authentic |ôˈθentik| (abbr.: auth.)
- of undisputed origin; genuine : the letter is now accepted as an authentic document | authentic 14th-century furniture.
- made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original : the restaurant serves authentic Italian meals | every detail of the movie was totally authentic.
- based on facts; accurate or reliable : an authentic depiction of the situation.
- (in existentialist philosophy) relating to or denoting an emotionally appropriate, significant, purposive, and responsible mode of human life ((definition adapted from Dictionary Version 2.1.1 Apple, Inc.)
In part because of the vigorous discussion in the various “Signage” postings in the Hudson Business Coalition discussion group and other discussions I have had recently about Hudson, I have come to think that a major feature of Hudson is authenticity. Hudson demonstrates authenticity in all four senses described in the definition above. People who own businesses here, whether in antiques, art, music, and many more, do so from some central personal passion. Visitors experience this directly. Visitors must digest the experience and make it their own. And, many times businesses receive direct feedback about their passions from visitors and not in frequently new perspectives and information about their passions.
Just pay a visit to some of our B&Bs to see authenticity in action. For example, compare The Inn at Hudson and The Country Squire Bed & Breakfast. Just a hundred yards apart, but completely different experiences, each personal and real.
This is no Disneyfied, corporate version of life, no predigested, cleaned up tourist consumable. A visit to an art gallery here is a visit to the owner’s interests in art. The same goes for the antiques. The burgeoning music scene is filled with lots of local music. The streetscape is authentic, even the maligned Columbia-State St. streetscape. The diversity of the population is authentic and, for a town of seven thousand, quite amazing.
I hope that Hudson continues to develop, in its chaotic unplanned way, with an eye on authenticity. A strong commitment to preserving the streetscape is one obvious strategy. How to encourage and maintain authenticity in other dimensions is not so clear.
A deeper problem is the moment when we reach the tipping point and developers decide that Hudson is hot. As Jane Jacobs wrote about in The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) success in the real estate world leads to the death of the social world. It is one of the seemingly inevitable consequences of private property rights that the “highest and best use” (for private property owners) always wins out over any social values. That is unless there are strong countervailing forces from government and an engaged alert citizenry.
During my thirty five plus years living in Cambridge MA I watched the death of Harvard Square and its conversion into a social wasteland dominated by large institutional and corporate interests. Everything funky, fun, disruptive. original, everything that made Harvard Sq. a destination for locals, tourists, book lovers, poets, street musicians, and youth were driven out by large buildings filled with a parade of corporate logos and institutional uses. The only authentic use remaining in Harvard Sq. today is the gathering of teenagers, all from the suburbs, in the “mosh pit” around the entrance to the T. In contrast, Central Sq. in Cambridge might be a good case study of a neighborhood that has largely escaped this fate, though its is just a long half mile from Harvard Sq. It has somehow remained quite indigestible despite inroads by Harvard, MIT and a herd of banks.