Friday, June 22, 2018

The Transformation of Our Back Streets

In the press release that announced the memorable exhibition at the Hudson Opera Hall in December 2016, No Parking: The Alleys and Garages of Hudson, the late Bill Hellermann, whose photographs, along with those of Lisa Durfee and Peter Spear, were featured in that show, is quoted as saying, "I happened to notice in the summer of 1998 that gentrification had unmistakably taken off in Hudson. However, by contrast, I found that the garages were often more visually interesting than the buildings on the main thoroughfares. They have an accidental beauty."

Twenty years later, as the gentrification of Hudson continues, the "accidental beauty" of those garages and alley buildings is in danger. The fate of one such building, an early 20th-century garage on Partition Street (not officially an alley but perceived as one), behind 439 Union Street, came up in discussion toward the end of the Historic Preservation Committee meeting this morning.

In August 2017, the proposal to demolish this pre-World War II garage and replace it with a new building came before the HPC. The building wasn't structurally unsound. It was perfectly fit for its intended purpose as a garage and storage, but the owners of the property wanted to use it for human habitation, which meant it would need a new foundation, and code enforcement officer Craig Haigh predicted, "This building will fall apart if they have to lift it and put it on a new foundation."

The plan to demolish the original garage and build a "new, similar building" on its footprint first came before the HPC on August 11, 2017. HPC member Miranda Barry described what was first proposed as "a new, generic contemporary building." The applicant came back with another design, meant to replicate the existing building, and the HPC granted a certificate of appropriateness, persuaded that the new design would preserve the integrity and character of the streetscape.  

This morning, after the business before the HPC was concluded, Barry explained that she was almost late for the meeting because on her way to City Hall, she was detained by someone who wanted to complain about the "massive" new building on Partition Street. In the discussion that ensued, questions were raised about whether it had actually been built on the footprint of the original building and if the height exceeded what had been approved. 

After the meeting, Gossips went to take a look at the new building and concluded that the building is probably exactly what was approved, with the exception of the window on the second floor of the south facade, which appears to be much taller and narrower than what appeared in the elevation drawing.

The building is in fact taller than the original and made to appear even taller by what appears to be a steeper pitch of the gable roof.  What is most striking, though, is that the new building completely fails to replicate the character of the original. Maybe fences and plantings will help--softening the stark newness of the structure--but there is no doubt that the character of this stretch of Partition Street has been significantly altered.


  1. I live across from this new structure. Just yesterday the big maples nearby were cut as well.
    Doesn't a city need trees and especially in the
    historic district? The maples softened this harsh
    tall building. Makes me sad how this once quiet block is changing so fast. KNPhillips

  2. The worst part of that design is the lack of more windows facing the alley. Ugh...

  3. The original structure should have been saved by the HPC. It was a sound viable structure.

    What is the purpose of a historic preservation committee if it approves demolition of historic buildings for "this?"

  4. A structure created by a committee ...

  5. Requiring a permit and approval from the conservation advisory board to cut a live tree over 6"-8" in diameter within city limits would certainly help to preserve the natural beauty and character of Hudson. Someone should write that resolution. Also the city should claim rights to plant curbside trees on city streets and line the barren parts of streets with trees. Many homeowners/landlords just dont care and nothing improves the quality and character of a city street more than trees.