Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Taking Rurbanism Too Far?

The term Rurbanism, it will be recalled, was coined by Ann Marie Gardner a few years ago, back when she was the editor of the "stylish agrarian quarterly" Modern Farmer, to describe the "urban-rural confluence" that she saw as the new culture of Hudson. Merging rural and urban seems to work out fine in food, fashion, and interior design, but when it comes to architecture in historic districts perhaps not so much. 

A proposal that came before the Historic Preservation Commission last Friday is a case in point. The owners of 210 Allen Street are proposing to build a structure behind their house, facing Partition Street, with a gambrel roof, that will look just like a barn.The question before the HPC is whether or not this structure is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.

At the meeting on Friday, HPC chair Rick Rector made the point that there were plenty of gambrel-roofed barns in the area but none in the city. Other HPC members shared various observations and opinions. Miranda Barry noted that what was proposed was "a legitimate historic style, but it's not appropriate to a city." Later, however, after Peggy Polenberg asserted there was a barn on Clinton Street, Barry suggested that it was important to know if there were other barns in Hudson. Gossips argues that is not important. If there were a barn on Clinton Street, it won't much matter. In the 1860s, when the neighborhood of the proposed barn was developed, the area around Clinton Street was still relatively undeveloped and rural. Phil Forman said he thought the design was "a matter of taste" and shared his opinion that the proposed barn "would be nicer" than what now exists on that block of Partition Street. David Voorhees focused on the siding, wanting to know if the siding on the building would be vertical (as shown in the rendering) or horizontal and opining that horizontal siding would make the building's appearance more acceptable.

It is true that there are buildings along Partition Street that were carriage houses--the urban equivalent of a barn--where, before the advent of the car, carriages and horses were kept and hay was stored in an upper loft. With some buildings along Partition Street, now used as garages or for storage, it's still possible to discern their original function as carriage houses. Many doors on the buildings have the diagonal slats that are characteristic of barn doors. But what the buildings along Partition Street do not have are gambrel roofs. There are only shed roofs and gabled roofs. 

The HPC rarely holds public hearings, but there will be a public hearing on this project before they decide whether or not to grant a certificate of appropriateness. The public hearing will take place at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 25. It will be followed by the HPC's regular bimonthly meeting.


  1. It looks like a giant version of one of those pre-fab "barns" available at Lowe's or Home Depot.

  2. There is a good(real) barn just off South Fifth St. on the alley. Behind Dina & Kevin's new spot for Olde Hudson, 449 Warren St.

    1. Yes, but it is important to note that the building you mention does not have a gambrel roof:

    2. And how I miss that guacamole green.

  3. It's oddly reminiscent of the fast food chain "Red Barn" which dotted the US and Canadian landscape back in the '70s.