Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Just Beyond Our Borders

Things have been looking bad for the Gothic Revival house on Fairview Avenue, next to McDonald's, for a while. It has been vacant, with the front door boarded up, for several years. In the past three years, my concern for the house has spiked three times: when notices were spotted tacked to the boarded-up front door (they were from National Grid); when a TRG sign advertising the property for development appeared on the lot between McDonald's and the house (TRG did not own the house at that time); and most recently, when a sign announcing a "New Retail Development" appeared in the house's front yard.

Last night, after reading the news on the Hudson Community Board on Facebook that the house was to be demolished, I went to the Greenport Planning Board meeting, where TRG was on the agenda, to learn more. At the end of the meeting, after the folks from TRG had made their presentation and left and the public was allowed to speak, I asked if the proposed project involved the demolition of the Gothic Revival house. At first, Ed Stiffler, who chairs the Planning Board said, "No." My heart leapt up. Then, realizing which project I was asking about, he changed his answer and confirmed that the Gothic Revival house on Fairview and the Gothic Revival cottage behind McDonald's were both to be demolished.

Photo: Paul Barrett

In 2016, John Craig did a research study of the house and its most notable occupants. Craig's study, which he called "Old Pointed Gothic House out Fairview," is available for consultation in the History Room at the Hudson Area Library. Much of the information that follows has learned from that document.

In its earliest days, the house, then apparently known as "The Pines," belonged to Joseph S. Farrand. Biographical Review: Leading Citizens of Columbia County recounts that Farrand, "a strictly honorable and conscientious man, clean of hand, one who walked uprightly," left a successful feed store business in New York City and "relinquished the prospect of great gains, and, leaving the metropolis, removed to Greenport, Columbia County, where he bought a farm of one hundred and forty acres, with a handsome dwelling, just outside the city of Hudson." The farm was both in Greenport and in Hudson, extending to Underhill Pond and Power's Spring, at the end of Spring Street.

The Farrand who had the most impact on Hudson, however, was Joseph's youngest son, Arthur, who was born in 1868. Arthur was a developer in the first decades of the 20th century. As president of Oakdale Park Realty Co., he tranformed much of what had been the Farrand farm, as well as the Hudson Fairgrounds and Power's Woods, into building lots for houses and helped to create not only the part of Hudson we now know as "the Boulevards" but also the man-made, spring-fed Oakdale Lake.

Possibly more important than its association with local personages of note, however, is the fact that the house, if not built after a house plan from one of the pattern books of Alexander Jackson Davis or Andrew Jackson Downing, was built by someone clearly influenced by their designs and is a fine example of a significant period in 19th-century American architecture. But alas, it is being sacrificed to create a new mall of dubious architectural merit, with McDonald's as its centerpiece, Aldi's at the back, and two more buildings housing as yet unknown retail enterprises.

Here's more intel from the Greenport Planning Board. Stiffler noted that the Planning Board had received a petition from Tom Alvarez, of John A. Alvarez & Sons, regarding the Galvan Motel. Stiffler explained that the Planning Board had nothing to do with the project. Because the plan was to renovate an existing motel and did not involve a change of use, a building permit had been issued without a site plan review by the Planning Board.


  1. May we call this the Joseph Ferrand house?

  2. Good work on a most distressing situation. But, please note, the Farrand property encircled but did not include the Hudson Fairgrounds. The 50th and last Hudson fair was held there on September 1-4, 1909. Five years earlier, the Fair Grounds of the Columbia County Agricultural and Horticultural Association had been lost to mortgage foreclosure, and were purchased by John Van Tassel, of Hudson. Van Tassel sold the property in 1910 to developers George and Charles Van Schoick of Schenectady, who cleared the property and created the three Fairground Boulevards that same year. Here in the 21st century, one had hoped a more imaginative developer might include the old Farrand House in an artful modern project, but, alas, that might now be but a dim hope.

    1. Thanks, Rundy, but I don't believe I ever said the Farrand farm included the fairgrounds. How could it? The existed at the same time.

  3. The Columbia Republican, on Friday, June 10, 1910, carried news of electrifying prospects for the Fair Grounds and Farrand farm properties:
    CAME TO HUDSON AND LOOKED ABOUT. Major Gifford, of General Electric Works, Goes To Fair Grounds. – Major A. J. Gifford, of the General Electric Works, Schenectady, was in town yesterday with five other men on a prospecting tour, and during their stay here they visited the Fair Grounds, which was purchased, Monday, by a syndicate of Schenectady capitalists. Major Gifford was a former resident of Hudson, and showed the party many of the advantages this city has for becoming a great industrial center. The splendid water system here, with its never-failing supply of pure spring water, was explained by Mr. Gifford, and he took the party to Mt. Ray to see the reservoirs, after which an inspection of the river front was made.
    Nothing was given out about the visit here, but it is surmised that the General Electric Company may have something to do with the Fair Grounds purchase, in which case there will be something doing here on a scale that will give Hudson the biggest boom it has ever had. Some significance is attached to this as the party looked over the Farrand farm adjoining the Fair Grounds, which would no doubt be acquired if the General Electric Co. decided to locate a plant here.

  4. Do we know the timeline? I'm pretty sure a demolition order has not been made yet. I'm working on something that might be a solution, and that is moving the house off the property in sections. But it can't happen overnight.

  5. Joseph is the one who sold off his birth right to this bucolic setting.

    Whomever sold off the side yard to McDonalds was the final knife.