Thursday, April 30, 2015

150 Years Ago: April 30

At 7 a.m. on the morning of April 30, the funeral train arrived in Indianapolis. There the coffin was taken to the Indiana State House in a hearse topped by a silver-gilt eagle. 

The picture below appears on The Abraham Lincoln BlogThe blog's creator, Geoff Elliott explains that it "shows the capitol in the background, wrapped in black mourning cloth and ribbons. A strange structure [appears] at the entrance to the ground . . . neither arch, nor tunnel. Inside it had numerous displays of Lincoln's life." Lincoln, of course, grew up in Indiana. His family moved there in 1816, when Lincoln was seven, and he was an adult when his family moved farther west to Illinois in 1830.

Since Cleveland, rain had been an everyday occurrence for the funeral train, but in Indianapolis the rain was so heavy that the planned procession had to be canceled. Because of the rain, the governor of Indiana, Oliver P. Morgan, did not deliver his oration. Hence, the entire day was devoted to viewing Lincoln's open coffin.

Part II of "1,654 Miles of Mourning," on the blog Adventures in Cemetery Hopping, recounts: "The first mourners were 5,000 children, all members of various Sunday schools. Bringing up the rear were hundreds of African-Americans, clutching copies of the Emancipation Proclamation. By the time those final mourners had paid their respects, an estimated 100,000 people had visited Lincoln's casket."

Late that evening, the funeral train departed Indianapolis for Chicago, a journey of 210 miles.

150 Years Ago: April 29

The funeral train arrived in Columbus at 7:30 a.m. on April 29, 1865, almost exactly two weeks to the hour after Lincoln died. The coffin was taken hearse in a grand procession to the Ohio State Capitol and carried into the rotunda on the shoulders of eight members of the Veteran Guard. 

Roger J. Norton explains that "the catafalque in Columbus was different from all the rest on the trip in that it was without columns and canopies; it was just a low moss and flower covered dais." The website Touring Ohio provides more detail:
The bier, where the casket wold be placed, was covered with lilacs that had just come into bloom throughout the city. When the casket was lowered to the flowery bier . . . the 6' 6" long casket with Lincoln's body, crushed the lilacs in such a way that the room was filled with [the] smell of the fragrant lilacs. Although Lincoln's body had been embalmed before leaving Washington D.C., the process was not yet perfected and his body had already begun to deteriorate badly giving off a putrid odor that had to be masked by the floral arrangements. . . . A mortician also accompanied the body and applied chalk to Lincoln's face to mask the discoloration.
It is estimated that 8,000 people passed the coffin each hour that it was on view in Columbus. At 6 p.m., the doors of the Capitol were closed, and the coffin was taken back to Union Station. At 8 p.m., the funeral train departed for Indianapolis.

Law and Order, Blame and Dissension

Gossips asked back in October 2013, with reference to the police and court building, "Why can't we get this done?" The question is as relevant today as it was eighteen months ago. We now have a building, an approved design, more than $2.25 million in borrowed money waiting to be spent, but City Hall is in turmoil because a bid from one general contractor--just one, not five or six--bumped the total estimated cost to $1.5 million over what was anticipated.

The logical course of action in this juncture would seem to be--in addition to trying to understand why only one general contractor showed an interest in the project--to do another estimate based on the bid documents to vet the bid and identify where things went wrong and then see if it is not possible to bring down the cost. This is pretty much what the project architect, Richard Franklin, suggested at a special meeting of the Common Council, which took place on Wednesday night, but it is not clear at this point if this is the course of action that will be pursued.

At the meeting, which was convened at the request of the mayor, Council president Don Moore began by announcing that the state had given Hudson a deadline, which sounds a little bit like an ultimatum: Present a very specific plan of how you intend to proceed to the Office of Courts Administration by June 3, or there will be sanctions. What needed to be done in the next six weeks, Moore explained, was to arrive at "a mutually agreed on set of steps" to determine "how it is done and how it is paid for."

After Moore's opening comments, the mayor presented his written statement. He began by saying, "It is imperative that we do not point fingers," and continued by "going through a timeline of the last two years," obviously intended to exonerate himself from any blame, because, he alleged, he and "Mayor Aide" Gene Shetsky had been "left out of the loop." Having run through the timeline, the mayor then identified what he considered "our options":
  1. Do we continue looking for cost cuts at the Finnish Line site we own?
  2. Do we continue to pay those contracted with the City over this time period, who have lead [sic] the charge and overseen this project assuring they could provide this Police and Court building renovation and construction at 1.7 million dollars?
  3. Do we consider looking at other sites to build new?
  4. Does the Common Council consider looking at another 1.4 or 1.5 million dollars to complete the building at 7th and Union?
The mayor concluded his presentation with these statements:
If we continue to move the project forward with the belief we can save or make up the 1.4 million dollar difference, I am inclined to believe we should do that from a different perspective.
I am prepared after your consideration to take on the challenges we face with this project including but not limited to assigning Robert Perry as Clerk of the Works, who has overseen multimillion dollar City owned projects.
I am also prepared not to proceed with a Construction Manager in the future with this project and will assemble as soon as possible a team of professionals with experience who can review the project and move the project forward, with the simple purpose of gaining further insight and another perspective of building a Police and Court facility the 701 Union Street sight [sic].   
The gist of the verbiage is that if the Common Council votes to continue the project, the mayor intends to take over. 

Asked to comment, Joe Rapp, the construction manager, explained that the budget was developed before there was a final design. "The building we now have before us is not that project." Of the current state of affairs, Rapp said, "We are in the middle of a process, and we should continue with the process."

When asked by aldermen Abdus Miah (Second Ward) and Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward) if he knew and when he knew the project was going over budget, Franklin explained that his firm had not been charged with doing a cost estimate. He did outline what he considered to be the next steps: (1) do an independent cost estimate based on the bid documents, which then could be compared, item by item, with the original estimates to identify areas of overrun; (2) do value engineering to get the project back to an acceptable amount.

Predictably, Alderman Robert "Doc"Donahue (Fifth Ward) declared we should build a new building at Columbia and Fourth streets, which according to him would only cost $3.2 million. Former mayor's aid, former Fifth Ward alderman, and former Hudson resident, Carmine "Cappy" Pierro, speaking from his experience as clerk of the works for the Central Fire Station, rattled off a string of numbers, itemized what had already been spent, spoke of "contingency money" and soft costs, and claimed that the current project would end up costing $4.3 million.

Shifting the conversation from what it will cost to how it will be paid for, Moore reminded everyone that when the police department and court had been moved to a new building, the City would have two buildings on Warren Street to sell. "One million [dollars] is not outside the realm of possibility," said Moore of the likely income from that sale. He also spoke of a "funding source" interested in the project that might provide $100,000, although he did not identify that source.

Although Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) urged that the Council make a decision on moving forward, no such decision was made on Wednesday. Instead it was decided that another special meeting would be held next week. That meeting has now been scheduled for Wednesday, May 6, at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

More About the CEDC

Sam Pratt comments further about the Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) and its members' reactions to the findings of the New York State Budget Authorities Office: "CEDC leaders shrug off findings of State investigation."

Historic Preservation in London

The developer who demolished this pub in Kilburn, without permission from the Westminster Council, has been ordered to rebuild it brick by brick.

Now that's a commitment to historic preservation with some teeth!

Thanks to Peter Lacovara for bringing this to our attention

Yet Another Travel Article About Hudson

Getaway Mavens published an article today about our fair city: "Hudson, NY: An Eye for Design." Interestingly, the author calls the Inn at Hudson, designed by Marcus Reynolds and inspired by castles and stately homes its young owner had seen while touring Europe after graduating from Williams College, "Arts and Crafts style," but the rest is pretty accurate, and the piece includes one of the nicest pictures of Henry Hudson Riverfront Park I've seen. 


What He Said

At the beginning of the Police Committee meeting on Monday, Alderman Henry Haddad (Third Ward) explained that he had been misquoted in the article that appeared in the Register-Star on April 22: "Council approves shared SWAT team." In the article, which reported on the April 21 Common Council meeting, Haddad is quoted as telling Alderman Abdus Miah (Second Ward), "Shut up and do your job." At the Police Committee meeting on Monday, Haddad explained that he had said "Show up and do your job" not "Shut up."

Yesterday, I went back to my notes from the April 21 meeting, and here is what I found:

As of this morning, the error has not been corrected in the online version of the Register-Star. 

150 Years Ago: April 28

After leaving Buffalo at 10 p.m. on April 27, 1865, the funeral train made one more stop in New York before going on to Cleveland. At 1 a.m., the train stopped briefly in Westfield. There five young women brought a cross of flowers into the funeral car and placed it on the coffin.  

The Town of Westfield in Chautauqua County, which became known as "The Grape Juice Capital of the World" in 1893, when Dr. Charles Welch built the world's first large grape juice plant there, had a special connection with Abraham Lincoln. This is explained on the town's website:
Westfield is home to the Westfield Republican, the first Republican newspaper established soon after the Republican Party formed in 1854. Westfield also was the home of Grace Bedell, a young girl who changed the face of the 1860 Presidential campaign, or, more accurately changed the face of Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln. Grace went to see Candidate Lincoln at a campaign stop and later sent him a pithy letter suggesting that he could garner more votes by growing whiskers. Lincoln took the message to heart and began to grow a beard immediately and just a few weeks later won the election. President-Elect Lincoln later stopped in Westfield and specifically asked to meet the young lady who had advised him to grow whiskers. Their meeting is depicted in statues adorning a small park in the Village of Westfield.

After its brief stop in Westfield, the train went on the Cleveland, arriving at the Euclid Street Station at 7 a.m. on April 28. At Cleveland, the Committee on Arrangement decided that there was no building in the city that was large enough to accommodate the multitudes wanting to view Lincoln's remains, so they decided to construct an elaborate pagoda in the Public Square where the body would lie in state. The pagoda had open sides, so that mourners could pass the coffin in two columns.

Photo: Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
Cleveland was the only city along the route where the viewing took place outdoors, and the committee's worst fears were undoubtedly realized when it rained that day. Despite the constant rain, a reported 150,000 people passed by the coffin during the 15 hours it was on view in Cleveland.

At around 11 p.m., the coffin was returned to Euclid Street Station, and at midnight the funeral train left Cleveland bound for Columbus, on the Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati Railway.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Police Matters

In expectation of a large crowd, the Common Council Police Committee meeting was held at the Central Fire Station instead of City Hall last night, but the change of venue seemed not to be justified by the twenty or so people who showed up.

The meeting began with HPD chief Ed Moore presenting his quarterly report. The good news is that in the first three months of 2015 there has been a substantial reduction in crimes against property (burglary, larceny, and vandalism), harassment, neighborhood trouble, noise complaints, and drug violations as compared with the first three of months of 2014. Although in general crime in Hudson is "trending down," the bad and disturbing news is that there were more assaults this year and substantially more incidents of domestic violence.

The next item on the agenda, after the chief's report, was the "shared services response team." At its regular meeting on April 21, the Common Council passed a resolution to have the Hudson Police Department enter into partnership with the Columbia County Sheriff's Department and the Greene County Sheriff's Department to form a response team, also known as a SWAT team, made up of officers from the three agencies, to be available to the three agencies, and the cost of which will be shared by the three agencies.

Chief Moore began by recounting, once again, the history of a SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team in Hudson. Moore explained that the City has had a de facto SWAT team for twenty years and has officially had a SWAT team for thirteen years. Recently, the State of New York established regulations for SWAT teams, and Moore, shortly after he became chief, suspended the HPD SWAT team because it was not operating in accordance with those regulations. He did so because having a SWAT team that did not meet the state standards would jeopardize the HPD's accreditation. The shared services agreement provides a way for the HPD to have access to a properly trained, equipped, and commanded SWAT team if and when one is required in the city.

Moore made the point that entering into this shared services agreement actually represented a "reduction in the City's commitment to SWAT." He compared a SWAT team to a fire department's entry team--the team trained and equipped to go first into a dangerous situation. Stressing the importance of proper training for the safety of police officers and everyone else in dangerous situations, Moore recalled that it was eight years ago, almost to the day, that New York State trooper David Brinkerhoff was fatally shot by friendly fire in a SWAT raid on April 24, 2007. Moore assured the group that he would be in charge of SWAT team deployment in the city and spoke of "threshold of danger," "threat matrix," and proportional response.

Prefacing his comments by saying Moore "always exhibited sensitivity to the people of the city," Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) explained that he had abstained from voting on the resolution because he felt he did not at that time completely understand the pros and cons of the issue. (The vote was taken on April 21; Rector had been appointed to fill the seat left vacant by David Marston on April 13.) Alderman Abdus Miah (Second Ward) then tried to walk back his comments made at the April 21 and his no vote by saying his vote reflected the fears of his constituents.

The first audience member to speak was Supervisor Ed Cross (Second Ward). The gist of his comments seemed to be that he had been all right with things when he didn't know the HPD had a SWAT team, but now that the issue is being publicly discussed, he is frightened. He asked, perhaps rhetorically perhaps not, "How are we going to erase the fear?" and went on to say, "This whole thing scares the mess out of me. SWAT threatens me."

Kaya Weidman of Kite's Nest articulated the concerns of many when she spoke about community accountability. "It is one thing," she told Moore, "to trust an individual, but it is another thing to trust a structure, particularly when we have seen the structure fail elsewhere." Moore assured her that the agreement was year to year. "If it backfires," he said, "it can be dissolved."

Peter Spear commented that much had been said about the opportunity for shared services but little had been said about the need. Moore, who had commented earlier that, in the context of the downward trend in crime in Hudson, asking "Does the city need a SWAT team?" sounded foolish, told Spear that in the past two years, the SWAT team had been deployed six times. The most recent incident occurred on January 23 on Columbia Street, in a situation where someone had a gun.

Katherine Moore asked about "character training, to mitigate the fear that people are walking into a [dangerous] situation with." Chief Moore explained that psychological testing was required to be a member of the SWAT team and there would be psychological training for the team.

Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) commented that he saw the SWAT team as a kind of insurance policy--something you hope you never need, but it's there if you do need it. He said he found the proposed K-9 unit "much more objectionable." "K-9 is a terrible symbol of an unfriendly police department," said Friedman, and he questioned whether or not we need a K-9 on a daily basis.

Moore asked those present to give him more time to get his officers to integrate with the community. He reported that more officers are being trained for bike patrol this year and reiterated his commitment to getting officers "out of the car to associate and integrate with the community," acknowledging that, for the most part, the only people his officers know in Hudson are those they have arrested.

At the meeting, a memo from Council president Don Moore was distributed to the members of the Police Committee on the subject of developing a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). At the Common Council meeting on April 21, Alderman Alexis Keith (Fourth Ward) presented the information that the State of New York, through the Office of Mental Health, has recently increased funding for CITs, which work with local law enforcement agencies "to assist in mental health oriented dispute resolution." CITs train police in "deescalating a situation and get the local mental health system to become more responsive in a crisis." It was decided that an ad hoc committee would pursue this.

Chief Moore agreed to have regular meetings with the community and volunteered to have posted office hours when people can come in and speak with him one on one.

The Power of Watchdogging

Sam Pratt reports today on the outcome of a New York State Budget Authorities Office investigation of CEDC (Columbia Economic Development Corporation), instigated by the citizens group GhentCANN, led by Patti Matheney: "State blasts CEDC handling of Ginsberg deal."

Let's Make Something Very Clear . . .

In an article entitled "Lincoln celebrated here, 150 years after his death," which appeared in Columbia Paper yesterdayJeanette Wolfberg reports: "The Galvan Foundation has contributed $1,5oo toward the cost of the events in Hudson and the Town of Stuyvesant. . . . Other major contributors include the Hudson Common Council's Arts, Entertainment, and Tourism Committee, and Columbia County Tourism." None of this money went toward Saturday night's re-creation of what happened in Hudson when the funeral train stopped here in 1865. That awesome event was funded entirely by a GoFundMe campaign launched by event organizers and made possible by the generous contributions of time, talent, and materials made by both event organizers and supporters.


Monday, April 27, 2015

150 Years Ago: April 27

Lincoln's  funeral train left Albany at 4 p.m. on April 26, and arrived in Buffalo at 7 a.m. on April 27. Upon arrival in Buffalo, the coffin was transported in a hearse drawn by six white horses dressed in black to St. James Hall, the Young Men's Association building. The Buffalo Morning Express reported:
The number of people along the line of march was immense--thronging all the available space on either side of the streets. The business places were all closed but every window and housetop was filled and covered with a mass of human beings. The crowd in the vicinity of St. James Hall, through the forenoon, was terrible and we heard of many cases of fainting on the part of ladies who were not able to stand the severe pressure brought upon them. Finally the throng was loosened and matters so arranged that free passage was given.

The coffin arrived at St. James Hall shortly before 10 a.m. and was placed on a double dais, erected for the purpose, "richly draped with black velvet with silver fringe and rosettes." The Buffalo Morning Express goes on to report: "A little after 10:00 o'clock, the lid was removed, and after some preparation by the embalmer and undertaker, exposed to public view."

That day in Buffalo, 100,000 people passed by the coffin. Among the mourners were former president Millard Fillmore and future president Grover Cleveland.

There was no elaborate funeral procession in Buffalo, because, not knowing at the time the funeral train would stop there, the City of Buffalo had staged at complete mock funeral on April 19, the day of Lincoln's actual funeral in Washington, D.C. Still, ten hours after the coffin was opened to public view, it was returned to the funeral train with appropriate pomp and solemnity.

The Buffalo Morning Express reported:
At quarter past 8:00 o'clock, the coffin was closed and arrangements made to escort the remains back to the depot. At half past, the procession moved towards the depot. The bands played solemn dirges and with the darkness of the night, all was wrapped in the deepest gloom. A large body of citizens followed to the last point, and only turned their footsteps homeward as they saw the remains deposited in the funeral car which was to bear them away. At a little after 10:00 o'clock, the funeral cortege and escort took the train which had been provided for them and went their sorrowful way to the West.
The next stop for the funeral train was Cleveland.

Contemplating Rossman Avenue

On Friday, April 24, the Historic Preservation Commission held a public hearing on the proposal to construct a new house on Rossman Avenue, in the National Register and locally designated Rossman Avenue-Prospect Avenue Historic District.

In presenting the project to the public gathered for the hearing, the applicant and his architect frequently spoke of budget constraints. "I can't build a big copy of a Victorian house," explained Kamal El Masri. "There is not the budget for that." The building proposed was described as "backdrop for a pocket park." Architect Wolfgang Stockmeier asserted, "A person standing on the street would look right over it to the Catskills."

The characterization of the proposed plan for the site as a "pocket park" prompted Ellen Thurston, supervisor for the Third Ward, where Rossman Avenue is located, to ask if the HPC took landscaping into consideration. The answer, which came from HPC chair Rick Rector, was no. The HPC considered only the building being proposed.

Compatibility is the test for new construction in a historic district, and Rossman Avenue resident Ben Wilson asked the applicant to provide "a reason or explanation of how you can see this as compatible." Affirming a common fallacy, the applicant replied that only a replica period house would be compatible. He spoke of "disguising the building and making it disappear . . . quiet, modest, and in the background."

During the discussion of the project in the HPC's regular meeting, much attention was paid to the proposed carport. HPC member Gini Casasco observed that the carport "doesn't make for a friendly pedestrian presence" and noted that it "deadened the urban flow." Rector agreed that the carport detracts from the city streetscape. HPC architect member Chris Perry said that the carport "makes the car part of the experience," commenting that a carport is not typical of the Northeast but is more California. HPC member David Voorhees also professed to have a problem with the carport.

The house at 14 Rossman Avenue was also a focus of attention. During the public hearing, Ferol Barton Blake asked about the house, which he suggested was a prefab, and the applicant made reference to this house and the house next to it to justify the height and setback of the proposed house.

Bing Map
There was some question of whether or not 14 Rossman Avenue was part of the historic district. Voorhees said he thought it wasn't; Rector confirmed that it was. Closer scrutiny of the designation document finds that 14 Rossman Avenue, which was the last house to be constructed on Rossman Avenue in 1965, and six other houses on Rossman Avenue are not part of the National Register historic district which was created in 1985, but these seven houses were added to the locally designated Rossman Avenue-Prospect Avenue Historic District when it was created in 2005. Although it's not made clear in the document, 14 Rossman would have been a noncontributing structure in the locally designated district, since at that time, it was not yet fifty years old.

Because some members of the HPC seemed to be relying on photographs of individual houses on the street, provided by the applicant, to understand the context of the proposed house, it was suggested that the HPC do a site visit. It was unanimously agreed that such a visit would take place at 9 a.m. on Friday, May 8, prior to the HPC's regularly scheduled meeting at 10 a.m.

Toward the end of the meeting, HPC member Phil Forman spoke of the Appendix to Sense of Place: Design Guidelines for New Construction in Historic Districts, published by the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. The Appendix looks at fifteen case studies, evaluating each by six guidelines: Height; Relationship to the street; Continuity of wall surface; Facade Composition; Materials and Details; Rhythm/Pedestrian experience. He acknowledged that new buildings considered to be compatible did not always satisfy all six guidelines, but they did follow most of them. Forman told the applicant and his architect, "My bias is to support you guys, but there needs to be more reference to the best of the houses on the street." He went on to say, "I'm not finding enough stuff in your proposal to establish sympathy [with the surrounding neighborhood]."

Sunday, April 26, 2015

150 Years Ago: April 26

Beginning with the correspondence between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee on April 7 that preceded Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Gossips has been tracing the events of 1865 that led up to the brief stop of Lincoln's funeral train in Hudson, the sesquicentennial of which was commemorated last night. The remainder of the route seems an anticlimax, but having embarked on the journey, Gossips will see it through, until the funeral train reaches its final destination.

When the funeral train left Hudson, it was bound for Albany, where arrived at 11 p.m. The following account is from the Hudson Daily Star for April 26, 1865:
At 11 o'clock last evening, the cannon announced the arrival of the train at East Albany, and the bells of the city commenced tolling a funeral knell. Companies A. and F. of  the Tenth and Company C. of the 25th Regiment were detailed to meet the remains. Crossing the ferry the coffin was placed in a hearse drawn by four white horses, and the procession was soon formed, flanked by the firemen with torches. The procession immediately took up the line of march for the Capitol, preceded by Schriber's Band and Eastman's College Band. Maiden Lane, Broadway and State street were densely crowded with people, the ladies almost as numerous as the men. Good order and quiet prevailed throughout the march. Arrived at the Capitol, the coffin was removed by the bearers upon a Catafalque, which had been prepared for its reception, directly under the centre chandelier. Guards of the State Militia were immediately stationed in the Chamber, in the halls and side rooms, while companies from the 3d and 21st Regiments, United States Reserve Corps, were detailed for duty outside the Capitol, in command of lieutenant J. B. Blonding.
At half-past one this morning, the coffin was opened, and the immense throng of people in and about the park were permitted to enter [the] chamber, and view the remains of President Lincoln. They passed in and out at the rate of 60 or 70 a minute. All the visitors exhibited deep feeling and all were apparently more or less affected. 
Albany appears to have been the first and possibly the only city where Lincoln's remains were on view through the night. 

At 8 a.m. on April 26, the City of Hudson Common Council and other Hudson dignitaries boarded a special train for Albany to participate in the funeral ceremonies there. Lincoln's body lay in state in the Capitol for only about twelve hours--from 1:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.--but in that time nearly 50,000 people passed by the coffin. In the early afternoon, the grand procession from the Capitol to the New York Central station got underway. The hearse, this time drawn by six white horses, made its way to the train station, while "a mass of human beings, estimated at 60,000, crowded along the streets for more than a mile."

New York State Archives
At 4 p.m., the funeral train left Albany bound to Buffalo.

Before dawn on the day the funeral train was in Albany, Union soldiers caught up with John Wilkes Booth hiding in a tobacco barn on the Garrett farm near Port Royal, Virginia. When Booth refused to surrender, the soldiers set fire to the barn. Although the orders were to take Booth alive, Sergeant Boston Corbett shot him in the neck, claiming that Booth had raised his pistol to shoot at them. Booth was dragged from the burning barn to the porch of the Garrett farmhouse, where he died three hours later. Among the things found in his pockets was a diary, in which he had written this about Lincoln's death: "Our country owed all her troubles to him, and God simply made me the instrument of his punishment."

Not to Be Missed

Enid Futterman reviews the event "Mourning Lincoln" on imby.

Photo: Enid Futterman

And Now for Today . . .

This afternoon, Historic Hudson invites its members--past, present, and future--to the organization's annual meeting. The event revives a Historic Hudson tradition of yearly meetings that are part party and part annual gathering of the membership (as required by its bylaws) held in interesting historic buildings in Hudson (as inspired by its mission).

Today's meeting takes place from 4 to 6 p.m. at 620 Union Street--originally the home of Robert and Sarah McKinstry (Sarah was one of the founders of the Hudson Orphan Asylum), formerly the Home for the Aged, and now undergoing a dramatic and painstakingly accurate restoration by its current owner, John Knott, who is graciously and generously hosting today's event.

Re-creating and Creating History

Last night, the people of Hudson learned that the adjective weird had a meaning in the 19th century that was somewhat different from the one it has today. When Edward Townsend called the scene that transpired in Hudson when Lincoln's funeral train stopped here, "one of the most weird ever witnessed," he didn't mean it was odd or bizarre. It is more likely that he meant it was otherworldly and mysterious, for that was the effect when, 150 years later, Hudsonians re-created the moment.

Photo: Billy Shannon
Billy Shannon has a review of the event on his new blog, Hudson River Zeitgeist, and Lance Wheeler has posted a video on imby, but you had to have been there. 

The torches, the chorus of female voices, the solemn procession accompanied by a beat of a single drum created a mood that was haunting and otherworldly, which was enhanced by the presence of two female figures dressed in full period mourning.

Photo: Dini Lamot
Gary Schiro's presentation of a tribute to Lincoln, which appeared in the Columbia Republican on April 18, 1865, was powerful and moving. Mary Hack's a capella performance of the recitative "Comfort Ye," which was the final moment of the event, was achingly lovely. (This recitative from Handel's Messiah was also performed at a memorial concert by the Philharmonic Society of New-York on April 29, 1865.)

Photo: Bob Burns
Photo: Dini Lamot
The centerpiece of the re-creation was the tableau, designed and created by Jamison Teale. Modeled on the description in Townsend's journal, the tableau was the perfect focal point for an event that many members of the audience attested was a portal drawing them back for a moment to 1865 and a country wounded by civil war and suddenly devastated by great loss and united in mourning.

Photo: Bob Burns

Photo: The Gossips of Rivertown

Saturday, April 25, 2015

150 Years Ago: TONIGHT

On the night of April 25, 1865, Lincoln's funeral train stopped briefly in Hudson. What transpired was recorded by Assistant Adjutant General Edward D. Townsend, the commander of the funeral train.
At Hudson . . . elaborate preparations had been made. Beneath an arch hung with black and white drapery and evergreen wreaths, was a tableau representing a coffin resting upon a dais; a female figure in which, mourning over the coffin; a soldier standing at one end and a sailor at the other. While a band of young women dressed in white sang a dirge, two others in black entered the funeral-car, placed a floral device on the President’s coffin, then knelt for a moment of silence, and quietly withdrew. This whole scene was one of the most weird ever witnessed, its solemnity being intensified by the somber light of the torches at that dead hour of night.
Tonight at 8:45 p.m. the scene Townsend witnessed in 1865 will be re-created. The event begins in front of Kite's Nest, 108 South Front Street, at Basilica Hudson, and moves in a procession across to the lawn beside the Dunn building. All are invited to come and witness history re-created.  

150 Years Ago: April 25

A hundred and fifty years ago today in New York City, at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, Lincoln's coffin was placed on a fourteen-foot long funeral car drawn by sixteen horses wearing long blankets. The funeral procession, from City Hall to the Hudson River Railway Depot went up Broadway to Fourteenth Street, over to Fifth Avenue, then up Fifth Avenue to Thirty-Fourth Street, and across to Ninth Avenue and the railroad depot.

Seventy-five thousand people marched in the in the enormous procession, and many thousands more packed the streets to witness the funeral procession. It is said that spaces at windows along the route rented for $100 a person.

In the 1950s, Stefan Lorant came across the photograph above while researching a book about Lincoln. It shows the procession as it approached Union Square. The house at the corner is the home of Cornelius Van Schaack Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt's grandfather. Examining the photograph more closely, Lorant noticed two boys watching from a second-story window of the Roosevelt mansion. Those two boys, it turns out, are the future president Theodore Roosevelt, then six and a half years old, and his brother Elliot.

New York Times
After the grand procession, the coffin was returned to the funeral train for the journey to Albany and its stop along the way in Hudson. The train left New York shortly after 4 p.m. Passing through the Hudson Valley, on the Hudson River Railway, the funeral train was pulled by a locomotive named Union and accompanied by a pilot engine called Constitution.

Friday, April 24, 2015

150 Years Ago: April 24

On this day in 1865, Lincoln's funeral train left Philadelphia at 4 a.m. bound for New York. At 10 a.m., it arrived at the train station in Jersey City. The coffin was then removed from the funeral car and ferried across the Hudson River. In New York, it was transported to City Hall, where it was carried up the circular staircase to the rotunda and placed on a black velvet dais.

The public was admitted to view the body shortly after 1 p.m. It was reported that at one point more than 5oo,ooo people waited in line to pass by the open coffin. David T. Valentine, who edited and published a series if New York City almanacs, wrote: "A ceaseless throng of visitors were admitted to view the body, while many thousands were turned away unable to obtain admittance. All classes of our citizens, the old and the young, the rich and the poor, without distinction of color or sex, mingled in the silent procession that passed reverently before the bier."

An account from the New York Times speaks of Lincoln's appearance after three days of travel and previous viewings in three cities: "It will not be possible, despite the effection of the embalming, to continue much longer the exhibition, as the constant shaking of the body aided by the exposure to the air, and the increasing of dust, has already undone much of the  . . . workmanship, and it is doubtful if it will be decreed wise to tempt dissolution much further."

It was in New York that the only known photograph of Lincoln lying in his coffin was taken. 

Secretary of War Edwin Stanton had insisted that no photos be taken of Lincoln's lying in his coffin, and Edward D. Townsend, commander of the funeral train, who appears at the right in the photograph, almost lost his job as a consequence. Fortunately for Hudson, he didn't, because his is the only account of what happened when the funeral train stopped here briefly the next day, on its way from New York City to Albany.
At Hudson . . . elaborate preparations had been made. Beneath an arch hung with black and white drapery and evergreen wreaths, was a tableau representing a coffin resting upon a dais; a female figure in which, mourning over the coffin; a soldier standing at one end and a sailor at the other. While a band of young women dressed in white sang a dirge, two others in black entered the funeral-car, placed a floral device on the President’s coffin, then knelt for a moment of silence, and quietly withdrew. This whole scene was one of the most weird ever witnessed, its solemnity being intensified by the somber light of the torches at that dead hour of night. 
Tomorrow night, the scene Townsend described will be re-created near the Hudson train station. The event begins at 8:45 p.m. in front of Kite's Nest at Basilica Hudson, 108 South Front Street, with a choir of women singing a dirge. A torchlit procession led by two women in black will then cross over to the lawn beside the old Dunn building, where the tableau will be installed. All are invited to witness Mourning Lincoln, the re-creation of the scene Townsend described as "one of the most weird ever witnessed."

Thursday, April 23, 2015

150 Years Ago: April 23

The body of Abraham Lincoln spent this day, April 23, 1865, lying in state at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. People began lining up to view the President's body at 5 a.m., and many waited in line for as many as five hours for the chance to pass by the open coffin. "At its greatest, the double line was three miles long and wound from the Delaware River to the Schuylkill River." It was estimated at 300,000 people viewed Lincoln's body in Philadelphia.

According to accounts, the crowd in Philadelphia was so immense that the police had trouble maintaining order. "Some people had their clothing ripped, others fainted, one broke her arm."

Embalming was a fairly new art in 1865. Lincoln was the first president to be embalmed, and the Civil War was the first war in which slain soldiers were embalmed to be returned home for burial. The funeral train traveled with an embalmer and a mortician, and after its stay in Philadelphia, Lincoln's corpse needed a little touch. In his book The Lincoln Train in Pennsylvania, Bradley R. Hoch recounts, "As soon as the entrances closed and the public was out of the Assembly Room . . . embalmer Brown cleaned Lincoln's face of the dust that had accumulated during 33 hours in Philadelphia."

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc?

One of the items on the agenda at the Common Council Legal Committee meeting on April 9 was a vacancy tax, an annual fee levied by the City on buildings that stand empty. Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who chairs the committee, opened the discussion by saying that the City of Newburgh "just ratcheted theirs way up." 

Coincidentally, at the beginning of this week, signs appeared on four major vacant buildings on Warren Street owned by the Galvan Initiatives Foundation, a couple of which have been vacant for nearly a decade.

The signs, each of which bear the Galvan logo and a rendering of how the building to which it is affixed will eventually look, announce that the building is "Under Construction" and provide a phone number to be called for leasing information. They have so far been seen on 202-204 Warren Street, 260 Warren Street, 364 Warren Street, and 366 Warren Street.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

150 Years Ago: April 22

At 10 a.m., on April 22, 1865, after three hours of public viewing at the state House of Representatives in Harrisburg, Lincoln's coffin was loaded back onto the hearse and carried back to the train station. Forty thousand people lined the streets of Harrisburg to watch its progress.

At 11:15 a.m., the funeral train started the 106-mile journey to Philadelphia, on the Pennsylvania Railroad. It arrived at the Broad Street Station that afternoon, at 4:30 p.m.

The streets of Philadelphia were crowded with people who had come out to witness the procession carrying the coffin from the train station to Independence Hall. There it was placed in the East Wing, where the Declaration of Independence had been signed. Viewing Lincoln's remains that evening was by invitation only.

Lincoln Tonight

The Lincoln Funeral Train sesquicentennial commemoration continues tonight with a special screening of the 2012 film Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field, at Fairview Cinema 3 in Fairview Plaza, just across the border in Greenport.

The screening begins at 7 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and children.

Immerse yourself in the life and remarkable achievement of Lincoln tonight, so you will be fully prepared to experience "Mourning Lincoln," the re-creation of what happened when Lincoln's funeral train stopped briefly in Hudson on April 25, on Saturday night.

Important Reminder

The monster power line public comment period ends today, April 22. Check out the Hudson Valley Smart Energy Coalition website and then use this link to post your comment to the New York State Public Service Commission.

Happy Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day, first celebrated forty-five years ago. On April 22, 1970, millions took to the streets to protest the deterioration of the environment and to demonstrate in support of pursuing a healthy, sustainable world. It was fitting then, that on the eve of Earth Day 2015, North Bay enjoyed a little victory.

The Common Council was expected to vote last night on the resolution declaring the proposed sewer separation project a Type II Action, requiring no environmental review. In anticipation of the vote, Timothy O'Connor had delivered the Protect North Bay petition, with 416 signatures, to the aldermen. When the time came to consider the resolution, Common Council president Don Moore moved to postpone voting on it until June 16 and to use the intervening time to pursue an environmental review. 

Before the Council voted on Moore's motion, there was discussion about who would carry out the environmental review and how it would be paid for. City attorney Carl Whitbeck opined that six weeks was adequate time to do an environmental study "if Delaware Engineering is going to do it." Audience member Nick Zachos asked if having Delaware Engineering do the environmental review wouldn't be a conflict of interest, since they have been hired to do the sewer separation project. They have also appeared at two Council meetings defending the position that the project is a Type II Action, which does not require environmental review. O'Connor offered the opinion that Saratoga Associates, now doing the feasibility study on the Dunn warehouse, would be a perfect candidate. Moore suggested that it would be good to get two cost estimates, and it was decided a special meeting would have to be held to approve the amount to be spent and to authorize the mayor to enter into a contract.

When the time came to vote on pursuing an environmental review, Alderman Bart Delaney (Fifth Ward) said that he felt enough time had been spent on the issue before voting no. His colleague from the Fifth Ward, Robert "Doc" Donahue followed suit. The rest of the aldermen present--Ohrine Stewart (Fourth Ward) was absent--and Council president Moore voted yes, and the motion passed with 1,205 affirmative votes--just 190 votes more than what are needed for a simple majority. The vote is another example of the weirdness of the weighted vote: eight people vote for a measure, two people vote against it, and the percentage of affirmative votes is not an overwhelming 80 percent but a nail-biting 59 percent.

Happy Birthday, Hudson!

Two hundred and thirty years ago, on April 22, 1785, the City of Hudson was incorporated, giving it the distinction of being the first city to be incorporated in the newly independent United States.

Today, Hudson FORWARD is celebrating the 230th anniversary of the incorporation of our fair city with a party to kick off Hudson Voter Registration Week. The goal is to register 230 new voters and to impress upon the people of Hudson that every vote counts. 

The party begins at 6 p.m. at 1 North Front Street, the former Washington Hose Company firehouse. Don't miss it! There will be birthday cake from Trixie's Oven.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Frank Lloyd Wright and the Planning Board

In a lecture published in 1931, Frank Lloyd Wright made this observation, "The physician can bury his mistakes,--but the architect can only advise his client to plant vines." On Tuesday afternoon, the Planning Board offered a variation of this advice to the applicant whose building, at 78 Green Street, had been constructed in the wrong place: "Plant trees."

The special meeting of the Planning Board, convened to vote on approving a "site plan revision" for 78 Green Street, began with the Planning Board's newest member, Tom DePietro, reporting that, as a consequence of a visit made to the site, all of Jack Connor's questions and concerns, raised at the public hearing, have been answered satisfactorily. Connor, it was announced, is now "fine with everything." 

After some chat about the value of a "field trip" to a site, in which Planning Board member Claudia DeStefano, who lives a block away from the site, declared, "What is there is far different from what I was imagining," and newly appointed chair of the Planning Board, Carmine Pierro, who lives in Taghkanic, asserted, "It was an eye-opener," Andy Howard, counsel to the Planning Board, walked them through Part 2 of the Short Environmental Assessment Form, recommending the answer "No, or small impact may occur" to each question, including this one: "Will the proposed action impair the character or quality of the existing community?"; and this one: "Will the proposed action impair the character or quality of important historic, archaeological, architectural or aesthetic resources?"

The Planning Board then issued a negative declaration and unanimously approved the amended site plan, contingent on the planting of trees--evergreen trees, at least four feet tall at the time of planting. Four such trees are to be planted, evenly spaced, between the new building and the little building that now houses Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and eight are to be planted, also evenly spaced, along the back of the new building, adjacent to Connor's property.

"They Also Serve . . ."

Not a woman? Don't look good in white? Can't carry a tune? Don't worry. There is a part for you in the elaborate re-creation of what happened when Lincoln's funeral train stopped briefly in Hudson in the night of April 25, 1865.

Torchbearers  Light the way and help re-create the eerie and otherworldly scene that transpired 150 years ago. If you would rather carry a torch than curse the darkness, email Stephanie Monseu of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus and express your interest.

Perimeter Watchers  Responsible volunteers are needed to make sure everyone--participant or spectator--gets safely across the railroad tracks and doesn't stray back onto the tracks during the part of the event that happens on the other side. If you want to help keep your fellow Hudsonians safe, email The Gossips of Rivertown and let us know. 

All volunteers are asked to come to a walkthrough rehearsal on Thursday, April 23,, at 6 p.m., and to show up for event at 8:15 p.m. on Saturday, April 25. The re-creation begins at 8:45.