When Hudson Township was created, it was surveyed as Range 10, Town 4 in the Connecticut Western Reserve and was about 25 square miles (65 km2) in area. Its first settlers were David Hudson and his party from Goshen, Connecticut in 1799. It was in the eastern part of Summit County, bordering Macedonia, Twinsburg Township, Streetsboro, Stow, Boston Township, and Boston Heights.
Hudson Township was rural for most of its existence. It was known for its dairy farms. Considerable growth began in the 1950s with the 1955 opening of the Ohio Turnpike and the 1957 establishment of the General Motors-Euclid Division, Terex.
The Village of Hudson, incorporated in 1837, was nearly surrounded by the township. No other municipalities expanded into Hudson Township via annexation.
Hudson’s growth continued from 1850 until the outbreak of the Civil War. Known as the Business Boom, the town’s population and the number of businesses increased during this time. With the growth of railroad, mills, warehouses, and printing presses sprung up throughout the town. By the mid 1850s, decadence had spread throughout Hudson, with saloons outnumbering churches, and many citizens who staked their life savings on railroad shares speculation. In 1857, the bubble burst, and railroad stocks plummeted. Many Hudson residents lost everything, signaling the end of a prosperous era for the Ohio economy.
Although the Civil War did not begin until 1860, in Hudson, issues surrounding the conflict had evident in Hudson. With its strong religious influences, Hudson society was adamantly opposed to slavery. The abolitionist movement had strong roots in the town. In fact, Hudson had such a reputation for its vocal antislavery rhetoric, that traveling abolitionist preachers often visited the town. Hudson became an active link along the famous Underground Railroad. Citizens helped fleeing slaves by hiding them in their homes and helping them on their journey to freedom in Canada. Today, Hudson has several underground tunnels below its streets. Some homes still have secret rooms and passages, all surviving evidence of this period in history.
Perhaps the most famous story of Hudson’s Civil War period is that of John Brown, of Harpers Ferry fame. The Brown family, who had lived in Hudson since 1805, were active abolitionists who participated in the Underground Railroad. John Brown, educated at the cabin school near the downtown Green, became a militant adversary of slavery, eventually becoming involved in the violence in Kansas in 1854. In the summer of 1859, he organized and launched the famous attack on the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Following the defeat of Federal forces in the Shenandoah Valley, Washington petitioned Hudson for volunteers to serve in the Union Army for three months. Ultimately, 150 men signed on to fight for the Union cause.
Although Hudson continued to flourish after the Civil War, by 1882, a series of disasters threw the town into a state of distress. The first blow came in that year, when Western Reserve College relocated to Cleveland. In 1890, a fire broke out, consuming an important mill and a factory. Only two years later, a second fire erupted on Main Street, destroying homes and businesses. The final blow to the town came in 1904, when Hudson’s only bank, the Produce Exchange Bank of Cleveland, suddenly closed its doors following an embezzlement case. Many citizens’ savings were wiped out by the closure. Taken together, these tragedies sent Hudson into an economic slump, which, were it not for the intervention of one man, would have left the town in distress for the foreseeable future.
James W. Ellsworth, a native of Hudson, had grown up to become a millionaire, making a fortune in the coal industry. Going into an early retirement, Ellsworth returned to his hometown in 1907 and was heartbroken by what he saw. At that time, Hudson was in serious deterioration. The town had no electricity, water, or sewer services. Its streets were unpaved, the business district derelict, and its population in decline. Ellsworth had both the resources and will to intervene on the town’s behalf. Before embarking on his enterprise, the only request he made to town authorities was to rescind all local liquor licenses. Hudson officials complied. Vowing to reinvent Hudson as a "New Model Town," Ellsworth made a series of sweeping proposals to transform Hudson into a modern, vibrant community. His efforts were comprehensive: paved roads, electrical, water, and sewer services, telephone lines, a reorganization of the school system, tree planting, and revitalized banking. In 1912, as a symbol of these efforts, Ellsworth constructed the Clock Tower on the Green, easily the most enduring icon of Hudson. Four years later, again thanks to Ellsworth, Western Reserve Academy officially opened, operating on the grounds of the old Western Reserve College. Hudson was indeed reborn. James Ellsworth died in 1925 and was buried in Hudson, ending an important era in the town’s history.
Thanks to his efforts, Hudson continued to grow and prosper into a vibrant modern town. The town increased in population. With tax revenues, Hudson steadily expanded its land base through land purchases and developed its public services.
The story of Hudson from 1950 to the present has been one of growth, but also of a struggle to retain the town’s rich history and unique charm. Visitors to Hudson are struck by the character of the town’s old buildings and homes, and often describe the Hudson as having a quaint, New England charm. Indeed, Hudson’s history is evident and beckons visitors to walk the City streets and relive its long and colorful story.
For many years, visitors to Town Hall could enter and choose from two side by side offices. One was marked Hudson Township and the other marked.
In 1994, Hudson Township and the village of Hudson merged to create the City of Hudson. the 1990 US Census, Hudson became a City and it was certified in a proclamation from the Secretary of State in March, 1991.
Today, the Hudson Historic Downtown District includes many commercial and residential buildings that are on the National Register of Historic Places. Hudson residents take great pride in the community’s past and its ongoing efforts to preserve the historic character and quaint charm of the City’s downtown and surrounding areas.
In 2015, city officers were moved to 115 Executive Parkway. The first floor was remodeled and now houses the Fire Museum and Visitor's Center Destination Hudson. City Council and other boards continue to meet in the Chambers on the second floor.