Downtown Walls Could Talk
From antique shops to bars, downtown Hudson has some great locations with interesting histories. You can start with the always intriguing and somewhat quirky Abigail Page Antiques right on Second Street. As a member of one of the earliest families in Hudson, Abigail Page has an interesting history all on her own. Several of her personal belongings are even on display at the Octagon House (another reason to check out both locations).
At Abigail Page Antiques, you’ll find antiques, vintage items, and collectibles. The space is filled with jewelry, furniture, kitchenware, mid-century antiques, industrial-era finds, and memorabilia. There really is something for everyone. And for added history, the shop occupies two floors of the historic Taylor and Gross building, which was erected in 1880.
Another great shop to find some great vintage treasures is Back Room Vintage, located on Locust Street. Enter through Chapter 2 Books (a great independent bookstore) and wander the back rooms showcasing all sorts of antique and repurposed home decor, furniture, jewelry, and gifts. You are sure to find some great pieces calling out your name.
Don’t forget about the historical must-see stop, the infamous Dick's Bar & Grill. Their colorful history began back in the days when the St. Croix Landing and Toll Bridge (present-day Hudson Arch area) became the original route connecting Wisconsin and Minnesota. This brought a steady flow of traffic across the St. Croix River, bringing new buildings and businesses to the area in the 1850s and 1860s. One of those new buildings was Hendee’s Hall which is the location where Dick’s Bar & Grill stands today. Hendee’s Hall had a few great years, but unfortunately, in the fire of 1866, the hall burned to the ground and a new building took its place in 1867 which is the original building that Dick’s Bar would share.
One of our favorite moments of Dick’s Bar & Grill’s history is the “Lucky Dog Llama” story. A wary traveler came through town in 1877 and along with him traveled four llamas (quite the sight for the time). The tavern owner at the time, B.A. Rice, came to be one “Lucky Dog” because the unique animals staying out back brought in traffic to his business from far and wide while the traveler was in town. In honor of this Dick’s Bar & Grill hosts fun runs featuring llamas.
In 1955, Dick Brunelle purchased the saloon and named it after himself. The name has stuck, and now it has been around for over a century and continues to be a place where locals hang and history is made. If you haven’t been yet, make sure and stop in and enjoy one of their mouth-watering burgers!
Hudson is filled with great history and tons of charm making it a perfect day trip or weekend getaway. Start your planning for a Wisconsin Weekend and check out these great hotels and Airbnb's for your extended stay.