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:What happens if someone allows a historic building to fall into wrack and ruin? Paragraph 169-15.B addresses that:
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.
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.