Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Watching It Come Down

This is what 211 Warren Street looked like at the end of the second day of demolition. 

Weird and hauntingly appropriate for Halloween night.

Eighty New Apartments on State Street

The public design charrette last night, for the new buildings to be constructed on State Street, was well attended. Gathered around three tables to review, in turn, the site plan, the floor plans, the elevations and design renderings, current residents of Bliss Towers blended with members of the community at large to listen and comment. In addition to all the architects from PRC (Property Resources Corporation), who were presenting the plans and receiving comment, there were at least two architects from Hudson in the group providing input, along with community members with expertise in urban planning and urban design, a couple members of the Planning Board, a few members of the Housing Task Force, and some elected officials.

Gossips learned from Tim Mattice, executive director of the Hudson Housing Authority, that the design for the new buildings takes its inspiration from the building at North Sixth and Washington streets, originally Union Mills, now known as the Pocketbook Factory, and is meant to pay homage to Hudson's industrial past.

The building proposed for the corner of State and North Second streets, where retail shops are planned for the ground floor, will contain forty studio and one-bedroom apartments for seniors. The other building will have forty one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments for families. 

One of the criticisms heard of the proposed project was its location. In the past, any conversation about new HHA construction involved smaller buildings constructed on available lots throughout the city. This project seems to perpetuate or intensify the concentration of low-income households in one section of the city. The reason for the choice of location is obvious. There is very little vacant land in Hudson, and HHA already owns this parcel. There seems to be other thinking behind it as well. Instead of achieving the goal of economic diversity by relocating low-income households throughout the city, the idea may be to achieve economic diversity in this location. Both buildings are meant to be mixed income, with some units renting at market rate and others at different levels of affordability.

Describing the steps going forward, Mattice told Gossips he anticipated the architects and planners would use the comments received that evening to make revisions and would present the final plans at the HHA Board meeting on Wednesday, November 14. After that, the project would go to the Planning Board for site plan review. When I suggested that it might first have to go to the Zoning Board of Appeals for area variances (building height in Hudson is limited to three stories, and the proposed buildings are four stories), he told me they found out there was "no zoning" in that area. That seemed very unlikely, so this morning I checked the zoning map, and there is indeed zoning in that area.

The site of Bliss Towers and Providence Hall and the area on State Street where the new buildings are to be constructed are zoned G-C (General Commercial), and there is no indication in the code that a G-C district is not subject to the bulk and area regulations that apply everywhere else in the city. I thought perhaps the explanation was that, because HHA is a HUD agency, it might be exempt from local zoning regulations, as school districts are, but our code enforcement officer Craig Haigh says otherwise.

Fire on Washington Street

Just after midnight this morning, firefighters were summoned to 515 Washington Street by the report that there was a futon on fire. The fire, which was under control by 1:00 a.m. and mostly extinguished by 1:30 a.m., caused extensive damage to the building. The report on the fire can now be read on the Hudson Fire Department website

The picture below shows the scene when the first units arrived. No humans were injured, but the HFD reports that two cats perished in the fire.


Six Days to Get Ready

Sample ballots for next Tuesday's midterm election are available at the Columbia County Board of Elections website. Click here to view the ballot for Hudson.

Don't go to the polls unprepared and stare with bewilderment at the sample ballot provided there. Study the ballot now, so that on Tuesday you can walk into your polling place with confidence, check in, get your ballot, and vote for the candidates of your choice.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Just Two Years Away

The Ferry Street Bridge has been closed for four years, since October 2014. Two years from now, in September 2020, there will be a new bridge. On Monday night, at a meeting in the Community Room of the library, the engineers from Creighton Manning reviewed what's been done and what remains to be done in the long process of getting a new bridge.

Photo: Don Moore
As an early step in the process, Hartgen Archeological Associates was hired to assess the eligibility of the 1905 bridge for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. It was determined not to be eligible because it was constructed with salvaged parts and because it has been altered several times over the past century. SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) concurred with Hartgen's findings, concluding, "The bridge no longer reflects its original design or use."

The course of action planned to the new bridge is to replace the superstructure but use the original laid-up stone abutments. The plan for the superstructure involves steel beams, a concrete barrier, and railings--the "bridge aesthetics." The options represented for the steel beams were either galvanized or painted--galvanized being sort of an aluminum gray, painted being any color desired but requiring maintenance. From the audience, Michael O'Hara suggested a third option: corten, which makes the steel look rusted. That suggestion seemed well received by those in attendance.

The preliminary design for the bridge shows a concrete barrier with simple molded panels with a metal railing on top. (Click the picture below to enlarge it to see the panels.)

Ian Nitschke, advocate for the historic Shaw Bridge in Claverack, and Timothy O'Connor both suggested that that the trusses from the 1905 bridge to be reused in some decorative way on the new bridge, to pay homage to the industrial history of the waterfront. It's hard to imagine how that could be accomplished, though, because the trusses are straight and the roadway of the bridge will have an arc. The arc is required, as is a steeper incline for the approaches to the bridge, because there needs to be greater clearance over the railroad tracks. The bridge is currently 19½ feet above the tracks; the requirement for the new bridge is 23 feet.

From barrier to barrier, the bridge will be about 40 feet wide, with sidewalks on either side, bicycle lanes beside the sidewalks, and two travel lanes for vehicles.

The complete PowerPoint presentation from Monday's meeting can be viewed here. The engineers are soliciting public comments. The form for submitting comments can be found here.

Choose Your Event

There's a lot going on tonight--pretty much all at the same time. 

At 6 p.m., there's the inaugural meeting of the Friends of the Hudson City Cemetery, for everyone interested in the preservation and restoration of our historic cemetery. That event takes place in the Community Room of the Hudson Area Library, 51 North Fifth Street.

From 6 to 9 p.m., there's the design charrette for the proposed new Hudson Housing Authority apartment buildings on State Street, for everyone interested in the architecture of Hudson. That event takes place in the Community Room of Bliss Towers, 41 North Second Street.

Also tonight, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., there's an opportunity to meet Michael Sussman, Green Party candidate for attorney general of New York. That event takes place in the back room of Wunderbar, 744 Warren Street.

Decide which event or events matter most to you and be there.

Unveiling on Allen Street

At its meeting on June 22, the Historic Preservation Commission agreed to a new policy. When there is no historic photograph of a building before its 20th-century siding had been installed, the commission would no longer approve plans for facade restoration until the siding was removed and any surviving historic detail was revealed. The HPC came to this new policy after historic details at 742 Warren Street, revealed when the vinyl siding came off, were once again obliterated in the restoration, and eyebrow windows discovered at 526 Union Street were covered up in the facade restoration. In both instances, the HPC had approved the plans for the facade without knowing of the existence of these elements.

Now the siding has been removed at 217 Allen Street--not only the siding but the original clapboard as well.

There are ghosts of some kind of decorative hoods over the windows on the upper floor, but what is also revealed is that the first floor windows were originally much taller than the replacement windows currently there. The minutes for the HPC meeting on June 22 indicate that the certificate of appropriateness was to specify that "any details found under the siding are to be retained," but new windows are to be installed, and it is not clear what size windows were specified in the application and approved by the HPC. There was no way of knowing the size of the original windows until the siding came off.

The Beginning of the End

This was the scene at 211 Warren Street at 9:30 this morning as the demolition of the building began.


Wildness in Hudson

We've had bears in our city. Deer are a regular thing. There are foxes and raccoons and opossums and skunks. But last night officers of the Hudson Police Department tracked a moose on Worth Avenue. Click here to watch.


Monday, October 29, 2018

Time and Again

Yesterday, while consulting the 1918 Hudson City Directory to confirm the location of Charles Macy's lumberyard, I decided to scroll through the directory looking for advertisements. (Advertisements in old directories are often accompanied by images of places of business not found elsewhere.) On the back cover, I found an ad for Jennie R. Denegar Real Estate at 35 South Fifth Street. The ad included an image of 35 South Fifth Street, the location of her real estate business. The image is evidence that the house has changed remarkably little in the past hundred years.

My curiosity about Jennie R. Denegar was piqued by discovering, also in the Hudson City Directory, that in 1918 she was the only woman real estate agent in Hudson, but my research uncovered more about her father-in-law, Edmund Denegar, than I did about her or her husband, George. Edmund Denegar was a well known, highly respected, and eminently successful carpenter and contractor in Hudson. It was Edmund who built 35 South Fifth Street for himself and his family in 1888. On October 15, 1888, this item appeared in the Hudson Evening Register.

Edmund Denegar's obituary, which appeared in the Columbia Republican on February 14, 1908, makes mention of the major projects he completed in Hudson and elsewhere in the Hudson Valley.


Some investigation discovered other projects undertaken by Edmund Denegar in Hudson, which will be the topic of subsequent posts.

Not the Ending We Hoped For

This morning, I drove up the 200 block of Cherry Alley and took this picture of 211 Union Street from the rear.

When I took the picture, I had no hint of what had happened only hours before. At 4 o'clock this afternoon, I received the following message from Hudson's code enforcement officer Craig Haigh.
I just left the 211 Warren Street site with some unfortunate news. A large section of the front wall foundation gave way and collapsed sometime last night or this morning. The shoring company is unable to get into that area, which they were going to do today, due to the unsafe conditions. This would have been the final phase of shoring. With that said, and talking to the owners and their engineers and our engineer, there is nothing else they can do safely. They will be demolishing the building tomorrow.
The owner tried to save it and is unsure what to do moving forward.
Mayor Rick Rector told Gossips he was extremely disappointed with the outcome. "The owners and the City did everything they could to save it. They looked at every possibility," said Rector. "It was a herculean effort, but at the end of the day, it's all about public safety." 

Of Interest

This afternoon, the Albany Business Review published an article that may be of interest to those following the ongoing conversation about Stewart's and its desire to expand the gas station and convenience store at Green Street and Fairview Avenue: "Stewart's closing two low-volume stores." The two stores are located in Albany and Amsterdam. One sentence from the article seems especially relevant: "The lack of available property in Albany and Amsterdam made it too difficult and expensive to attempt to renovate either of the under-performing stores." The article also reports that according to Stewart's president, Gary Dake, "Government regulations are making it harder to grow in some communities."


Almost Like Being There

You may have missed Kelley Drahusuk's tour of the cemetery on Sunday, Tales from Hudson's Crypts, but the indefatigable Dan Udell was on the tour with his camera and sound equipment. You can watch his video of the event by clicking here.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Great War: October 29, 1918

A hundred years ago, the armistice that ended the First World War was less than two weeks away. A midterm election, which in 1918 took place on Tuesday, November 5, was also only days away. President Woodrow Wilson was in the middle of his second term in office. 

The front page of the Columbia Republican for October 29, 1918, displayed prominently two headlines. The headline at the left accompanied a report about a mass meeting of Republicans at Carnegie Hall at which former president Theodore Roosevelt was the leading speaker.

In the article that followed, the text of Roosevelt's speech was introduced with these comments: 
[He] was strong in his denunciation of Wilson's "fourteen points" which he characterized as a "type-writer settlement" and his continued chastisement of the administration and its delays swept the house with thunders of applause. Col. Roosevelt did not mince matters. He said the time for soft words had long gone by.
The Fourteen Points, which Wilson outlined in a speech to Congress on January 18, 1918, were the principles being used in the peace negotiations to end World War I.

The right side of the front page carried this headline, accompanying the report on President Wilson's most recent response to the Germans in the peace negotiations.

It should be noted that in the 1918 midterm election the Republicans gained six seats in the Senate and twenty-five in the House of Representatives and took control of both houses.

Further exploring the politics of the time, page two of the Columbia Republican for October 29, 1918, featured this item, accusing New York gubernatorial candidate Alfred E. Smith, a Democrat, of trying to disenfranchise rural voters. 

This accusation, of course, was meant to appeal to voters in the very rural Columbia County, but nevertheless, Smith won the race for governor of New York, unseating the incumbent governor, Charles S. Whitman.

Page three of the Columbia Republican for October 29, 1918, presents a sobering reminder of what else was happening in Hudson a hundred years ago. The page was filled with obituaries--sixty-four of them, fifty of which contained a line similar to this one: "Death came as a result of influenza which developed into pneumonia." On the penultimate page of the newspaper this item appears, intimating the severity of the pandemic.

The Charles W. Macy Co, a lumber dealer, was located at 550 Union Street, the current location of VFW Post 1314.


Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

There are important meetings on the first two days of the week, but after that the calendar is meeting free as we approach Election Day on November 6. 
  • Tomorrow, Monday, October 29, there is a public information meeting about the reconstruction of the Ferry Street Bridge. Mayor Rick Rector, DPW superintendent Rob Perry, and representatives of the engineering firm Creighton Manning will present an update on the various regulatory requirements for the bridge and a preliminary design. After the presentation, there will be opportunity for public comment. The meeting takes place at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room of the Hudson Area Library, 51 North Fifth Street.
  • On Tuesday, October 30, Alderman Rich Volo (Fourth Ward) is holding an inaugural meeting of the Friends of the Hudson City Cemetery. Everyone interested in volunteering to help raise funds and do the work involved in documenting, preserving, and restoring Hudson's historic, National Register-eligible cemetery should attend the meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. in the Community Room of the Hudson Area Library, 51 North Fifth Street.
  • Also on Tuesday, October 30, there is a public design charrette for the two new apartment buildings Hudson Housing Authority plans to construct on State Street across from Bliss Towers. The design charrette will address site plan and landscaping, building design, and floor plans. The event takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Community Room at Bliss Towers, 41 North Second Street.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Great War: October 22, 1918

A hundred years ago, World War I was drawing to a close. The Allies were driving the Germans out of Belgium, and an armistice was being negotiated. The headlines on the front page of the weekly Columbia Republican for October 22, 1918, reported the progress of the Allied offensive. 


There was also an update on the negotiations with Germany to end the war.

Page six of the Columbia Republican that day reported Hudson's efforts in the last days of the war to bring the conflict to an end. The Liberty Loan drive, now referred to as "Victory Loan," raised $315,260 in Hudson alone, exceeding the established goal by $164,850.

The article that follows this triumphant head reports the amounts contributed by the major employers in Hudson at the time . . . 

and by their employees.

It's interesting to note that the contribution from the employees of Gifford-Wood Company and Knickerbocker Portland Cement Company exceeded the contribution of the company; in the case of Knickerbocker, the employees' subscription was more than twice the amount of the company's.

The people of Hudson also contributed to the final push of the war in another way: prayer. The Columbia Republican reported that Mayor Charles S. Harvey, complying with a request from all the clergymen in Hudson, issued a proclamation. The text of that proclamation follows:
To the Citizens of Hudson:
Whereas, a petition, signed by all of the pastors and clergymen of the city has been filed in the Mayor's office, requesting the Mayor to issue a proclamation setting aside a few minutes each day at noon for the purpose of prayer to Almighty God for the blessing upon our cause.
Now, therefore, I, Charles S. Harvey, Mayor of the City of Hudson, in compliance with the terms of said petition and in accordance with the custom prevailing in other communities, I do hereby recommend that beginning Sunday, October 20th, 1918, during a few minutes following the striking of the noon hour on the fire alarm, all citizens of this community, whatever their employments may be and wherever their location, reverently pause and with bowed heads lift up their prayers to the God of Battles for the success of our arms and the restoration of a just and lasting peace based upon the high and noble principles set forth by the President of these United States.
The communication that prompted the declaration was signed by fourteen clergymen. The signers and their affiliations are listed below; the locations of the churches given are those found in the Hudson city directory for 1918. 
  • William C. Anderson, A.M.E. Zion (corner of State and North Second streets)
  • Thomas L. Cole, Church Christ Episcopal (corner of East Court and Union streets)
  • J. M. Eberlein, St. Matthew's German Lutheran (State Street between North Fourth and North Fifth streets)
  • M. Frienberg, Anshe Ammes Synagogue (14-16 Warren Street)
  • George E. Keefe, St. Mary's (corner of South Third and Montgomery streets)
  • Thomas O. Johns, St. John's Methodist Episcopal (Fulton below North Third)
  • W. Dewitt Lukens, Baptist (corner of Union Street and City Hall Place)
  • James M. Martin, Reformed (453 and 455 Warren Street)
  • Dewitt C. Reilly, Universalist (450-452 Warren Street)
  • W. H. W. Reimer, Lutheran (corner of North Sixth Street and Gifford Place)
  • J. F. K. Riebersell, Emanuel Lutheran (20 South Sixth Street)
  • Rev. S. Tenerowicz, Our Lady of Perpetual Help (75 North Second Street)
  • R. Irving Watkins, Methodist Episcopal (corner of South Third and Union streets)
  • George C. Yeisley, Presbyterian (corner of Warren and South Fourth streets) 
A hundred years later, only half of these congregations still exist.