Friday, August 14, 2020

Highlights from Today's HPC Meeting

When it comes to long meetings, the Planning Board has nothing on the Historic Preservation Commission. This morning's HPC meeting, scheduled for 10:00 a.m. but which didn't actually begin until 10:28 a.m. because the meeting is required to be a public meeting and no log-in information had been provided to the public, lasted until 2:00 p.m. There were many projects on the agenda, but Gossips will cover only the most interesting ones. 

Of great interest to many, the HPC passed a resolution recommending that 241 Columbia Street, the building that was constructed as the first house of worship for Shiloh Baptist Church, be designated a local landmark. It is now up to the Common Council officially to make that designation.

The building's owner, Victoria Milne, who threatened to sell the building if it was designated, was in attendance at the meeting, but neither she nor her attorney, Kristal Heinz, spoke.

Of interest to those advocating for converting accessory buildings into living spaces to increase the number of rental units in the city and to those advocating for the preservation of alley structures, the former carriage house now garage behind 538 Warren Street is to be converted into a "rentable apartment."

The plan for the renovation moves the entrance to the east side of the building, makes the current loft access into a window, but preserves the loft doors as an architectural detail on the building. The project was granted a certificate of appropriateness. 

It will be remembered that the building in front of this accessory building, 538 Warren Street, formerly the location of John Anderson's Foxfird Antiques, is being renovated to become a wine bar, with apartments above.

Shanan Magee, who rescued and restored the Park Theater at 723 Warren Street, was back before the HPC to present his plans for the facade of ground floor of the building. His previous certificate of appropriate applied only to the part of the building above the ground floor, the work now completed.

No one, in years of searching, has ever been able to find a photograph of the original theater, so Magee used the Star Theater, once located at 510 Warren Street and owned by the same people who built the Park Theater, as the inspiration for what he is proposing for the ground floor of the building: two pairs of double doors positioned beneath and set back from what had been the glass marquee of the original theater.

The HPC granted a certificate of appropriateness to the plans for the ground floor facade of the former Park Theater.

The plan to convert TJ Auto Service Center, at 735 Columbia Street, into a brewery and bar and tasting room, a project that was presented to the Planning Board on Tuesday, August 11, came before the HPC this morning. For the HPC, the applicant had this new color rendering of how the building, with its new use, would appear.

Gossips must confess an error. The report on the Planning Board meeting indicated that the new brewery was to be called Columbia Pump Station. In fact, it will be called Columbia Filling Station.

The HPC is seeking more detail about the restoration before considering a certificate of appropriateness, but a letter of general support for the concept and the new use will by drafted by the HPC and submitted to the Planning Board.

Also of interest are the plans to transform the facade of the old police station at 427 Warren Street.

The building was sold at auction in June 2019, and today the HPC granted a certificate of appropriateness for plans to redesign and reconstruct the facade of the building "with historic style brick."

The entire HPC meeting can be viewed on YouTube.  


  1. Kudos to Shannon Magee for his heroic, ongoing restoration of the Park Theatre; and, without an improbably, confoundingly elusive photo of the Park in action, for appropriating the 1912 Star Theatre facade, which was designed by Henry S. Moul. For the record, the Park Theatre was built (1921) and owned by William Plass (Plass sold the former theatre building in 1945 to Abe Basen). The Star was created in 1912 by Eugene Elkenburgh, in his Elkenburgh building at 510 Warren. Upon his death in 1917, ownership passed to his daughter, Georgie, who owned the Star Theatre until her death in 1944. She was married to William H. Scovill (and lived in New York City), and there’s the only connection between Hudson theatre owners. William’s brother, E. Washburn Scovill, was one of the group of seven creators (operating as the Hudson Improvement Company) and owners of Hudson greatest theatre, the 1912 Playhouse Theatre (seating 1,500), at 347-353 Warren street. Destroyed by fire in 1938, the Playhouse lay in ruins until 1953, when the property was sold and developed as Harry Pizza & brothers’ Shell station. The former gas station now hosts the popular Backbar lounge/eatery, at 347 Warren. Remarkably, the southwest corner walls of the old Playhouse Theatre still stand, incorporated in the gas station’s construction in 1953. Tis quite visible on Cherry Alley, featuring a fantastic second-floor Playhouse window to the sky!


  2. The overlap between the Star and Park theatres occurred briefly in management, not ownership. Julius J. Thomsen, longtime Hudson music instructor and one-time leader of the Hudson Band, assumed management of the Star Theatre by 1919. He added management (and organist) duty of the Park Theatre when it opened in 1921. Professor Thomsen continued dual management operations until his wife’s illness in 1922 and death in 1923, when he retired to private music instruction.

  3. Mercy!, must hasten to clarify myself. Having noted that no person owned more than one Hudson theatre, I failed to mention that, on two occasions, a company owned dual theatres (two in both cases). The first was the Hudson Improvement Company, builder and owner of the 1912 Playhouse Theatre. Meanwhile, Hudson’s first commercially created venue, the New Warren Theatre, had opened in 1909 at 336 Warren street. It closed in 1916, and was purchased by the Hudson Improvement Company in 1919 and recreated as the Rialto Theatre (1919-1934). Later home of the V.F.W., the former theatre was destroyed in the raging Good Friday Fire, in 1965. The second entity was the Walter Reade Organization, builder and owner of the Community Theatre, at Sixth and Columbia streets (1937-1971). The Reade Organization then purchased the Warren Theatre, 735 Warren street (1938-1954) in 1938, as the Cocalis Corporation was completing its construction.

  4. So, the old Police Department building. What's to be done with it besides remaking the facade (or did I miss that?)? Personally I think the building should be converted into a Visitor's Center with Public Restrooms, etc. It's centrally located and other spaces could be made into public meeting areas as well. Such a shame to have the building sitting there idle.

    1. That was a great and important concept but the city decided it wanted the money from a sale instead.