Saturday, August 11, 2012

What Happened at Friday's HPC Meeting

A new design for the larger of the two houses on North Fifth Street commonly know as the "Armory houses" came before the Historic Preservation Commission on Friday morning, and, as Tom Casey reported in today's Register-Star, the new application was deemed incomplete: "Armory houses app deemed incomplete again." When you read Casey's article, scroll down to the comments to read the one from Ward Hamilton, who presented the project to the HPC on behalf of Galvan Partners. Hamilton calls the article "factually inaccurate," claims that the HPC granted a conditional approval to the plan, and demands that the Register-Star print a correction in tomorrow's online edition.

Admittedly, it is often hard to follow what's going on at Historic Preservation Commission meetings, and yesterday was no exception. The interruptions and cross talk that went on during the discussion of the Armory house proposal prompted Victor Mendolia to raise a point of order from the audience, asking that HPC members speak one at a time. Rick Rector, who was chairing the meeting, had to ask his colleagues more than once if they considered the application complete, but when they did get around to making a motion and voting on it, the outcome was clear. There was only one motion: to deem the application incomplete. Five of the six members of the HPC present (Rector, Phil Forman, Scott Baldinger, Jack Avarez, and Tony Thompson) voted aye; one (Peggy Polenberg) voted nay. The plan going forward is that Alvarez, the architect member of the HPC, will send Hamilton an email summarizing what would make the new design appropriate, and the HPC will have a workshop meeting with Hamilton and the project architect at 9 a.m. prior to their next meeting on August 24.

In June, the design proposed for the building featured a pediment and a Greek Revival portico at the center of the building. In the new design, this feature has disappeared, replaced by three smaller Greek Revival porticoes, one over each doorway of what will be three town houses.

Rector called the design "a significant change from the earlier design and a significant change from the house as it is now." In June, the HPC had objected that the elements of history on the house were being eliminated and urged that the house is kept closer to what it was before it had been allowed to fall into disrepair. The addition of the two-story columned portico, a signature of houses built by Eric Galloway's various LLCs in Hudson, presented a problem for the HPC in the first design. In the new design, the dramatic change in the roof--replacing the pitched roof with a flat roof and eliminating the front gable--was the HPC's major concern. 

The house probably in the 1930s

The house in April 2012

The HPC considers the roof to be an important element of the house's historic character and wants to see it retained in its current form, not simply commemorated in the pediment of a new pseudo Greek Revival portico. Hamilton said the roof framework was 70 percent rotted and has to come off, but when Thompson suggested building a flat roof was less expensive than reproducing what had been there, Hamilton denied that cost was a factor in his client's preference for a flat roof.

Hamilton read a statement he had prepared which started out with an apparent appeal to the HPC to relax their standards because his client was "saving buildings that nobody else has raised a finger to help." He went on to lecture the HPC about historic preservation, quoting extensively from various preservationists to make the points that historic preservation was also cultural preservation and the greenest building is the one that's already there. He made reference to the "broken windows theory," said that this proposal was one that "would be welcomed in other communities where I have worked," and suggested the HPC was driven by "personal agendas and politics."

When Baldinger pointed out that the quote Hamilton read about cultural history supported the HPC's position that the evidence of the house's evolution over time needed to be preserved, Hamilton conceded that the quote he had read "could go either way." 

After telling how difficult it was to show properties in that neighborhood because when people saw the Armory houses they wanted to get back in the car, Polenberg said she liked the new design and thought the design proposed in June was attractive. Thompson reminded her that "we're not talking about personal taste," explaining the HPC needed to find a solution that "maintains the historic presence of the building." 

When Rector made the point that "what we are being asked to review is a new structure" on the foundation of the old structure and reusing some of the original materials, Hamilton asked if the HPC would consider it as new construction, stating that he believed the proposed design "satisfies the criteria for compatibility" for new construction. Alvarez took issue with this, saying that many of the buildings in the neighborhood that had been used to support the case for the appropriateness of the new design were not Greek Revival but Italianate. He also added, "There's a building there. Why can't we work with it?" 

Forman talked about the importance of authenticity in Hudson's historic architecture, saying that it was something that "doesn't exist in other places." He then suggested that historic preservation may have "missed the window" on this building, saying, "I'm not sure there is a lot of choice," although he did express the opinion that the proposed design "looks like something that got too many face-lifts."  

In the end, as reported at the beginning, the HPC voted 5 to 1 to deem the application incomplete. Alvarez agreed to send an email to Hamilton "stating what would make this a workable plan," and Hamilton and the project architect, who is rumored to be Kevin Walker, will bring a revised design to a workshop with the HPC on August 24 at 9 a.m.


  1. The HPC unanimously accepted the application as complete and conditionally approved the proposal. Between now and the 24 August meeting I will work out details with Jack Alvarez, just as we did last month to make 501 Union a reality.

    I find it incredibly unfortunate and disappointing that you and others misrepresent facts to promote your agenda. It was, in fact, Jack Alvarez who suggested that the building would fit if some details were altered.

    Jack suggested that adding brackets to the cornice could do the trick. A contractor working on another home on 5th St had presented before me. He, too, needed to add brackets but didn't have drawings or an example. The HPC also conditionally approved his application.

    We are willing to work together.

  2. The proposed building put before the Historic Preservation Commission is not a restoration at all. It is not historic preservation either. It is a complete and utter hatchet job of one of the more significant buildings and districts in the City of Hudson.

    It also isn't a Greek Revival facade. What it is is a style all its own. Lets call it Gallowingian. It is nothing more than a rehash of the buildings that were recently built from scratch at 1st Street and Union.

    The Gallowingian style is an early 21st century style, some have referred to it as Post-Modern Plantation Style. This style is never hand-drawn by competent architects. It is a cookie cutter "Gothic Revival" module in a CAD (Computer Aided Design) program.

    Want 3 porticos? Click, click, click. There they are. What about columns? Click, click. Got those too. Tired of that pesky roof that has been part of the building for more than 100 years? Just click on the eraser tool! Swipe swipe. Now it's a flat roof. Put some crown moulding on it and voila! Gallowingian Style in no time flat.

    At the meeting Mr. Hamilton asserted that only his client cared about or is capable of taking care of these poor distressed buildings. That is the furthest thing from the truth. Anyone who follows the real estate goings on in Hudson knows that over and over, when people were ready to purchase properties which they intended to restore. Eric Galloway has come in at the last minute with all-cash offers and snatched the properties out from under them. If Mr. Galloway is unwilling to restore historic properties in accordance with Hudson's Historic Preservation Code, then there is a very easy solution. Stop purchasing them and divest himself of them.

    Mr. Galloway is the king of contradictions. He purchases buildings, evicts the tenants (making some of them homeless) and leaves the buildings to rot. Yet he purports to be a champion of the poor. He claims to want to build affordable houses. Yet to date has only built Gallowingian mansions for the rich in Hudson. Two of them sitting vacant right now, because his "Affordable Housing" Foundation has priced them out of reach far...anyone.

    That same foundation which seeks to provide Historic Preservation (and "interpretation"!) so far has sought to move two historic properties from their original HISTORIC locations, and to butcher another one in place. This is not historic preservation. Not even close.

    Mr. Galloway with the aid of his buddy, walking conflict of interest Rick Scalera, is fast becoming a menace to the City of Hudson. He must be stopped!

    1. Victor, in a letter to a friend ( who we both know) and probably on this blog, and maybe even in a letter to the Star before I left, I referred to the Galloway style as Gallowegian Style, but Gallowingian is perfect too, for it has the hint of Rurutanian about it. In my note our mutual friend I suggested that as creeping gallowegia infects the city it has spawned an entirely new set of styles, among them Fauxderal, Colonialette Revival, Italianoid Columnular, Greek Revulsion (that, alas, is not my coinage), and Arts and Crap.

  3. Ward Hamilton was obviously too busy being an apologist for this horrible plan to notice what was going on in this meeting. His recollection does not match mine, or apparently Carole's or a number of others present in the audience.

    In addition I have confirmed with three members of the Commission that the vote taken was on whether the application was incomplete. The result was 5-1 in favor. With only Peggy Pollenberg (a sometimes real estate broker for Galloway?) voting that the application was complete.

    It was not my impression that Jack Alvarez felt that adding brackets or a quick fix might "do the trick". Throughout the meeting he seemed utterly horrified by the proposal and did not seem inclined to accept a couple of clicks of a mouse fix for this important building and district.

    Maybe someone hacked Ward Hamilton's account and is posting as him.

  4. Inquire at his website:

  5. The very act of pitching these endless modifications is the gentleman's expensive passion.

    Recently Mr. Galloway was called "mercurial," which sounds like a compliment to some.

    But the "smart marketing" of redirecting GossipsofRivertown-dot-com to an advertisement is also mercurial, yet is as distasteful to us as spamming.

    The internet itself is mercurial: speed of light communication of homogeneous information with no earthly obstacles. It doesn't take too much imagination to see that the pathologies of Hermes/Mercury may someday be an end to us.

    Nor is it necessarily complimentary to bring in another deity, Hestia, with whom Hermes/Mercury had a curious connection. (She was called Vesta by the Romans.)

    Hestia, the goddess of hearths, has an ancient connection to leases and deeds ("the said party of the first part does convey and confirm unto the said parties of the second part ...").

    Hestia's realm is anything but mercurial. Just as immune from Aphrodite's influence, she relinquished her throne in order to tend the Olympian hearth - and more immediately for us, also every hearth on earth, both domestic and municipal.

    More than any other, Hestia is the deity of the home itself, and of our first sense of place. Every hearth within every home is her dwelling place and altar.

    The late psychologist James Hillman shunned the internet because he recognized its instantaneity and capriciousness as pathological threats to the Hestian perspective, and to our sense of place and memory.

    (As Victor said above, think CAD: "Want 3 porticos? Click, click, click. There they are. What about columns? Click, click. Got those too. ...")

    I don't wish to belabor these metaphors, but as his self-portrait as do-gooder wears thin and while his houses sit empty, it seems that Mr. Galloway's real avocation is making endless impish plans to reinvent a place, perhaps anyplace. (And all under the cover of addressing "homelessness"!)

    "History is bunk," as Henry Ford infamously said. The ultimate postmodern expression is to efface those artifacts which embody the collective memory, not unlike what the unthinking Vandals did to antique statuary (though ironically, the Vandals didn't tend to molest the architecture).

    As with any other perspective, capriciousness as an end in itself will have a pathological dimension that is invisible to its practitioner.