Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Power of Watchdogging

Sam Pratt reports today on the outcome of a New York State Budget Authorities Office investigation of CEDC (Columbia Economic Development Corporation), instigated by the citizens group GhentCANN, led by Patti Matheney: "State blasts CEDC handling of Ginsberg deal."

Let's Make Something Very Clear . . .

In an article entitled "Lincoln celebrated here, 150 years after his death," which appeared in Columbia Paper yesterdayJeanette Wolfberg reports: "The Galvan Foundation has contributed $1,5oo toward the cost of the events in Hudson and the Town of Stuyvesant. . . . Other major contributors include the Hudson Common Council's Arts, Entertainment, and Tourism Committee, and Columbia County Tourism." None of this money went toward Saturday night's re-creation of what happened in Hudson when the funeral train stopped here in 1865. That awesome event was funded entirely by a GoFundMe campaign launched by event organizers and made possible by the generous contributions of time, talent, and materials made by both event organizers and supporters.


Monday, April 27, 2015

150 Years Ago: April 27

Lincoln's  funeral train left Albany at 4 p.m. on April 26, and arrived in Buffalo at 7 a.m. on April 27. Upon arrival in Buffalo, the coffin was transported in a hearse drawn by six white horses dressed in black to St. James Hall, the Young Men's Association building. The Buffalo Morning Express reported:
The number of people along the line of march was immense--thronging all the available space on either side of the streets. The business places were all closed but every window and housetop was filled and covered with a mass of human beings. The crowd in the vicinity of St. James Hall, through the forenoon, was terrible and we heard of many cases of fainting on the part of ladies who were not able to stand the severe pressure brought upon them. Finally the throng was loosened and matters so arranged that free passage was given.

The coffin arrived at St. James Hall shortly before 10 a.m. and was placed on a double dais, erected for the purpose, "richly draped with black velvet with silver fringe and rosettes." The Buffalo Morning Express goes on to report: "A little after 10:00 o'clock, the lid was removed, and after some preparation by the embalmer and undertaker, exposed to public view."

That day in Buffalo, 100,000 people passed by the coffin. Among the mourners were former president Millard Fillmore and future president Grover Cleveland.

There was no elaborate funeral procession in Buffalo, because, not knowing at the time the funeral train would stop there, the City of Buffalo had staged at complete mock funeral on April 19, the day of Lincoln's actual funeral in Washington, D.C. Still, ten hours after the coffin was opened to public view, it was returned to the funeral train with appropriate pomp and solemnity.

The Buffalo Morning Express reported:
At quarter past 8:00 o'clock, the coffin was closed and arrangements made to escort the remains back to the depot. At half past, the procession moved towards the depot. The bands played solemn dirges and with the darkness of the night, all was wrapped in the deepest gloom. A large body of citizens followed to the last point, and only turned their footsteps homeward as they saw the remains deposited in the funeral car which was to bear them away. At a little after 10:00 o'clock, the funeral cortege and escort took the train which had been provided for them and went their sorrowful way to the West.
The next stop for the funeral train was Cleveland.

Contemplating Rossman Avenue

On Friday, April 24, the Historic Preservation Commission held a public hearing on the proposal to construct a new house on Rossman Avenue, in the National Register and locally designated Rossman Avenue-Prospect Avenue Historic District.

In presenting the project to the public gathered for the hearing, the applicant and his architect frequently spoke of budget constraints. "I can't build a big copy of a Victorian house," explained Kamal El Masri. "There is not the budget for that." The building proposed was described as "backdrop for a pocket park." Architect Wolfgang Stockmeier asserted, "A person standing on the street would look right over it to the Catskills."

The characterization of the proposed plan for the site as a "pocket park" prompted Ellen Thurston, supervisor for the Third Ward, where Rossman Avenue is located, to ask if the HPC took landscaping into consideration. The answer, which came from HPC chair Rick Rector, was no. The HPC considered only the building being proposed.

Compatibility is the test for new construction in a historic district, and Rossman Avenue resident Ben Wilson asked the applicant to provide "a reason or explanation of how you can see this as compatible." Affirming a common fallacy, the applicant replied that only a replica period house would be compatible. He spoke of "disguising the building and making it disappear . . . quiet, modest, and in the background."

During the discussion of the project in the HPC's regular meeting, much attention was paid to the proposed carport. HPC member Gini Casasco observed that the carport "doesn't make for a friendly pedestrian presence" and noted that it "deadened the urban flow." Rector agreed that the carport detracts from the city streetscape. HPC architect member Chris Perry said that the carport "makes the car part of the experience," commenting that a carport is not typical of the Northeast but is more California. HPC member David Voorhees also professed to have a problem with the carport.

The house at 14 Rossman Avenue was also a focus of attention. During the public hearing, Ferol Barton Blake asked about the house, which he suggested was a prefab, and the applicant made reference to this house and the house next to it to justify the height and setback of the proposed house.

Bing Map
There was some question of whether or not 14 Rossman Avenue was part of the historic district. Voorhees said he thought it wasn't; Rector confirmed that it was. Closer scrutiny of the designation document finds that 14 Rossman Avenue, which was the last house to be constructed on Rossman Avenue in 1965, and six other houses on Rossman Avenue are not part of the National Register historic district which was created in 1985, but these seven houses were added to the locally designated Rossman Avenue-Prospect Avenue Historic District when it was created in 2005. Although it's not made clear in the document, 14 Rossman would have been a noncontributing structure in the locally designated district, since at that time, it was not yet fifty years old.

Because some members of the HPC seemed to be relying on photographs of individual houses on the street, provided by the applicant, to understand the context of the proposed house, it was suggested that the HPC do a site visit. It was unanimously agreed that such a visit would take place at 9 a.m. on Friday, May 8, prior to the HPC's regularly scheduled meeting at 10 a.m.

Toward the end of the meeting, HPC member Phil Forman spoke of the Appendix to Sense of Place: Design Guidelines for New Construction in Historic Districts, published by the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. The Appendix looks at fifteen case studies, evaluating each by six guidelines: Height; Relationship to the street; Continuity of wall surface; Facade Composition; Materials and Details; Rhythm/Pedestrian experience. He acknowledged that new buildings considered to be compatible did not always satisfy all six guidelines, but they did follow most of them. Forman told the applicant and his architect, "My bias is to support you guys, but there needs to be more reference to the best of the houses on the street." He went on to say, "I'm not finding enough stuff in your proposal to establish sympathy [with the surrounding neighborhood]."

Sunday, April 26, 2015

150 Years Ago: April 26

Beginning with the correspondence between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee on April 7 that preceded Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Gossips has been tracing the events of 1865 that led up to the brief stop of Lincoln's funeral train in Hudson, the sesquicentennial of which was commemorated last night. The remainder of the route seems an anticlimax, but having embarked on the journey, Gossips will see it through, until the funeral train reaches its final destination.

When the funeral train left Hudson, it was bound for Albany, where arrived at 11 p.m. The following account is from the Hudson Daily Star for April 26, 1865:
At 11 o'clock last evening, the cannon announced the arrival of the train at East Albany, and the bells of the city commenced tolling a funeral knell. Companies A. and F. of  the Tenth and Company C. of the 25th Regiment were detailed to meet the remains. Crossing the ferry the coffin was placed in a hearse drawn by four white horses, and the procession was soon formed, flanked by the firemen with torches. The procession immediately took up the line of march for the Capitol, preceded by Schriber's Band and Eastman's College Band. Maiden Lane, Broadway and State street were densely crowded with people, the ladies almost as numerous as the men. Good order and quiet prevailed throughout the march. Arrived at the Capitol, the coffin was removed by the bearers upon a Catafalque, which had been prepared for its reception, directly under the centre chandelier. Guards of the State Militia were immediately stationed in the Chamber, in the halls and side rooms, while companies from the 3d and 21st Regiments, United States Reserve Corps, were detailed for duty outside the Capitol, in command of lieutenant J. B. Blonding.
At half-past one this morning, the coffin was opened, and the immense throng of people in and about the park were permitted to enter [the] chamber, and view the remains of President Lincoln. They passed in and out at the rate of 60 or 70 a minute. All the visitors exhibited deep feeling and all were apparently more or less affected. 
Albany appears to have been the first and possibly the only city where Lincoln's remains were on view through the night. 

At 8 a.m. on April 26, the City of Hudson Common Council and other Hudson dignitaries boarded a special train for Albany to participate in the funeral ceremonies there. Lincoln's body lay in state in the Capitol for only about twelve hours--from 1:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.--but in that time nearly 50,000 people passed by the coffin. In the early afternoon, the grand procession from the Capitol to the New York Central station got underway. The hearse, this time drawn by six white horses, made its way to the train station, while "a mass of human beings, estimated at 60,000, crowded along the streets for more than a mile."

New York State Archives
At 4 p.m., the funeral train left Albany bound to Buffalo.

Before dawn on the day the funeral train was in Albany, Union soldiers caught up with John Wilkes Booth hiding in a tobacco barn on the Garrett farm near Port Royal, Virginia. When Booth refused to surrender, the soldiers set fire to the barn. Although the orders were to take Booth alive, Sergeant Boston Corbett shot him in the neck, claiming that Booth had raised his pistol to shoot at them. Booth was dragged from the burning barn to the porch of the Garrett farmhouse, where he died three hours later. Among the things found in his pockets was a diary, in which he had written this about Lincoln's death: "Our country owed all her troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment."

Not to Be Missed

Enid Futterman reviews the event "Mourning Lincoln" on imby.

Photo: Enid Futterman

And Now for Today . . .

This afternoon, Historic Hudson invites its members--past, present, and future--to the organization's annual meeting. The event revives a Historic Hudson tradition of yearly meetings that are part party and part annual gathering of the membership (as required by its bylaws) held in interesting historic buildings in Hudson (as inspired by its mission).

Today's meeting takes place from 4 to 6 p.m. at 620 Union Street--originally the home of Robert and Sarah McKinstry (Sarah was one of the founders of the Hudson Orphan Asylum), formerly the Home for the Aged, and now undergoing a dramatic and painstakingly accurate restoration by its current owner, John Knott, who is graciously and generously hosting today's event.

Re-creating and Creating History

Last night, the people of Hudson learned that the adjective weird had a meaning in the 19th century that was somewhat different from the one it has today. When Edward Townsend called the scene that transpired in Hudson when Lincoln's funeral train stopped here, "one of the most weird ever witnessed," he didn't mean it was odd or bizarre. It is more likely that he meant it was otherworldly and mysterious, for that was the effect when, 150 years later, Hudsonians re-created the moment.

Photo: Billy Shannon
Billy Shannon has a review of the event on his new blog, Hudson River Zeitgeist, and Lance Wheeler has posted a video on imby, but you had to have been there. 

The torches, the chorus of female voices, the solemn procession accompanied by a beat of a single drum created a mood that was haunting and otherworldly, which was enhanced by the presence of two female figures dressed in full period mourning.

Photo: Dini Lamot
Gary Schiro's presentation of a tribute to Lincoln, which appeared in the Columbia Republican on April 18, 1865, was powerful and moving. Mary Hack's a capella performance of the recitative "Comfort Ye," which was the final moment of the event, was achingly lovely. (This recitative from Handel's Messiah was also performed at a memorial concert by the Philharmonic Society of New-York on April 29, 1865.)

Photo: Bob Burns
Photo: Dini Lamot
The centerpiece of the re-creation was the tableau, designed and created by Jamison Teale. Modeled on the description in Townsend's journal, the tableau was the perfect focal point for an event that many members of the audience attested was a portal drawing them back for a moment to 1865 and a country wounded by civil war and suddenly devastated by great loss and united in mourning.

Photo: Bob Burns

Photo: The Gossips of Rivertown

Saturday, April 25, 2015

150 Years Ago: TONIGHT

On the night of April 25, 1865, Lincoln's funeral train stopped briefly in Hudson. What transpired was recorded by Assistant Adjutant General Edward D. Townsend, the commander of the funeral train.
At Hudson . . . elaborate preparations had been made. Beneath an arch hung with black and white drapery and evergreen wreaths, was a tableau representing a coffin resting upon a dais; a female figure in which, mourning over the coffin; a soldier standing at one end and a sailor at the other. While a band of young women dressed in white sang a dirge, two others in black entered the funeral-car, placed a floral device on the President’s coffin, then knelt for a moment of silence, and quietly withdrew. This whole scene was one of the most weird ever witnessed, its solemnity being intensified by the somber light of the torches at that dead hour of night.
Tonight at 8:45 p.m. the scene Townsend witnessed in 1865 will be re-created. The event begins in front of Kite's Nest, 108 South Front Street, at Basilica Hudson, and moves in a procession across to the lawn beside the Dunn building. All are invited to come and witness history re-created.  

150 Years Ago: April 25

A hundred and fifty years ago today in New York City, at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, Lincoln's coffin was placed on a fourteen-foot long funeral car drawn by sixteen horses wearing long blankets. The funeral procession, from City Hall to the Hudson River Railway Depot went up Broadway to Fourteenth Street, over to Fifth Avenue, then up Fifth Avenue to Thirty-Fourth Street, and across to Ninth Avenue and the railroad depot.

Seventy-five thousand people marched in the in the enormous procession, and many thousands more packed the streets to witness the funeral procession. It is said that spaces at windows along the route rented for $100 a person.

In the 1950s, Stefan Lorant came across the photograph above while researching a book about Lincoln. It shows the procession as it approached Union Square. The house at the corner is the home of Cornelius Van Schaack Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt's grandfather. Examining the photograph more closely, Lorant noticed two boys watching from a second-story window of the Roosevelt mansion. Those two boys, it turns out, are the future president Theodore Roosevelt, then six and a half years old, and his brother Elliot.

New York Times
After the grand procession, the coffin was returned to the funeral train for the journey to Albany and its stop along the way in Hudson. The train left New York shortly after 4 p.m. Passing through the Hudson Valley, on the Hudson River Railway, the funeral train was pulled by a locomotive named Union and accompanied by a pilot engine called Constitution.

Friday, April 24, 2015

150 Years Ago: April 24

On this day in 1865, Lincoln's funeral train left Philadelphia at 4 a.m. bound for New York. At 10 a.m., it arrived at the train station in Jersey City. The coffin was then removed from the funeral car and ferried across the Hudson River. In New York, it was transported to City Hall, where it was carried up the circular staircase to the rotunda and placed on a black velvet dais.

The public was admitted to view the body shortly after 1 p.m. It was reported that at one point more than 5oo,ooo people waited in line to pass by the open coffin. David T. Valentine, who edited and published a series if New York City almanacs, wrote: "A ceaseless throng of visitors were admitted to view the body, while many thousands were turned away unable to obtain admittance. All classes of our citizens, the old and the young, the rich and the poor, without distinction of color or sex, mingled in the silent procession that passed reverently before the bier."

An account from the New York Times speaks of Lincoln's appearance after three days of travel and previous viewings in three cities: "It will not be possible, despite the effection of the embalming, to continue much longer the exhibition, as the constant shaking of the body aided by the exposure to the air, and the increasing of dust, has already undone much of the  . . . workmanship, and it is doubtful if it will be decreed wise to tempt dissolution much further."

It was in New York that the only known photograph of Lincoln lying in his coffin was taken. 

Secretary of War Edwin Stanton had insisted that no photos be taken of Lincoln's lying in his coffin, and Edward D. Townsend, commander of the funeral train, who appears at the right in the photograph, almost lost his job as a consequence. Fortunately for Hudson, he didn't, because his is the only account of what happened when the funeral train stopped here briefly the next day, on its way from New York City to Albany.
At Hudson . . . elaborate preparations had been made. Beneath an arch hung with black and white drapery and evergreen wreaths, was a tableau representing a coffin resting upon a dais; a female figure in which, mourning over the coffin; a soldier standing at one end and a sailor at the other. While a band of young women dressed in white sang a dirge, two others in black entered the funeral-car, placed a floral device on the President’s coffin, then knelt for a moment of silence, and quietly withdrew. This whole scene was one of the most weird ever witnessed, its solemnity being intensified by the somber light of the torches at that dead hour of night. 
Tomorrow night, the scene Townsend described will be re-created near the Hudson train station. The event begins at 8:45 p.m. in front of Kite's Nest at Basilica Hudson, 108 South Front Street, with a choir of women singing a dirge. A torchlit procession led by two women in black will then cross over to the lawn beside the old Dunn building, where the tableau will be installed. All are invited to witness Mourning Lincoln, the re-creation of the scene Townsend described as "one of the most weird ever witnessed."

Thursday, April 23, 2015

150 Years Ago: April 23

The body of Abraham Lincoln spent this day, April 23, 1865, lying in state at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. People began lining up to view the President's body at 5 a.m., and many waited in line for as many as five hours for the chance to pass by the open coffin. "At its greatest, the double line was three miles long and wound from the Delaware River to the Schuylkill River." It was estimated at 300,000 people viewed Lincoln's body in Philadelphia.

According to accounts, the crowd in Philadelphia was so immense that the police had trouble maintaining order. "Some people had their clothing ripped, others fainted, one broke her arm."

Embalming was a fairly new art in 1865. Lincoln was the first president to be embalmed, and the Civil War was the first war in which slain soldiers were embalmed to be returned home for burial. The funeral train traveled with an embalmer and a mortician, and after its stay in Philadelphia, Lincoln's corpse needed a little touch. In his book The Lincoln Train in Pennsylvania, Bradley R. Hoch recounts, "As soon as the entrances closed and the public was out of the Assembly Room . . . embalmer Brown cleaned Lincoln's face of the dust that had accumulated during 33 hours in Philadelphia."

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc?

One of the items on the agenda at the Common Council Legal Committee meeting on April 9 was a vacancy tax, an annual fee levied by the City on buildings that stand empty. Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who chairs the committee, opened the discussion by saying that the City of Newburgh "just ratcheted theirs way up." 

Coincidentally, at the beginning of this week, signs appeared on four major vacant buildings on Warren Street owned by the Galvan Initiatives Foundation, a couple of which have been vacant for nearly a decade.

The signs, each of which bear the Galvan logo and a rendering of how the building to which it is affixed will eventually look, announce that the building is "Under Construction" and provide a phone number to be called for leasing information. They have so far been seen on 202-204 Warren Street, 260 Warren Street, 364 Warren Street, and 366 Warren Street.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

150 Years Ago: April 22

At 10 a.m., on April 22, 1865, after three hours of public viewing at the state House of Representatives in Harrisburg, Lincoln's coffin was loaded back onto the hearse and carried back to the train station. Forty thousand people lined the streets of Harrisburg to watch its progress.

At 11:15 a.m., the funeral train started the 106-mile journey to Philadelphia, on the Pennsylvania Railroad. It arrived at the Broad Street Station that afternoon, at 4:30 p.m.

The streets of Philadelphia were crowded with people who had come out to witness the procession carrying the coffin from the train station to Independence Hall. There it was placed in the East Wing, where the Declaration of Independence had been signed. Viewing Lincoln's remains that evening was by invitation only.

Lincoln Tonight

The Lincoln Funeral Train sesquicentennial commemoration continues tonight with a special screening of the 2012 film Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field, at Fairview Cinema 3 in Fairview Plaza, just across the border in Greenport.

The screening begins at 7 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and children.

Immerse yourself in the life and remarkable achievement of Lincoln tonight, so you will be fully prepared to experience "Mourning Lincoln," the re-creation of what happened when Lincoln's funeral train stopped briefly in Hudson on April 25, on Saturday night.

Important Reminder

The monster power line public comment period ends today, April 22. Check out the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition website and then use this link to post your comment to the New York State Public Service Commission.

Happy Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day, first celebrated forty-five years ago. On April 22, 1970, millions took to the streets to protest the deterioration of the environment and to demonstrate in support of pursuing a healthy, sustainable world. It was fitting then, that on the eve of Earth Day 2015, North Bay enjoyed a little victory.

The Common Council was expected to vote last night on the resolution declaring the proposed sewer separation project a Type II Action, requiring no environmental review. In anticipation of the vote, Timothy O'Connor had delivered the Protect North Bay petition, with 416 signatures, to the aldermen. When the time came to consider the resolution, Common Council president Don Moore moved to postpone voting on it until June 16 and to use the intervening time to pursue an environmental review. 

Before the Council voted on Moore's motion, there was discussion about who would carry out the environmental review and how it would be paid for. City attorney Carl Whitbeck opined that six weeks was adequate time to do an environmental study "if Delaware Engineering is going to do it." Audience member Nick Zachos asked if having Delaware Engineering do the environmental review wouldn't be a conflict of interest, since they have been hired to do the sewer separation project. They have also appeared at two Council meetings defending the position that the project is a Type II Action, which does not require environmental review. O'Connor offered the opinion that Saratoga Associates, now doing the feasibility study on the Dunn warehouse, would be a perfect candidate. Moore suggested that it would be good to get two cost estimates, and it was decided a special meeting would have to be held to approve the amount to be spent and to authorize the mayor to enter into a contract.

When the time came to vote on pursuing an environmental review, Alderman Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward) said that he felt enough time had been spent on the issue before voting no. His colleague from the Fifth Ward, Robert "Doc" Donahue followed suit. The rest of the aldermen present--Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward) was absent--and Council president Moore voted yes, and the motion passed with 1,205 affirmative votes--just 190 votes more than what are needed for a simple majority. The vote is another example of the weirdness of the weighted vote: eight people vote for a measure, two people vote against it, and the percentage of affirmative votes is not an overwhelming 80 percent but a nail-biting 59 percent.

Happy Birthday, Hudson!

Two hundred and thirty years ago, on April 22, 1785, the City of Hudson was incorporated, giving it the distinction of being the first city to be incorporated in the newly independent United States.

Today, Hudson FORWARD is celebrating the 230th anniversary of the incorporation of our fair city with a party to kick off Hudson Voter Registration Week. The goal is to register 230 new voters and to impress upon the people of Hudson that every vote counts. 

The party begins at 6 p.m. at 1 North Front Street, the former Washington Hose Company firehouse. Don't miss it! There will be birthday cake from Trixie's Oven.