by: Maureen Wlodarczyk
In my last column, I wrote about Simon “King” Kelly, a fixture in Weehawken politics in the second half of the 1800s, and a person known for his charity, some of that evidenced by his visits to the Snake Hill Almshouse dressed as Santa Claus and bearing gifts for the young poorhouse inmates. That discovery was more than enough to rekindle my interest in the Snake Hill “community,” a societal island of lost and mostly forgotten souls comprised of the mentally ill, desperately poor, tuberculosis and smallpox patients and incarcerated criminals, and I got to wondering about the decades of Christmases spent there by thousands of Hudson County citizens.
In the 1870s, the Snake Hill complex in Secaucus included the Almshouse, Penitentiary and “Lunatic Asylum.” Newspapers from those years reported politicians arranging for Christmas turkey and chicken dinners at Snake Hill accompanied by live music and even some dancing. The children of the Almshouse were treated to candy, fruit and cake and, according to the press, the convict population was permitted recreational time in the prison corridors, prompting some to break into song. Continue reading HUDSON THEN…AGAIN -An After Christmas Story-CHRISTMAS AT SNAKE HILL