Sunday, January 10, 2016

News of the Steeple

At its regular meeting on Friday, the Historic Preservation Commission agreed unanimously to approve the proposal to cap the tower once surmounted by a soaring steeple on the church building at 448 Warren Street, constructed in 1869 as the Universalist Church.

The original proposal for the tower, presented to the HPC on December 11, involved lights projecting upward to create a "hologram" of the missing spire. The HPC decided that a public hearing should be held on the proposal to re-create a missing architectural element with light. Before the public hearing was held, however, the applicant withdrew the proposal for the lights. Somewhere in the sequence of events, Craig Haigh, code enforcement officer, opined that the proposal's compliance with city code was "iffy," but it's not clear if that influenced the applicant's decision to withdraw the proposal.

The proposal before the HPC on Friday was simply to restore the tower up to where the base of the original steeple would have been and to construct a cap on the tower. The steeple on the shorter spire is to be restored exactly as it was originally, and the pattern and color of the slate on that steeple will be replicated on the cap for the taller spire.

Contemplating the proposal, HPC member Phil Forman declared, "The steeple thing throws me," describing it as "not in sync with the very high standards that the rest of the building is being restored to." 

The applicant responded, "If this were to be a church in the future, we would build the steeple." He went on to explain that since the building is have a non-ecclesiastical use, they felt it unnecessary to take on the challenges of engineering the steeple for wind load and other climatic considerations or the worries about liability.

Forman urged the applicant not to take the request for a public hearing as a negative opinion from the HPC, making assurances that the option of the hologram was still open. HPC member Peggy Polenberg intimated that the hologram steeple could be a tourist attraction. "I would love to see you re-creating something with light. It would draw people to Hudson even more."