Friday, October 9, 2020

News from This Morning's HPC Meeting

Very soon, the red barn on South Front Street, across from the train station, will be coming down. As the chief mourner and hand wringer when it comes to the loss of old buildings, let me hasten to assure you that this is not a bad thing. The building will not be demolished, rather it is to be deconstructed and reconstructed using the original elements, on a new foundation, in such a way that it will be an energy efficient, net zero envelope.

I know we've heard the words deconstructed and reconstructed before, but this time I'm pretty sure it's really going to happen.

Another building that will be coming down in Hudson is this one, at 41 North Seventh Street, formerly Bagel Tyme, soon to be the new location of Isaan Star Thai Restaurant.

Back in February, a plan was presented to the Historic Preservation Commission to renovate the building. Today, plans were presented to construct an entirely new building on the site for the Thai restaurant. The HPC authorized its legal counsel to prepare a certificate of appropriateness for the new structure.

Perhaps the most exciting project to come before the HPC this morning, for a host of reasons, was 501 Union Street. 

This building, once known as "Apartments of Distinction," has been owned for more than a decade by the Galvan Foundation, and for more than a decade, it has been vacant. Built in 1864, it is one of the earliest apartment buildings to be constructed in the United States. Some exterior restoration has already been undertaken on the building. In 2012, the original slate of the mansard roof was replaced, the dormers and cornices were restored, and the chimneys were rebuilt. That restoration was guided by this 1893 image of the building, discovered by Walter Ritchie. The image is also guiding the final restoration of the building.
This morning, Walter Chatham, architect and former chair of the Planning Board, appeared before the HPC with a proposal to complete the exterior restoration of the building. The proposal involves replacing the temporary replacement windows now in the building with permanent replacement windows, removing the fire escape on the South Fifth Street side of the building, adding shutters to the Union Street side of the building, and re-creating a storefront at the corner of the building, as appears in the 1893 engraving. Replacing the windows is a necessary preliminary step to beginning the interior renovation, which involves creating one bedroom and studio apartments.

The only part of the proposal that the HPC took issue with was the design for the storefront. Chip Bohl, architect member of the HPC, said re-establishing the storefront cornice was appropriate but questioned the square two over two windows proposed for that part of the building. He said they disrupted the verticality of the building and suggested that the original windows might have had a mullion (a vertical element) in the middle, but they would not have been two over two. He urged that the design for the storefront could be made "more balanced, more tailored, and more defined." Chatham was agreeable, saying, "We just want to do what's right for the building."

It was decided that the application would be split, separating the design for the storefront from the rest of the proposal so they could move ahead with the windows and subsequently with the interior restoration, and more time could be spent on pursuing the storefront design.

Another application of interest was for 121 Warren Street. What is being proposed is a "general restoration"--replacing the windows with six over six double hung windows and replacing the vinyl siding with primed pine siding which would be painted Hawthorne yellow.

The applicant said the immediate goal was "to improve the appearance of the house and make it safe," but the discussion led to speculation about the age of the house. The applicant said it was built in 1840, but a few years ago, Gossips discovered in an 1889 newspaper that the house was then 100 years old, making the year of its construction 1789, just a few years after the founding of Hudson. (I shared this information with the HPC during the meeting.) The gambrel shape of the roof, visible from the side, supports the notion that the house dates from much earlier than 1840. Given the possible age and significance of the building, Bohl declared, "We need to take very serious consideration of the renovations being proposed."

At the suggestion of HPC chair Phil Forman, it was decided that a significant piece of the vinyl siding, "sufficient to see that's there," would be removed from the front and the east side of the building, and members of the HPC would do a site visit, during or before their next meeting, to see if the vinyl siding is covering original brick and, if so, what the condition of the brick is.


  1. 501 Union is one of my favorite buildings in the City. SO happy to hear it's getting some much needed TLC.

  2. The most telling line in this excellent report is about the Apartments of Distinction, "owned for more than a decade by the Galvan Foundation, and for more than a decade, it has been vacant." Instead of our Mayor going after Galvan for such a scourge on affordable housing, he partnered with this so-called non-profit to try to build an unaffordable new building, shifting the burden to taxpayers. It is clear that Galvan has had an outsize impact on both the housing market and its historic preservation in Hudson over the last decade and yet no City agency wants to bring Galvan to task. Our new Mayor won't even appoint a Housing Commissioner to attempt some objective citywide approach to the challenges.

  3. I hope we don't lose that resplendent cottonwood on South Front Street during the 'de/reconstruction' phase.