Saturday, January 9, 2021

News from Friday's HPC Meeting

The Historic Preservation Commission meeting on Friday included two public hearings and lasted for more than three hours. Needless to say, the meeting generated lots of news.

The first public hearing concerned 241 Columbia Street, the original house of worship for Shiloh Baptist Church, constructed from 1920 to 1924 and recently designated a local landmark. 

The proposed changes to the building that are part of its restoration include installing windows in the tower; adding a greenhouse structure at the rear; lowering the entrance to the building; moving the door to the basement, now under the stairs, to the left; covering the foundation, which is now stuccoed, with wood siding.

Four members of the public spoke during the public hearing: Chris Perry and Cathryn Dwyre, who explained they lived on Warren Street, in proximity to 241 Columbia Street, and Ronald Kopnicki and Matt McGhee, who have been eloquent and outspoken champions of the building and its history. Perry and Dwyre expressed their satisfaction with the proposed changes to the building, calling them "necessary in terms of [the building's] functionality" and saying they were happy to see the building "brought into the 21st century." Kopnicki and McGhee expressed displeasure over the plan to move the basement door, hence destroying the symmetry of the facade. McGhee read from a history of Old Shiloh and appealed to the HPC to preserve intact the work of the parishioners who built the church and to "give the city a place of history and true inclusion for us all." 

When the HPC deliberated about the building later in the meeting, concerns were expressed both about moving the entrance and the basement door and about covering the foundation with clapboard. Jane Smith, architect for the project, explained that they had looked at many designs to make the stairs and the entrance code compliant, and none was "as successful at respecting the design of the building" as the one proposed. She told the HPC, "We have worked really, really hard on this." The change to the proposed plan that was agreed to was that the foundation would continue to be covered in stucco. With that change, the HPC unanimously voted to grant a certificate of appropriateness to the plans for restoration.

The subject of the second public hearing was the DRI funded alterations to the entrance to Promenade Hill. Chris Anderson of Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects presented the plan, which has been slightly refined since it was first presented to the HPC on December 6.

Anderson described the plan for the plaza as "reinforcing the visual relationship between Front Street and the Promenade" and spoke of celebrating the history of Promenade Hill and connecting to it. The principal refinement was relocating six lamp posts and adding more lamp posts to insure that the universal access route to the promenade was adequately lighted. Gail Wittwer-Laird, also of Starr Whitehouse, told the HPC that the groundbreaking for the project was anticipated to take place "on a sunny day" in February.

Before the public hearing was opened, Victoria Polidoro, legal counsel to the HPC, advised about procedure, explaining that the SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) assessment of the project was still outstanding. She asked the HPC to move to make the Common Council the lead agency for SEQRA. A motion was made and seconded and unanimously approved, after which the HPC voted to open the public hearing. There were no comments from the public about the proposed plan. 

Among the new projects to come before the HPC on Friday, three are of interest, the first of those being 94 North Fifth Street, the house whose wrap-around porch with intricate lattice work was, to the dismay of many, removed last fall.

It was explained that the front porch had been removed "as a result of miscommunication," but the HPC was assured that the details, in particular the ornate lattice brackets, had been preserved, and the porch was to be reconstructed exactly as it had been.

The subject of much discussion during the review by the HPC were the two over four windows found in various locations on the house. Chip Bohl, architect member of the HPC, noted that windows of this configuration would have been original to the house. Paul Barrett, historian member of the HPC, commented that the windows were unique and cautioned against changing them. Andy Didio, of Taconic Engineering, representing the building's owner, cited consistency, functionality, and availability as reasons not to use two over four windows, but Bohl insisted that the configuration should be maintained, asserting that "consistency is not an argument."

The second project of interest was the restoration of 223-225 Allen Street, the building damaged by fire last May.

Photo: Julie Metz
The plans for restoring the building involve removing layers of vinyl and other siding to expose and restore the original clapboard, reinstating the missing windows on the facade, restoring the Greek Revival sidelights at the entrance doors, and re-creating the entrances in Greek Revival style, which would have been the original design of the building. Two color schemes were proposed for the restored building, although the HPC does not opine on paint color. The restored building will have six apartments, two on each floor.

The same team of architects and owners presented a proposal for 205 Warren Street. This is the third proposal for the building that has come before the HPC in recent years.

In May 2017, the HPC approved a plan that involved converting the ground floor into storefronts. Although it was granted a certificate of appropriateness, that plan was never pursued.

In April 2018, a different plan was presented for the building, which involved, among other things, replacing the vinyl siding with Hardiplank, adding wood panels below the ground floor windows, and enhancing the entrance with a new pediment, entablature, and pilasters. That plan was not pursued either.

What is now being proposed is a restoration that respects what Bohl called "the wonderful idiosyncrasies" of the building.

The plan is to remove the vinyl siding to expose the original clapboard and to restore it. Bohl suggested that in that process they may discover that the first floor windows were originally taller than the second floor windows.  The plan also involves converting the attic into an apartment, and to achieve that a dormer will added at the back of the building. The building currently has four units; the restored building will have five units.  


  1. Please do not place Promenade Hill to whims of monies granted for fools to place our most historic park in jeopardy.

  2. I had no idea what "two over four" windows meant, but after "extensive" google searches on the net, it appears to be a window that is two panes wide, and 3 panes long. Thank you. :)

    1. Actually, Steve, in this case, two over four relates to window sash. You hear people talk about two over two windows (two panes in the top sash, two panes in the bottom sash), six over one windows, common in 20th-century houses (six panes in the top sash, one in the bottom), and so on. In most double hung windows, the top sash and the bottom sash are the same height. In this house, there are some windows where the top sash is only half the size of the bottom sash. The top sash has two panes of glass, or lights, side by side; the bottom sash has four panes of the same size. On the issue of functionality, such windows, if opened from the top or the bottom, can only open a third of the height of the window opening, whereas most double hung windows can open to half the height of the window.

    2. Ah the active versus inactive bit as to what opens. Thank you.

  3. Interesting, all of it. The Preservation Commission is certainly being kept busy in these new times. Good work, all of it. Thank you.