An article in the Register-Star last week informed us that the renovations to Hudson Terrace would begin in the middle of this month. Aside from the sketchy information provided in the article, no one seems to know exactly what is being planned. The interior changes are nobody's business but the tenants' who are going to occupy the apartments. The exterior changes, however, should be everybody's business.
Hudson Terrace sits atop the bluff on which Hudson was built. Approaching Hudson by the river, these architecturally undistinguished late 20th-century buildings are the first and about the only things that can be seen of our city, which is known for its rich inventory of historic architecture. The vast complex stretches the width of the city, from Allen Street to State Street, and it is visible from many vantage points within two National Register historic districts (the Front Street-Parade Hill-Lower Warren Street Historic District and the Hudson Historic District) and two locally designated historic districts (the Warren Street Historic District and the Union-Allen-Front Street Historic District).
Historic Footnote: When the Front Street-Parade Hill-Lower Warren Street Historic District was originally added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, it consisted of 95 buildings. In 1986, the district was decreased to 25 buildings. Many of those missing 70 buildings (including the one glimpsed through the trees in this picture) had been demolished to build Hudson Terrace.]
When the Historic Preservation Commission designated the Union-Allen-Front Street Historic District, they wisely included the buildings of Hudson Terrace as "non-contributing structures." Inclusion in a historic district--even as a non-contributing structure--makes a building subject to review by the Historic Preservation Commission because what is done with non-contributing structures has an impact on the overall character of a historic district. We know that Evergreen Partners intends to replace the faded blue vinyl siding on the buildings of Hudson Terrace with new siding, but I don't think anyone--aside, perhaps, from Code Enforcement Officer Peter Wurster--knows what they plan to replace it with or what color the new material will be.
Last Saturday, I had occasion to drive the length of Hudson Terrace, from north to south, and as I did, I contemplated what the buildings might look like with a different "skin" of a different color. Knowing that the renovations to the buildings were to begin this month, it occurred to me wonder if the plans for the exterior changes had been presented to the Historic Preservation Commission for a Certificate of Appropriateness. So I emailed the members of the HPC and asked.
A response came quite promptly from HPC chair, Tom Swope. Not surprisingly, Evergreen Partners has not presented their plans for substantive exterior changes to the Historic Preservation Commission, but, Swope reminded me, Wurster was the "gatekeeper," and it was his responsibility to refer projects requiring a Certificate of Appropriateness to the Historic Preservation Commission when his office receives an application for a building permit. Sadly, given Wurster's lack of sympathy with historic preservation, it is highly unlikely that it would ever occur to him to refer this project to the HPC. In 2005, Wurster allowed renovations to the facade of the C. H. Evans Firehouse (now The Spotty Dog) to begin without a Certificate of Appropriateness from the HPC and claimed that he didn't know that all the old firehouses had been designated local landmarks. In 2006, he issued a demolition permit for a historic building at 404 Warren Street without approval from the Historic Preservation Commission. In 2007, Wurster issued a building permit to replace the slate roof on 448 Warren Street without referring the project to the HPC. To expect Wurster to be a watchdog for historic preservation is a great mistake.
The Historic Preservation Commission needs to reach out to Evergreen Partners to let them know their obligations. The south half of Hudson Terrace is in a locally designated historic district, and all of the complex is visible from historic Promenade Hill. Hudson's preservation ordinance requires the Historic Preservation Commission to review and give a Certificate of Appropriateness to the substantive material changes that are about to be made to the exterior of the buildings--at the very least, those located in the south half of the complex.
It is not known what kind of siding will be used. The likely possibilities are new vinyl siding or Hardiplank, a fiber-cement siding. (Crosswinds is sided with Hardiplank.) Although it's possible to paint Hardiplank, very likely, if Hardiplank is used for Hudson Terrace, it will be the kind with the color already baked in. Although the our preservation law does not require a Certificate of Appropriateness for paint colors, on the assumption that paint color is temporary and makes no permanent impact, it does give the HPC approval authority over the color of materials used in any alternations to buildings in historic districts. To quote from Hudson's Historic Preservation Law (Paragraph 169.6 of the City of Hudson Code): "Any alteration of existing properties shall be compatible with their historic character, as well as with the surrounding district" (italics mine). One of the tests of compatiblility is: "Texture, materials, and color and their relation to similar features of other properties in the neighborhood."
In the case of Hudson Terrace, we need to encourage the Historic Preservation Commission to be proactive. This is a huge project with huge visual impacts on Hudson--our waterfront as well as our historic districts. It seems unlikely that the exterior work on the buildings will begin in the dead of winter, so there is still time for the Historic Preservation Commission to intervene and inform Evergreen Partners of their obligation under Hudson City Code, if indeed Peter Wurster has neglected to do so.
The Historic Preservation Commission meets this Friday, February 12, at 10 a.m. at City Hall.
I find a commonly used exterior siding for waterfronts, may they be oceans, lakes, or rivers is cedar shakes. They weather well, taking on a muted appearence of nature without screaming a color of conflict. Such a large expanse of buildings like the terraces would compliment the historic nature of Hudson if sided with the cedar shingles with white or gray trim indicative of other water properties.ReplyDelete
my 2 cent observation
Is the large Academy Hill housing project--visible from 9-G as you drive into Hudson, and from striaght ahead of you as you drive up Warren Street--part of the Rossman Avenue/Prospect Street Historic District? If so, did the developers go to the Historic Preservation Commission?ReplyDelete
Good questions, Ellen.ReplyDelete
I think, although I haven't confirmed the dates, that Phase 1 of the Mount Ray townhouses was underway before the Historic Preservation Commission was up and running, and I don't think that when they created the Rossman-Prospect Historic District, the HPC included the townhouses.
Also, I don't think anyone anticipated how visible those buildings would be--especially during leaf-off seasons.
How did 70 buildings within a National Register district get torn down in the first place? Lack of oversight from those in charge at the time? I grew up in a neighborhood w/ National Register designation where even paint color has to be approved. Hudson has a more practical, friendly stance on that point, but historic preservation absolutely requires vigilance.ReplyDelete
Agreed with Vincent! Cedar shakes and white trim would be beautiful and fitting on the riverfront.
How about the people who live at Hudson Terrace being given a chance to say what they'd like to see on the exterior of their homes?
The short answer to your first question is Urban Renewal. Forget lack of oversight. Those in charge at the time did it quite deliberately, bulldozing, in all, something like 54 acres on north side of town and building all that low-income housing.ReplyDelete
Being listed in the National Register of Historic Places is recognition, but it affords no real protection. To protect historic properties you need a local preservation law, and Hudson didn't have one until 2003.
Re: The cedar siding recommendation: Do you have any idea how expensive cedar siding is? An estimate for our 2300sf Claverack home was $30,000. The homes that you mention that use it are generally second/vacation homes of the affluent. I'm assuming that this renovation is on some kind of budget, let's be realistic here.ReplyDelete
How nice of you to post a turn of the century photograph of a building that was "torn" down to make it seem like an entire historic neighborhood was destroyed to put up low-income housing. Actually, if I recollect, this particular structure burned down in the late 50's. In fact, at the time when this area was bulldozed, most of the properties on the site were condemened, about to be condemened or otherwise inhabitable. This particular location was chosen for urban renewal because at the time the river smelled so bad no one wanted to live there and the smoke from freight trains was choking as train traffic was very heavy at the time. Most of the involved structures were firetraps with no running water or flush toilets. So... don't make it sound like "Historic Williamsburg" was torn down and replaced with Low-income housing. I was there.ReplyDelete
You're right. The picture I used was taken in the mid-19th century, but that building was still there in 1959 when the movie Odds Against Tomorrow was filmed in Hudson. It's visible in the scenes where Ed Begley is on Promenade Hill waiting for the bank heist to begin. So it probably was later than the late 1950s when it burned down.
According to my sources, the houses in Hudson without plumbing were not in the First or Second wards but in Simpsonville, because the water and sewer lines had not been extended to that area along Power Avenue.
You're right in your implication that I wasn't here during Urban Renewal in Hudson, but the fact is indisputable that 70 buildings in the Warren Street-Parade Hill-Front Street historic district whose architectural significance was recognized by the New York State Historic Preservation Office and included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 no longer existed in 1986.
Well I came to Hudson just before Urban Renewal began their demolition. There was a program at that time offering buildings to anyone with less than a $15 K / year income. The only buildings I found absolutely exciting historically were all to be leveled. Having just spent a month living in Historic Williamsburg the designated area most certainly reminded me of a northern version.ReplyDelete
Don't get me wrong...at the time a lot of structures of historical significance were taken down. However, in this particular area I can find maybe one or two that had any reputable history at all and if in fact they weren't taken down they would have fallen down anyway. So I can't say where in the City you moved to but the area of Hudson Terrace had no resemblance whatsoever to "Williamsburg". At least not in the 20th century on the west side of front street. All I remember was that this was considered the dirtiest area in the City filled with the smells of coal fired locomotives, and the open sewer of the Hudson River.ReplyDelete
Oh, also I understand that public water and sewer were available during this time period if you could afford to to be tied in to the system and a vast majority of the homeowners and or tenants down there could not.
some have eyes but cannot seeReplyDelete
-some will see but are afraid of the truth.ReplyDelete
With regard to Rossman Avenue/Prospect Avenue Historic District the Academy Hill townhouses (except for the original three) were not built at the time the district was designated and were not included within the district.ReplyDelete