Yesterday, the outrage suffered recently by this house on North Fifth Street was shared on Facebook. The first photo below shows the house as it appeared in August, when it was last sold; the second shows the house as it appears today. The wrap-around porch, with its intricate latticework, is now missing.
Armory Historic District, designated in 2006. Still the porch was removed without review or a certificate of appropriateness from the Historic Preservation Commission.
Upon learning of this on Wednesday morning, Gossips contacted both Phil Forman, chair of the Historic Preservation Commission, and Craig Haigh, code enforcement officer. Haigh said he was aware of the situation and was issuing an order to remedy. Still, this should never have happened.
The fate of this house is testimony to the need for better communication about Hudson's historic preservation ordinance with new property owners in Hudson, but how can that be achieved? Whose responsibility is it to do that? Ideally, buyers should know a house is in a historic district before they buy it, which means realtors need to know this and disclose it. Failing that, it would be nice if, as soon as a sale in a historic district is recorded with the county clerk's office, the new owner would receive information about Hudson's historic preservation ordinance and the obligations of owners of buildings in historic districts.
Perhaps easier to achieve, though, would be to make historic preservation more visible on the City of Hudson website. As it is now, to find any information about historic preservation, you need to click on the tab "How do I?" and select this weirdly worded option: "Apply for Historic appropriateness on a change to my building?" That will bring you to the Historic Preservation Commission's page, where you can eventually, if you click on the right options, find out if your building is in a historic district and how you can apply for a certificate of appropriateness. It is not a clear path, and who is even going to attempt it if they don't already know their building is in a historic district? Perhaps instead there needs to be a page, under the tab "About Hudson," that tells about the city's historic architecture and the historic preservation ordinance enacted in 2003 to protect it. Maybe there could also be information about historic districts under the tab "Residents."
But to return to the house on North Fifth Street. It has had an interesting history in the past couple of years. Gossips did a post about the house in February 2018: "Take the Restoration Challenge." At that time, the house was for sale for $139,000. The post explored the history of the house, which for several decades in the 19th-century was the home of Leonard Geiger, a marble cutter of some skill and reputation, and his family.
The tax rolls reveal that the house was purchased in May 2018 for $139,000 and sold in December of that same year for $300,000. At some point along the way, the house got a new coat of paint and work was done on the interior, and according to Zillow, it was sold in August 2020 for $510,000.
Update: At the Historic Preservation Commission meeting this morning (Friday, October 9), HPC chair Phil Forman reported that the owner and the contractor will be held responsible and required to reinstate the porch or rebuild it as it was. It is not clear if any of the materials were retained or if everything will have to be replicated.
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