by Seth Rogovoy
(HUDSON, N.Y., March 24, 2017) – In response to the general displeasure at best and horror at worst that greeted the Hudson Opera House following its announcement that it was renaming itself Henry Hudson Hall, after the Dutch explorer who was a pioneer of genocide of the native peoples of America, the Opera House announced yesterday that instead its new name will be simply Hudson Hall. Also, responding to those who decried the loss of the original name, the re-rebranding of the Opera House will include reference to the historic Hudson Opera House.
So in essence, the final results of months of meetings and discussions, in a process led by consultant Megan Kent, a self-described “born brand strategist,” of Megan Kent Branding Group, have been tossed in the trash less than two weeks after their public rollout.
In an interview about the rebranding of the Opera House as Henry Hudson Hall on WAMC Northeast Public Radio on March 14, the day after the original announcement, Kent stated that the venue was being named after the “founder” of the city of Hudson. Henry Hudson died in 1611 without ever setting foot anywhere near present-day Hudson. Dutch settlers first arrived in the Hudson region a few decades after Henry Hudson died; the city was first chartered in 1785.
In explaining why Henry Hudson was being commemorated in the new name, Kent initially wrote in a statement, “In naming Henry Hudson Hall after this city’s historic namesake — a man whose entire being was possessed by a spirit of discovery — we appropriately honor the history and future of this building,” seemingly unaware that Henry Hudson wasn’t so much motivated by “a spirit of discovery” but rather by the funds being showered upon him by the Dutch East India Company, which hired Hudson to find a Northwest Passage to China and then onto India via a route above the Arctic Circle.
Flying the Dutch flag, Hudson claimed the territory he “discovered” along the way for the Netherlands. Among Hudson’s other professional achievements was introducing alcohol to native Americans in exchange for furs, as well as giving smallpox-infected blankets to the native peoples. Hudson is also distinguished by his manner of death: fed up with his authoritarian, selfish ways, his crew rose up against him and slaughtered him after he refused to share his store of dwindling provisions with them.
Residents of Hudson, N.Y., also expressed disappointment on social media over the original name change merely due to their attachment to the name Hudson Opera House, which like the city, boasts a quirky, historic character.
Here is the text of a press release issued by the Hudson Opera House on March 23, 2017, with spelling, styling, punctuation, casing, and formatting presented as close as possible to the original:
at the historic Hudson Opera House
In moving forward with the re-opening of our newly restored performance hall and our new name, I, together with the Board of Directors, my Co-Director Tambra Dillon and our staff, acknowledge the concern expressed by some that we would highlight a historical figure who may not reflect the spirit of inclusion and community we value.
We want you to know that we have listened, with great respect, to those of you who have raised this issue, along with the tremendous affection shown for the Hudson Opera House. We are revising our name to “Hudson Hall” and our branding will retain a reference to our historic Hudson Opera House.
This past week we have been heartened by the passion with which our neighbors and patrons regard this organization. With your support over the past 25 years, we are nearing completion of this beloved and historic building. We look forward to the opportunity to open the doors of the upstairs performance hall to the people of Hudson and our region for the first time in over 55 years.
at the Historic Hudson Opera House