Admittedly, it is often hard to follow what's going on at Historic Preservation Commission meetings, and yesterday was no exception. The interruptions and cross talk that went on during the discussion of the Armory house proposal prompted Victor Mendolia to raise a point of order from the audience, asking that HPC members speak one at a time. Rick Rector, who was chairing the meeting, had to ask his colleagues more than once if they considered the application complete, but when they did get around to making a motion and voting on it, the outcome was clear. There was only one motion: to deem the application incomplete. Five of the six members of the HPC present (Rector, Phil Forman, Scott Baldinger, Jack Avarez, and Tony Thompson) voted aye; one (Peggy Polenberg) voted nay. The plan going forward is that Alvarez, the architect member of the HPC, will send Hamilton an email summarizing what would make the new design appropriate, and the HPC will have a workshop meeting with Hamilton and the project architect at 9 a.m. prior to their next meeting on August 24.
In June, the design proposed for the building featured a pediment and a Greek Revival portico at the center of the building. In the new design, this feature has disappeared, replaced by three smaller Greek Revival porticoes, one over each doorway of what will be three town houses.
Rector called the design "a significant change from the earlier design and a significant change from the house as it is now." In June, the HPC had objected that the elements of history on the house were being eliminated and urged that the house is kept closer to what it was before it had been allowed to fall into disrepair. The addition of the two-story columned portico, a signature of houses built by Eric Galloway's various LLCs in Hudson, presented a problem for the HPC in the first design. In the new design, the dramatic change in the roof--replacing the pitched roof with a flat roof and eliminating the front gable--was the HPC's major concern.
|The house probably in the 1930s|
|The house in April 2012|
Hamilton read a statement he had prepared which started out with an apparent appeal to the HPC to relax their standards because his client was "saving buildings that nobody else has raised a finger to help." He went on to lecture the HPC about historic preservation, quoting extensively from various preservationists to make the points that historic preservation was also cultural preservation and the greenest building is the one that's already there. He made reference to the "broken windows theory," said that this proposal was one that "would be welcomed in other communities where I have worked," and suggested the HPC was driven by "personal agendas and politics."
When Baldinger pointed out that the quote Hamilton read about cultural history supported the HPC's position that the evidence of the house's evolution over time needed to be preserved, Hamilton conceded that the quote he had read "could go either way."
After telling how difficult it was to show properties in that neighborhood because when people saw the Armory houses they wanted to get back in the car, Polenberg said she liked the new design and thought the design proposed in June was attractive. Thompson reminded her that "we're not talking about personal taste," explaining the HPC needed to find a solution that "maintains the historic presence of the building."
When Rector made the point that "what we are being asked to review is a new structure" on the foundation of the old structure and reusing some of the original materials, Hamilton asked if the HPC would consider it as new construction, stating that he believed the proposed design "satisfies the criteria for compatibility" for new construction. Alvarez took issue with this, saying that many of the buildings in the neighborhood that had been used to support the case for the appropriateness of the new design were not Greek Revival but Italianate. He also added, "There's a building there. Why can't we work with it?"
Forman talked about the importance of authenticity in Hudson's historic architecture, saying that it was something that "doesn't exist in other places." He then suggested that historic preservation may have "missed the window" on this building, saying, "I'm not sure there is a lot of choice," although he did express the opinion that the proposed design "looks like something that got too many face-lifts."
In the end, as reported at the beginning, the HPC voted 5 to 1 to deem the application incomplete. Alvarez agreed to send an email to Hamilton "stating what would make this a workable plan," and Hamilton and the project architect, who is rumored to be Kevin Walker, will bring a revised design to a workshop with the HPC on August 24 at 9 a.m.