At last Wednesday's Legal Committee meeting, the topic of 248 and 250 Columbia Street came up. The main focus of the conversation had to do with the interpretation of the bulk and area requirements and whether the project needed an area variance because the apartments would not be 1,500 square feet each or because the lot on which the proposed new building would be built was not 7,500 square feet, or 1,500 square feet per dwelling unit.
Alderman David Marston (First Ward) took the opportunity to ask Per Blomquist, who owns the buildings, why it was necessary to demolish two of the few remaining historic houses on that block of Columbia Street--indeed, two of the few survivors of Urban Renewal in the Second Ward. Blomquist, who, according to tax records, bought 248 Columbia in 2012 and 250 in 2011, said that the mayor and the code enforcement officer told him the buildings were unsafe, because the brick foundations were buckling, and intimated that he felt pressured to demolish them.
There is no doubt that these houses have been abused and neglected in recent decades, but what of their past? The house at the left--248--is very old. Evidence of its antiquity are the central fireplace and one remaining six over six window. Both houses appear on the map of the Second Ward in the Beers Atlas for 1873.
A bit of searching the old newspapers at Fulton History provides a sense of the people who lived in these houses a hundred years ago. (A reminder: What we now call Columbia Street had several different names in the 19th and early 20th centuries. From Front to Third streets, it was called Fulton Street; from Third to Sixth, it was Diamond Street; from Sixth to Park Place, it was known as Gifford Place; and beyond that, it was, as it is today, Columbia Street.)
In September 1913, the Hudson Evening Register announced that Cecilia Walton, who lived at 250 Fulton Street, was to be married to Charles E. Brown, who lived just up the street, at 323 Diamond Street.
In August 1914, Paul Sirand announced his new entrepreneurial business, with a very grand name, to be headquartered at 248 Fulton Street.
In October 1914, the Hudson Evening Register reported an untimely death at 250 Fulton Street.