Monday, February 19, 2018

Take the Restoration Challenge

There's a house on North Fifth Street, in the locally designated Armory Historic District, that is now for sale at the remarkably low price of $139,900.

It is not known exactly when the house was built, but it appears on the Beers Atlas maps for both 1873 and 1888. On both maps, it is indicated that the house was owned by L. Geiger.

Beers Atlas 1873

Beers Atlas 1888
Curious to learn about the house and the people who inhabited it over the years, I decided to do some sleuthing, using my favorite research tools: and the old newspapers at I discovered that L. Geiger, whose name appears on the atlas maps, was Leonard Geiger, who was born in Bavaria in 1830. I couldn't find any record of when Geiger immigrated to America, but the 1860 census has him living in Hudson with his wife, Margaret, and their four young children--Frederick, Albert, Emma, and George--and lists his occupation as "Marble Cutter." His skill as a marble cutter was well recognized. On August 5, 1869, an account of the delivery of two of his monuments to the cemetery in Kinderhook appeared on the front page of the Hudson Weekly Star.

The next year, on May 9, 1870, an article celebrating the quality of the monuments and tombstones produced by his marble works appeared in the Hudson Daily Star.

Connecting Geiger to the house at 94 North Fifth Street is this item, which appeared in the Daily Star for July 20, 1872, praising him for the beautiful flagstone sidewalk he had installed around his house.

Although the reference to "corner North Fifth and Carroll sts." is confusing, since the two streets do not meet today and didn't meet in 1872 either, a petition before the Common Council in April 1875 makes it clear that the location of Geiger's house was the corner of North Fifth and Washington streets.

In addition to being a marble cutter of some reputation, Geiger is credited with inventing, in 1863, a particular type of breech-loading Remington rifle, which was the weapon of choice for the military of the day. Mentions of Geiger in newspapers during his lifetime frequently make reference to his invention. This item, for example, appeared in the Hudson Daily Star on August 9, 1870.

Geiger was a celebrated marksman and a member of the Parthian Rifle Club in Hudson. The Daily Star regularly reported on shooting competitions, in Hudson and elsewhere, won by Geiger. The following appeared in the Daily Star for November 9, 1874.

On May 25, 1876, a report in the Saratoga Sentinel about a shooting match in Hudson between the Saratoga Rifle Club and the Parthian Rifle Club of Hudson included this paragraph.

Leonard Geiger died on June 4, 1902. Two days later, the Columbia Republican reported what seems strange for a man who spent part of his life carving marble monuments: his remains were cremated.

After his death, his wife, Margaret, continued to live in the house at 94 North Fifth Street, with two of their six children: Frederick, the eldest, and Rose, the youngest. Margaret Geiger died in January 1912, and it seems that, after her death, the children may have sold the house. In April 1915, the Columbia Republican reported: "Mr. and Mrs. John H. Ward, former residents of Hudson, have again taken up their residence in this city and are located at 94 North Fifth Street, where they have just moved in and are now busy getting their new home settled." The newspaper reported that Mr. Ward was at one time the head of the Y.M.C.A. in Hudson, although the 1910 census lists his occupation as "Bookkeeper" in a lumberyard. Mrs. Ward was a music teacher and offered piano lessons in her home.

It is not clear when the house was divided into apartments. It may have been done by the Geigers. In the 1890 Hudson directory lists Albert Geiger and Frederick Geiger, Leonard and Margaret's two oldest children, as boarders at 94 North Fifth Street.

In 1916, ads started appearing for an apartment to let at 94 North Fifth Street, offered by Mrs. J. R. Billingham. In 1917, Mrs. J. R. Billingham was offering a second floor flat at 94 North Fifth Street, and in 1917, a "furnished room with steam heat and bath" was offered to let--"Two gentleman preferred."

It appears the sale of the house today is the consequence of a bank foreclosure. Interestingly, this is not the first time the property has experienced foreclosure. On May 28, 1941, the Hudson Evening Register reported that the house had been sold that morning at a foreclosure sale at the courthouse.

Now the house with such an interesting history--not to mention some very handsome fireplace surrounds that are probably original to the house and exterior detailing that appears to be pretty much intact--is in need of someone to rescue it and restore it.



  1. I thought Rev Forbes had that property under his Churches umbrella .

  2. What a handsome house. Deserves respect! Great reporting too Carole.

  3. "Remarkably low price"? This would seem to mean that in our increasingly consolidated, homogenized, and lock-step local economy, you can still find a deal? Do the DRI police know about this?

  4. Correct restoration may very well exceed any reasonable market value of the house. Someone with deep pockets and no need for bank financing will likely need to take on this project. Even bought at zero, given its size and quality, $600,000+ could disappear quickly.

  5. The Gardner Earl Crematory opened in 1890, and cremation was rather fashionable at that time. That certainly was a fashionable place to be reduced to ashes, as the crematory and its chapel are extraordinarily opulent (and well worth visiting). One could be cremated and have a monument erected as well, although I gather that did not happen--?

  6. Given the dearth of affordable and workforce housing in Hudson, and the building's low price, perhaps some reasonable amalgamation of restoration and affordability would be more seemly. So that the building and its apartments could be brought into use but not only for luxury.

  7. With 5472 sq ft at $200 a sq ft you are at over 1Million to renovate, or build new. EVERYTHING from the foundation to the roof needs attention! That's not even adding luxury.
    Sarah Sterling HOUSE Hudson Valley