Monday, January 19, 2015

The Kiwanis Club in Hudson

At the last Common Council meeting, Bob Loveridge made a presentation about Kiwanis Club and his interest in reviving the Kiwanis Club of Greater Hudson, which has not been active since the 1980s. On January 6, Loveridge held an informational meeting at the Central Fire Station about bringing Kiwanis Club back to Hudson. 

For anyone who moved to Hudson in the past two decades, the only visible evidence of the work of the original Kiwanis Club consists of the Olympic Torch Memorial in the triangle at the intersection of Columbia, Green, and State streets and Inspiration Fountain in Seventh Street Park, the fountain that replaced the original 19th-century Venus fountain which many wish were still there.

Curious to know more about the work of the Kiwanis Club in Hudson in its heyday, I contacted Joe Kenneally, who had once offered to tell me about Kiwanis Club. He responded by generously lending me a scrapbook of Kiwanis memorabilia, maintained by the club's historian, Robert Thatcher. On the very first page of that scrapbook, I discovered newspaper clippings that told of a Kiwanis Club historic preservation effort. Unfortunately, the earliest of the clippings made it clear that the effort had not been successful.

The scanned article is too small to read at this size, so the text is transcribed below.
HUDSON--The old stone house on Power Ave. was demolished because potential developers could not afford to rehabilitate it, said Lynda Davidson, executive director of the Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency.  
Mrs. Davidson said she took exception to a statement by the Hudson Kiwanis Club challenging statements by city officials that it could find no one to rehabilitate the house. The club said it had offered several years ago to rehabilitate the structure as a clubhouse.
"I am distressed that the Kiwanis Club has taken this position," Mrs. Davidson said.
Kiwanians Thomas Koulos and Thomas Fleming, meanwhile, say they are trying to arrange to use the rubble from the demolition to erect a monument or new building elsewhere in the city.
"This agency has been involved with the State Historic Preservation Office since the late 1970s in the Simpsonville project," said Mrs. Davidson. "Substantial costs were incurred by the [agency] at the insistence of the SHPO regarding the historic Simpsonville buildings. National advertisements, a professionally prepared brochure and countless staff hours answering inquiries [verbal and written] have been expended trying to give away these buildings to acceptable developers. All effort proved fruitless.
"The building in question remained on site for over six years. Numerous offers for the building were made. The Kiwanis Club could have very well been one of the many people who made initial offers to rehabilitate the building. In each and every instance, the potential developer simply could not afford the rehabilitation costs. 
"In recent months, the least expensive cost quoted to move the building was $10,000," not including the costs of moving, disconnecting or reconnecting utility wires so the building could pass beneath them as it was transported to a new location, she said.
Mrs. Davidson added the Hudson Development Corporation tried to incorporate the structure into the design of the Hudson Audio Video Enterprises plant it is constructing in Simpsonville adjacent to the site. Cost was estimated at $50,000 to $75,000, which the corporation could not afford, she said.
Even if it were affordable, "the building had severely deteriorated to the point that traditional rehabilitation could not have been accomplished. The building would have to have been demolished and rebuilt," Mrs. Davidson said.
Mr. Koulos said he and Edward Baptiste have contacted John Sharpe and obtained his permission to build a monument, perhaps an information booth, to the old stone house in the lot next to Mr. Sharpe's 409 Warren St. insurance agency.
The rubble of the old stone house is the property of the Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency, but Mrs. Davidson would not comment on the possibility of reconstructing the building.
Mrs. Davidson said "the State Historic Preservation Office in granting its permission to demolish the building recognized that sincere efforts had been made on everyone's part above and beyond the requirements of any agreement. SHPO recognized that there are instances where clearance of old, unsafe, dilapidated buildings must be permitted to allow our city to grow.
"It is unfortunate that the Kiwanis Club, a fraternal organization interested in business in the greater Hudson area, has chosen this approach to welcome a new industry to our city.
"While I understand while there is seldom unanimity in development efforts, I fail to see what useful purpose such a harshly worded statement has served our community."
Studying the pictures of the Simpsonville houses in the Historic American Buildings Survey, one can surmise that the house in question is the one shown in these photographs--the only stone structure in Simpsonville.

The article quoted above appeared on July 8, 1985. Two days later, on July 10, 1985, another article appeared, reporting that the Kiwanis Club had decided "not to go along with further plans because of controversy the situation has caused between the club and the Hudson Community Development and Planning Agency." The article goes on to explain:
Last week, following the Kiwanis meeting, member Tom Fleming released a statement that the club had discussed and was "dismayed at" the building's demolition.
The club had in 1981-1982 offered to rehabilitate the structure for a clubhouse, but the offer was turned down because it would not have been a commercial use.
In the July 10 article, club president Paul Kengla explained that "the statement released by Kiwanis last week was never actually an official position of the club, but a statement of opinion by some of its members." Kengla is further quoted as saying: "We decided that yes, the club was definitely concerned in 1981-82 and we are sorry that it [the demolition] happened, but have no further concern with it now."

The article concludes by saying that Koulos and Fleming, "both as private citizens, decided to continue the project of finding some use for the stone house rubble." I wonder if they ever did.   

1 comment:

  1. The stone structure certainly looks quite solid in those pics.