Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Historic Preservation According to Galloway

They appear on kids' placemats in family restaurants. The Register-Star has one every day on its comics page. I saw one just this morning in a magazine in a doctor's waiting room. They are those pairs of pictures that challenge the viewer to find all the differences between the two pictures. Here's a version of the game with a historic preservation theme: two pictures of the Cornelius H. Evans House at 414-416 Warren Street--the first taken in May 2010, the second taken yesterday. What differences can you see?

The window hoods and the window frames and sash have been painted. There is cresting along the top of the roof that seems not to have been there before. The most significant difference, however, is the slate on the mansard roof and the roof of the tower. The slates of two shades of gray with the occasional red slate, arranged in decorative patterns, which were originally on the house have been replaced by slates of a different shape that are all very dark gray almost black, raising the question, "Is this historic preservation or historic revisionism?"

The U. S. Department of the Interior Technical Preservation Services has a Preservation Brief about slate roofs. Here's what it has to say about the character and detailing of slate roofs: 
During some periods of architectural history, roof design has gone far beyond the merely functional and contributed much to the character of buildings. Roofs, by their compelling forms, have defined styles and, by their decorative patterns and colors, have imparted both dignity and beauty to buildings. The architectural styles prevalent during the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries placed strong emphasis on prominent roof lines and greatly influenced the demand for slate. Slate, laid in multicolored decorative patterns, was particularly well suited to the Mansard roofs of the Second Empire style, the steeply pitched roofs of Gothic Revival and High Victorian styles, and the many prominent roof planes and turrets associated with the Queen Anne style. . . . The configuration, massing, and style of historic slate roofs are important design elements that should be preserved. In addition, several types of historic detailing were often employed to add visual interest to the roof essentially elevating the roof to the level of an ornamental architectural element.
The Preservation Brief concludes:
Slate roofs are a critical design feature of many historic buildings that cannot be duplicated using substitute materials. Slate roofs can, and should be, maintained and repaired to effectively extend their serviceable lives. When replacement is necessary, details contributing to the appearance of the roof should be retained. [The underscore is a Gossips addition.]
The Cornelius H. Evans House, built in 1861, is one of a very few Hudson houses individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The nomination document, written in 1974, describes the house in this way:
A house of ample dimensions, 414-416 Warren Street with its mansard roof and pyramical-roofed tower typifies a style fully articulated in America by James Renwick in his Corcoran Gallery (Washington, D.C., 1859) and his Main Hall, Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, N.Y., 1860), and expressed on a smaller scale in domestic architecture by affluent enterpreneurs in small 19th century industrial cities such as Poughkeepsie and Hudson. The generous size, the attention to decorative trim, and the pretension in overall design reflect the ambitions and the accomplishments of entrepreneur Cornelius Evans whose brewing and bottling enterprise proved to be one of the city's major industries.
The house has now been deprived of significant decorative details, and even though original slate roofs have been replaced with new slate roofs, the overall appearance of the house has been significantly altered. Amazingly, all this appears to have been done without a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission. 

On Friday morning, July 13, Ward Hamilton of Olde Mohawk Masonry & Historic Preservation, the preservation contractor who did the work on the Cornelius H. Evans House, is scheduled to present to the Historic Preservation Commission, on behalf of Galvan Partners, applications for certificates of appropriateness to repair the mansard roofs on 326 Union Street and 501 Union Street. (The Cornelius H. Evans House is, of course, also owned by Eric Galloway or Galvan Partners.) It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the HPC has to say about the alterations to the roof of 414-416 Warren Street and how and why such alterations were made to a National Register-listed house. The meeting begins at 10 a.m. in City Hall.

356 Union Street

501 Union Street

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Carol: As the former owner of 412 Warren Street, I would like to express my opinion on the work done to this building. When we first rehabbed this building (and I mean "rehab", not "restore"), it was, quite literally, saved from being a parking lot. Already missing were porches that wrapped around the front & most everything in the interior. A fire had gutted the third floor. Even with a hefty mortgage & rent subsidies, we were only able to repair, not restore or replace, a lot of the slate roof. Parts of the roof was repaired, if memory serves, with asphalt shingles, but, since it wasn't visible from the street, most people wouldn't know that. Due to the extremely high heating costs, we were forced to later add storm windows, which cut off the beauty of the arches in the first floor windows. Nonetheless, it was saved from the wrecking ball, and was home for many people in the intervening years.
    By the time we sold it, we knew it would soon be time for major repairs, and we didn't have the resources, nor could the rents support such an undertaking. So to have Galvan come in an do such a wonderful job to this landmark building makes me very happy. It's a testament to our hard work, and our tenants throughout the years who respected the building, and now Galvan's, that it will still here for many more years, for tourists to photograph, numerous people to live in, and all to enjoy.
    When we were first doing this building per NYSHPO instructions, they made us aware of something called "continuing history" or something similar. What it meant was that every building was not necessarily to be restored to its original condition, but consideration was to be given to later additions & changes through the years. I don't know how many of us would appreciate it now, but at some point, aluminum siding will be part of a building's continuing history. Ditto those old wacky fake brick-looking sidings. And incongruous additions.
    Now, to play your game: 1. We can see the beautiful arched windows again. 2. There are copper gutters & flashing, a distinctive upgrade. 3. The main entry overhang is repaired and not leaking onto the front steps. Ditto the fascia & soffits.
    And personally, I like the "Adams Family" topper. It's a whimsical addition that suits the house & could easily be removed by a purist in the future. I'm sure the house is smiling now. We should be too.
    Mary Ann Gazzola