On September 27, 1609 Henry Hudson’s ship, the Half Moon, ran aground on an alluvial island directly across from what are now the docks at Hudson, thereby establishing Hudson, New York History. On November 14 1784, The Proprietors resolved without debate to change the name of the settlement from Claverack Landing to Hudson over the objections of then governor George Clinton, who “was much displeased at their disregard.”
C. Van Rensselaer in his 1887 pamphlet Historical Reminiscenes of Hudson, NY & Vicinity says that Willard Place “received its name from the original proprietor [Henry A.Willard] of Willard’s Hotel, Washington D.C., of world wide reputation.” According to Van Rensselaer, Mr. Willard was a guest for a time in the Scovill Mansion adjacent to Willard Place. Mr. Willard briefly considered retiring to Hudson and purchased a large plot of land in Willard Place, which he owned from 1864 to 1867.
On April 1, 1872, the Hudson Register announced plans for Willard Place conceived as a private, gated community. It was described as “the most important improvement that has been projected in this city for twenty years; and one that would realize all its projectors’ contemplate.” Willard Place was inaugurated on April 10,1872.
By the middle of 1875 two of Hudson’s leading society figures – Herman Vedder Esselstyn, a prominent attorney and surrogate court judge, and his wife Margaret – moved from the increasingly Irish neighborhood around their Front Street home. They built a three-story house at 5 Willard Place. It was in the Second Empire style, the most fashionable design used in America in the 1870’s and 1880’s. A 1939 fire destroyed the third floor and it was not rebuilt. The two lower floors remain today. The entrance hall has an elegant curved staircase, which is said to be one of the most beautiful in the Hudson Valley.
In 1989 Meg Mundy, the British-born stage television actress, bought the home and renovated it during the decade she lived there.
Duncan Calhoun and Russell Gibson, owners of 4 Willard Place, purchased 5 Willard Place in September of 2008 and spent seven months renovating the property and converting it to the Bed and Breakfast now known as The Croff House in honor of the original architect of the property G.B. Croff. In dedication to the original owners of the homes on Willard place all of the guest rooms in The Croff House bear the name of one of the original homeowners: Traver (1 and 8 Willard Place), Chase (4 Willard Place), Esselstyn (5 Willard Place), Peck (6 Willard Place), and Edmonds (7 Willard Place).