The conviction that restoring original pre-World War II wood windows has a more desirable long-term outcome than installing replacement windows is, thanks to a lot of advocacy by preservationists at the state and national level and actual experience with replacement windows, starting to catch on, but the Historic Preservation Commission here in Hudson still regularly receives certificate of appropriateness applications that involve replacement windows. It still seems to be the first thing people think they have to do when they set about to renovate a building, and the justification for doing so is usually quite inadequate. Yesterday, for example, a woman was at the HPC wanting to replace the windows in her house so she could get rid of the ugly 1950s aluminum storm windows. The Columbia County Board of Supervisors is reportedly contemplating replacement windows for the 1907 Warren and Wetmore courthouse. The most shocking replacement window suggestion yet, however, was made to the HPC yesterday by John Grover, speaking for the First Presbyterian Church.
HPC member Phil Forman had invited Grover to address the HPC, explaining that the HPC had been concerned when the large stained glass window in the facade of the church was covered with green sheathing last November, and Forman, who is on the board of the Friends of the First Presbyterian Church, wanted the HPC to be updated on the church's thinking about the window.
Four months ago, when the window was covered to protect it from further deterioration, the cost of repairing it was estimated to be between $80,000 and $100,000. Now apparently that estimate has risen to $200,000, and the church is considering replacing it. Grover described how, during a windstorm that happened before the sheathing was installed, "the window was moving as far as six inches." He concluded, "It may be to the point that it has to be replaced."
There was mention of the design competition for a replacement window, which Forman suggested would not be "anything less than great looking." HPC member Tony Thompson, mentioning the 1989 I. M. Pei entrance to the Louvre, spoke of the need for new construction to be of its time and distinguishable from the original. (I may have missed the exact intent of Thompson's comment, because, in the audience, I was suffering what felt like a panic attack.)
Of the HPC members present at yesterday's meeting (Forman, Thompson, David Voorhees, Rick Rector, and Scott Baldinger), only Baldinger seemed appropriately alarmed by the suggestion that this major window in the church's 19th-century Gothic facade might be replaced with something designed and constructed in the 21st century. Rector, HPC chair, however, did seem to imply some misgivings when he commented that the church was "an amazing icon of Hudson."
The First Presbyterian Church is an amazing icon of Hudson. Established in 1785, it is as old as the city itself. The original church building was located at Second and Partition streets, and the tradition of the city clock being located in its tower began then. In 1837, the church moved to a newly constructed building at the corner of Warren and Fourth streets.
In 1876, when the congregation was the largest and most affluent in the entire Hudson Valley, the church was redesigned and expanded by architect J. A. Wood to become the soaring Gothic church that it now is. Today, however, the massive church, with significant and inherent maintenance challenges, must be sustained by a congregation of only about 50. Located midway along our main street, hosting many community meetings and musical events as well as the religious services of two churches, the First Presbyterian Church is a significant historic and community resource and needs and deserves the support of the entire community to preserve and maintain it. The architectural character of Hudson and the civic life of Hudson would be so much poorer without it.