Sunday, December 13, 2015

News from the HPC

Nine projects came before the Historic Preservation Commission on Friday, three of which merit attention.

720 Columbia Street  The signage proposed for Hudson's newest liquor store finally received approval from the HPC. After last week's workshop, a compromise was reached. Instead of the entire name of the liquor store--"M & M WINE & SPIRITS"-- appearing in illuminated red plastic sans serif letters across the front of the building, only the words "WINE & SPIRITS" will appear in illuminated red plastic serif letters, and there will be a hanging sign, mounted higher on the building than usual lest it be hidden by the highway signage, bearing the full name of the store.

102-104 North Fifth Street  The house at the corner of North Fifth and Washington streets, which from 1893 to 1900 served as Hudson's first hospital, is undergoing a major rehabilitation. 

Its current owner, Kamal Elmarsi appeared before the HPC on Friday seeking a certificate of appropriateness to replace the hodgepodge of vinyl windows, installed over the years when the house was owned by Phil Gellert, with one over one wood windows. During the review of the project, HPC chair Rick Rector asked, "Historically, what were the windows?" The question was never addressed or answered before the HPC granted its approval. When asked about this after the meeting, Rector noted there is no preservation architect on the commission, a requirement of the law, implying that the input of a preservation architect was needed in order to make this determination. The historian member of the HPC, David Voorhees opined that the technology to create larger panes of glass would have existed when the house was built, and if the original owners of the house were affluent, it would probably have had one over one windows.

448 Warren Street  The church that was constructed between 1867 and 1869 as the First Universalist Church has been undergoing an exemplary restoration in the past year or so. Previously, aspects of the project that have come before the HPC have been easy to approve, but that is not the case with the most recent proposal.

Photo courtesy Historic Hudson

The steeple on the church has been missing since the mid-20th century when, according to legend, the Methodist congregation then occupying the church was persuaded to remove it rather than risk liability should the steeple topple in a storm. Unfortunately, the plans for restoring the former church building do not include reconstructing the steeple. Instead the tower that once held the steeple would be "finished off" with a little pointed roof, and eight lights would be installed projecting upward to create a hologram of the missing steeple.

HPC chair Rick Rector called the proposal "an homage to what was there in the past." David Voorhees worried about the effect of changing weather conditions on the light show. Miranda Barry called the proposal "very interesting and very creative" but added, "I wouldn't want to see it every day." She suggested that it was "a work of art instead of architecture."

There was some question of whether or not the use of lights projecting upward was permitted by the city code. Rector wanted a judgment from code enforcement officer Craig Haigh and city attorney and HPC counsel Carl Whitebeck on this issue before the review proceeded. Whitbeck suggested that the application be bifurcated, and the slate "cap" proposed for the tower be considered separate from the steeple hologram. Rector, however, maintained that the two "go hand in hand" and urged that Haigh and Whitbeck provide a determination about the code issues within the next week. He then scheduled a public hearing on the project for Friday, January 8, at 9 a.m.


  1. There are no 19th c. photos of Hudson's first hospital?

  2. I would agree, either one over one, or two over two but there must be photographic evidence as unheimlich suggests.

    So. "there is no preservation architect on the commission, a requirement of the law"

    WHY … it is most important for a historic commission to work with knowledge instead of playing a guessing game with this historic jewel of a city !

    1. It's local law §169-3(A)(1): "At least one shall be an architect experienced in working with historic buildings; if there is no resident of Hudson who has these credentials and is willing to serve on the [Historic Preservation] Commission, a nonresident may be appointed to the Commission."

      Not that the City ever showed concern about which body of laws it was breaking, or at least disregarding, whether local, State, Federal, or all of the above.

  3. I thought the first hospital was where the Firemens Home is now?

    1. Never heard that! Check out Anna Bradbury's "History of the City of Hudson" for documentation that this house was it:

  4. The architect who worked on Christ Church Episcopal's project might still live in the Kinderhook area.

  5. Speaking of signage, did the Historic Preservation Commission ever evaluate the weird looking sign on the side of the Berkshire Bank building on Sixth Street? It is quite the eyesore. And what about the garish lit-up billboard on Third Street between Union and Cherry Alley? it creates a tremendous amount of light pollution.