Thursday, June 27, 2019

What Fresh Hell Is This?

The Historic Preservation Commission has reviewed plans for 260 Warren Street many times in the more than fifteen years that one Galvan entity or another has owned the building. Finally, at the beginning of this year, armed with a historic picture of the building found in the Evelyn and Robert Monthie Slide Collection at the Columbia County Historical Society, the HPC granted a certificate of appropriateness that involved replicating the original French doors on the ground floor. (The doors that had been removed years earlier, and the HPC was assured they were being stored and preserved, but, of course, when it came time to restore them and put them back in place, no one in the Galvan organization knew their whereabouts.)   

In one of the early appearances of this project before the HPC, probably as long ago as 2004, the late Kevin Walker, who then represented the Galvan organization, proposed replacing the original marble piers, lintels, and sills with new marble, explaining, "The owner [Eric Galloway] doesn't like old things." Needless to say, the HPC did not approve trashing the historic marble facade in favor of installing new marble, but the owner's distaste for anything old and authentic seems to have triumphed in the end. Yesterday, the marble was painted.

The HPC does not opine on paint color. That was a big issue at the beginning, to reassure people who were afraid that a preservation ordinance would inhibit their freedom of choice when it came to painting their buildings. The HPC should, however, intervene when it comes to painting brick or stone that has never been painted before and removing paint from masonry that has previously been painted. Both actions can cause long-term damage to structural materials. Although the need for HPC review in such situations has been discussed many times among members of the commission, it has never been memorialized in the city's preservation law, Chapter 169 of the city code.

Those of us distressed by the paint on the marble may find some solace in knowing that the marble medallions and pilasters at 116 Warren Street, our rare example of Adam style architecture, were once covered in paint, as shown in the picture below.

Photo: Evelyn and Robert Monthie Slide Collection|CCHS
Of course, that probably happened a hundred years ago. Today, we should know better.

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