Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Champion of Livable Architecture" Dies

Ada Louise Huxtable died last week, at the age of 91. Her obituary in the New York Times extols her as a pioneer of modern architectural criticism, "celebrating buildings that respected human dignity and civic history--and memorably scalding those that did not." Also quoting from the obituary:
Though knowledgeable about architectural styles, Ms. Huxtable often seemed more interested in social substance. She invited readers to consider a building not as an assembly of pilasters and entablatures but as a public statement whose form and placement had real consequences for its neighbors as well as its occupants.
Our own little city of Hudson attracted Huxtable's attention back in 1969, during the battle over the General Worth Hotel. In March 1971, a year after the General Worth had been razed, she wrote this about the debacle in a Wall Street Journal article that is anthologized in her 1976 book Kicked a Building Lately?
Usually landmarks are demolished for parking lots. This is one of the popular sports in cities. Urban renewal has drawn its demolition lines around uncounted (has anyone ever counted?) historic buildings and districts. Waterfronts, Federal survivals, Greek Revival enclaves, anything that has meaning in terms of the history, style, or sense of place in American communities is x-ed out first as the oldest, shabbiest, and easiest to demolish.
In Hudson, New York, the same kind of senseless urban plan claimed the 1837 Greek Revival General Worth Hotel. The Hudson YMCA was willing to take over the building and the Hudson River Valley Commission, the State Historical Trust, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation urged that it be saved. But political heads prevailed and Hudson demolished its National Register property. Ready for the biggest gag of all? Read it in the Hudson Register-Star:
"A modern Dairy-Queen Drive-In will be constructed on the site of the historic General Worth Hotel that fell victim to the bulldozers last year. The Common Council in special session voted to sell the site for $1,700. Council President Thomas Quigley said the purchase 'was a step in the right direction to develop downtown Hudson.'"
Huxtable's last book, On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Changewas published in 2008.

The photograph reproduced here is by Harry Heleotis and accompanied the interview with Huxtable in a WNET Interview Gallery


  1. Have we learned anything since then? What a stupid waste. And they didn't even put the blasted Dairy Queen there after all. The ugly truth is that native Hudsonians can't seem to appreciate that the big draw of this town is its architecture. If it put money in some good ol' boy's pocket, they would sell any and all buildings in town, no matter what their significance.

  2. As a born Hudsonian (1951)& returning "home" soon after 4 yrs away I know that a DQ was never built on the site of the former Worth Hotel. What was built was a storefront that became a hardware store operated by the Cordato family. The Cordato store moved from its original location in the 100 block of Warren.
    Now regarding the "ugly truth" you may be correct. But I for one must state that all my life I appreciated the magnificent architecture that Hudson offers along many of its streets ( and former streets).
    I can't state strongly enough that Hudson has never in my lifetime looks as good as it does today; never.
    I can hope that the rennaisance continues for many years to come & that in the near future the waterfront will have buidings, storefronts, etc. that mirror the Hudson streets.

  3. The same fate awaits the beautiful federal blue house on Columbia Street, that the Mental Health Assoc. has slated to demolish to create a parking lot. And where is Galloway with all his billions and his bid to move that house? It would be a tremendous gesture of grace, wisdom and largesse, if he would carry out his promise to move that house to lower Union Street.

    The majority of the powers that be in Hudson and in Columbia County have been, are, and will continue to be, reckless, uneducated, poorly-travelled, idiots. Not their term, "citiots", but our term, "evil little clownheads".

  4. Isn't it time that comments in GOR & the same publishers refrain from the name calling & grouping people based on ones personal opinions.

    I grow tired of the negative pointing of fingers.