Monday, December 21, 2015

Hudson's Nightmare Capital Project

One hundred years ago yesterday, on December 20, 1915, this headline appeared on the front page of the Evening Register.

What followed was a letter, reprinted in its entirety, from Royall D. Bradbury, a consulting engineer from Boston, to C. S. Williams, secretary of the Hudson Board of Education. More than a year earlier, on October 19, 1914, the Board of Education hired Bradbury, who had been recommended by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to (1) "investigate the cause of collapse and, if possible, to fix the blame," and (2) to make a severe and searching test of the whole building to serve as a basis for further operations in completing the building." The building in question, to be Hudson's new high school, was 401 State Street. Bradbury's expert intervention was required because on October 12, 1914, when the building was still under construction, the State Street facade collapsed. Here is the report that appeared later that same day in the Hudson Evening Register.

On December 22, 1914, Bradbury submitted his findings. "After very severe tests especially on such portions of the building as had been called in question," Bradbury made his recommendations: "The entire roof should be removed and . . . four concrete beams on the second floor should be reinforced by additional supports." He also indicated that "in other respects the entire building as built is safe and adequate."

On January 4, 1915, the attorneys for the Board of Education made this statement: "It is our opinion that William T. Towner, the architect, the Berrigan Contracting company, the contractor, and the Burchartz Fireproofing Co are guilty of actionable negligence that caused the disaster at the new high school building in process of erection at the corner of North Fourth and State streets in the City of Hudson, N.Y. on October 12, 1914; and that Mr. Towner and the two corporations named are legally responsible for the pecuniary damages resulting from the catastrophe."

The pecuniary settlements reached were reported in the Hudson Evening Register for June 11, 1915. Based on the recommendations made by Bradbury, Towner drew up new plans, which were examined by Bradbury and submitted to the Board of Education with Bradbury's approval. Bradbury made weekly visits to Hudson to inspect the new construction and in his letter of December 22, 1915, declared that "the work of reconstruction has been carefully and thoroughly done in strict accordance with the plans and specifications and . . . in my opinion, all defects as originally found in the building have been entirely rectified, thereby rendering the building as now erected perfectly safe and in every way structurally adequate for its intended uses."

Photo courtesy Historic Hudson
One hundred years later, the building, now used as a county office building, still stands.

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