Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Robert Taylor House

This is one of the oldest surviving houses in Hudson, predating the arrival of the Proprietors and the founding of the city. The house is sometimes called the "Dutch house" because of its gambrel roof, but the original owner of the house--Robert Taylor--was English, and the design of the house is English vernacular. The house is one of Hudson's locally designated historic landmarks.

When the house was built, it was situated on the shore of South Bay. This painting by Henry Ary shows South Bay in the 1850s from a vantage point very near the front of the Robert Taylor House.

Today the house's context has changed dramatically. It sits on a little disconnected stretch of South Second Street between Cross Street and Tanners Lane, surrounded by abandoned Kaz warehouse buildings.

In 2004, before its designation as a local landmark, there was a fire in the house, right around Thanksgiving. After the fire, the people who lived there moved out, and the house was put on the market, for an unrealistically high price.

The house has been for sale for several years now. The owners have changed realtors a few times, but they have not, to my knowledge, changed the asking price. Over the years, there have been several reports that they've turned down quite reasonable offers, holding out for their price. Meanwhile, this important Hudson landmark is falling further and further into disrepair. There's a gaping hole in the roof. There's an ever widening crack in the southwest corner of the building. The building is not "zipped up," and anyone can get inside.

The fear is that, given a few more years of neglect, the Robert Taylor House will be declared a public safety hazard and ordered demolished--a fate suffered by so many other Hudson buildings in the past. The people ordering the demolition will wring their hands and blame the owners who allowed this to happen. Certainly the owners are culpable, but the City doesn't have to stand helplessly by.

The City of Hudson Historic Preservation Law, Chapter 169 of the City Code, empowers the City to step in to prevent "demolition by neglect." Quoting from Paragraph 169-13:

No owner or person with an interest in real property designated as a landmark or included within an historic district shall permit the property to fall into a serious state of disrepair so as to result in the deterioration of any exterior architectural feature which would, in the judgment of the Historic Preservation Commission, produce a detrimental effect upon the character of the historic district as a whole or the life and character of the property itself. Examples of such deterioration include:

A. Deterioration of exterior walls or other vertical supports;
B. Deterioration of roofs or other horizontal members;
C. Deterioration of exterior chimneys;
D. Deterioration or crumbling of exterior stucco or mortar;
E. Ineffective waterproofing of exterior walls, roofs, or foundation, including broken windows or doors; and
F. Deterioration of any feature so as to create a hazardous condition which could lead to the claim that demolition is necessary for the public safety.
What happens if someone allows a historic building to fall into wrack and ruin? Paragraph 169-15.B addresses that:
Any person who . . . permits a designated property to fall into a serious state of disrepair shall be required to restore the property and its site to its appearance prior to the violation. Any action to enforce this subsection shall be brought by the City Attorney. This civil remedy shall be in addition to and not in lieu of any criminal prosecution and penalty.
The City can act to arrest the damage from neglect to its historic architecture, and, in the case of this significant building, it definitely should.

11 comments:

  1. This is, in my mind, the biggest issue for the preservation of the historic fabric of Hudson; demolition by neglect. While the Taylor house is one terrible example, there are others, equally bad, 7 Union being the most important of those. We lack the political will to do anything, and the one time someone did, Mayor Scalera with the Keagan properties, the moment the new administration came in the ball was dropped and the city lost all rights to enforce the law in that case.
    We should enforce the law, but do so evenly and not just pick and choose favorites. Or we look like hypocrites.

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  2. David William VoorheesJune 26, 2010 at 5:09 PM

    I am unclear how this will impact the City of Hudson, but more information on the 2009 Historic Preservation Tax Credit law should be made available for all restoring homes, and those needing preservation, such as the Robert Taylor house.

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 29, 2009

    GOVERNOR PATERSON SIGNS LEGISLATION TO ENHANCE HISTORIC PRESERVATION TAX CREDIT

    Program Will Create Jobs and Draw Private Investment to New York’s Historic Main Streets

    Enhancements Will Make Tax Credits More Effective in Preserving Historic Structures

    Governor David A. Paterson signed legislation to strengthen the New York State Historic Preservation Tax Credit, improving a program that will stimulate investment in urban neighborhoods, create jobs, increase property values and revitalize historic areas. The Governor held a ceremonial bill signing at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society and was joined by members of the Senate, Assembly and community. The rehabilitation tax credit program provides incentives to developers, municipalities, businesses and residents to make investments in distressed areas by rehabilitating historic properties that are listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

    Historic preservation efforts play an important role in smart growth community renewal. Preservation efforts have proven to create jobs, attract small business, increase property values and promote affordable housing. In addition, historic preservation works to enhance the quality of life in historic urban neighborhoods by maintaining the distinctive culture and character of the area.

    Senator David J. Valesky said: “This is a crucial victory for Upstate New York and our economic development efforts. The Historic Preservation Tax Credit has the potential to draw developers back to our Upstate cities and villages, to reignite economic activity on our main streets, and to bring people and businesses back to our communities. This was one of my top legislative goals for the year, and it is a major win for all of Upstate New York. I want to thank Assemblyman Sam Hoyt for sponsoring this legislation in the Assembly, and Governor Paterson for recognizing its importance and signing it into law.”

    While New York’s preservation tax credit was adopted in 2006, the program did not provide adequate incentives to attract sufficient investment to struggling municipalities, particularly those Upstate. The enhancements signed by Governor Paterson will provide the following tax incentives for qualified historic properties:

    * Gradually increase over five years the cap on the commercial credit value from $100,000 to $5 million and the residential credit value from $25,000 to $50,000;
    * Target the credit in “distressed” areas -- those located within a Census tract identified at or below one hundred percent of the median family income;
    * Increase the share of qualified rehabilitation costs that commercial property owners can claim for the credit from 6 percent to 20 percent; and
    * Offer the Preservation Tax Credit as a rebate for lower income homeowners to provide them with a stronger financial incentive with relatively smaller tax liability.

    The program will apply to taxable years beginning January 1, 2010, and will sunset in five years on December 31, 2014.


    For the full press release and links see: http://www.state.ny.us/governor/press/press_0729092.html

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  3. To Anonymous who just posted a comment agreeing with Tom Swope: If you are not willing to reveal your name, I am not willing to post a comment in which you name the owner of 7 Union Street.

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  4. I've been walking past this house for years and watching it decay. It won't be long before it is damaged beyond repair. The foundation in the center of the north wall is caving into the ground and needs to be shored up or that whole wall will collapse, then it's a goner. The city should condemn the place, impound it and auction it off to someone who will fix it up.

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  5. It's hard to realize this discussion is all about one of the first houses of Hudson. This gabled house is viewed in all the early pics sitting on the bank of South Bay.
    I like Tims suggestion. This historic landmark is obviously being held hostage by unresponsive owners.
    I would add that the new owner would have to prove good intent with enough funds and good will to save the place within a reasonable period of time.

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  6. Thank you for making this an issue Carole, and much to Tom's point, I agree neglect is an incredible threat to the historic fabric of Hudson, and we apparently have quite a few practitioners. Because sadly, this is not the only house we should be having this conversation about. Perhaps the Taylor house can be first in a series of posts?

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  7. David--I was thinking of doing just what you suggest. (So many issues, so little time.) I chose to begin with the Robert Taylor House for several reasons: its antiquity, its location, its precarious chance for survival, and the fact that it is a locally designated landmark and the safeguards are in place that should prevent its demise.

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  8. Well I decided to go visit this place .
    It looks better on the outside then on the inside.
    How did it ever get to this condition?
    It would be a miracle to find anyone with the funds to save this place - considering it's landlocked by warehouses too.
    Rotting fast !!!

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  9. I do hope this house is saved! Thanks for raising this issue, Carole.

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  10. See here for information about federal and state tax credits for rehabing both income-producing and owner-occupied historic properties: http://nysparks.state.ny.us/shpo/tax-credit-programs/

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  11. What kind of trouble can I cause with this building?

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