Saturday, November 9, 2013

More About the Hudson Upper Depot

John Mason catches up on the story of the threat of demolition to the train station at State and Seventh streets: "Depot in danger of demolition." City historian, Pat Fenoff provided for the article the information that the building was completed in 1871, which makes this depot three years older than the depot that is now the Amtrak Station. Fenoff also provided this historic photograph of the depot.

The depot can also be seen in the background of this historic post card image of the Public Square, a.k.a. Seventh Street Park.

At the Historic Preservation Commission meeting on Friday morning, Mark Schuman of Mountainview Masonry and Landscape Supply presented the application for a certificate of appropriateness to demolish 708 State Street--the former Hudson Upper Station on the Albany & Boston Railroad. As justification for the demolition, Schuman explained that the owner has had the building for ten years, and it is now in need for a lot of work. The owner, Van Kleeck's Tire, is not interested in maintaining the building and wants to demolish it to get "a little more staging area"--in other words, to park trucks there.

Schuman, whose company demolished the Old Brick Tavern at the intersection of Routes 66 and 9H in 2011 and "disassembled" 900 Columbia Street earlier this year, wants to salvage the materials from the depot and resell them. He told the HPC, perhaps in an effort to make what he does sound like historic preservation, "Buildings we take down let other buildings live on." Indeed, bricks from the Old Brick Tavern found their way into the rebuilt brick veneer front wall of 211 Union Street, General Worth's birthplace.

Obviously thinking that it somehow made a difference, Schuman pointed out that the current owner had purchased the building in 2004, two years before the locally designated historic district that includes the building was established.

HPC chair Rick Rector seemed ready to put the application to a vote, informing Schuman, "If we do vote and deny this, you can appeal to the Common Council." Carl Whitbeck, now counsel to the HPC, cautioned against voting immediately. "You don't have any facts," he told the HPC and advised them to "make appropriate findings on which to base your judgment." Whitbeck described the depot as "a structure that is significant in its own right." He recalled that Smith Tire, the previous owner of the property, had received a grant from the federal government in 1980 to rehab the depot and other nearby buildings for commercial use, among them what remained of the Gifford-Wood Foundry.

In the end, the HPC voted unanimously that the application was incomplete. After this decision was made, Craig Haigh, Hudson's newly appointed code enforcement officer, reported a sentiment he had heard expressed, although it wasn't entirely clear by whom, that the owner could just take down the building and suffer the consequences. He defined the consequences as a $250 fine and 10 days in jail and concluded that "the consequences are not onerous enough."

Whitbeck commented that municipalities had to decide to enforce their statutes and suggested that action might be taken in the New York State Supreme Court to prevent demolition or to require people to put something back if it was destroyed without a certificate of appropriateness, intimating that the $250 fine could apply for every day from the time the demolition began to the time the building was returned to the way it had been.

Post card image courtesy Byrne Fone; photo of Gifford-Wood Foundry from Mirrored Memories, Columbia County Historical Society, 1991.


  1. Another consequence that could be considered is the business aspect. Who will buy from them if they do not care about their community?

  2. The effrontery of Van Kleek sending his scavenger to represent him before a municipal commission on a matter of pressing public concern is insupportable. The Hudson business community in general recognizes the importance, both financial and aesthetic, of our architectural heritage, even if this particular individual does not. And, there are many other places to buy tires.

    1. Just as there are many places to make donations other than to the Columbia County Habitat for Humanity.

      Even in the world of non-profits, the free market still has the last say.

  3. ...this could be a chicken or the egg scenario, it could be a case of, " I see a pile of bricks, i'll take them down for you" and not "this building is in the way i need it removed"...just a farmer looking for eggs is all we have here, maybe, but let's not be so quick to judge Van pickers look for the trees with apples on them...

    1. The scavenger stated that Van Kleek approached him two years ago for a demolition estimate, and that the building is in use now as a storage facility.

  4. It would be, without a doubt, a huge loss if this building comes down. Whether it becomes a railfan destination/museum as seems a perfect fit, or a commercial entity such as shop/cafe, it is imperative that the uptown Hudson renaissance continues,as well as establishing a "welcome" to State St site. The building is gorgeous! It owes its existance to the "iron horse" as does Hudson's 1850 to 1950 industrial boom. Gotta save it and make it another jewel in the crown that is Hudson. What about tourist rides on an old pullman or flat car from that station to the Hudson main station? To take one brick from that building would be a sin.

    1. A pullman would require an engine but a trolley bus equipped with a RR "high rail kit" would be self propelled.
      Bring tourist up to seventh st, and let them fill shopping bags all down Warren.

  5. The train depot is specifically identified as a contributing building in the Hudson NRHP Historic District, but its protections come from inclusion in the local historic district. It is a beautiful example of Gothic revival architecture with its heavy verge boards at the rakes of the roof. According to Mr. Whitbeck, “Smith Tire, the previous owner of the property, had received a grant from the federal government in 1980 to rehab the depot.” Was a preservation easement or restriction added to the deed as a condition for accepting the money? If so, it stays with the property through transfers of ownership. If the owner comes back with a complete application, I would articulate the rejection to the letter of the law: (see next post ... too many characters)

  6. Applicant’s request to demolish the Hudson Upper Depot is denied. The Upper Depot is a contributing building in both National Register (Hudson Historic District Multiple Resource Area, August 1985) and local (Warren Street Historic District, April 2006) historic districts and possesses details of architectural significance specific to the Gothic revival style. Further, the Upper Depot is a building of historical significance as it relates to the history of the railroads in the Hudson River valley in the nineteenth century. The demolition of the Upper Depot would represent a critical and irreplaceable loss to the landscape of Hudson’s built environment.

    Chapter 169-6(A) of the City Code sets forth the criteria required for the HPC to grant a Certificate of Appropriateness for alterations to and demolition of contributing buildings in the local historic district. The following criteria are applicable:

    (1) Properties that contribute to the character of the historic district shall be retained, with their historic features altered as little as possible; and,

    (2) Any alteration of existing properties shall be compatible with their historic character, as well as with the surrounding district.

    It is the finding of the HPC that the demolition of the Upper Depot would prevent the property from retaining its historic features. Wholesale demolition of the building would represent an alteration to the property that would be wholly incompatible with its historic character.

    Applicant is advised that, according to Chapter 169-10 of the City Code, he may file an appeal to the HPC based on hardship. No demolition permit shall be issued unless the HPC makes a finding that a hardship exists. The HPC shall hold a public hearing on the hardship application, at which an opportunity will be provided for proponents and opponents of the application to present their views. The applicant shall consult in good faith with the Commission, local preservation groups, and interested parties in a diligent effort to seek an alternative that will result in preservation of the property. The applicant will be required to prove the existence of hardship by establishing that:

    (1) The property is incapable of earning a reasonable return, regardless of whether that return represents the most profitable return possible;

    (2) The property cannot be adapted for any other use, whether by the current owner or by a purchaser, which would result in a reasonable return; and,

    (3) Good faith efforts to find a purchaser interested in acquiring the property and preserving it have failed.

    The decision of the HPC shall be issued in writing and sent to the applicant by registered mail and a copy filed with the City Clerk's office for public inspection. The HPC's decision shall state the reasons for granting or denying the hardship application. If the application is granted, the HPC shall approve only such work as is necessary to alleviate the hardship. Applicant is further advised that Chapter 169-15 of the City Code provides penalties for offenses related to this property. Specifically:

    A. Failure to comply with any of the provisions of this chapter shall be deemed a violation, and the violator shall be liable to a fine of not more than $250 for each day the violation continues.

    B. Any person who demolishes, alters, constructs, or permits a designated property to fall into a serious state of disrepair in violation of this chapter 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.

  7. It’s that last part of §169-15.B that he should watch out for, since he’s put himself on the radar: “Any person who … permits a designated property to fall into a serious state of disrepair in violation of this chapter shall be required to restore the property and its site to its appearance prior to the violation.” From Gossip’s post: “As justification for the demolition, [the applicant] explained that the owner has had the building for ten years, and it is now in need for a lot of work. The owner, Van Kleeck's Tire, is not interested in maintaining the building and wants to demolish it.” Sounds to me like an admission of guilt. Once the verge boards rot and fall off that will represent demolition by neglect, and an unauthorized, inappropriate alteration to character-defining features of the building will have occurred. When the applicant comes back in, make him aware of this—put him on notice. Am I making sense? Is this clear cut and straightforward?

    1. Thank you, Ward Hamilton.

      Van Keeck's Tire,Inc, is a successful company, based out of Lake Katrine ,NY

      I do not think "hardship" will fly

      ."The customer is our reason for being here. This simple but effective formula for success has made Van Kleeck's Tire, Inc. a strong, trusted, and well-respected company for over 50 years. This was the formula that originated with founder, Robert Van Kleeck, in 1960"

      I'm afraid , Mountainview Masonry and Landscape Supply's demolition of 900 Columbia..or" dismantling to MOVE", if you speak GalVanese,...has put a very bad idea into Van Kleek's head. And they will do it just for the bricks!

      What always worries me, in Hudson, as I have witnessed , is


      "Allowing a building to fall into such a state of disrepair that it becomes necessary or desirable to demolish it. Property owners have been accused of permitting demolition by neglect on purpose, in order to save demolition costs" [in this case to save a lot of red tape]

      . I have watched" City of Hudson" pull this one more than once, for their own inside reasons.

      Then comes this Sign on the building

      .........was inspected on this date by Building Inspector and determined to present a clear and imminent danger to the life, health or safety to anyone occupying the structure

      Pursuant to section 101-11 of the Hudson City Code, the Mayor of the City of Hudson has therefore authorized the Building Inspector via attached order, to immediately remove unsafe structure. The structure will be removed as soon as possible....."

      Declaring "Imminent Danger" is comparable in "building world" to declaring Marshall Law"

      All bets are off. They can do anything. Total misuse of this very serious law.

      Mr. Hamilton, with all your knowledge of Tax Credits ETC. for restoration of a Histioric Property, and all your expertise in restoration, perhaps you could approach the Van Kleek's., Explain how much they would be admired in Hudson for restoring the building and be an important contributor to the restoring this potentially wonderful part of Historic Hudson.
      It's not a very big building , that is restricting their business They need only make it sound structurally and then restore the exterior. The inside, they could do with, what ever the wanted.
      To tear it down, would be bad for their reputation in Hudson, while the alternative , would spread such good will.

      Like they say at the race track..What's the difference between a bum and a hero?...."inches"

      or as they say on Van Kleeck'sTire,Inc website.
      "Each and every member is fully committed to the Van Kleeck's Tire Customer Creed:
      The customer is our reason for being here.
      It takes years to earn a customer, seconds to lose one."

    2. I am glad to assist in any way possible.