Even when you have an annual budget of $54 million, there are some things that don't get attended to. Such is the case with the Hudson City School District and the historic athletic complex behind Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School now known as Barrett Field.
The entire site, originally named the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Educational Center, was conceived during the Great Depression and constructed as an early WPA (Works Progress Administration) project. The athletic fields were actually constructed before the school building. The complex of playing fields had already been completed in 1936 when work on the school building began.
Additionally, the school's landscape is a contributing feature to the historic property and was designed by Laurie Davidson Cox (1883-1968), a nationally known park designer, landscape architect, and a professor of landscape architecture in the New York State College of Forestry at Syracuse University. The contributing features of the landscape include the athletic fields and associated structures (running track, baseball diamond and field, tennis courts, grandstand with bleachers (adjacent to the tennis courts and behind the backstop), and adjacent parking) which closely convey their original design as shown in Cox's conceptual site drawings. . . . Cox's overall plan can be easily read on the landscape and is relatively unchanged since its initial construction.
In 2019, the baseball field was upgraded because it was discovered that baseball players, coaches, and spectators did not like playing on the field that was part of the new Bluehawk Sports Complex at Hudson High School, which was completed in 2017. There were problems with sun shining in the eyes of players (and spectators) and with wind. A significant investment was made to upgrade the baseball field, but other elements of the historic field have fallen victim to neglect--in particular the brick pillars that support the cast iron fence. The pillars near the entrance to the tennis courts are in particularly bad shape.
Help is on the way for these crumbling historic pillars. At its meeting on August 23, the HCSD Board of Education accepted the gift of "all professional services, labor and materials necessary to complete necessary repointing of brick pillars and repair of iron gates at the entrance to John A. Barrett Field located on the Montgomery C. Smith Elementary School premises." The gift is being made by Ken Sheffer and Jeff Tsui in honor of Sheffer's parents, Rachel and Ken Sheffer, and Dr. Laurie Davidson Cox, "the landscape architect who designed the fields and pillars and personally hand-picked each brick."
Sheffer is a great advocate for the athletic fields at Montgomery C. Smith. It was through his efforts that SHPO expanded its determination of eligibility for the school building to include the entire site of the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Educational Center. Sheffer has researched the history of the center's development during the years of the Great Depression and the New Deal. He can be heard talking about this history in an episode of History Room on Zoom recorded in May 2020.
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