Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Morning at the HPC

After sitting through three hours of deliberation, as the Historic Preservation Commission reviewed the applications for five certificates of appropriateness, I got a chance to ask if the Commission intended to contact Evergreen Partners Housing to inform them that half of Hudson Terrace is in a locally designated historic district and their proposed changes to the exterior of the buildings needed to be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission. The question was addressed to the chair, Tom Swope, who answered succinctly, "No." My next question--"Why not?"--was echoed by some of the commission members, among them Tony Thompson. Swope conceded that he would inform Code Enforcement Officer Peter Wurster that the Hudson Terrace project needed to come before the HPC, although apparently he hasn't done so yet, but that was all he would to do. At this point, City Attorney Cheryl Roberts, who has been assigned to the HPC, pointed out that the Historic Preservation Commission has no enforcement power, therefore, any communication to Evergreen Partners regarding their obligations under city code must come either from the code enforcement officer or from a city attorney. Of course, this doesn't preclude someone unofficially contacting Charlie Allen of Evergreen Partners, who presented the project to the Common Council, and letting him know the requirement of city code and the expectation of the community.

A few other things happened at the HPC meeting that are of interest. Joe Fierro, the new owner of Rogers Hose Firehouse, was there to get final approval for his plans for the facade of the building. Fiero is planning to open a barbecue restaurant called American Glory in the building. The metal overhead door on the truck bay is being replaced with sixteen-pane wooden doors that fold and open left and right. The plan, as Fiero described it, is to keep the doors open as much as possible and to install an "air curtain" so they can be open even in winter. Fiero's application was approved, with a recommendation about the appropriate finish on the wooden doors. American Glory is scheduled to open in May.

Kevin Walker was also there with two applications from the Galvan Group: 211 Union Street, General William Jenkins Worth's birthplace, and 260 Warren Street, on the northwest corner of Third and Warren. For 211 Union Street, there were concerns about the plans to use asphalt shingles on the roof and to install louvered shutters. The commission requested revised elevation drawings and historic photographs of the building and expressed its intention to revisit the shingles and shutters.

Walker has appeared before the Historic Preservation Commission several times before with plans for 260 Warren Street. (The two pictures here show the building in the 1930s and in more recent years, before the French doors were removed and the openings boarded up.) In the past, Walker has received conditional approval for work that was never done and went ahead with work that had not been approved--for example, removing all the French doors from the storefront of the building. (It was during one of these earlier appearances that Walker explained that he would like to replace the marble pilasters on the building with new marble because "the owner of the building doesn't like old things.")

Yesterday Walker was back seeking approval for three things: replacing the missing French doors on the Warren Street facade with stationery plate-glass windows; installing an awning; moving the entrance to the storefront to Third Street and installing a handicapped ramp. The trade off for replacing the French doors with fixed display windows was the promise to store the doors in the cellar and leave the frames unchanged so that some future owner could someday reinstall them. In the past, the Historic Preservation Commission has maintained that the original French doors were a significant historic component of the building, and the HPC has not altered its position. The application Walker presented yesterday was denied with the following comments: (1) the original doors should be restored to the building or new doors proposed that are highly reflective of the original doors and their character; (2) the awnings proposed do not reflect the historic character of the building; (3) the railing proposed for the handicapped ramp does not reflect the historic character of the building.


  1. It seemed the moment that the Worth House was purchased, down came the historic plaque from its front wall. Perhaps it's being refurbished, or maybe it's just "old." There's probably a very good reason, but what interesting things they must have in their several basements!

    T. O'Connor

  2. Like the pair of delicious porticos that disappeared overnight on their building at the corner of Warren and 2nd st. - I wouldn't be surprised if the doors of 206 were gone with the wind too. Why buy architecturally interesting buildings then remove the parts of interest to make them bland ?

  3. In spite of what Counsel Cheryl Roberts says about contacting the present owners of Hudson Terrace, it seems a friendly gesture, on the part of the Hudson Preservation Commission to simply send a letter to each property owner in the historic districts to inform them that their buildings are included in the district (which should make them proud) and what inclusion means. Wouldn't it solve a lot of problems if property owners knew they could come before the Commission to get advice, or simply to discuss their plans and find out what might be expected of them in an application? This is crazy. Property owners should be told what their responsibilities are before they start renovations.

  4. Its me again. I just wanted to add that Ms. Roberts is approaching this as an enforcement issue. I am approaching it as an information issue. Just informing them that they are expected to come to the Preservation Commission to explain their plans is not enforcing is it?

    --Ellen Thurston