Saturday, May 8, 2021

More About the Almshouse Windows

One of the benefits of having a blog like The Gossips of Rivertown is that I have a bully pulpit, and I have no qualms about using it when the cause is one I'm passionate about. Preserving the historic integrity of 400 State Street, a building that has survived for more than two centuries seemingly against all odds, is such a cause.

The building was originally constructed in 1818 as the Hudson Almshouse. The term almshouse sounds charitable and kind, but Wikipedia has this to say about almshouses: "Throughout the 19th century almshouses were a last resort for those who were poor, disabled, and elderly. Residents experienced mistreatment, destitution, and inhumanity."

Except for a period of sixteen years, from 1865 to 1881, when the building was the home of George H. Power, one of the wealthiest men in Hudson in his time, the building always had an institutional use--an almshouse, a lunatic asylum, an academy for young women, an orphanage, a public library. The building, which is individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is now owned by the Galvan Foundation. Galvan seems to be a rather unwilling steward of the historic structure. In January, they offered to give the building to the City of Hudson for use as City Hall.

Last month, Walter Chatham, representing Galvan, appeared before the Historic Preservation Commission seeking a certificate of appropriateness to replace all the windows in the building with windows having a nine over nine configuration. In selecting that window figuration, Chatham rejected the evidence provided by an early engraving of the building, published in Rural Respository during the period that the building was the Hudson Lunatic Asylum (1830-1850). The engraving shows the window configuration to be twelve over twelve--twelve panes, or lights, in the upper sash, and twelve panes in the lower sash, arranged four across and three down, except for the windows on the third floor, which are shorter and each sash is four across and two down.

In presenting his case to the HPC, Chatham argued that windows as they appear in the engraving are not the original windows, theorizing that the original windows were replaced when the building became the lunatic asylum. He has also described the window configuration that appears in the engraving as "grim," "prisonlike," and "frighteningly institutional." Gossips has written two posts challenging Chatham's assumptions. Those posts can be found here and here. Since publishing the second post, I was reminded by a reader that the William Henry Ludlow House in Claverack, built in 1786, has twelve over twelve windows.

Photo: John S. Hirth|Wikipedia
Another reader sent me this photograph of a house currently for sale in Kinderhook. Not only does the original Colonial style clapboard house have twelve over twelve windows, but so does the 1995 fieldstone addition.

Photo: Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Blake, Realtors

So much for the argument that the twelve over twelve windows are "grim," "prisonlike," and "frighteningly institutional." 

Since my last post about the windows proposed for 400 State Street, I had a conversation by email with a very knowledgeable architectural historian who told me that nine over nine windows, the configuration being proposed, are "not typical at all for New York State." What is typical for New York are twelve over twelve or six over six. Nine over nine windows are typical in the south, in particular, in Charleston. (It will be remembered that one of Chatham's examples of nine over nine windows was a house in West Virginia.)

My architectural historian source acknowledged that, because of the Charleston-Hudson Steamship Line, some nine over nine windows, manufactured in the Charleston area, made their way to our area. One example is 7 Union Street, which has nine over nine windows and "major connections to Charleston."

Although it is not completely outside the realm of possibility that the original windows at 400 State Street might have been nine over nine, it seems very unlikely. The opinion of my architectural historian source is: "I buy the evidence of the engraving. They did not just make it up, the 12/12."
This morning, while driving from the dog park to the farmers' market, I saw something I must admit I had never noticed before. In the west gable of the central part of the building there is an attic window, very likely the only window in the building that has never been replaced in the two centuries the building has stood there. The configuration of the window, which is shorter than most of the windows in the building, is eight over eight--each sash is four panes across and two down, just like the third story windows seen in the engraving. 

The building is offering its own evidence that the original window configuration was twelve over twelve.


  1. Thank you Carole for your extensive research.

    Engravings of yore were the documentation of the day. there were no photographs because they had not been invented.

    Engravings documented what actually existed, which was the point. Sorry, Walter Chatham.

    The cost to replicate the original windows is really not a significant sum in bigger picture.

    However, here is the real point.

    Galvan is always ready "ad nauseum" to ask the townspeople of Hudson to give them huge PILOTS that will cost the populace millions in foregone revenues, but wants to save a few dollars on the windows.

    Does this really make any sense ? Do they have good intentions.

    1. Galvan is cheap, he doesnt invest his own money, only the money he gleans from the government ... his Armory Castle was a different ego trip.

    2. ... but even then Galvan held the Senior Center hostage till Hudson coughed up a blank check for $100,000.

  2. Lets hope that charitable giving for those that can afford the best, do the correct and best things for the community.

    1. Hope doesn't seem to be getting us very far. Maybe we should try prayer, or...?