Saturday, June 28, 2014

Redefining Historic Preservation

It is rumored that T. Eric Galloway thinks he is doing more for historic preservation than anyone else in America today. If this is true, historic preservation in America is indeed in bad shape, and that, sadly, may be the case. A Gossips reader on an extended and extensive road trip throughout the contiguous United States told Gossips about a walking tour in "historic" Cheyenne, Wyoming. It turns out it was a tour of buildings that used to be here but were no longer--at least not in their original form. One example was this 1904 marble building, described and pictured in the walking tour guide, which survives today buried beneath a "modern" facade.

But that's not here. That's Cheyenne, Wyoming. Here in Hudson, we're just expected to accept, gratefully, the bait-and-switch that went on with 900 Columbia Street, when the Galvan Initiatives Foundation's stated intention to move the c. 1810 house intact devolved into "disassembling" it and using the salvaged bricks and some other salvaged elements to build a new house. After all, the 200-year-old house was going to be demolished anyway. Its owners were hell-bent on getting rid of it.

On the subject of 900 Columbia Street, Gossips decided it was time to check in on the new house being built with its salvaged elements and report how things are going. It will be remembered that, in January, the Historic Preservation Commission voted unanimously to grant the proposed house a certificate of appropriateness. The rendering below was the one presented with the application.

There was some concern that the foundation was too high and that the setback interrupted the street wall, but in the end--mostly because the foundation had already been built before the project came before the HPC--the proposed house got its certificate of appropriateness. Here is what the slowly evolving house looks like today.

The most striking difference between the rendering and the reality is the height of the windows. Gossips was not privy to the actual window measurements presented to the HPC, but the height of the windows in the rendering seems significantly greater than the height of the openings in the actual building. The addition of the lintels, salvaged from the original house, will add some height to the appearance of the windows, but not enough to make the reality match the rendering. 

Then there's the problem that seems to exist with all elevation drawings. Where does one have to stand to see the building as it appears in the rendering?

The roof--all the way up to the ridge--is visible in the rendering, but from the sidewalk across the street, no part of the roof on the actual building can be seen. 

Another shortcoming of the rendering presented to the HPC is context. Compatibility with the surrounding neighborhood is an essential consideration when the HPC decides whether or not to grant a certificate of appropriateness to new construction (for this is what it is) in a historic district, but the rendering presented shows the house in complete isolation. Of course, there is no reason to believe that a rendering showing the house in the context of its genuinely historic neighbors would have accurately represented its scale or that the outcome would have been any different if such a rendering that been submitted.

Perhaps we should rejoice. They have started applying the veneer of bricks to the "Hudson Arcade" at Warren and Fifth streets. A reader told Gossips he thought the bricks being used were 19th-century bricks and suggested they might come from 900 Columbia Street.

An actual brick building wall, constructed as walls were in the 18th and 19th centuries, uses twice as many bricks as a brick veneer. Could it be that we are getting two faux historic buildings for the sacrifice of just one authentically historic one?


  1. Perfect, Carole. Mr. Galloway has gotten away with a great deal in wrecking Hudson's architectural heritage (under the guise of "saving" it), but what baffles me is that he has never, that I know of, explained his sledge-hammer preservation ethic to the public. I may have missed it, but I don't recall ever seeing an interview of Galloway in the press, despite the fact that he has had, arguably, more of an influence on Hudson real estate than any single person -- or public agency or fire or flood -- in the last 20 years. Yet, nothing from the man himself in the press. Carole, could you ask for such an interview and report back to us? thanks --peter

    1. Peter, when I wrote "The Man Who Collects Hudson" for The Columbia Paper in 2012, I called Eric Galloway requesting a phone interview. Within minutes Tom Swope, who worked for Galloway at the time, returned my call; he was the one I was to talk to, the job had been delegated to him. John Mason may have contacted Galloway for his recent article in the Register Star; I don't know.

  2. Carole, your report is so balanced and even hopeful, i give you great credit, but I find the photos so distressing that I have to look away and shake my head, wondering what Hudson, with so many smart and well informed people on the subject of hiistoric preservation, has done to deserve being morphed into
    something so fake by Mr Galloway.

  3. What's the going rate on a city's historic soul?

  4. The notion that 900 Columbia Street was ever going to be moved in tact and someone was going to bear the expense of both the move and making it livable again has no conception of the third dimension.

    1. If they agreed to.move it intact, the argument that they couldn't affordable is laughable.

      And, time (history) is the fourth dimension.

  5. There are two problems we have here in Hudson. Many of the Boards that vote on Mr. Galloway's projects, have members that receive either direct or indirect economic benefit from him, or are related to someone who receives economic benefit from Mr. Galloway. AKA conflict of interest. The City Code of Ethics doesn't go far enough in its scope, and certainly has no penalties for violation of its rules. What should be put in place, are written directives that list the specific penalties to be incurred for such violations; e.g. that after a certain number of times the member violates the ethics rules, that they are permanently removed from the Board that they sit on. Until that happens, Mr. Galloway will get away with quite a lot. As far as I know, he is not fined, nor his projects stopped when he clearly has not adhered to what was approved by the City.

    § 20-3Standards of conduct.
    Every municipal officer or employee shall be subject to and abide by the following standards of conduct:

    Disclosure of interest in legislation. To the extent that he knows thereof, a member of the Common Council or any municipal officer or employee, whether paid or unpaid, who participates in the discussion or gives official opinion to the Common Council or any municipal officer or employee, on any legislation before the Common Council or any municipal officer or employee, shall publicly disclose on the official record the nature and extent of any direct or indirect financial or other private interest he has in such legislation.

    Private employment. He shall not engage in, solicit, negotiate for or promise to accept private employment or render services for private interests when such employment or service creates a conflict with or impairs the proper discharge of his official duties.

  6. Looking at the rendering of what 215 Union Street will look like next to what has been built so far, to my eye the new building will never resemble the rendering. The scale of everything is totally off. A giant billboard should have been built to the actual size of the new building and a giant blow-up of the rendering should have been pasted to that billboard. Then Hudson would get what was approved by the Board.

  7. and the guy that has one job, one house, pays his taxes, is expected to play by the rules.

  8. in the case of the house on union st, and the arcade, eric galloway needs to get a new and better architect. these buildings arent so good.

    the building on union should have a more stylish look, like the older buildings mr. galloway did. as controversial as they were, they are much better than the recent ones we have to look at.

  9. With respect to the new residence on Union. If the oversight committee keeps making decisions based on a rendering they will always be disappointed. The only way to guarantee or judge what a building will look like is to review the contract documents used to build the building. The documents are sealed with either an engineers seal or an architects seal and are legal documents. Another thing ...almost every building on Warren Street is a veneer of some sort applied to a frame structure.
    Cheyenne W does not have a dog in this fight ... its a bad example of nothing.

  10. In short,HPC was not just presented with an imaginary pictorial rendering, but side by side with detailed,measured, architectural elevations of 3 sides visible to street of proposed Union St. building and after the fact site plan.After HPC approval and their required changes of said plan, it then by Law must be approved by Building Dept, to adhere to NYS Bldg /Fire and Safety Codes.Owner, contractors and engineers must adhere to both HPC and CEO's approved plan and blueprints, to commence or continue construction. If not ,a stop order is then issued by Bldg Dept., until the unapproved alterations from approved plans are corrected.
    This is not just true of new or existing buildings in a Historic District in Hudson that require the added approval of HPC, but all new and renovated construction in Hudson/NYS by Code where required by Law.It must strictly adhere to approved architectural and engineers blueprints,approved mechanicals,materials etc.,by Bldg.Dept.
    Galvan proceeded with foundation and it's height without required site plan approval from HPC, allowed by former CEO of Hudson.
    "Dig a hole and get a permit later". A common occurrence in Hudson.

  11. Easier to apologize (pay fines) than ask permission. Leave the lion to his meal, focus on the rodents...