Monday, May 15, 2017

News from the HPC

Friday's Historic Preservation Commission meeting began with a resignation. Rick Rector, who on May 2 announced he was running for mayor, resigned as chair of the HPC, turning the meeting over to vice chair, Phil Forman. Rector will continue on the HPC though not as chair: Forman will continue as acting chair until a new chair and vice chair are elected by HPC members.

In the two hour meeting that followed, the HPC gave final approval to three certificates of appropriateness, denied one, and heard proposals for seven new projects. Two of those new proposals merit some attention on Gossips.

One is a proposal to create a garden along the east side of the rectory at St. Mary's Church. The Historic Preservation Commission has no jurisdiction over gardens or landscaping, but the garden needs a six-foot fence to keep the deer out, and the fence requires a certificate of appropriateness. The fence proposed was a vinyl fence with lattice at the top, but Father Winston Bath, who was presenting the proposal on behalf of the new rector at St. Mary's, Father Anthony Barrat, said they would be willing to use a wooden fence, and several members of the HPC expressed a preference for a more open picket fence rather than a solid fence. Bath indicated that the intention was to grow a hedge along the fence that would eventually mask the fence entirely.

Kate Johns, the architect member of the HPC, expressed concern that the fence would hide the side of the rectory, which she called "a fine, fine building." She was also concerned that the fence would destroy the openness of what she called "the courtyard" created by the setback of the house now occupied by Catholic Charities. 

The application was deemed incomplete, and the HPC requested, among other things, a site plan that showed the placement of the fence in relation to the building, the sidewalk, and the street. A simple field trip to the site might have simplified matters. After the meeting, Gossips visited the site and found that the earth where the garden is to be has already been prepared for planting.

A six-foot high fence and hedge around this plot will certainly prevent passers-by from seeing the side of the building and will destroy the symmetry of the lawn and walk leading back to the house. 

[An aside about the house that is now the location of Catholic Charities: It was designed by J. A. Wood, the same architect who designed the Gothic expansion of the First Presbyterian Church. The house's original location was at the southeast corner of East Allen and East Court streets, where St. Mary's Church now stands. The house was moved to its current location to make way for the church, which was completed in 1930. The historic picture below shows the house at the center, in its original location.]

Photo courtesy Historic Hudson
A second proposal of interest is the conversion of the ground floor of 205-207 Warren Street into commercial space.

The building used to have at least one storefront, and at one time in its history it may have had two. The picture below, from the mid-20th century, shows a storefront in the eastern half of the building.

The proposal is to create two storefronts on the ground floor--one on either side of the central entrance to the apartments on the second floor.

The original plan for 205-207 Warren Street drew heavily on the design for 117 Warren Street, which the HPC approved in December 2013. The HPC felt the original plan, presented on April 14, involved too much uninterrupted glass, so at last Friday's meeting a revised design was presented, which introduced wood panels beneath the windows in the storefronts and set the entrance doors back from the facade.

Peter Davis, the applicant, explained that the goal was to create "a consistent Greek Revival design." In addition to introducing the storefronts, the proposed renovation of the building includes restoring the existing standing seam metal roof and the box gutter, restoring the existing cornice and entablature, restoring the existing eyebrow windows, replacing the vinyl siding with painted cedar siding, and replacing the existing windows with wood one over one double hung windows of the same size.

HPC member David Voorhees wanted to "break up the long span of storefronts," noting that in historic photographs of the building, "the center door was always separate from the storefronts." Forman responded to this objection by saying, "They have introduced pilasters that represent a whole series of breaks." Voorhees insisted that some element was needed to give a break in the storefronts. Davis asserted what Voorhees was suggesting would damage the design and "destroy the contextuality." 

Both Forman and Miranda Barry advised that the two-dimensional drawing made the facade seem flatter and more modern than it would be in reality. Forman opined, "It is up to the applicant to choose a design and period that is relevant to the building. It is our job to decide if it is appropriate and compatible. Both from a compatibility and a restoration point of view, that is being delivered." HPC member John Schobel disagreed, observing, "What this does is altering the character of the building."

After the commission, with the exception of Voorhees, agreed that the application was complete, Rector suggested that the proposal required a public hearing because the changes to the building were significant. It was agreed that a public hearing on the proposal would take place at the beginning of the HPC's next meeting, which takes place on Friday, May 26, at 10 a.m.

1 comment:

  1. Siegel's Sweet Shop was owned by Sam Siegel, who later opened Sam Siegel & Sons shoe store at the corner of 5th and Warren (bank location now) and later to 558 Warren, next to former Hudson City Savings Bank that now houses motor vehicles.