Monday, February 12, 2018

Back to the Alleys

Gossips has more than once posted about the new challenge for historic preservation in Hudson: the desire of property owners to put accessory buildings, located along the alleys and Partition Street, to uses for which they were never intended. The new uses for these carriage houses and garages invariably involve human habitation--offices or studios, dwellings for short- or long-term occupancy, saunas, play spaces for grandchildren. Because the buildings do not meet code requirements for human habitation, the proposals typically begin with demolishing the picturesque, ramshackle structure that contributes to the character of these lesser thoroughfares and ends with constructing something purported to be compatible with the surrounding alleyscape.

Since February 2017, the Historic Preservation Commission has granted certificates of appropriateness to three such projects: on Partition Street behind 317 Union Street, on Cherry Alley behind 405 Warren Street, and on Partition Street behind 439 Union Street.

Photo: Lisa Durfee

This past Friday, another proposal to demolish an alley structure and build something new in its footprint came before the Historic Preservation Commission. The building to be demolished and replaced is a two-car garage in Deer Alley, behind 241 Allen Street, believed to date from the 1930s or 1940s and covered in vinyl siding twenty years ago when 241 Allen Street was rehabbed by Habitat for Humanity.

Google map labels notwithstanding, the name of the alley is Deer Alley for the cloven hoofed animals often sighted there, not Dear Alley because it is especially beloved.

Deer Alley may be less familiar than some of the other alleys in Hudson because it is only about half a block long. Running between and parallel to Allen and Montgomery streets, Deer Alley extends from Third Street to Cross Lane. (Cross Lane, which runs parallel to Third Street, goes from Deer Alley to Partition Street.) West of Cross Lane, Deer Alley provides access to the rear of about five Allen Street houses before it becomes impassable for vehicles and only useable as a footpath to the Second Street stairs.

The proposed new structure would have the same footprint as the existing structure, but it would be 50 percent taller. Kate Johns, architect member of the HPC, expressed concern about the number of "alley conversions" coming before the HPC, intimating, it seemed, that the commission needed to come up with a strategy to accommodate such requests without allowing the authentic character of the alleys to be totally obliterated. Regarding this particular proposal, she worried that "changing the height will affect a lot of people's views." "It's very open there," she told her colleagues. "It's where the city drops off, and you can see the Catskills beyond." 

The HPC determined that the application was complete but decided that a public hearing was necessary to ensure that everyone affected by the proposed new structure could be heard. The public hearing was scheduled for Friday, March 9, at 10 a.m., in the Council Chamber at City Hall.


  1. It's said "poverty is the best preserver." Well, Hudson had a good run on that angle. Now for her demolition by wealth and historical ignorance. Watta deal.