Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jane's Walk: Site 15

Before leaving Washington Park, let's consider a building that seems a little underappreciated these days--at least by the people responsible for its care and keeping: the Hudson Post Office. 

The post office was constructed in 1909, not long after the Warren and Wetmore courthouse was completed. James Knox Taylor, who from 1897 to 1912 was Supervising Architect of the United States Department of the Treasury, is credited ex officio as the architect.  

The brick building has a marble Doric portico on the south facade, a marble balustrade, and marble trim. The addition on the east side of the building was added in 1938, probably very soon after this picture, which is dated 1938, was taken. 

Another addition was made to the building in 1938: the sculptural relief on the north wall of the lobby, surrounding to the entrance to the post master's office. The relief is the work of Vincent Glinsky and features the explorer Henry Hudson. 

Since 1988, the post office building has been individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  


  1. I really don't 'get' the 'country landscaping' with railroad ties surrounding this classic city structure!

  2. A very interesting structure. You can read an architectural description and summaries of the history and significance from the NRHP nomination form here:


  3. Thanks, Ward, for providing that link.

  4. I have never seen an old photo of the post office before.
    What stands out first is that the semicircular windows are all blocked.
    That is a shame.Also the cautionary tale of how ADA compliance can be handled.
    There is no easy answer,but it makes me worry for the Court House.
    Thanks to the link that Ward Hamilton supplied to
    National Register of Historic Places inventory-nomination form;
    One of the most interesting things to me of many ,is the history of the sculpture.
    Also it's an aspect of the history of the depression,the New Deal and the WPA public arts projects ,I had never known about.
    I have spent a lot of time in the Post Office while waiting,staring at that relief.
    It was so reminiscent of some of the WPA arts projects that survived the Communist witch hunt of McCarthyism in the 1950's.I always wondered how it got there. This is what's written on the NRHP form.
    "Cast stone sculpture surrounding the door to the post masters office Entitled the
    " Evolution of Transportation" it was executed in 1938 by Vincent Glinski assisted by Leo Schulemowitz.The sculpture was commissioned by the Treasury Department's
    Treasury Relief Art Project.
    This program,which existed between 1935 and 1939,sponsored 23 murals and sculptures for public buildings in NYS,15 were for post offices.The T.R.A.P. differed from the larger
    Treasury Deportment's Section of Fine Arts in that it was relief-oriented, rather
    than based on open competition between artists"

    A lot of food for thought in that statement during these recessionary times and involvement or lack there of ,of government.
    If their isn't one,there should be a plaque by the sculpture.


  5. Yes, good point Prison Alley re blocking the rounded windows. It's sad to see in Columbia County so many good buildings, especially public buildings, whose appearance has been diminished by a series of lousy little changes that do great damage in the longer run.

    -- Jock Spivy

  6. To build on prior comments, fenestration is incredibly important in historic preservation and in all architecture. The Post Office's windows have those cheap, fake, snap-on white window pane dividers, which truly detract from the stateliness of the building.
    Look at the windows on the General Worth House now: gone are the old Victorian 4 panes which had character and history (albeit not what was used in 1800), replaced by campy, faux Williamsburg (Va.), multi-paned. "energy efficient" windows. (Not to mention the doughnut-shop bare bulb outlets on the inside, protruding all over what I suppose would be the living room, to be replaced in the future, no doubt, with some sort of dictator-taste, garish wall sconces).
    The difference between having, and affecting, taste is so clear in Hudson that it's both depressing and risible to take a "Jane's walk" around town, especially when confronted by eyesores like bad windows in otherwise handsome structures.

  7. The fenestration on 211 Union's facade is more in keeping now with it's late eighteenth century construction than the Victorian-era "replacement windows" that you're missing. The new sash, jambs and sill are all wood and not poorly made. The question of authenticity, short of evidence of the original windows (before the Victorian updates), requires us to consider what traditional trades and practices were doing at that time.

    In 1790, the number of lights (panes of glass) in sash was limited by technology. As glass making improved, panes got larger, and the number of lights in sash diminished. Simultaneously, carpenters were creating thinner and more subtle muntin bars as tastes and styles influenced their work, as well as the carpenter's desire to demonstrate his competence.

    The moulding (or sticking) between the fillets and the listels became elongated as the muntin bars narrowed. If anything, the mntin bars on these new windows may be a touch too beefy, perhaps necessitated by an energy efficiency feature (dual panes?)

    The question of fenestration is a touchy one in the preservation world. All too often, homeowners and developers are mislead by manufacturers to believe that they're doing the "green" thing by replacing wooden sash. That's a fallacy, and we all know that. However, windows are replaced for a variety of reasons, not just to save on the heat bill.

    I am not intimate with the details surrounding this specific work, but if the windows were in a condition similar to the tmiber-framed rafters, they were shot--or at least in poor condition. So the question is: Do we recondition the windows or replace? The four-pane windows, while very old, were not part of the original fabric of the structure. I'm also guessing that the Worth House had retained most of its Federal-era style and integrity.

    Had the facade and/or other features of the structure been Victorianized in the nineteenth century, an argument could've been made to retain them. But they were out of place and probably in lousy shape. So replacement windows needed to be in keeping with the structure's period of significance (ca 1800) and they are.

    The use of traditional materials (wood) and sustainable design (energy efficiency) should be viewed as a positive outcome.

  8. @Ward Hamilton:
    You really don't know what you are writing about it, but that's ok, I think your heart is in the right place. The Gen Worth house was not built in the late 18C, but at the turn of that century to the 19C.
    The windows are not historically accurate. You can spare me the lecture on twelve over twelve, six over six, Victorian four panes; I'm not stupid and uneducated.
    The replacement windows are cheesy, fake and of questionable quality. The light reflected is blue and plastic-y.
    The house had much more charm as the derelict dump that it had become by 2005. Because the facade was destroyed by Galloway and rebuilt using old bricks from the collapsed tavern at Routes 66 and 9H, the house, in fact, is no longer historic, and has been destroyed externally and internally. It is a mere pastiche of what was, and sports a horrendous addition with a misplaced window in the rear. Shame on anyone involved in allowing this to happen to the Gen. Worth house, given our collective knowledge today and the deep pockets that some in Hudson possess. The house is a sad joke.

  9. @Observer:
    My heart is in the right place, as is yours. I use my name when I post on this message board because I do know what I'm talking about. I didn't write the comment for you, individually, but for those who would be mislead to believe that the two-over-two's were original to the structure or historically appropriate in any way, shape or form.

    Date of construction of the Gen. Worth house, according to the NRHP filing for the Hudson Historic District (Hudson Multiple Resource Area, August '85) is circa 1790. That's late 18th century, as I said. Your comment would mislead readers to believe I cited the wrong era. Another possible date of construction I've seen is 1783 -- again, late 18th century.

    Finally, I will beg to differ on the quality of the windows and, on that point, we can agree to disagree. I find that they are of exceptional quality, like 'em or not. While the Worth House DID have tremendous charm as a "derelict dump," leaving it in situ was not a viable preservation plan.

    After decades of deferred maintenance the timber-framed roof was collapsing in; the Worth House, I suggest, was closer to being condemned than many would admit. And once a structure is a public safety issue, the cloak of protection afforded by the HPC is gone. In a perfect world, somebody would have come forward years ago and restored the building to its original appearance.

    Or, better yet, the preservation process should've been started years ago with maintenance. But it wasn't. And nobody came forward to "do the right thing," although many have written about how they were going to, or they thought about it, but instead did nothing.

    I would suggest that you (and others in Hudson) take a look at what's going on in Boston. Historic Boston Incorporated is a non-profit preservation and real estate organization that rehabilitates historic and culturally significant properties in Boston’s neighborhoods so they are a useable part of the city’s present and future.

    HBI works with local partners to identify and invest in historic buildings and cultural resources whose re-use will catalyze neighborhood renewal. HBI acquires and redevelops historic structures and provides technical expertise, planning services and financing for rehabilitation projects.

    HBI projects demonstrate that preserving historic properties is economically viable and that they can be useable and functioning assets in a community. And herein lies the catch 22 ... can historic properties in Hudson be restored in an economicaly viable manner?

    In other words, you need to buy the property, restore it, and sell it without losing money. You don't have to make a profit, but you cannot afford to lose money. If the Worth house sold for $230k in 2008 and cost $250k to restore, you would need to be able to sell for $480k, minimum. And, if your organization has employees, you'll need to turn a profit to cover overhead. So, maybe sell for $528k.

    Do real estate values in Hudson support this kind of plan, these kinds of prices? If so, check out http://www.historicboston.org/index.html and learn more. If they don't, because it costs more to save structures like the circa 1846 orphan asylum at 620 State Street than they are "worth" after, then it won't work.