Saturday, October 30, 2010

Contemplating Columbia

The discovery of this picture in the Hudson Area Library, which shows a Fourth of July parade coming down Columbia Street, probably in the 1930s, inspired new interest in Columbia Street. The first step was to confirm where this was taken, which wasn't difficult. The buildings in the picture are on the south side of Columbia Street just above Park Place.

Some buildings are missing at the east end of this streetscape today, and that fact got me thinking about how, of all the streets in Hudson, Columbia Street has suffered that greatest loss of historic architecture. At the lower end of Columbia, Urban Renewal took out the first two blocks and most of the north side of the 200 block. Above Third Street, many of the original buildings have been sacrificed to a different city-altering force: the demands of our autocentric society. The lost buildings on this stretch of Columbia Street are examples. Some were demolished, probably in the early 1940s, to build a gas station, now TJ Auto Service Center, and others to clear space for the St. Charles Hotel parking lot.

Near the top of Columbia Street, this house, where it is believed Martin Van Buren once had his law office, was demolished in 2000 or thereabout to create a parking lot for Columbia Memorial Hospital, and in 2003 or 2004, an Arts and Crafts bungalow, with what was reported to be remarkable interior woodwork, was demolished to make room for the hospital's parking garage. 

All along the south side of Columbia Street between Seventh and Fifth streets, buildings were demolished to clear space for municipal parking lots. One of those buildings had been the home of Hudson River School painter Sanford Gifford, which stood at the corner of Columbia and Sixth streets. The belvedere, added in 1870, was Sanford Gifford's studio, which he used when he was in Hudson.

In 1999, two buildings of some importance to Hudson history were demolished in the 300 block of Columbia Street to make way for the new (in 2003) county office building and the sea of parking lots that surrounds it. One, located on the south side of the street, was believed to be Hudson's earliest schoolhouse. The other, a residential building at 346-348 Columbia Street known as the "Chicken Shack" because a popular restaurant by that name had been located there in the 1940s, played an important role in the history of the African American community in Hudson.

Historic Hudson tried in vain to save both buildings. In the case of 346-348 Columbia Street, they made a formal proposal to the City of Hudson to acquire the building for the purpose of restoring it. The text of that proposal, which includes a history of the building and the chain of title, can be viewed here. Historic Hudson's commitment to restoring the building was earnest, but the City's willingness to entertain the possibility seems not to have been. The demolition of the building began--without benefit of a demolition permit--on the very afternoon that representatives of Historic Hudson were meeting with James Dolan, who was then executive director of HCDPA, and code enforcement officers to discuss Historic Hudson's plans for stabilizing the building. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Attention Insomniacs

If you have trouble sleeping tonight, agonizing over your costume for the Witches Ball or anticipating the excitement of Halloween in Hudson, AMC is showing Dragonwyck at 4 a.m. The movie is based on the 1944 novel by Anya Seton. Intrigue, mystery, passion, a disquieting Hudson River mansion, the Anti-rent Wars, steamboat racing on the Hudson--all the fervor of 1844 in Columbia County portrayed in a 1946 film.    

Hudson Celebrates Halloween!

If you have no fear of ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, Hudson is the place to be for Halloween!

The Hudson Halloween experience starts with a Halloween Ghost Walk, from 7 to 9 p.m. on Saturday night, conducted by the Hudson Paranormal Group. (Yes, we're talking actual ghosts.) The fee is $5. Participants, who must 18 or older, are asked to bring a flashlight and a camera and to meet in front of 210 Allen Street. For more information, call 828-1119.

At 9 p.m., Musty Chiffon and the Red Dot present the Witches Ball at the Cannonball Factory, 361 Columbia Street. Music, dancing, and tout le monde decked out in costumes ranging from the fabulous to the outrageous! There's a contest for the best costume--with cash prizes--and the winners will be announced at midnight. Admission is $20; only cash is accepted. Proceeds go to the Valley Alliance's Save the South Bay Project.

After the ball is over, go home and get a good night's sleep so you'll be ready for the Ghostly Gallop on Sunday morning. It's the annual 5K race and community walk to benefit the Hudson Area Library. The entry fee is $20. As usual, all participants get a long-sleeved T-shirt, which this year features a new design by Arlene Boehm. The race begins at 9 a.m. in front of the library at 400 State Street. There's still time to register for the race. Check the library website for details.    

And there's more! On Friday, November 5, the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus and Walking the dog Theater collaborate to present GhostWALK--ghost stories written by local teens performed by local teen actors in the historic buildings of Hudson. The event begins at the Cannonball Factory. Admisssion is $5. The box office opens at 5:30 p.m. The first tour leaves at 6 p.m. Check the GhostWALK website for details.   

Washington Hose

The restoration of the Washington Hose firehouse is going to cost more than the $300,000 currently committed to the project. This situation, which was discussed at the Common Council Economic Development Committee meeting on Tuesday night, was reported in this morning's Register-Star: "City faces $387k shortfall for Washington Hose." 

At the meeting, Peter Markou, executive director of HDC, explained that the total cost had been estimated at between $550,000 and $580,000, and they'd applied for a Main Street grant for $250,000 to make up the difference. Unfortunately, the grant application was not successful, and the lowest responsible bid, from Hoosick Valley Contractors, totaled $687,645. Markou said he would ask the HDC board to commit another $37,000 to the project and was asking the City to provide the remaining money from the fund balance.

Markou, Mayor Rick Scalera, and Common Council President Don Moore are united in their support of the project, and the members of the Economic Development Committee present on Tuesday night--Sarah Sterling, Ellen Thurston, and Abdus Miah--voted unanimously to move the resolution to appropriate the funds forward.

As reported by Lindsay Suchow, I raised a question at the meeting about the comparative cost of repairing the old wood windows and replacing them. Unfortunately, I phrased the question as if I were expecting to be told that replacing the windows would be more cost effective than repairing them, which in projects like this is usually the justification for consigning wood windows to a landfill. The report makes it sound as if this were the case, but it's not. The truth is that repairing the wood windows will cost significantly less than replacing them. According to the bid submitted by Hoosick Valley Contractors, repairing the windows will cost $13,500; replacing them will cost $40,000. Dan Proper, from Crawford Associates, pointed out at the meeting that the windows weren't the "original" windows, which may well be the case. Obviously, the two arched windows at the front of the building aren't "original" windows, since those openings weren't originally windows but engine bays. Still, all the windows at Washington Hose are undoubtedly pre-World War II, which makes their construction and the materials used superior to anything that would replace them.     

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

No Costumes Required

If you're wondering what you can do this weekend that doesn't require an elaborate costume, Club Helsinki has two offerings that fit the bill.

Howard Fishman performs on Friday night. The New York Times said, "Howard Fishman has a fondness for old things and a knack for restoring them"--a description which, in a city where most people are fond of old things and appreciate skillful restoration, is a compelling recommendation.        

On Sunday night,  after you've doled out the candy and hung up the costume, you can reward yourself with the whimsy, imagination, and intelligence of Tin Hat. The New Yorker says of Tin Hat, "Their haunting and strangely familiar music . . . is a soundtrack for the kind of puzzling dream that leaves you sitting awake in the middle of the night." 

Friday's performance begins at 9 p.m.; Sunday's at 8 p.m.  Order tickets at the Club Helsinki website

Back on Track

This is off the Gossips beat, but for those of you following the struggle over Alan Wilzig's mile-long track in Taghkanic, Sam Pratt has an update over at his blog: "Judge to Wilzig: Pave at Your Own Risk."

Greek Revival Architecture in Hudson

In 1944, Talbot Hamlin, architectural historian and professor of architectural theory at Columbia University, published a book entitled Greek Revival Architecture in America: Being an Account of Important Trends in American Architecture and American Life Prior to the War Between the States.

In the Foreword to the book, Leopold Arnaud, Dean of the School of Architecture at Columbia, had this to say about Greek Revival architecture and the era that produced it: "The period called 'Greek Revival,' extending roughly from 1820 to 1860, might more fittingly be called 'Middle American,' because at this time the young nation had gained its feet and was striding forward with conscious vigor and confidence. . . . There was . . . a conscious separation from Europe and a fierce will to be American. . . . [T]he word 'Revival' is an unfortunate misnomer, for this style was only a revival in that its decorative vocabulary was based upon classic Greek detail. In all other respects it was typically of America. Never before and since has there been less influence from Europe."

Hamlin's book is a comprehensive study of Greek Revival architecture throughout the pre-Civil War United States, and two of the exemplary buildings featured in the book were located right here in Hudson: the Collier House, which still exists on the corner of Partition and South Second streets, and the General Worth Hotel, which no longer exists. These pictures are reproduced from the book.

Greek Revival Architecture in America was originally published by Oxford University Press.  A Dover edition of the book was published in 1964 and is available from the Hudson Area Library.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Word from Greenport

O&G did not show up at the Greenport Planning Board tonight, and they did not notify Planning Board Chair Don Alger of their intention to stay away. Those who waited through an hour of the Board reviewing subdivisions, signage, and Tractor Supply's plan to refill propane canisters on its premises were rewarded for their endurance when Planning Board counsel Carl Whitbeck explained the current state of things. 

The Greenport Planning Board has sent a letter to O&G informing them that no further action will be taken on their application until they have submitted and have an application pending with the City of Hudson Planning Commission or they make it clear that they do not intend to make such an application. The letter gives O&G sixty days to comply, but it's not known when the letter was sent and when the clock started on the sixty-day deadline.

The next meeting of the Hudson Planning Commission is scheduled for Wednesday, November 10.

TONIGHT in Greenport

The Greenport Planning Board will resume the public hearing on O&G's application to create a haul road for gravel trucks which would follow the old railbed from the quarry, across Route 9, through a wetland, to Route 9G, where it would cross 9G and link up with the proposed haul road over the "causeway" through the South Bay to the river.

The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at Greenport Town Hall. 

A Tale of Ardent Love and Architecture

This is the Captain John Hathaway House, which stood in the 300 block of Warren Street, where the Hudson Supermarket is now located. It was demolished in the 1930s, after suffering the indignity of being turned into a garage and car dealership. With the General Worth Hotel, it is one of the most regrettable of Hudson's architectural losses.

The house plays a role in this story, told in Anna Bradbury's History of the City of Hudson (1908). The young man in the tale, Lieutenant Theophilus E. Beekman, came to Hudson as a recruiting officer during the War of 1812. The barracks referred to were located in the lower part of the Masonic Lodge at the corner of Third and Union, in a building constructed in 1796, which preceded the present St. John's Hall.  

It was this service that first brought Mr. Beekman to this city, of which he became one of the most prominent citizens. During a row among the soldiers in the barracks which he was endeavoring to quell, he received an injury for which he afterward drew a pension.

If the truth may be told, we fear the dashing Lieutenant did not regret that disabling wound so deeply as he ought, having surrendered to the captivating charms of the pretty daughter of Captain John Hathaway.

For some unexplained reason Captain Hathaway refused his consent to their marriage, and the ardent lovers eloped. After their return they sought parental forgiveness, but in vain, the irate father was obdurate, so they took rooms at No. 253 Warren Street, from whence the weeping bride could look with tear-dimmed eyes across to her beloved home, which seemed closed to her forever.
Captain Hathaway 's residence at No. 310 Warren street was well-known for many years as the Beekman house, and was highly prized as one of our choicest survivals of the Colonial period, but it was recently metamorphosed into something new and strange.

In a short time the Captain relented and the young couple were taken home, where "they lived happily ever after."

Monday, October 25, 2010

UPDATE: 226-228 Warren Street

At last report, Code Enforcement Officer Peter Wurster and Historic Preservation Chair Tom Swope had met with the owner and the contractor at 226-228 Warren Street and devised a way to bring the building into conformity with the plans that had been approved by the HPC. The remedy involves removing the roofs on the box windows, which had not been approved by the HPC, and adding a crown molding or cornice, which had been approved. According to Wurster, the end result will be a facade that is similar in appearance to the facade on 224 Warrren Street next door. 

NOTE: I need to correct the previous paragraph and my previous post. In an email, Peter Wurster told me that he had spoken with Tom Swope, the contractor, and the owner. Foolishly and erroneously, I took that to mean that they had all been together in one place. What in fact happened, as Tom Swope has clarified in a comment and in a phone call to me, was that Wurster spoke with the contractor and the owner and reported the outcome to Swope. My apologies for misrepresenting that communication.  

After studying the two buildings, it's not entirely clear how that similarity can be achieved. The problem may be that it is not possible to cobble together prefabricated elements, such as never existed in the 19th century, to make something that looks authentic and in character with the rest of the street.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Memories of the Day Liners

The picture of the Alexander Hamilton published yesterday inspired some readers to share their memories of the steamboat and of the day liners that carried passengers up and down the Hudson River. A couple people identified the location of the dock. The steamboats of the Hudson River Day Line docked where the Hudson Power Boat Association is now located. The building that the HPBA uses as its clubhouse housed the ticket office and waiting room for the day line as well as for the Hudson-Athens ferry, which used the adjacent slip.

Joan Davidson remembered being on the penultimate voyage of the Alexander Hamilton with Robert Kennedy during his campaign to become U.S. Senator from New York in 1964. On that occasion, the Alexander Hamilton made a round trip from New York City to Bear Mountain. Davidson recalls that Pete Seeger may also have been along on that excursion and sang.

Charles Hallenbeck, who grew up in Hudson and returned here after retiring from an academic career, offered these two stories, which I share, with his permission, just he told them to me:
In 1940 or 1941, when I was 10 or 11, I had a cousin close to my age named Edward Charles H. (I was Charles Edward H.) whose family lived on Allen Street not far from your residence. Although we were cousins, we played in different cohorts, based on neighborhoods rather than kinship. Eddie was among a group of kids who swam in the river, and were rewarded for doing so by Day Boat passengers, who tossed coins to the kids in the water. They dove to retrieve the coins, emerging victoriously, showing the coins to everyone's delight. Except Eddie did not come up on one occasion. He was caught in a strong undertow, and his body was discovered several days later and several miles downriver. It was a curious sport, and in that instance, a deadly one.

A couple of years later, it was a sign of early teen independence to take a Day Boat south from Hudson, debarking at Kingston Point, where a very attractive park and picnic facility was a popular place to enjoy a lunch, usually brought from home. The boat we took originated in Albany, and terminated at the end of the day in New York. It made the Hudson stop about 10:00, and arrived at Kingston between 11:00 and 12:00, as I recall. Meanwhile, a second boat originated in New York, arriving at Kingston in mid-afternoon, and brought us back to Hudson soon after, thence terminating in Albany. It was "junior high" years for us, and being somewhat retarded by today's standards, we were just beginning to notice each other, the boys and the girls. Of course that added to the potential of those unsupervised independent outings. But imagine our distress to find that upon arriving at Kingston Point, where who knew what adventures awaited us, what we saw were numerous huge trash containers scattered here and there around the area, carrying huge bold lettering, which said: REFUSE. That hardly seemed fair, since we only knew that word to be pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable, not the first. So many things were filled with special meaning in those days, or at that age, usually keeping us all in tight reins. Well, there would always be high school.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hudson and DSS

When the county wanted to move the Department of Social Services to Ockawamick, Hudson officials and vocal opponents of the plan argued that the services need to be where the people who need them are. When DSS wanted to create a homeless shelter in Hudson, the county argued that homeless people need to be where the services are. 

There still appears to be no resolution about the future location of DSS, although it seems to be narrowed down to someplace in Hudson. Meanwhile, DSS seems eager to implement the recommendations of a recent efficiency study, even before a study by CARES, Inc., meant to create a ten-year plan to end homelessness in Columbia County, has been completed. 

On Wednesday, the Register-Star reported that the county had located two apartments in Hudson and were beginning to implement the efficiency study's recommendation that the "motel model" for housing the homeless be replaced by "congregate housing": "DSS takes first step toward congregate homeless housing." Today the Register-Star reports the reaction of City of Hudson officials--Mayor Rick Scalera, Council President Don Moore, Fourth Ward Supervisor Bill Hughes, and Second Ward Supervisor Ed Cross--to the plan to house eight homeless men in two apartments leased by the county in Hudson: "City officials take issue [with] homeless decision."    

Hudson River Day Line

After reading "Port of Call," a reader questioned the notion that there was no place for small cruise ships to dock in Hudson, pointing out that the steamboats of the Hudson River Day Line stopped regularly in Hudson, right up until the mid-1950s. These were boats of significant size. Where did they dock? Why isn't that space available anymore?

The Hudson River Day Line provided passenger service between New York City and Albany. This picture, found in A Pictorial History of Columbia County published a few years ago by Hudson-Catskill Newspapers, shows one of these steamboats, the Alexander Hamilton, docked in Hudson. The Alexander Hamilton became part of the Hudson River Day Line fleet, "the largest and most elegant fleet of steamboats on the Hudson," in 1924.    

If any readers know where exactly this dock was located on the Hudson waterfront, please satisfy our curiosity and share that information in a comment.     

Friday, October 22, 2010

Port of Call

Rumor has it that there's an American Cruise Lines ship docked in Catskill again. It turns out that Catskill alternates with Kingston as one of the ports of call on an eight-day/seven-night cruise on the Hudson River that begins and ends in New York City. One of the planned shore excursions when in Catskill is coming across the river to visit Olana, which raises the question: Why not dock in Hudson? The obvious answer, of course, is that there's no place for a cruise ship like this to dock in Hudson.

Last Tuesday, the Common Council may have taken action to change that when they approved a resolution to appropriate money for a docks project on our waterfront. The project will expand the City dock, where the Spirit of Hudson is moored, to twice its current size, presumably making room for small cruise ships like the ones used by American Cruise Lines, and will create docks for 20 to 25 small boatskayaks and other small craft known as "car-toppers"to tie up in the old ferry slips in Henry Hudson Riverfront Park. The City has $250,000 in grant money for the project. The resolution authorized $250,000 in loans (the money must spent and then reimbursed) and appropriated $76,000 from the fund balance to finance the project, which will cost a total of $326,000.

The resolution was introduced at the regular meeting of the Common Council by Council President Don Moore, and the Council was asked to vote on it that night. (Typically, a resolution is introduced at the informal meeting of the Council and voted on at the regular meeting, giving the aldermen a week to consider what's proposed in the resolution before having to vote on it.) Before the vote, there was a question and some misgiving. Alderman Geeta Cheddie (First Ward) wanted to know if the project was part of the LWRP. She was told that although the project is not specifically outlined in the LWRP, it is in conformity with the expressed goals of the document. Alderman Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward) said she didn't want to vote on the resolution without hearing from the treasurer. She was assured that, although not present at the meeting, Eileen Halloran was fully aware of the project and supported the expenditure. In the end, the Council voted unanimously to pass the resolution.

The urgency about passing the resolution, it seems, was because City government wants to begin construction on the docks in the slips this year. Mayor Rick Scalera explained that the structural supportsthe piers that go into the riprap and the arms that extend out into the slipwill be installed this year. The actual docks will be purchased next year and "snapped into place" in the spring. There was no information about the schedule for expanding the city dock.

The question is: How will luxury cruise ships and recreational craft like docking in close proximity to the barges being loaded up with tons of gravel at the Holcim dock, right at the park's southern edge?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What's in a Name?

There's an article in today's Register-Star about the film festival happening in Hudson on Saturday: "Basilica Hudson kicks off film fest." Along with information about the film festival, the article announces a change of name for this unique performance and art space: Basilica Industria becomes Basilica Hudson . . . or does it?

Reporter John Mason seems a little uncertain about names--at least when it comes to the names of the owners of the space. He calls Tony Stone Tony Scott and Bill Stone Bill Scott for more than half the piece until he finally gets it right toward the end. The challenging name in the quartet of owners--Melissa Auf der Maur--he gets right every time. To be clear: the older generation are Bill Stone and Nancy Barber; the younger generation Tony Stone and Melissa Auf der Maur.

For those who want to attend the experimental film festival at Basilica Hudson but don't want to miss Aspern Papers, the new film by Hudson filmmaker Isabel Barton and her daughter Marianna Hellmund, which is making its U.S. premiere at FilmColumbia in Chatham on Saturday, no worries. Aspern Papers, based on the novel by Henry James, is being screened at 5 p.m. and runs for 84 minutes, which leaves ample time to get back to Hudson for the films at Basilica Hudson. The doors open at the Basilica at 7 p.m. The first program is at 8 p.m., the second at 9:30.      

The Documents in the Case: The General Worth Hotel, Part III

On his blog, Sam Pratt quoted part of Ada Louise Huxtable's comments about the demise of the General Worth Hotel from her 1976 book Kicked a Building Lately?, but it's worth doing it again here. What she had to say about Hudson and the General Worth appears in a section called "Goodbye History, Hello Hamburger," in a chapter entitled "Failures." 

Usually landmarks are demolished for parking lots. . . . This is one of the most popular sports in cities. Urban renewal has drawn its demolition lines around uncounted (has anyone ever counted?) historic buildings and districts. Waterfronts, Federal survivals, Greek Revival enclaves, anything that has meaning in terms of the history, style, or sense of place of American communities is x-ed out first as the oldest, shabbiest, and easiest to demolish. . . .

In Hudson, New York, the same kind of senseless urban renewal plan claimed the 1837 Greek Revival General Worth Hotel. The Hudson YWCA was willing to take over the building and the Hudson River Valley Commission, the State Historical Trust, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation urged that it be saved. But political heads prevailed and Hudson demolished its National Register property. Ready for the biggest gag of all? Read it in the Hudson Register-Star:

"A modern Dairy-Queen Drive-In will be constructed on the site of the historic General Worth Hotel that fell victim to the bulldozers last year. The Common Council in special session voted to sell the site for $1,700. Council President Thomas Quigley said the purchase 'was a step in the right direction to develop downtown Hudson.'"

America the beautiful,
Let me sing of thee;
Burger King and Dairy Queen
From sea to shining sea.
March 31, 1971
Curiously, the Dairy Queen that was to be the engine of redevelopment in downtown Hudson ended up being built on Green Street, and after decades of being used for different purposes--a pharmacy, part of a car dealership--the building recently returned to its roots and became a local version of a Dairy Queen: Davi's Delights, owned by the last franchise owner of the Dairy Queen. Fortunately, a Burger King was never built in Hudson. That went to Greenport.

On the subject of Hudson demolishing its National Register properties, in 1970 the Front Street-Parade Hill-Lower Warren Street Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places. At that time, it included 95 buildings. In 1985 the boundaries of the district were decreased. The newly defined district contained only 25 buildings. The other 70 buildings had been lost to the bulldozers.

The picture above shows the General Worth Hotel in 1937, when it was a hundred years old. The quotation is from Ada Louise Huxtable, Kicked a Building Lately? (New York: Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1976), which is available through interlibrary loan at the Hudson Area Library.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Highlights from Catwalk

Last night's fashion show and auction at Club Helsinki to benefit Animalkind was dazzling! For those who remember that far back, it was the return of the Glad Rag Revue. It's truly awesome to consider how much talent has found its way to our two square miles. These pictures show some of the highlights of the evening.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

UPDATE: 226-228 Warren Street

Gossips has learned from Code Enforcement Officer Peter Wurster that he and Tom Swope, chair of the Historic Preservation Commission, met this morning with the builder working at 226-228 Warren Street and the building owner. As an outcome of the meeting, the roofs over the box windows will be removed and replaced with the crown molding that was approved by the Historic Preservation Commission. This will extend over the doors, as shown in the original elevation drawing, and will, according to Wurster, be similar in appearance to what is on the facade of 224 Warren Street. The box windows themselves will remain. As of today, no stop work order has been issued.

One problem with this resolution seems to be that the drawing shows no gap between the windows and the doors at the left and right of the building (and there is none between the windows and the door at 224 Warren), but in reality there is more than a foot between the box windows and the doors that are to share the same crown molding treatment.

The Documents in the Case: The General Worth Hotel, Part II

In a comment here and on his own blog, Sam Pratt pointed out that esteemed architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable had more than once written about the General Worth Hotel. What follows is an excerpt from an article entitled "The Bucolic Bulldozer," which appeared in the New York Times on September 14, 1969, the day before the public hearing in Hudson on the demolition of the General Worth:
Anyone who wants to can add bulldozer-watching to foliage-watching this fall. If you're in the vicinity of Hudson, N.Y., this weekend, for example, you might warm up by attending the Sept. 15 hearing of the Hudson River Valley Commission. It has been called, with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the New York State Trust and the Historic American Buildings Survey as interested parties, to consider the impending demolition of Hudson's General Worth Hotel.

This classical building, erected as the Hudson Hotel in 1837, is illustrated in Talbot Hamlin's definitive work on The Greek Revival in America. It is on the National Register, a landmark listing maintained by the Department of the Interior that represents the ultimate attestation of a building's historical or architectural value. It has been abandoned for the past six years and the city of Hudson plans to tear it down.

Hudson is a historic town caught typically in the dilemma of renewal. Laid out in the 18th century with a rare riverfront park, it was built substantially and beautifully in early 19th-century styles. Many of these buildings still stand. Some are beyond salvation, their ruin accelerated by slumlord abuse. . . . The hotel will go, not for new construction, however, but merely as spot clearance. It is part of a sadly deteriorated 19th-century block that the city wants to raze as a fire hazard, and, curiously enough, Federal funds will pay two-thirds of the demolition cost.   
Fortunately, given Huxtable's account of the City's intentions back in 1969, the General Worth Hotel and the building that was once the Elks Lodge are the only buildings missing from the 200 block of Warren Street. Curiously, given the concern in 1969 about the buildings in that block being fire hazards, it was a fire in the late 1990s that destroyed the inappropriate little commercial building constructed in the 1970s on the site of the General Worth. The building that now occupies the space--the location of Hudson Electrical Supply--was designed to be compatible with the historic streetscape and to pay homage to its noble predecessor. 
Before the General Worth was demolished, it was documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey. The picture above is from that collection. The rest can be viewed at the Library of Congress website.

Monday, October 18, 2010

226-228 Warren Street

Rumor has it that the chair of the Historic Preservation Commission thinks that the plans submitted and approved by the HPC for this project are being adhered to.

Judge for yourself.

The Documents in the Case: The General Worth Hotel, Part I

The demolition of the General Worth Hotel forty years ago continues to fascinate. The hotel is mentioned, although not by name, in Henry James’s The American Scene. Its demolition is the historic event at the center of the novel The Spirit of the Place, by Hudson native son Stephen Bergman, writing as Samuel Shem. It should have been Hudson’s Penn Station, but it wasn’t. Instead its demise was the beginning of an orgy of demolition and rebuilding in Hudson that altered forever the area around Promenade Hill and more than fifty acres in the Second Ward.  

Gossips recently discovered two newspaper articles from the fall of 1969. Their discovery is the beginning of an investigation of what was reported in the press about the controversy over the demolition of the General Worth. The Hudson River Valley Commission, which is mentioned in both articles, was a precursor of the Hudson River Valley Greenway—a state entity focused on the environmental and physical needs of the Hudson Valley—which existed in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Schenectady Gazette, September 10, 1969

Hudson Hearing Set on Razing Old Hotel

ALBANY (UPI)—The Hudson Valley Commission will hold a public hearing Sept. 15 in Hudson to determine whether the historic General Worth Hotel can be preserved.

The General Worth was built in 1837 and was the center of the city’s social and cultural life in the mid 19th century, when Hudson was a major river port. The hotel was closed six years ago and city officials want to demolish it.

Kingston Daily Freeman, October 10, 1969

Would Preserve Hudson Hotel

HUDSON—The Hudson River Valley Commission today urged that the City of Hudson, Columbia County, abandon its plan to demolish the historic General Worth Hotel, and, instead, recommended that the City or interested civic groups take advantage of Federal and State programs to renovate the building for present day community needs.

The Commission announced its findings on the importance of the General Worth Hotel following an extended review of the proposed demolition, including a public hearing held Sept. 15 in Hudson.

HRVC Chairman Fergus Reid III, who made the announcement, said that “the Commission finds that the General Worth Hotel is an historic resource of importance to the nation as well as to the citizens of this Hudson River Valley,” and described the 1837 building as “a building of prime importance as a rare example of a Greek Revival hotel, one of the earliest remaining prototypes of the urban hotel in America.”