Monday, September 24, 2018

Frank Faulkner's Legacy in Hudson

Frank Faulkner, acclaimed artist, interior designer, and Southern gentleman, died a week ago last night. In addition to his art, Faulkner is well know for his proclivity for rescuing and restoring old houses, here in Hudson and elsewhere--houses which when he bought them were usually described, justifiably so, as "wrecks." An article that appeared in Rural Intelligence in 2008 reported that he bought his first house in Hudson in 1982, and he was, at that time, on his fourteenth house. In an article that appeared in One Kings Lane, about his house in Spencertown, Faulkner is quoted as saying, "It's never been about flipping them or reselling them. I always intended to grow old in them. But after everything is finished and I've lived in it for a while, I see another house I want to play with."

Gossips came to Hudson in 1993, eleven years after Faulkner bought his first house here, so I missed his first eleven years of bringing houses back from the edge. The first house I remember being his was this one on South Fifth Street. I recall harrowing accounts of the condition of the house--two houses actually--when he bought it.

During the time Faulkner owned the house (he sold it in 1996) and for many years after, it was painted all taupe.

In 2010, the house was featured in House Beautiful. Today, the house, known as Haviland House, is a short-term rental.

Faulkner's next house was this one on South Seventh Street.

Then there was this house on lower Warren Street, which Faulkner acquired in 2002 and sold in 2004.

The article in Rural Intelligence, mentioned above, identified Faulkner's house on North Fifth Street as being his fourteenth house in Hudson. The picture of below is borrowed from that RI article.

Today, any view of the house from the street is almost completely obscured by a fence erected by a subsequent owner.

During the time Faulkner owned the house on North Fifth Street, a carriage house which he originally purchased thinking he might use it as a painting studio, he acquired and restored this Arts and Crafts house on Washington Street.

When Faulkner owned the house, he painted it all a very dark green with just a few dark terra cotta accents.

Faulkner's last house in Hudson, according to my recollection at least, was this one on South Fourth Street, which he acquired in 2008 and sold in 2013. The exterior of the house is today exactly as he intended it, except two of the three meticulously pruned boxwoods in front have since died.

Such a remarkable legacy. Such a great loss. Thank you, Frank Faulkner, for your enduring contribution to Hudson.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

"Highly Offensive and Factually Distorted"

In August, Gossips reported that Brian K. Mahoney, editorial director for Luminary Media, had condemned the use of a quote from Chronogram in an ad attacking Antonio Delgado paid for by the Congressional Leadership Fund. Asserting the ad "takes our coverage completely out of context," Mahoney's statement concluded: "Chronogram encourages voters to look beyond political attack ads paid for by outside groups and focus on learning about where the candidates stand on the issues."

Last week, Radio Woodstock (WDST/100.1FM) announced it would stop running the audio only version of the ad. The following is the statement that was released by Gary Chetkof, president of Radio Woodstock.
Dear Radio Woodstock Listeners,
Thank you for your phone calls, messages and emails concerning The Congressional Leadership Fund anti-Delgado ads. While we try not to impose censorship restriction and while we do support the free exchange of ideas (even those we do not support), we believe these ads are highly offensive and factually distorted.
Therefore after extensive conversation with our FCC attorneys in order to understand our right to not run these political ads, we have decided to discontinue these advertisements.
If you've never heard the radio ad, you can do so by clicking here. Interestingly, one of the final barbs hurled at Delgado in the ad, that he "just moved here to run to Congress," is a theme taken up by John Faso in his final remarks at the Ulster Regional Chamber of Congress "Meet the Congressional Candidates" event last Thursday. Faso alleged that Delgado had "no experience or dedication in the district" and had "just moved in and a week later decided to run for Congress." Delgado was born and raised in Schenectady, admittedly not in the district but just across the border from it, and his wife, Lacey, whom he met while in law school at Harvard, is from Woodstock, which is in the district.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Bizarre and Horrible Accident in Hudson

This morning, this stretch of Warren Street looked pretty much as it always does.

But last night, Bill Williams of 98.5 The Cat reported it was the scene of a freak accident. Here's the account as it appeared on Facebook:
A 32-year-old man was airlifted to Albany Med Friday night, after he was impaled on a wrought iron fence in Hudson. The accident happened just before 8 at 809 Warren Street. Hudson Fire, Greenport Rescue and Hudson Police all responded to the scene.
Crews had to cut the fence away before the man could be removed. The rescue took close to an hour. Warren Street, from 7th Street to Worth Avenue, was closed during the rescue.
It was reported that the man tripped and fell onto the fence, impaling himself.

Update: According to the Register-Star article published on Sunday morning, the man was 55, and he tripped while walking his dog: "Hudson man impaled on fence." He apparently fell on the gate in the fence, which had to be removed to free him.

Calling the Rescue Dogs of Hudson

Photographer Judy Curran is looking for dog models for a project she is working on in Hudson. The objective of the project: a book to be called Hudson: Gone to the Dogs.

Curran is now looking for dog models, especially mixed breeds and rescues (although purebreds will be considered), to be photographed in different locations in Hudson. She is also looking for business owners willing to have dogs photographed in their shops or places of business. Curran told Gossips yesterday that she has already recruited a dog that skateboards and plans to photograph him skateboarding on Warren Street. But dogs don't have to have such unique talents to be included in the project.

To have your dog considered, or to volunteer your business as a setting for a shoot, send an email expressing your interest to If you're serving as agent for your dog, include a photo of your dog, your dog's name, and your name; indicate your availability and distance from Hudson; explain your dog's level of training--Does she do sit/stay? Is he treat motivated?--and tell about any special tricks. The deadline for applying is October 13. If your dog is chosen for the project, you will get a complimentary one-hour photo session and a 8" x 12" print from that session. 

Joey is excited and hopes he gets chosen, but his unreliable stay may prove a problem.


Friday, September 21, 2018

Be Careful What You Wish For

The state of the sidewalks in Hudson is a perennial cause for hand wringing and complaint. Often cited as the explanation for the sorry state of the sidewalks on streets other than Warren Street is that individual property owners are responsible for the care and keeping of their sidewalks, and for many property owners, the cost of replacing sidewalks, estimated recently at $35 per linear foot, is prohibitive. In the past, the possibility of the City replacing sidewalks and adding the cost to individual owner's property taxes has been discussed, but so far no plan has been pursued. 
At the Common Council Public Works and Parks Committee meeting on Wednesday, DPW superintendent Rob Perry showed the committee these four pictures of sidewalks in Hudson and asked what they had in common.


The answer is that all these handsome sidewalks are out of compliance with the city code. Adherence to the code (Chapter A330: Curb, Sidewalk, and Street Requirements, adopted in 1970) results in not especially attractive new cement sidewalks that sit a few inches higher than existing sidewalks--a phenomenon that can be seen all over town, contributing to the challenge of walking in our walkable city.

The expectation that new sidewalks would be higher than the existing sidewalks was offered as the reason for eliminating the cellar windows when General Worth's birthplace at 211 Union Street was being restored in 2011.

Ventilation is critical to moisture control in historic buildings, and there is evidence that sealing up cellar windows exacerbates moisture problems. Because the cellar windows appeared on the rendering of the building that was approved by the Historic Preservation Commission, the HPC was able to compel the owner of 211 Union Street to restore the window openings.

Perry made the suggestion that the Council might want to amend the code to change the requirements for sidewalks before any wholesale project to upgrade the sidewalks in the city was undertaken. Alderman Rich Volo (Fourth Ward), who is also a member of the Legal Committee, noted it was an issue that might be taken up by that committee.

Amused by the Irony

A parking plan for the area around the Galvan Armory, which was created back in 2013 when the proposal for the adaptive reuse of the building was being reviewed by the Planning Board, was finally implemented yesterday, in response to repeated requests, directed to the mayor's office, for designated handicapped parking spaces at the library and the senior center. As a consequence (and here's the irony), last night and still this morning, beside each newly defined parking space there was a "No Parking" sign.


Black Arts and Cultural Festival Redux

In August, rain forced Operation Unite to cancel its annual Black Arts and Cultural Festival and reschedule it. The new date is tomorrow, Saturday, September 22, and there is only the tiniest chance of rain in the forecast.

The parade down Warren Street, from the Public Square to Riverfront Park, begins at 2 p.m. The festival at the waterfront, with the theme "Pride and Family," runs from 3 to 7 p.m. and features Kuumba Dance and Drum, Samba Rhymystics Band, Olympia Ward Drum Circle, a community talent show, raffles, youth games, food vendors, and more. The event is hosted by Operation Unite Education and Cultural Arts Center.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Transformation Continues

In August, Gossips did a post about 886 Columbia Street and Delbert Dinehart, the man for whom the lavish house was built: "The Transformation of a Mansion."

The photo of 886 Columbia Street that accompanied the notice in the newspaper of its auction in 1950
Today, a reader reported that workers were on the roof, replacing the original clay tiles with black asphalt shingles.


Hudson as a Cautionary Tale

Today, New York Magazine's "Daily Intelligencer" has an article with the title "Not the Next Hudson: Newburgh, Catskill, and Troy, once downtrodden, are hoping recent revitalization doesn't get out of hand." Before analyzing the state of the comeback in each of the three places named, the author, Simone Kitchens (shown in the photo above), has this to say about our city: 
It’d be too easy to declare any of these places a potential “next Hudson”—the onetime working-class town where antique lamps now go for $7,000. Hudson’s about-face, which resulted in longtime residents being priced out, has become a kind of cautionary tale for these developing small towns, which, after struggling through decades of decline, are showing glimmers of a turnaround and are intent on growing in a different way.

Getting Ready for November

This morning, the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce held a "Meet the Congressional Candidates" event in Kingston, featuring Diane Neal (independent), Antonio Delgado (Democrat), John Faso (Republican), and Steven Greenfield (Green Party). You can watch a video of that event by clicking here.


HDC Responds

On Monday, Gossips announced that a petition had been initiated, asking the board of the Hudson Development Corporation (HDC) to hold its monthly meeting in the early evening instead of at noon. Today, there's an article about that petition and HDC's response to it on HudsonValley360: "HDC chair defends board meeting times, transparency." In the article, John Gilstrap, who was elected chair of the HDC board in March 2018, after nominating himself, is quoted as saying, "I don't see a compelling reason to move the [meeting] time." Noting that "the board has given the public the opportunity to hear from prospective developers, allowed them to hear discussions about the developers, and distributed copies of the proposed one-page plans," Gilstrap added, "I don't know how much more transparent we could be other [than] to have them come into my living room."

When Gossips last checked, the petition requesting HDC to change its meeting time had ninety-three signatures. The next HDC meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, September 25, at noon, at 1 North Front Street.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Food Today--Uptown and Downtown

Rolling Grocer 19 makes its debut appearance this week! Right now it is in the parking lot at Bliss Towers and will be there until 7 p.m.

Forty-five minutes ago, the Upstreet Market opened in the Public Square, as it does every Wednesday through the summer and into the fall. The vendors will be in the park with their fresh produce and other wares until 7 p.m.


There Oughta Be a Law

Many times when considering the vast number of properties in Hudson acquired and warehoused--some for more than a decade--by a single entity, the opinion has been expressed, "There oughta be a law. . . ." Now there is, or there almost is. At last night's Common Council meeting, the aldermen voted unanimously to enact a vacant buildings law.

The rationale for the law states:
It is the finding of the Common Council that buildings which remain vacant, with access points board over, are unsightly, unsafe and have a negative effect on their surroundings. This is particularly troublesome in residential and neighborhood commercial neighborhoods. Unfortunately, many buildings, once boarded, remain that way for many years. The purpose of this article is to establish a program for identifying and registering vacant buildings; to determine the responsibilities of owners of vacant buildings and structures; and to speed the rehabilitation of the vacant properties.
The law imposes a fee for owning a building that is kept vacant: $1,000 for the first year; $2,000 for the second year; $3,000 for the third year; $4,000 for the fourth year; and $5,000 for the fifth and each subsequent year.

When the Council voted to enact the law last night, I thought immediately of the Robert Taylor House, considered to be the oldest surviving house in Hudson. It came to mind because I had visited it only days before, while taking some folks on a walk around the Kaz redevelopment site, and heard one of my companions on the walk opine that the house was approaching the point at which it would be beyond saving.

The house has been vacant since 2003 or 2004, when there was a fire in the building. One of the Galloway-Van Ameringen entities acquired it in 2011. In 2012, there was a plan, mercifully abandoned, to move the house to a lot on lower Union Street. Last year, during the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) planning process, there was a proposal to convert the house into a tavern, but objections to allowing any Galvan property to receive DRI funding jettisoned that plan.

One wonders what the impact the vacant buildings law will have on the fate of this building--one of the oldest in Hudson and one closely associated with Hudson's early maritime history and with its earliest water-dependent industries.

Also of interest at last night's Common Council meeting, resolutions were passed authorizing a feasibility study on the adaptive reuse of John L. Edwards School, a feasibility study to make the current City Hall ADA compliant, and salary increases for the city treasurer, city clerk, and code enforcement officer, the latter resolution passing not without dissent. Dan Udell's video of the meeting is now on YouTube, and you can watch it all here.    

Deadline Fast Approaching

This Friday, September 21, is the final day to submit photographs for the Calvert Vaux Preservation Alliance's inaugural photo exhibit.

The call for entries reads in part: "Amateur and professional photographers may submit their favorite shots of subjects generally falling within the bounds of historic architecture--as defined by the artist, and within the wider Hudson Valley region."

Photographs must be submitted before 5:00 p.m. on Friday, September 21. Instructions for submission are at Accepted entries for the exhibition will be announced on October 15. The exhibition at the Morton Library in Rhinecliff runs from November 9 to December 7.

County Looking to Sell Three Lots in Hudson

Back in July, Gossips did a post about three lots on Strawberry Alley that somehow didn't get transferred to the City of Hudson in a land swap back in 2003 or 2004: "More Land for Sale." That post ended with this thought:
Given the current interest in promoting infill housing and developing new housing on vacant or underused sites within residential areas, these three lots might be the perfect place to create a little row of houses whose design would mimic that of a mews. How charming would it be to have an address on Strawberry Alley? The people in the neighborhood might not be very enthusiastic about it though, since they seem to have claimed these lots as a parking and vehicle storage area.
Photo: Linda Mussmann

Photo: Linda Mussmann
The Register-Star is now reporting that the Board of Supervisors has agreed to sell the land at auction: "Columbia County to sell 3 parcels on Strawberry Alley for minimum of $3,000 each." The article quotes Matt Murell as saying, "You can't really build on those parcels because there is no water or sewer going to those lots, as far as I know. The neighbors who complained [about people throwing garbage and parking cars there] may be interested in purchasing the properties, though."

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"Sheep May Safely Graze"

Not long ago, I was in the cemetery one evening with Peter Jung. I was there searching for the culvert where I had been told a fox family resided; Jung was there raking up thatch and trimming around the headstones in the Gifford family plot.

Jung has been the self-appointed steward of the burial site of Sanford Gifford and members of his family since 2008, when he first came upon the grave of the Hudson River School painter, raising funds and orchestrating the restoration of the headstones in 2010.

Since the restoration was completed, Jung has taken it upon himself to keep the Gifford family plot and adjacent areas maintained and tidy, mowing, raking, and trimming the grass around and between the stones.

The Gifford family grave site is in the Hudson City Cemetery, the older part of the cemetery, separated from Cedar Park, the newer part of the cemetery, by Ten Broeck Lane. The earliest grave in the Hudson City Cemetery is that of Phebe Folger, wife of Benjamin Folger, who died in 1784. Cedar Park was developed more than a century later, in 1896. The majority of the graves in the Hudson City Cemetery are from the 19th century. In 1983, this part of the cemetery was determined to be eligible for listing in the State and National Registers of Historic Places for its "noteworthy collection of funerary art, ranging from typically late 18th-century stones executed by a master carver--and embellished with winged effigies and other typical design vocabulary--to tombs, such as the Egyptian Revival-style tomb which is an outstanding reflection of American romanticism in the antebellum period and the interest in that period of utilizing Egyptian design motifs in cemetery design."

In his History of Columbia County, Franklin Ellis said of the Hudson cemetery:
Along the northeastern declivity of Prospect hill, and extending down to the old Columbia turnpike, lies the ground of the Hudson cemetery; a spot combining all the requisites that enlightened modern taste demands in a place of graves,--rural quiet, great natural beauty, and a conformation of surface peculiarly adapted to receive those artificial embellishments which sore-hearted mourners love to lavish around the resting-places of their dead.
The declivity of which Ellis, writing in 1878, spoke admiringly, presents a problem for modern-day cemetery maintenance. Rob Perry, superintendent of the Department of Public Works, which maintains the cemetery, has often noted that steep slope of the old cemetery and the seemingly random placement of the headstones and monuments makes maintaining that part of the cemetery a great challenge. When Jung and I were at the cemetery a while back, he made a suggestion: let sheep take charge of trimming the grass. It seems this is not a completely original idea.

Photo: Gregory A. Shemitz|National Catholic Reporter
For several years, a trio of sheep have been grazing on the grass and weeds growing around and in between the headstones and monuments in the cemetery at the Basilica of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral in Lower Manhattan. Two years ago, the City of Ithaca began using sheep to maintain its historic cemetery. A report that appeared on explained: 
The animals move slowly and can pick around fallen stones that would be chewed up by mowers. That's an advantage in a historic cemetery. The sheep can also maneuver on the cemetery's steep slopes more easily than a human mowing staff.
Sheep and goats--nearly three dozen of them--are used to cut the grass in the historic Vale Cemetery in Schenectady. Why couldn't sheep be employed in Hudson's historic cemetery as well? Sheep would save the City money in cemetery maintenance and free up staff for other public works tasks. 

This suggestion comes with the caveat that sheep should only be allowed to graze in the older part of the cemetery, the part of the cemetery that's been determined to be National Register eligible, where the graves, with only a very few exceptions, are more than a century and sometimes two centuries old and are more likely to be visited by historians and enthusiasts of American funerary art than by relatives of the departed, and not in Cedar Park where they might devour plantings and damage objects placed on the graves of the more recently departed by family members.