Jamie Larson reports in today's Register-Star that the library board, after getting assurance that HCDPA (Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency) would take possession of the building when the library abandoned it thus releasing the library from any obligation to repay the $300,000 used to buy it, has now decided to put the building on the market for $450,000 to see what it will fetch: "Library hits the market for $450,000."
For those who saw in the combination of a public library--perhaps the most democratic of American institutions--and a historic building that had provided asylum of one sort or another to the people of Hudson for the better part of two centuries a synergy with the power to ennoble Hudson's under-appreciated library and elevate its mission, the library board's current course is profoundly disappointing. Of course, achieving such a lofty goal requires passion and commitment, not to mention tenacity and perseverance, so it's not hard to understand why the current board has convinced itself that giving up on that goal is the necessary and even the responsible thing to do. But it wasn't always so.
In April 2008, the library celebrated, with symbolic ceremony, the installation of the new fanlight, reproduced from historic images of the building. Dignitaries gathered for the unveiling, including Senator Stephen Saland and Assemblyman Marc Molinaro. As required for an unveiling, the ceremony began with the fanlight covered by a piece of canvas on which Chelle Mayer had painted a sunburst. The significance of the sunburst was explained by Dr. Norman A. Posner, then president of the library board, in his comments that day:
For decades—certainly for as long as anyone here can remember—the fanlight in the central pediment of this venerable building has been missing and the gap in the stone filled with a piece of plywood painted black. This rather bleak black shape was what the eye was drawn to as you approached the library from the south along Fourth Street, and it stood as a symbol of the disregard and neglect that this great building has suffered in the most recent quarter of its long history. But the missing fanlight had a somewhat different effect on longtime library trustee Bill Cranna, who used to teach history in the corner room on the second floor of the building across the street when it was the junior high school. Bill was not able to be here today to tell the story himself, so with his permission, I will tell it for him.Contemplating the missing fanlight, Bill was reminded of an anecdote from American history. The setting was Philadelphia in 1787—two years after the founding of Hudson and only thirty years before this building was built. The scene was the Second Continental Congress, convened to write the Constitution of the United States. Throughout the lengthy proceedings, President George Washington was seated in a high-backed chair, which featured a carved ornament found in many examples of colonial American furniture: a sunburst, not unlike the one you see now in the central pediment of the library.Through the tempestuous weeks of argument and debate, as disparate factions representing the interests of the thirteen original colonies struggled to forge the framework of a new nation, Benjamin Franklin contemplated the emblem that adorned the back of Washington’s chair. At the conclusion of the sessions, when the document had been crafted, signed, and declared “little short of a miracle” by Washington himself, Franklin drew the attention of the delegates to the emblem of the sun on the back of Washington’s chair and told them: “I have often in the course of the session, and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that sun behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun.”Almost three years ago, the library board purchased this building, with the help of Mayor Richard Scalera, and became the stewards of this important piece of Hudson’s architectural and cultural history. Almost two years ago, the library board announced with celebration that they had hired an architect, Walter Sedovic, to plan and oversee the restoration. Still today the building remains virtually unchanged, with few visible signs of improvement. Seeing it, one might well wonder, as Franklin did about the country, if the library is a rising sun or a setting sun.
As we reveal what is concealed by the brilliant sun emblem, we hope that you and all the citizens of Hudson, Greenport, and the surrounding area will see it as a rising sun, a sign that brighter days are ahead for the Hudson Area Library and for this beloved historic building.
At the end of Posner's speech, the sunburst was dropped to reveal the new fanlight. Pretty inspiring stuff, one would think, but apparently not. The lofty goals of the library seem never to have captured the imagination of the community and certainly not the imaginations of those members of the community who make up today's board.
That day in April seems very long ago now. Judge Cranna, whose erudite musings about the missing fanlight were the inspiration for the unveiling ceremony, died in January. Dr. Posner, the last advocate for staying in the building still on the library board, resigned in March, his final annual meeting being the one at which Theresa Parsons announced her intention to "begin in earnest the process of exploring . . . financially viable alternatives to remaining at 400 State Street." The sunburst is still in the library, affixed to the wall in a second-floor hallway, along with a copy of the Register-Star article about the event, with the headline "A new day is dawning for Hudson library."