Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Losing Battle for Hudson's Backstreets

Gossips has written more than once about the unconventional, "accidental" beauty of Hudson's alleys and the challenges of trying to preserve the authentic quirkiness of our backstreets. I am inspired to return to the topic again by two things that happened recently.

This morning, a phone call from a neighbor alerted me to a demolition in progress in the 200 block of Partition Street.

This once funkily picturesque building was located in a historic district, and its demolition should have required a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission. None was sought or granted. Calls to Craig Haigh, the code enforcement officer, to see if the building had been deemed a hazard to public safety and given a emergency demolition permit on that basis, bypassing the HPC, have not been returned.

Meanwhile, in the 300 block of Partition Street, the Historic Preservation Commission is dealing with a proposal for renovations to another historic accessory building.

The proposal involves adding a deck on the roof, replacing the windows, and adding new roll-up overhead garage doors. 

When the proposal was presented to the HPC at its meeting last Friday, architect member Kate Johns spoke about the desire to preserve the character of alleys and backstreets. She noted that the original wood door was "highly detailed" and the windows were early windows, with wavy glass, probably original to the building. She urged that the original garage doors, which she called "rare vintage doors," be restored and adapted to function as overhead doors and that the original windows be restored instead of replaced. HPC member Miranda Barry agreed with Johns, saying that the doors were "unusually attractive" and "an original feature that has real charm."

When HPC chair Phil Forman asked the applicant, "What's your feeling about trying to keep as much as possible of the existing doors?" and applicant argued that "newer materials are far more efficient and longer lasting"--an interesting argument since the current doors have already lasted for more than a hundred years and could continue into the future, and there is no way to know if newer materials would enjoy that same longevity.

When HPC member John Schobel suggested the windows might be replicated "to preserve some of the character," the architect representing the applicant volunteered, "We've talked about using antique glass." Johns maintained that the original windows, which already have "antique glass," should be restored.

After the discussion had gone on for a while, Forman set forth the options for the applicant: "Plan AWe vote on this now. Plan BYou revise the proposal based on the comments and come back." The applicant opted for Plan A and called for a vote. Not one of the six members of the HPC voting on the proposal--Forman, Johns, Barry, Schobel, Philip Schwartz, and Paul Barrett--voted to approve the application and grant a certificate of appropriateness.

You win some; you lose some. Sadly, the losses are altering irreparably the character of Hudson.


  1. The garage behind Vico was also demolished with out a permit. Once it's gone-it's gone. I have no idea if there is a fine for demolishing a building in a Historical district without but there should be and it should be substantial.

    1. The City Code requires a permit for the demolition of any building or structure, regardless of whether located in an Historic District. The penalty for non-compliance is 15 days in jail, or a fine of $250 per day, or both.

  2. Carole

    This seemed like a good opportunity to plug my project shooting The Alleys of The Friendly City between 2010-2016.

    Here is an image of the garage in question:

  3. I personally have ALWAYS had a love of the alleys of Hudson. My grandfather shared stories of the early 1800's when farmers brought their crops into Hudson and purchased items that were needed at home. There are MOLECULES of HISTORY in these areas. I am neither an engineer or architectural professional, but I do feel the character of the alleys should be protected. My favorite street in Hudson is Partition me is just turns back time. I look forward to viewing the Alleys of the Friendly City. Lisa Durfee, of Five & Diamond, also has a love of these areas and has wonderful photographs as well. Thank you to those that did not grant approval to the current owners.