Saturday, November 19, 2016

Is It, or Isn't It?

Since August, when the Common Council Economic Development Committee began discussing a request for proposals (RFP) to develop the Dunn building on the waterfront, there has been a question of whether or not the Dunn building was included in the Hudson Historic District listed in the National Register of Historic Places. National Register designation is required to qualify for preservation tax credits, an important incentive for rehabilitating historic structures.

Some thought it was, based on the fact that it was included in the building inventory done by Shirley Dunn in 1984, which was the basis for the Hudson Historic District nomination in 1985. The building was nominated not only as a contributing structure in the historic district but also for individual designation. But, although the building was determined to be eligible for listing in the National Register, it never actually was. A letter, dated November 16, 2016, to Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton from Weston Davey at the State Historic Preservation Office explains why: "Documentation for the Hudson MRA (Multiple Resource Area) was completed in 1985, but the Hudson and Boston Railroad Shop [what we now know as the Dunn building] was not listed at that time due to property owner objections." The owner at the time was the Stockport Lumber Company.

Since the building has already been deemed eligible, the City can move forward, thirty years later, on getting the building listed in the National Register of Historic Places, thus assuring that preservation tax credits will be available to the developer who wants to take on the building's rehabilitation and reuse.

Meanwhile, the 1985 survey of this building contains some very interesting and important information. The building is identified in the document as the "Hudson and Boston Railroad Shop." The original date of construction is given as c. 1850, and it is noted that the clerestory was added in the 20th century, probably early in the 20th century. In the 20th century, too, but probably later, the overhead door in the south elevation was added, and the arched openings in the west elevation were bricked up. In 1985, the building's condition was listed was "good," and the threat to the building was identified as "developers."

Of particular interest, especially to those of us who have been perpetuating the misconception that the building had some connection with the Hudson Gasification Works, is Dunn's account of the Interrelationship of Building and Surroundings and the Historical and Architectural Importance of the building. The following are quotes from the 1985 nominating document:
The building was heightened since 1881, when a rectangular one story structure with three arched openings similar to those remaining on the first floor of the present building was depicted on a "bird's-eye" view of the city. Earlier, a rectangular building is shown located on this same corner as early as a map of 1851. On that map the words "Engine [Sh]op" are printed over the building; later maps identify it as belonging to the Hudson and Boston Railroad. Early brick bond on the lower parts of the present building, as well as the openings, suggest that the present building is the one shown in 1851. During the 1850's, a polygonal gas-holder house was erected northeast of the Hudson and Boston Railroad Shop. Other industrial buildings were erected nearby in Hudson's major district for heavy industry such as an iron furnace and a railroad car wheel factory. All were located on fill in the former South Bay. All the nineteenth-century industrial buildings except the Hudson and Boston Railroad Shop are now gone. . . .    
The Hudson and Boston Railroad Shop is a unique survivor in a former area of heavy industry associated with the City of Hudson, and embodies the characteristics of a mid-nineteenth century industrial building. Its ventilator roofs, multiple bays for machinery repair, and brick construction illustrate a railroad structure associated with the later busiest and most prosperous years of the city.
The Hudson and Berkshire (later Boston) Railroad had been contemplated as early as 1826, as a means of connecting western Massachusetts with the Hudson River. After a survey of the route proposed was made in 1827 and 1828, public interest and support increased; disputes over proposed routes and the opposition of Massachusetts politicians were finally overcome in 1835, when charters were issued in both states. Stock subscriptions were quickly taken from an enthusiastic public and the road was begun in 1837. Marble from quarries in western Massachusetts to be shipped via the Hudson river, and passengers going east to hot springs at the New York-Massachusetts border were two industries that were expected to advance the prosperity of the line, but the railroad, opened in 1838, suffered from primitive equipment, such as iron-topped wooden rails which prevented heavy trains from using the track. The equipment was improved and the road extended east to Boston, Massachusetts, but under the weight of debt, including New York State bonds, the road was foreclosed in 1854.
Reorganized under the management of the Boston and Albany Railroad which had been laid along the river in 1850, the Hudson and Boston successfully operated after that time. Both railroads contributed to the flowering of heavy industry in Hudson, an era that peaked after the Civil War.
By 1858, the shops of both railroads, as well as their passenger and freight stations, contributed to the concentration of brick buildings lying on Hudson's former south bay. However, of all the dozen or more structures representing this industrial concentration, only the Hudson and Boston Railroad Shop and the Hudson Railroad station remain.   
The 1985 inventory was accompanied by these two photographs of the building.


1 comment:

  1. A good read.

    The structure atop the gabled roof is best described as a "monitor."

    From Wikipedia:

    "A monitor in architecture is a raised structure running along the ridge of a double-pitched roof, with its own roof running parallel with the main roof. The long sides of monitors usually contain clerestory windows or louvers to light or ventilate the area under the roof. ..."