Saturday, October 9, 2010

Window Wars

In 2006, the Preservation League of New York State included "Original & Historic Wood Windows" on its Seven to Save Endangered Properties List. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Certified Local Government Program advocates for the preservation of original and historic wood windows. The National Trust for Historic Preservation supports repairing historic windows instead of replacing them, warning that "once original material is removed from a building, it is gone forever." A collection of articles arguing for the preservation of old wood windows, assembled by the Northeast Chapter of the Association for Preservation Technology, is available online. Still the message that "window restoration has proven favorable over window replacement in terms of architectural integrity and aesthetics, energy efficiency, sustainability, durability, and long term, material life span economics" * seems not yet to have reached Hudson.

Applications to replace historic windows with replacement windows of varying levels of quality come before the Historic Preservation Commission all the time. At the HPC's October meeting on Friday, October 7, there were two such applications: one from the owner of the St. Charles Hotel; the other from the current owner of the former Maxie's on South Front Street. The application for the St. Charles Hotel was deemed incomplete. The applicant was asked to provide the missing information and return in November. The application for 22 South Front Street was complete, but it presented several problems. 

First, the HPC discussed whether or not they should consider the application when neither the applicant nor a representative of the applicant was present. During the course of this discussion, it was revealed that the applicant had, without obtaining a certificate of appropriateness from the HPC, gone ahead and purchased vinyl replacement windows and that 90 percent of them had already been installed. A stop work order has been issued by Code Enforcement Officer Peter Wurster until the applicant comes before the HPC and a certificate of appropriateness is granted or denied. 

The building, which was purchased by Peter Schram last summer, is currently owned by Andy King, who plans, we've been told, to open a "nautical-themed" restaurant there. Schram, although no longer the owner of record, holds the mortgage on the building and is overseeing the renovations. Peter Wurster, who was at the meeting on Friday, explained that he had advised King that a building permit would not be required for interior alterations so long as no structural changes were involved but had cautioned him that any exterior alterations would require a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission.

More than an hour into the meeting, when the HPC had decided that they could not consider an application unless the applicant was present, Peter Schram arrived. The discussion began with HPC architect member Jane Smith informing Schram that vinyl windows were not in keeping with the historic character of the building and were not acceptable. Other members of the HPC pointed out that their decisions were based on the Secretary of the Interior's Guidelines for Treatment of Historic Properties, and the guidelines specify, in order of acceptability, repairing the existing windows; when that is impossible, replacing them with wood windows that replicate the originals; when that is impossible because of cost constraints, replacing the existing windows metal-clad windows that imitate the originals.  

Schram argued that the windows had already been purchased and most of them had been installed. He pointed out that Andy King had talked with HPC chair Tom Swope in the spring, and Swope had given him "advice" which he took to be approval of his plans for the windows. Schram called it a "misunderstanding" and said it was "not intentionally done." 

Swope explained that he had not given approval to King, that no individual member of the HPC could give approval, and that a formal application and review by the HPC was required for a certificate of appropriateness. He then, however, expressed his opinion that "these windows are actually pretty all right." When another member of the HPC suggested a way that the HPC might be able to grant a certificate of appropriateness to the already installed windows, HPC member Tony Thompson asked, "Is this what we're going to do in the future? If people go ahead and do things, pretending they didn't know, are we going to try to shoehorn things?" When Swope said, "We have to consider our role in economic development," he was told by other members of the HPC that such a consideration was irrelevant and not in the purview of the Historic Preservation Commission.

In the end, it was decided that the members of the HPC would, before the November meeting, go to the site and look at the windows, and at the November meeting they would decide whether or not to grant a certificate of appropriateness. HPC counsel Cheryl Roberts told Schram that the project was currently in violation of city code because work had been done without a certificate of appropriateness and described two courses of action that would be open to him if the HPC denied a certificate of appropriateness: he could apply for a hardship variance as prescribed by Hudson's historic preservation law, or he could appeal to the Common Council. 

1 comment:

  1. inch by inch - step by step - Hudson looses - and we all loose what first was the inspiration that attracted us - as it all melts into blaige