This morning's meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission was taken up almost entirely by a single property: 121 Warren Street.
There is evidence, discovered in old newspapers, that the house was built in 1789, just a few years after the founding of Hudson. The current owner wants to replace the windows, which are late 20th-century replacement windows, remove the vinyl siding, and put on new primed pine siding. The goal of the work is to "improve the appearance of the house and make it safe."
At its last meeting, the Historic Preservation Commission asked that a significant piece of the vinyl siding be removed from the front and the east side of the building so it could be assessed what lies beneath. This was done, and at today's meeting, the applicant had photos to show what was under the vinyl siding. The commissioners were hoping to find brick, but what was uncovered was clapboard on the front and novelty siding on the side.
The proposal from the applicant was to clean up the clapboard and the old novelty siding and put new wood siding on top of it.
Chip Bohl, architect member of the HPC, observed, "There is a lot to discover with this building," suggesting that the removal of the vinyl siding may reveal the original window and door pattern which is not visible now. He expressed concern that new wood siding would cover the original fenestration just as the vinyl siding does now. He also maintained, "If wood siding is placed on top of wood siding, the new siding will have a different relationship to the window trim and the corner board trim."
HPC member Phil Schwartz commented, "I don't recall people putting wood siding over wood siding. Typically, it is repair and replace where necessary [when vinyl or aluminum siding is removed]." HPC member Paul Barrett added that he would like to see as much of the original clapboard restored as possible. The applicant protested that he had neither the time nor the budget to do a complete restoration of the exterior of the house. He said if they couldn't put the wood siding they wanted on the building, they should simply put the vinyl siding back up after they had replaced the windows. He did however agree to acknowledge and preserve any historic details uncovered when the vinyl siding was removed.
When it came time to vote on granting a certificate of appropriateness, three members of the commission--Phil Forman, Hugh Biber, and Barrett--voted to approve; two members--Bohl and Schwartz--voted to deny. Forman, who chairs the HPC, declared that the motion had carried, but he was corrected by legal counsel. A majority must be a majority of the entire seven-member commission not just a majority of the five members present. so four members needed to vote in favor of the proposal.
It was then noted that HPC member John Schobel had been trying to get into the meeting but couldn't because the meeting was in lockdown after a Zoombombing episode. It seemed some thought Schobel might cast the fourth vote needed for approval, but that didn't happen. After joining the meeting and being updated by Forman, Schobel told the applicant, "I would rather see the house enveloped in vinyl until you are able to do a proper restoration." He suggested the possibility of restoring only the facade of the building and reinstalling the vinyl on the sides and at the back. Schobel told the applicant and his colleagues, "To envelope the entire structure in a new layer of siding doesn't promulgate our mission."
Schwartz then asked rhetorically, "How is it cheaper or more efficient to buy a whole truckload of wood instead of power washing what's there and painting it?" Schobel told the applicant that he had removed all the siding from his house, which is considerably larger than 121 Warren Street, and only had to replace six boards.
Schobel pointed out that HPC could grant a certificate of appropriateness to remove the vinyl siding and install the new windows. Re-siding the house would require a certificate of appropriateness but putting the vinyl siding back would not. The commission then voted unanimously to grant a certificate of appropriateness for removing the vinyl siding and replacing the late 20th-century replacement windows with six over six, double hung windows. After the vote, Schobel reiterated that, if anything of interest is discovered when the vinyl siding is removed, the applicant must return to the HPC.
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