Friday, June 6, 2014

The Way Things Were

Recent visitors to Hudson brought with them this vintage photograph of a building, seeking to find the site today.

Three years ago, Sam Pratt blogged about the archive of Walker Evans' photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so this image should have been recognized instantly as Evans' work, and it was. Examining the image as it appears on the museum's website reveals that the number on the street level door is 454 and it is the door to the office of Dr. Galster--Dr. Henry C. Galster, a physician who in 1931, when the photograph was taken, had practiced medicine in Hudson for at least two decades. The building is 454 Warren Street, and presumably, in 1931, Dr. Galster and his family lived in the house and the doctor had his office on the ground floor.

So the question arises of when this house, with its wonderfully ornate door surround and railings leading to the parlor floor entrance, became the building we know today.

Photo credit: Alan Coon

The answer may lie in something Gossips blogged about last year. From 1936 until just weeks before her death in 1962, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a newspaper column called My Day. On May 11, 1953, she wrote about a visit she had made the previous Thursday to the Rip Van Winkle Clinic in Hudson--a facility run by Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn and located at 454 Warren Street. Mrs. Roosevelt reported that, at the time of her visit, the clinic had been in operation for six and a half years. She said of its location: "It is an old house taken over and rearranged to meet the needs of a medical building. An addition is now going up."

Based on this information, it is reasonable to conclude that the parlor floor entrance, with its elaborate door surround and handsome railings, was eliminated sometime in 1946, when the house was "rearranged to meet the needs of a medical building." There is reason to believe that the door surround was salvaged and reappeared elsewhere, but that's a story for another time.

Thanks to Alan Coon and Jason Smith inspiring this post

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