Monday, December 6, 2010

All in the Family

We haven't heard much lately about the plans to demolish Bliss Towers and replace it with "scattered site" housing. The topic may resurface soon though, because the application to the Division of Housing and Community Renewal is due at the beginning of February. In the meantime, Gossips discovered these pictures, published in the Register-Star on April 30, 1974, and related to the question of Bliss Towers’ future, in the History Room at the Hudson Area Library.

This picture was accompanied by a caption headed "'First' House Last to Go." The house in the picture belonged to a family named First and stood at 12 Chapel Street, a street that, along with all the houses on it, was obliterated by Urban Renewal. (Chapel Street ran between and parallel to Columbia and State streets, from Second Street to Front Street and continued west of Front.)

This picture shows members of the First family gathered on the front steps of the house, while a bulldozer stands at the ready. At the center of the group, standing and wearing a hard hat, is Walter First, one of six siblings who grew up in the house. The woman beside him is his mother, who was then 83 and had lived in the house for fifty years. Ironically--or "fittingly" as the Register-Star put it at the time--Walter First "had the duty of removing forever the family homestead and street of his boyhood." Walter was the president of Keil Contracting Corp., which was under contract with the Hudson Urban Renewal Agency to demolish “all the street’s buildings, removing sidewalks, pavements, and curbing, and regrading the site in preparation for future development.” 

Part of the “future development,” of course, was Bliss Towers, and seated on the steps at the far left, also wearing a hard hat, is none other than Jeffrey First, now the executive director of the Hudson Housing Authority, who manages Bliss Towers and is currently contemplating leveling the site once again.

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