Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Yet Another Sign of Spring

This past Saturday, the Hudson Farmers Market moved back outdoors, and in a couple of weeks, on Mother's Day weekend, the annual Basilica Farm & Flea Spring Market is happening.

The list of vendors for the 2019 Spring Market can be found here. If you haven't already purchased your Mother's Day gifts, you may want to postpone shopping until the day before, so your gifts can be something local, vintage, or handmade, with no bar codes and no plastic wrap. 

The Basilica Farm & Flea Spring Market is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 11, and on Sunday, May 12, at Basilica Hudson, 110 South Front Street. Click here for more information.

The Great War: April 29, 1919

A hundred years ago, the world was in the period between the Armistice, signed on November 11, 1918, which brought an end to the fighting in World War I, and the Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919, which formally ended the world's first global conflict. In the spring of 1919, the local newspaper was still filled with news of the war--of treaty negotiations and of soldiers returning. In the Columbia Republican for April 29, 1919, the article that struck me was this one, which demonstrated once again that a hundred years ago Hudson was always up for a parade.    

The parade as to assemble at the "bell corner," where Green Street intersects with Fairview Avenue and an upended bell served as a watering trough for horses. The bell was still there in April 1919, but it wasn't destined to be there for long. Early in 1922, the bell trough was removed from the intersection and placed in Rogers Park, the little traffic island park that now houses Hudson's own "Olympic torch."

My curiosity was piqued by the Whippet tank, wondering first what it was and then why it was passing through Hudson. My first question was easily answered. The following is quoted from the website Owlcation
The Mark A Whippet was a British medium tank which first saw combat in March of 1918 during the massive German Spring Offensive. They were meant to take advantage of the holes made in German lines by their much heavier and slower cousins, the Mark IV and Mark V tanks. While hundreds of heavy tanks could achieve such breakthroughs, they were too slow and prone to breakdown to exploit their successes. The dream of massed cavalry pouring through enemy lines and disrupting their rear had been killed early on in the war. Flesh could not stand up against machine guns and fields of barbed wire. The Whippet's job was to act like a mechanized cavalry, a job it performed extremely well.
Even more information about the Whippet tank was found in this video from The Great War series.

What the Whippet, a British tank, was doing in Hudson remains a matter of speculation. In 1919, the U.S. Army Ordnance Museum was being established at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland. (The museum didn't actually open until 1924.) A World War I British Whippet was part of the museum's collection, which in 2010 was moved to Fort Lee, outside Petersburg, Virginia. 

Could it be that the Whippet tank that passed through Hudson was on its way to the museum in Aberdeen, Maryland?

Of course, another question raised by the article that appeared in the Columbia Republican on April 29, 1919, is this: "What site was selected by the local committee for the demonstration of "ditch digging, going over embankments and traveling along and snapping down small tress in the way"? 

Monday, April 29, 2019

Nine Not to Ignore: No. 4

Gossips' series highlighting at-risk buildings, which began on Thursday, continues today with the fourth building on the list.

432 Warren Street   

Photo: Zillow
This building is one of the Nine Not to Ignore not because of its historic significance but because it is an integral part of the streetscape. The picture below, taken after the Blizzard of 1888, shows how the building and its companion at 43o Warren Street were meant to look.

The building was for years owned by Phil Gellert as part of his "Northern Empire." Tax records indicate that in October 2014 Gellert sold the building for $350,000 to an entity identified only as 432 Warren Street, LLC. Gossips has learned that the building was recently sold again, but no information about the buyer or the price is available. When the building was on the market, the following information appeared on realtor.com:
Property Overview--This is a rare opportunity to build from the ground up on a large (0.08 acre) lot on the 400 block of Warren Street behind the existing facade. Gutted and being sold "as is" with no electric or heat, gas and municipal water on the street. Structural report on file. Bring your imagination--perfect size for a large restaurant or retail space on the ground floor with a number of residential units above. Catskill views from the 2nd and 3rd floors--even better views from a roof deck! Yours to imagine and build!
Incidentally, 432 Warren Street is probably the only property on Warren Street whose preliminary assessment in the current revaluation remained that same as its 2018 assessment. 

This post began by saying the building's history was not the reason it was being included in Nine Not to Ignore. Nevertheless, its history is not without interest. Because it is unclear what the number of the building was before 1888, when the all the house numbers on east-west streets in Hudson were changed, the focus will be on its history since 1889. In October of that year, the Columbia Republican reported the sale of the building. 

Edmund Denegar was the carpenter and contractor who built 35 South Fifth Street for himself and his family in 1888.   

In 1896, the Columbia Republican reports that the building was sold again, this time to Dr. Henry Warner Johnson.

In 1919, the Columbia Republican reported that when the young Dr. John L. Edwards, for whom the now abandoned elementary school was named, returned from Europe after World War I, he temporarily set up his practice at 432 Warren Street while Dr. Johnson was away on vacation.

By 1926, the building had become McDonald's Funeral Parlor and remained so until 1964 when the funeral home moved to the Dinehart mansion at 886 Columbia Street.

It is not known--at least not by Gossips--what happened to the building after the funeral home moved out and before Gellert bought it nor is it known exactly when he acquired it. 

Pursuing the Story

In the HudsonValley360 article last week about a tangle between him and John Friedman during a brief recess at a Common Council meeting, Council president Tom DePietro was quoted as saying, "The less said about this unfortunate incident, the better for everyone." Roger Hannigan Gilson is not abiding by DePietro's wishes. Today, on his blog The Other Hudson Valley, Gilson offers this followup to the story: "Hudson Police Investigating Violent City Meeting."

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Meetings of Interest in the Week Ahead

The week that marks the transition from April, the cruelest month, to the lusty month of May is light on city government meetings. There are just two, and both happen on the same night.
  • On Wednesday, May 1, the Common Council Youth, Education, Seniors, and Recreation Committee meets at 5:30 p.m. It is assumed but not confirmed that this meeting will take place at City Hall. No agenda for the meeting is available.
  • Also on Wednesday, May 1, the Common Council Housing and Transportation Committee meets at 6:45 p.m. It is assumed that this meeting will not take place at City Hall, since Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), who chairs the committee, is now confined to a wheelchair, but where it will take place has not been announced. No agenda is available for the meeting.

Melville, Whaling, and Hudson

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth, in New York City, of Herman Melville, and to mark the occasion, the Proprietors Ball, Hudson Hall's principal annual fundraising event, will celebrate the birth of the author of Moby Dick and Hudson's beginnings as a whaling town.

According to Margaret Schram, in her book Hudson's Merchants and Whalers: The Rise and Fall of a River Port 1783-1850, the last whaling ship, the Harriot, sailed from Hudson in 1818-1819, probably before Melville was born on August 1, 1819. The Harriot was lost on the coast of Brazil with 900 barrels of whale oil on board. That being the case, I decided to do a little investigating to see if there were any connections between Melville and Hudson.

Although whaling in Hudson was pretty much over at the time of Melville's birth, it did have a brief period of revival from 1830 to about 1844 which coincides with Melville's own days of working on a whaling ships, an experience about which Melville comments, in the voice of Ishmael, "A whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard." In 1829, a newly formed organization called the Hudson Whaling Company issued the following statement: "Why may there be no hope to rival those eastern cities which the whale fishery has built up? We possess equal advantages, equal enterprise. Under the present circumstances the hope is entertained that Hudson will again flourish as in its infant days." In September 1833, the Gazette reported that there were eleven whaling ships that sailed from Hudson. (During the same period, Nantucket had a fleet of sixty vessels, and New Bedford had forty-nine.) The chart below, reproduced from Schram's book, shows Hudson's whaling ships during the revival of whaling and the years of service for each.

At the same time that whaling was being revived in Hudson, the Melville family moved from New York City to Albany. Melville's father moved the family upstate in 1830 in a failed attempt to branch into the fur trade. Two years later, in 1832, his father died suddenly, leaving the family in dire financial straits.

In The Hudson from Troy to the Battery, published in 2011, local historians Stanley Wilcox and H. W. VanLoan posit that Melville was familiar with Hudson: "During this decade [the 1830s] Herman Melville, Knickerbocker Dutch on his mother's side and author of Moby Dick, lived near the river and studied at Albany Academy. He frequently visited Hudson, which fascinated him and probably induced him to ship out, when he was a bit older, on a New Bedford whaler." Wilcox and VanLoan offer no contemporary evidence that Melville was a frequent visitor to Hudson, but whether or not they are correct in their claim, when Melville went to sea it was not on a ship sailing from Hudson. In 1839, he signed on as a cabin boy for a merchant ship called the St. Lawrence, which sailed from New York City, and in 1841, he went to work on a whaling ship, the Acushnet, which sailed from New Bedford.

There is an interesting and documented connection between Melville and Hudson, and that is the wreck of the Essex.

On November 20, 1820, the Essex was rammed by a sperm whale and sank. The story of the disaster inspired Moby Dick, and Melville used it to form the climax of the book, in which the Pequod is destroyed by the white whale. There is also a connection of the Essex to Hudson, and Schram tells it in her book:
Though the Essex was a Nantucket whale ship, a mention of her story is necessary because two of those involved in the tragedy have ties to Hudson's history. Matthew Joy of Hudson was second mate on the Essex. The Joy family was of Nantucket Quaker stock and had moved to Hudson in 1800 when Matthew was six years old. He was a Hudson Quaker until 1817, when he returned to Nantucket to marry Nancy Slade. She was a Congregationalist, so Matthew was disowned by the Quakers for "marrying out." (Quakers are not to marry non-Quakers.) After two years of marriage, he signed aboard the Essex, which sailed from Nantucket on August 12, 1819. When he came aboard, it was noticed that he was of a "weakly and sickly constitution," which probably meant tuberculosis. There were twenty men aboard, but only eight survived the ensuing ordeal, and Matthew Joy was not one of them.
The Essex was rammed by a sperm whale and sank on November 20, 1820. The men took to the three whaleboats, the captain, first mate, and second mate each in charge of a boat. In the three months that followed, the boats traveled 4,500 miles. The men were starving, thirsty, and exposed to sun and storms. Joy's health rapidly deteriorated, and on January 10, 1821, he died. They "sewed him up in his clothes, tied a large stone to his feet, and, having brought all the boats to, consigned him in a solemn manner to the ocean."
Three of the crew were rescued from a desolate Pacific island in April of 1821. First Mate Owen Chase, boatsteerer Benjamin Lawrence, and cabin boy Thomas Nickerson were picked up by the London brig Indian on February 18, 1821. Captain Pollard and sailor Charles Ramsdell were rescued by the Nantucket whale ship Dauphin on February 23, 1821. From the stories told by the survivors, the men in the boats endured unbelievable misery, starvation, and finally cannibalism. . . . 
First Mate Owen Chase soon married Matthew Joy's widow, Nancy Slade Joy. Boatsteerer Benjamin Lawrence, another survivor, will enter Hudson's history in 1832 as the captain of the Hudson whale ship Huron.
In "Ten Fascinating Facts about Herman Melville" on Mental Floss, Kat Long recounts that, after Moby Dick had been published, Melville visited Nantucket for the first time and "personally interviewed the Essex's captain, George Pollard, who had survived the terrible ordeal and become the town's night watchman." If, indeed, as Wilcox and VanLoan suggest, Melville visited Hudson often during his teenage years, he might have encountered Benjamin Lawrence, the boatsteerer on the Essex, who from 1832 to 1836 was captain of the Huron. 

To return to the event that inspired this post, the 2019 Proprietors Ball, "Hudson Merchants and Whalers," takes place this coming Saturday, May 4. Click here for more information.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Nine Not to Ignore: No. 3

On Thursday, in imitation of the Preservation League's Seven to Save, Gossips began its own list of at-risk buildings of significance in Hudson, calling it Nine Not to Ignore. Today is the third on the list--a list which is arranged in no particular order.

Hudson Upper Depot

This abandoned train station, known as Hudson Upper Depot, was on the Hudson & Berkshire Railroad, the first railroad in Hudson. Established in 1838, it originally ran from the Hudson River to West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The depot was completed in 1871, making it three years older than the depot that is now the Hudson Amtrak station. 

Photo courtesy City Historian Pat Fenoff

In the post card image below, of the Public Square, a.k.a. Seventh Street Park, Hudson Upper Depot can be seen in the background.

For years, the building was owned by Van Kleeck's Tire, which used it for storage. Then, in November 2013, Mark Schuman of Mountain View Masonry and Landscape Supply, whose company had demolished the Old Brick Tavern at the intersection of Routes 66 and 9H in 2011 and had "disassembled" 900 Columbia Street earlier in 2013, appeared before the Historic Preservation Commission seeking a certificate of appropriateness to demolish Hudson Upper Station and salvage the materials to resell them. He told the HPC that the owner was not interested in maintaining the building and wanted to demolish it to get " little more staging area"--in other words, more space to park trucks. 

Needless to say, the HPC did not grant a certificate of appropriateness. A few months later, in January 2014, Galvan Initiatives Foundation acquired the building. 

In April 2014, Galvan replaced the roof on the building, without a certificate of appropriateness from the HPC.

There was a hole in the roof, and Galvan had been given an "emergency repair" permit to patch the roof. But instead of patching the roof, the entire roof was being replaced, an action that required a certificate of appropriateness. Code enforcement officer Craig Haigh issued a stop work order, which was lifted when Galvan agreed that the asphalt shingle roof being installed was only temporary and would be replaced when a use for the building was determined and plans for its restoration were presented to the HPC.    

Five years later, no use for the building has been determined, and it continues to stand vacant. Five years ago, Haigh offered this assessment of its condition: "That building is really in bad, bad shape." One wonders how long it will be before this building meets the same fate as the Hudson Orphan Asylum across the street.

The Smallest Trees

A few weeks ago, a reader sent me a series of photographs, accompanying an email with the subject line "Truth is stranger than fiction." The pictures showed the unusual level "platforms" that had been introduced into the sloping sidewalk on upper Union Street. The picture below was one of them.

I explained that this work had been done as part of a stormwater separation project and referred him to the explanatory signage outside the parking lot next to Hudson Lodge.

Now the trees have been planted, and, for the time being at least, they look a little odd.

The structure of the planters, which are designed to divert stormwater out of the sewer system, requires the root ball of the tree to be planted almost two feet below the level of the sidewalk. For this reason, the canopies of the young trees are very close to the ground, making the trees look more like shrubs than trees. On the south side of the street, where there is no parking lane, the tree branches sometimes extend into the street, at a level at which they could be brushed and broken by passing cars. There seems already to be evidence of such damage on a tree beside Christ Church. Let's hope the trees get a chance to grow and accomplish what they are meant to accomplish.

Another Sign of Spring

The temperatures today are not expected to rise out of the 40s, but despite the chill, a sure sign of spring and the imminent return of summer is happening this morning at the corner of Sixth and Columbia streets: the Hudson Farmers Market begins its seven-month outdoor run.

The market will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday until November 23. Click here for a list of the vendors who will be part of the market this year.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Nine Not to Ignore: No. 2

Yesterday, in imitation of Seven to Save, the New York State Preservation League's biennial list of endangered historic sites, Gossips embarked on its own list of at-risk historic properties in Hudson, called Nine Not to Ignore.  

2 The Charles Alger House

The Gothic Revival brick house at 59 Allen Street was built in 1851 for Charles Coffey Alger, who was the designer of the Hudson Iron Works and a partner in that enterprise. "Embellished with wood bargeboards, finials, and eared drip moldings," the house appears in this engraving from an 1858 map of Columbia County.

Alger was the patron of Hudson River School painter Sanford Robinson Gifford, who was the son of Alger's partner in the iron works, Elihu Gifford. Alger also was a patron of the architect Alexander Jackson Davis, who did work at Alger's residences in Newburgh and New York City. It has been reported that the interior of the house on Allen Street may still retain some details that suggest the design influence of Davis. 

The following photographs from the mid-20th century show the house with its bargeboards and eared drip moldings still intact, although the finials appear already to be missing.

1954 PhotobyGibson.com
The house was occupied by its owner until around 2015. In 2016, it was acquired by Hudson Collective Realty LLC, a Galvan entity, and has since stood vacant. In 2018, a plan for its restoration was one of five Galvan projects submitted for DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) funding. The restored house was to become a bed & breakfast. It appears at the top of the hill on the left in this rendering presented at a DRI open house in February 2018. Like the Robert Taylor House, the Charles Alger House received no DRI funding.

Last December, a roofing project was begun on the house, without a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission.

Code enforcement officer Craig Haigh issued a stop word order, indicating that the work on the roof was being done without a permit.

The work stopped, but today, five months later, no certificate of appropriateness has been sought, and the work on the roof has not resumed.

Assessment Update

Gossips has learned that Mayor Rick Rector has once again vetoed the resolution passed by the Common Council on Wednesday, which authorized him to reject the preliminary assessment roll and terminate the City's contract with GAR Associates. The tentative assessment roll--which shows the outcome of challenges to the preliminary roll--was released this morning. It can be reviewed at City Hall. Notices of the tentative assessments were mailed to property owners yesterday and today. The tentative roll is expected to be online early next week.

A Moose, a Bear, and Now This

Gossips learned today that, earlier this week, a rabid skunk was spotted in the vicinity of Partition Street and East Allen Street. It was shot by police in the backyard of a house on East Allen Street.

Skunks are nocturnal animals, but they are sometimes active during the day. Sighting a skunk in the daytime does not necessarily mean the skunk is rabid. You should be wary, however, and call the police if you see a skunk that is staggering, wandering aimlessly, shaking, or foaming at the mouth.

The Assessment Saga Continues

The tentative assessment roll has been released and is now available at City Hall.

For now, it's only available in a printout in the lobby of City Hall. City assessor Justin Maxwell told Gossips that most of the notices were mailed to property owners yesterday and the rest would be mailed today. He also anticipated that the tentative roll would be available online early next week.

Another Account of the Meeting

While we wait to see if Mayor Rick Rector vetoes the resolution authorizing him to reject to preliminary assessment roll and terminate what may be an already fulfilled contract with GAR Associates, Amanda Purcell offers a third account of Wednesday's contentious special Council meeting: "Scuffle breaks out at Common Council meeting." 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Nine Not to Ignore: No. 1

Since 1999, the Preservation League of New York State has published its list of Seven to Save to bring attention to the most at-risk historic buildings and places throughout the state. In the beginning, the list was published annually; since 2010, it has been a biennial listing.

Inspired by the recent loss of two historic buildings in Hudson--211 Warren Street and 620 State Street--and in admiring imitation of the Preservation League, Gossips today begins publishing its own list of at-risk historic buildings in Hudson. There are more than seven buildings on the list; there are nine. So, retaining the alliteration of the League's title but falling short of its catchiness, Gossips is calling the list Nine Not to Ignore. Unlike the League, which reveals all seven sites at once, Gossips will roll out the Nine Not to Ignore list one property at a time, beginning today. 

1 The Robert Taylor House

Generally considered to be the oldest surviving house in Hudson, the original owner of the house, Robert Taylor, was a tanner. His tannery was across the way, at the edge of South Bay, and for this reason the path that ran between his house and the tannery was named "Tanners Lane."

In the early 2000s, there was a fire in the house. After the fire, the owner decamped to live with family in Albany, leaving the house vacant. The family put the house on the market, but having been told it was a unique and very old house, they set a very high asking price and rejected a few offers from people who might have restored it. Finally, in 2011, the house was sold to Galvan Partners LLC for $132,000--less than an offer they were rumored to have rejected several years earlier.

In 2012, Galvan had a plan to move the house from its historic setting at the head of Tanners Lane to Union Street, just below First Street. The Historic Preservation Commission refused to grant a certificate of appropriateness for the move. (That was a very good thing, since another building Galvan said it was going to move at about the same time--900 Columbia Street--ended up being demolished.)

In 2014, repairs were made to the roof, which eliminated the two shed dormers at the back of the house. The work was done without a building permit or a certificate of appropriateness from the HPC.

In 2018, a plan to convert the Robert Taylor House into a tavern was one of five projects involving Galvan properties submitted for DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) funding. The project brought hope for the building's future, but in response to public outcry, all Galvan projects were eliminated from consideration for DRI funds.

Today, the house continues to stand vacant and neglected, as it has for more nearly two decades. The photos below, which show the south wall, the upper right-hand corner of the facade, and the north wall, were taken this morning.

One wonders how much longer the building can stand before the owner is "saddened to announce," as happened with the original Hudson Orphan Asylum at 620 State Street, that engineers have confirmed the building has structural issues that are beyond repair and it is to be "deconstructed" in the interest of public safety.