Thursday, June 30, 2016

Ah, Wilderness!

Dear Diary,
Hudson is a city, but a very small city, and in spite of its urbanness (and urbaneness), there is wildness all around. Sometimes the encroachment of wildness can be quaint and quirky; at other times, not so much.
Walking with my dog, Joey, early Monday morning, I sensed movement behind us. Turning, I saw a deer, just a few yards away, bounding across Allen Street near the courthouse, its hooves beating a delicate tattoo on the pavement. That was quaint and quirky. On Tuesday night, our encounter with wildness was of another sort. 
It was 10 p.m., and it was raining. I had just returned from working at the polls for eleven hours, and Joey was desperately in need of a walk. We left the house, crossed the street, and headed for the corner. It was then that we spotted (Joey first, then me) an animal moving on the other side of the street--in front a house a few doors down from ours. It was a skunk!
Joey started toward the skunk, but mercifully he didn't bark. Fearing he might (even from the other side of the street) trigger the skunk's defense mechanism, I pulled Joey close to me, while pleading softly, "Don't bark. Don't bark."
When I saw the skunk heading down between two houses toward a backyard, we continued on our walk, to Second and on toward Partition. It was raining, I didn't have an umbrella, Joey and I were getting soaked to the skin, but I wanted to give the skunk plenty of time to get settled someplace off the street before we returned, so we continued on to Union Street.
Wet and unhappy, we turned back at Union Street and headed home, but when we got to Allen Street, there was the skunk (or was it a second skunk?) snuffling around the gate beside our house. Back we went to Second Street, hoping to give the skunk plenty of time to slip under the gate and disappear.  
This time, we went only as far as Partition Street before heading back, but when we approached our house, from the opposite side of the street, I saw the skunk again (or was it a third skunk?) lurking in front of our next door neighbor's house.
Once again we retreated back to Second Street, but this time we went from Second to Partition, headed east on Partition to Cross Alley, and approached our house from the east. Finally, thoroughly wet and miserable, my dog and I were at last able to regain the comfort of home while avoiding a skunk encounter.  
"Micropolitan Diary" is Gossips' homage to and blatant imitation of "Metropolitan Diary" in the New York Times. The term micropolitan was coined (by Gossips) because Hudson is a metropolis in microcosm.

News of Relevance to Hudson

Day before yesterday, on June 28, the U.S. Green Building Council announced its 2015 LEED Homes Award Winners. Receiving the award for Outstanding Multifamily Project was Tilley Lofts in Watervliet, an old ladder manufacturing facility that was converted into luxury loft-style apartments. Two thirds of the team responsible for this award-winning project is now at work in Hudson. Redburn Development is soon to embark on the restoration of 41 Cross Street, transforming it into a 55-room hotel. Consigli Construction is now working on the final stage of restoration at the Hudson Opera House. How cool is that?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

About the Proposed Haul Road to the River

On Tuesday night, the Greenport Planning Board declared itself lead agency in the review of the haul road proposed by A. Colarusso & Son, from their facility on Newman Road to the waterfront in Hudson. Apparently, that's not the end of it. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation could decide the Greenport Planning Board is not the appropriate lead agency, or the DEC could decide to make itself lead agency.

The decision by the Greenport Planning Board reminds us that at the last Hudson Planning Board meeting, chair Tom DePietro expressed the opinion that the Greenport Planning Board should be the lead agency because "they had a paid engineer on their board." Soon after Gossips reported this on June 13, Ed Nabozny, supervisor for the Town of Greenport, contacted Gossips to deny that there was a paid engineer, or indeed any engineer, on the Greenport Planning Board. Instead, he explained, "We contract with Morris Associates, a professional engineering firm, as a liaison between the planning board applicants and the town to assure all criteria are met and in compliance with government regulations." For this service, the Town of Greenport pays Morris Associates on an hourly basis. The engineer from that firm who currently sits with the Greenport Planning Board during their monthly meetings is Ray Jurkowski.

Relevant to the whole situation of the haul road, which passes through an area of Hudson zoned R-C, "Recreational Conservation," is this paragraph (and probably others as well) from Hudson's Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. This one is found on page 14.
This Area [the Southern Waterfront Area] offers important opportunities to gain long desired public access to and views of the riverfront. Working cooperatively with Holcim, the City plans to enter into an agreement with Holcim to transfer title of the South Bay, excluding the causeway, to the City or a nonprofit land conservation organization, subject to a public easement over the South Bay causeway to allow public pedestrian and vehicular traffic over the causeway. The agreement would also transfer to the City a conservation easement on the causeway to allow the easement holder the right to undertake measures to restore the South Bay, such as through the maintenance of existing, or the introduction of additional, culverts or construction of other physical alterations to the causeway that would increase water flow in the South Bay while not jeopardizing the structural integrity of the causeway. This agreement, would also encompass transfer of the 7 acres of riverfront property located in the Core Riverfront Area and will allow for the development of significant public recreational amenities on the riverfront as well as recreational, research, and flood water management and control opportunities in the South Bay.
One cannot help but imagine that the situation with Colarusso's current proposal for the haul road might be different if previous administrations had not dropped the ball in getting the LWRP, which. though flawed, was adopted by the Common Council in 2011, approved and implemented.

News from the County IDA

Gossips has learned that, on Tuesday morning, the Columbia County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) granted Redburn Development the PILOT that was sought to develop 41 Cross Street into a 55-room hotel to be called "The Wick."

Work on restoring and adapting the building is expected to begin later this summer.

Primary Results Throughout the 19th District

The unofficial results for Democrats in yesterday's primary are now available at the New York State Board of Elections website. Here are percentages of the vote that went to Will Yandik and Zephyr Teachout in each of the eleven counties that are part of the 19th Congressional District.
  • Broome:  Yandik  23.81%; Teachout  76.19%
  • Columbia:  Yandik  55.78%; Teachout  44%
  • Delaware:  Yandik  31.70%; Teachout  68.06%
  • Dutchess:  Yandik  17.51%; Teachout  82.22%
  • Greene:  Yandik  45.03%; Teachout  53.59%
  • Montgomery:  Yandik  36.11%; Teachout  63.89%
  • Otsego:  Yandik  29.95%; Teachout 69.91%
  • Rensselaer:  Yandik  22.08%; Teachout  77.46%
  • Schoharie:  Yandik  21.33%; Teachout  78.47%
  • Sullivan:  Yandik  17.17%; Teachout  82.23%
  • Ulster:  Yandik  16.87%; Teachout  83.00%

Second News of the Primary

The unofficial election results are now available on the Board of Elections website. In Hudson, Will Yandik beat Zephyr Teachout in the Democratic primary 267 to 103; John Faso bested Andrew Heaney in the Republican primary 33 to 10. But that's just Hudson. The results in our city reflect the outcome throughout the district only in the Republican race.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

First News of the Primary

Although it appears that Will Yandik won handily in Hudson, it was just reported on WAMC that he has conceded to Zephyr Teachout.

Remember to Vote Today . . .

in the Congressional primary. Registered Democrats and Republicans will select their candidates to replace Chris Gibson as the representative from the 19th Congressional District in New York. The polls are open from noon until 9 p.m.

Of Great Interest

The Greenport Planning Board meets tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Greenport Town Hall. On the agenda is the proposed haul road from the Colarusso facility on Newman Road to the waterfront in Hudson.

The recently widened and surfaced haul road going east from Route 9G through an area of Hudson zoned R-C, Recreational Conservation. The work was done without the required site plan review by the City of Hudson Planning Board.

Fair & Equal Moves Ahead

The Register-Star has an article today about the Fair & Equal initiative to reform legislative districts and do away with the weighted vote in Hudson: "1 person, 1 vote group ready to go to council." The Fair & Equal initiative would redraw the ward boundaries, which were established in 1886 when the city was quite a different place in terms of where the majority of the population lived, to create wards of equal population.

The group will be delivering signed petitions to City Hall next week, calling for a referendum on the issue to be on the ballot in November. If you have not yet signed the petition, email contact@weighted to connect with a petition carrier in your neighborhood.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Don't Forget to Vote Tomorrow

Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 28, is the federal primary. Registered Democrats and Republicans will vote to elect their candidate who will vie for Chris Gibson's seat in Congress representing New York's 19th Congressional District in November. 

For Democrats, the choice is between Will Yandik and Zephyr Teachout.

For Republicans, the choice is between Andrew Heaney and John Faso.

The polls are open from noon until 9 p.m. In Hudson, voters who live in the First, Second, and Third wards vote at St. Mary's Academy, 301 Allen Street; voters who live in the Fourth Ward vote in the county office building at 401 State Street; voters who live in the Fifth Ward vote at the Central Fire Station, 77 North Seventh Street. Click here for additional information about polling places. You can check your voter information and status being clicking here.

This Morning at Olana

Champions past and present of Olana and of historic preservation gathered outside Frederic Church's grand and exotic home this morning to commemorate the day fifty years ago when Governor Nelson Rockefeller signed the Lane-Newcombe bill which authorized the state to buy the house on the hill and the 250-acre landscape that is Olana.

Many of the visionaries and the foot soldiers in the battle that was waged to save Olana fifty years ago were present for the occasion. Sam Aldrich was there, as was Trudy Huntington, the widow of David Huntington. Ruth Pierpont, Deputy Commissioner for Historic Preservation, was among those who spoke at the event. In her remarks, Pierpont pointed out that 2016 marked not only the fiftieth anniversary of Olana but also of the fiftieth anniversary of National Historic Preservation Act and New York State Historic Trust. The NHPA created the National Register of Historic Places, the list of National Historic Landmarks, and the State Historic Preservation Offices. The New York State Historic Trust was New York's SHPO.

Sadly, the passion and zeal for preservation that rescued Olana in 1966 did not realize the same success four years later in Hudson. In 1970, the 1837 Greek Revival General Worth Hotel, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, was demolished, despite urging from the Hudson River Valley Commission, a commission formed by Governor Rockefeller in 1966 to regulate development along the Hudson River, the New York State Historic Trust, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation that it be saved.

Four years later, in 1974, all the buildings along the west side of Front Street and in the greater part of the Second Ward were razed in the name of urban renewal.

But that great loss is a matter for another time. Today is the occasion for celebrating a great preservation victory.

Governor Rockefeller signing the Lane-Newcombe bill | Photo courtesy Olana

Sunday, June 26, 2016

An Unveiling on Warren Street

Usually, with architecture, what was meant to be is simply better.

Over the weekend, the awning was removed from 751 Warren Street to reveal a wonderful Art Deco eyebrow with stainless steel banding.

Photos courtesy John M. Schobel

Damning with Faint Praise . . . and Typos

On Thursday night, the Best of Columbia County Awards were announced in a ceremony outside the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce at 1 North Front Street. The next day, the Register-Star ran an article about the event: "Columbia County honors its best." Of the more than eight-five recipients, the article mentions only five, three of which are from Hudson: Girlgantua, a.k.a. Justin Weaver, won for Best Entertainer; Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton won for Best Elected Official; and Warren Street won for Best Place to See a Celebrity. 

If you are curious to know who--in Hudson and throughout the county--won in the other eighty or so categories, you can review the entire list here. Baba Louie's Sourdough Pizza won in two categories: Dine with Kids, a distinction that doesn't necessarily recommend it to those who dine without kids, and Slice of Pizza, which is curious since Baba Louie's does not serve pizza by the slice. But most unfortunate for our beloved Baba Louie's is the typo in the name that appears in the list--twice.


Hudson on the International Scene

What does Hudson have in common with Copenhagen, Istanbul, Hong Kong, and Paris? A sceney street that has won the attention of the influential magazine Monocle.

The recommended stops, which tend to favor Hudson's newly hot East End, include the Hudson Opera House, Moto Coffee/Machine, the Spotty Dog, Finch, de Marchin, Valley Variety, Grazin' Diner, Flowerkraut, and the Rivertown Lodge.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Ancram Opera House Kicks Off Its First Season

The Ancram Opera House, now owned by former Hudsonians (and Gossips' neighbors) Paul Ricciardi and Jeff Mousseau, is starting its first season this Saturday, June 25, with an intriguing show for all ages called Les Moutons (The Sheep), a delightful look at how sheep spend their time.

Created by the Toronto-based dance-theater group CORPUS, Les Moutons merges reality and fantasy through a captivating and wordless live installation that re-creates a bucolic country scene. Audiences are invited to travel to a strange and often hilarious universe: a carefully studied, surrealistic overview of sheep behavior. The story features Julie, Marie-Louise, Bernadette, and César--three healthy ewes and a young ram. Routine activities, including shearing, feeding, milking, and many more are depicted in a magical performance that twists reality in surprising ways.
Shows are at 2 and 5 p.m., with a party between shows with Cowboy Jim & the Hayrollers. There will be refreshments and a real lamb for petting. Kids are admitted free (the show is recommended for children 3 and up); for everyone else, it's $15. Click here to purchase tickets. The Ancram Opera House is located at 1330 County Route 7 in Ancram.

This Weekend Is Your Last Chance

This weekend is the last opportunity to experience the immersive installation 130919 A Portrait of Marina Abramović at the Second Ward Foundation, 71 North Third Street. Presented by the Second Ward Foundation and Basilica Hudson in association with Visionaire Film, the exhibition is the debut work in Matthew Placek's series of video portraits. 

The exhibition is free, but reservations are required since groups of four are admitted every fifteen minutes. Click here for more information about the exhibition. Click here to make a reservation.

Another Open Garden Day Tomorrow

The Garden Conservancy, whose mission is to save and share outstanding American gardens, is having another Open Day this weekend, and four Columbia County gardens and one nearby in Dutchess County are featured. Peter Bevacqua, whose garden was part of an Open Day earlier this month, wrote this about the gardens that will be open for viewing tomorrow.
This Saturday, Mark McDonald and Dwayne Resnick open their new garden in Hillsdale for the FIRST TIME. Those of us who remember their fabled terraced garden on the Klein Kill, in Linlithco, will be lining up to see what they’re doing at this totally different but I know equally inspired garden at “Texas Hill.” Another FIRST is “The Happy,” the modernist garden of Tim Legg and Doug Wingo on Mt. Merino. Beautifully designed, their unique pairings of plants and the thought provoking way they’ve approached garden functionality will certainly put a smile on your face.
Then there is Helen Bodin’s beautiful garden in Millerton, home to many rare and unusual plants. Her naturalistic rock garden is a must for any garden enthusiast. The indefatigable gardener, cook, and blogger, Kevin Lee Jacobs has his garden open in Valatie. Perhaps he’ll tell you who his “favorite boxwood barber” is. If so, let me know! And lastly, in Craryville, is “Rabbit Hill,” the garden of Susan Anthony and the late Richard Galef. When Alexis Datta, retired head gardener of Sissinghurt Castle saw this garden she told us that she has rarely seen a garden with such amazing plants, grown so well, and in such inspiring combinations. Praise doesn’t come any higher than that!
"The Happy," Tim Legg and Doug Wingo's garden on Mt. Meriino
The gardens are open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission at each garden is $7. Visit the Garden Conservancy website for more information.

Nothing Is Ever Easy . . . or So It Seems

Back in December 2014, Columbia County was awarded a $131,250 grant "to design a recreational and natural trail within walking distance of downtown Hudson on lands that include the former Hudson Landfill." Now, it seems, that project is ready to begin. It was a topic of discussion at the last meeting of the Board of Supervisors' Public Works Committee on Wednesday. John Mason reports on that meeting in today's Register-Star: "Study to look at trail over capped landfill.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

More About the Boot

Since reporting yesterday that the use of the boot had been suspended, Gossips had a conversation with Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton, who explained the reason for the suspension. According to the city code, a car can be booted if it has three tickets issued to it that have gone unpaid for more than 45 days. The part of the code that addresses the boot was added in 2011 because the ticket bureau was frustrated that a car needed to have five unpaid parking tickets before any punitive action, beyond simply increasing the fines, could be taken--the action being impounding the car. Logic says that the penalty for having three unpaid parking tickets should be less severe than the penalty for having five unpaid parking tickets, but in practice it often ended up being more severe. If the owner of a car that had been booted did not pay all the fines and penalties and the $120 fee to have the boot removed within 24 hours, the car would be towed, resulting in the owner having to pay an another $120 to rescue the car from wherever it had been impounded.

It was to eliminate this double jeopardy that the mayor suspended the use of the boot and, in doing so, effectively lowered the threshold for impounding a car. For now, until some better plan is devised, if you have three parking tickets that have gone unpaid for 45 days, your car will not be booted; it will be towed.

The moral of this story is: Avoid getting parking tickets. If you do get a ticket, pay the fine promptly. Otherwise, instead of going out one day to find a boot on your car, you might discover that your car is not where you left it, because it has been towed.

Civic Pride

Rob Perry, DPW superintendent, informed the Common Council Public Works Committee at its meeting last night that the City's brand-new garbage truck, which the Department of Public Works was able to purchase because no snow last winter left the money allocated for "Snow Removal" in the 2015 budget, is now in service.

Yesterday, the truck was inaugurated collecting the trash from the municipal trash receptacles along Warren Street and in the parks. Today, it is picking up recyclables.


Fair & Equal Town Hall Meeting

Tonight at 6 p.m., the organizers of the Fair & Equal initiative are holding a town hall meeting at the Hudson Area Library.

The initiative seeks to do away with the inequity of Hudson's weighted vote system by replacing the current ward divisions with legislative districts of equal population. 

Following a brief presentation by the organizers, there will be an informal conversation during which questions and concerns can be raised and will be addressed. Those attending the town hall meeting will have the opportunity to sign a petition to put a proposition to create legislative districts of equal population on the ballot in November. To learn more about the issue of the weighted vote and the Fair & Equal initiative, visit

Watch It for Yourself

Dan Udell's video of Tuesday's Common Council meeting, which Gossips just reported on, is now available for viewing here.


Tuesday Night at City Hall

The Common Council met on Tuesday night for its regular meeting of the month. Several issues came before them for discussion and consideration. 

Pedestrian Safety  The meeting started with accepting communications, one of them being a memo from Alderman Henry Haddad (Third Ward), who chairs the Police Committee, addressing complaints about speeding and pedestrian safety that have been made repeatedly by Supervisor Ed Cross (Second Ward) and Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), among others. Haddad's memo made these recommendations:
To better protect our residents and visitors to our city, I recommend that the Mayor of the City of Hudson, Tiffany M. Hamilton, take all steps necessary to implement the following actions: first the purchase of two temporary speed bumps with signage for the cost of $1200 each, to be deployed at the discretion of the Mayor and the Police Department when they deem necessary during the summer months and only in the areas of the playgrounds at Oakdale pond and North Second Street. Second, that the Mayor immediately instruct the Department of Public Works to erect stop signs at the six most dangerous alley intersections.
Haddad goes on to identify the six intersections that he considers "most at risk for public safety."

With regard to Haddad's memo, Council president Claudia DeStefano told the Council that "the mayor has asked the HPD to position the speed trailer [the speed monitoring device acquired in March] on State Street to collect data before putting down speed bumps or whatever." Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), who has been advocating for some kind of traffic calming device on lower State Street, suggested that speed humps would be more appropriate than speed bumps. Replying to the suggestion, DeStefano stated her opinion that "starting with the collection of data is a wise way."

Animalkind  Garriga, who made few friends among dog owners last year when she effectively nixed all the potential dog park sites by asserting that her constituents did not want a dog park in their ward, appeared to be equally ready to offend cat fanciers. After the resolution to pay Animalkind $5,000 for the spaying and neutering services to cats in the city had already passed, Garriga wanted to know "if there has ever been a report on how the $5,000 to Animalkind is spent." She made reference to grants and other contributions received by Animalkind, seeming to imply that the not-for-profit might not need $5,000 from the City.

City attorney Ken Dow told Garriga that Animalkind did send a "breakdown of their numbers and expenses in advance of the request." DeStefano said she had a copy in her office if Garriga wanted to look at it. Haddad said that it was brought to the Finance Committee last year and reminded Garriga that she had been part of that committee. Dow then stated that Animalkind spent $13,000 on city animals and concluded, "Their service [to the City] far exceeds the $5,000 they ask for."

Senior Center  Tempers often flare when the topic is the senior center, and Tuesday night was no exception. There was a resolution before the Council to approve an agreement with the Columbia County Office for the Aging to operate a meal program at the Hudson senior center. Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) had a few problems with the agreement, chief among them that "we are indemnifying the county way more than we are indemnifying us." He also complained that the Council was seeing the revised agreement for the first time that day. He once again brought up the greatest bone of contention regarding the senior center. "This Council agreed to pay $100,000 to the richest man in town and now is asked to approve a contract that puts us on the hook for a third party's negligence." 

After identifying and explaining the items in the proposed contract he found problematic, Friedman declared, "This is being rammed down our throats. I'm not going to vote for it, and I suggest my colleagues don't votes for it either." Having made that statement, Friedman couldn't resist poking the bear--the bear in this case being Alderman Abdus Miah (Second Ward)--by making reference to the $100,000 that was stolen from the seniors to pay the Galvan Foundation. Miah exploded, jumping out of his seat and shouting, blaming the Board of Estimate and Apportionment for not putting money for the senior center in the 2016 budget. Friedman replied, "After you stole the money, there was no money," which provoked a fresh tirade from Miah, with accusations and complaints about the police and court building, a project that Friedman had supported.

Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) suggested that the Council ask the city attorney to address the points Friedman raised about the contract and then hold a special meeting to vote on the amended agreement, at which they would also hear from the clerk of the works and Joe Rapp, the project manager, about the police and court building. That being said and presumably agreed to, the resolution was tabled.

Picnic Tables for Promenade Hill  Another resolution had to do with the gift from Etsy of "two permanent picnic tables," with the expressed desire that "such tables be placed and used in Promenade Hill." After the Council had voted to accept the picnic tables, Rector expressed concern that nobody had seen the picnic tables. He noted, "We're letting a private organization do something in our most historic park." Garriga, who opined that the picnic tables would be beautiful, suggested that they be put in Charles Williams Park if they were not wanted on Promenade Hill.

Parking Permit System  The plan to issue parking permits to residents within three blocks of Columbia Memorial Hospital is back before the Common Council, minimally changed from the ill-fated law that was proposed, narrowly passed by the Common Council, but never enacted in the spring of 2015. 

Alderman Lauren Scalera (Fourth Ward) was the first to comment, saying that "parking is a citywide issue, and she is "weary [or did she say wary?] of something that covers only a select area." DeStefano, who lives near the hospital and was present (before she became Council president) at all the meetings when the proposed law was discussed and developed, responded to Scalera: "I wasn't pleased with the increased scope of the area, but I realize that targeting a small area just forces the problem to expand into adjacent areas."

Friedman, who as chair of the Legal Committee when the proposed law was drafted, called the law "fairly flawed" but suggested that the Council "pass it, enact it, and review it when it sunsets in a year." He also told the Council that he thought enacting the law required a home rule message and authorization by the state legislature, just as the lodging tax did. Dow said he wasn't sure that establishing a parking permit program required authorization from the state but would investigate. 

The discussion then shifted from parking to another hospital-related problem: hospital workers crossing Columbia Street to smoke at the top of McKinstry Place, leaving the street littered with cigarettes butts. That discussion eventually became a general complaint about how laws prohibiting people from smoking inside buildings forced them to smoke outside and to litter the streets. In the end, however, the local law establishing a parking permit system for the area around the hospital was laid on the aldermen's desks.

Von Ritter Lawsuit  After a brief executive session, the Council voted to accept the proposed settlement in the fourteen-year-old lawsuit brought against the City by Heinrich Von Ritter. John Mason reports on the details of that settlement in today's Register-Star: "City to pay Von Ritter $50K, close manhole."

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Good News for Folks with Parking Tickets

At last night's Common Council meeting, when the discussion turned to the local law that would create a parking permit system for the beleaguered residents around the hospital, Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) asked a tangentially related question: "Has the City stopped booting?" Police commissioner Gary Graziano confirmed that it had, "at the direction of the mayor."

The law enabling a car to be booted if there were three or more unpaid parking tickets associated with it was passed in 2011. Prior to that, there needed to be five or more unpaid parking tickets before action could be taken, and that action was impounding (i.e., towing) the car. It is not known if impounding cars with unpaid parking tickets has also been suspended at the direction of the mayor.

More About Olana

John Mason reports in the Register-Star today on the progress of the proposed Skywalk, the pedestrian trail/path connecting the Thomas Cole House and Olana: "Skywalk gets approvals on both sides of the river."

Google Maps

Celebrating a Preservation Victory

On a Monday morning in June 1966--June 27 to be exact--Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller arrived at Olana by helicopter to sign the Lane-Newcombe bill, authorizing the state to purchase Frederic Church's Olana, thus preserving America's most intact and important artist's home, studio, and landscape.

Photo: Melanie Hasbrook
Fifty years later, on Monday, June 27, 2016, representatives of The Olana Partnership and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation will be joined by elected officials and hundreds of others, including veterans of the 1964-1966 campaign to save Olana, to commemorate this signal victory of the historic preservation movement in the United States.

When Sally Church, the widow of Frederic Church's son Louis, died at Olana on August 17, 1964, the future of the house and estate was thrown into question. Her heirs, led by executor Charles Lark, Jr., planned to sell the exotic Victorian house, then crumbling, and its contents, which included more than 700 works by American landscape artist Frederic Church. Church, who created the 250-acre Olana estate over 40 years, had been the most successful Hudson River School painter, but in the mid-1960s, the Hudson River School and Victorian architecture were both little appreciated.

The campaign to save Olana was led by David Huntington, a young art historian then teaching at Smith College, who had visited Olana when he was doing research in graduate school. Huntington joined forces with Sam Aldrich, Governor Rockefeller’s chief aide, to form Olana Preservation, Inc. They brought together some of the leading national figures in art and culture, including Jackie Kennedy, Philip Johnson, Jimmy Biddle, and thousands of ordinary citizens from the Hudson Valley and beyond, to raise awareness of Olana and the Hudson River School. Their efforts culminated in a 14-page feature article in LIFE Magazine in May 1966 and in the NY State Legislature’s passage of the Lane-Newcombe bill authorizing the purchase of Olana. Today, Olana is one of the flagships of the New York State Parks system and one of the most visited historic sites in the state, with more than 170,000 visitors in 2015.

Among those who will be present at the 50th Anniversary commemoration this coming Monday are Sam Aldrich and Trudy Huntington, David Huntington's widow, as well as other veterans of the battle to save Olana. Remarks will be given by Dr. Lucy Rockefeller Waletzky, chair of the New York State Council of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and Ruth Pierpont, deputy commissioner for Historic Preservation.

The event begins at 10 a.m. Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP by email or by calling 518 828-1872, ext. 103.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Summer of 1867

Early in 1867, the editor of the Catskill Examiner expressed the opinion in his newspaper that "Hudson is finished" and "should be fenced in." On February 25, 1867, the editor of the Hudson Daily Register fired back, defending his city and casting aspersions on his colleague across the river. His response, which can be read in its entirety here, includes these thoughts:
The fact is, the Catskill editor, when he leaves his little village and gets up here, becomes bewildered at the neatness, activity, and thrift that he sees all around him, and contrasting it with his own ancient borough, he imagines in his artlessness that there is no room for further improvement, and that Hudson surely must be “finished and ready to fence in.” Now we assure him that we are growing very rapidly up here, but we have no thought of “putting up the bars” yet, although the Catskill fellows are very fond of some kinds of “bars” of which we have too many put up already, as the Examiner man knows by his own experience.
Today, I was surprised to discover that months later the editor of the Daily Star was still obsessing about the outrageous notion that Hudson was finished. The following item appeared in the Daily Star on June 21, 1867--149 years ago today.

No doubt "the overgrown Dutchman at the head of the stream" refers to the village of Catskill.

Gossips Note: This item is of particular interest to me, because my own house was likely one of the dwellings under construction on one of those "other principal streets" in the summer of 1867.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Whither the Lions?

Last week, a reader tipped me off to the fact that the lions which once flanked the entrance to 400 State Street were missing.

Discovering what had happened to the lions wasn't difficult. The mystery of their disappearance was solved with a simple email to Emily Chameides, the director of the Hudson Area Library, who explained that the lions were in storage at the library's new location in the former armory. The removal of the lions, however, raises a question: Should they move with the library, or should they stay with the building?

It is generally accepted that the lions were installed by Captain George H. Power, who from 1865 to 1881, made the building his residence and lived there with his family: his wife, Adeline; six children, four daughters and two sons, ranging in age (in 1865) from 25 to 3; and an Irish-born domestic named Ellen Leach. On May 12, 1866, this item appeared in the Hudson Daily Register, reporting on the work underway at 400 State Street.
Among the larger improvements in the city this Spring is that being made by Capt. Geo. H. Power, on his residence in State Street, formerly occupied by the Rev. J. B. Hague as a Seminary for young ladies. The building, when completed, will be a decided ornament to that part of our city, as extensive alterations and improvements have been made since its purchase.
It is reasonable to imagine that the lions were part of those extensive alterations and improvements made in 1866. As art, they seem more domestic than institutional. Unlike the pairs of lions that flank the entrances to the New York Public Library and the Art Institute of Chicago--both in each pair assuming the same pose, head raised, noble and vigilant--one of the lions at the entrance to 400 State Street was asleep and one was awake.

A little research uncovered this possible lineage for the lions. A pair of lions--one asleep, one awake--was created in 1792 by the Italian artist Antonio Canova for the tomb of Pope Clement XIII at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

According to one source, in the early 19th century, there was a new interest in sculpture in the classical style, and the most popular neoclassical sculptor of the time, throughout Europe, was Antonio Canova. Canova's lions seem to have been particularly popular. The Canova workshop may have produced several pairs, and they inspired imitations. By the middle of the 19th century, their popularity seems to have spread to the United States and to Hudson.  

Today, replicas of the Canova lions created for the tomb of Clement XIII are mounted at the entrance to the Wisteriahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA.

You can also buy replicas of the lions, especially the sleeping one, full-size and in miniature, from dealers in this country and in the UK.
It seems clear that the cast-iron lions at 400 State Street were inspired by the Canova lions. 

But to return to the question of whether the lions should go with the library or stay with the building, consider this. The lions have been associated with the library for 57 years, since the library's founding in 1959, by virtue of the fact that they were attached to the building where the library was located. On the other hand, the lions have been with the building for 150 years--for three-quarters of its 198-year existence--and are a part of its history.