Tuesday, October 19, 2010

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.

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