Thursday, September 1, 2022

Help for the Historic Athletic Field

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.

The school building, described by its architect as "old Dutch Colonial" in design, was determined to be eligible for listing in the State and Registers of Historic Places in 2007. In 2019, the State Historic Preservation Office expanded its determination to include the grounds of the school. The following paragraph, written by Daniel Bagrow, is quoted from OPRHP's Resource Evaluation:
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.


  1. Thank you Ken and Jeff, many a HHS track team sprinter bolted out of the starting blocks in the shadow of those pillars ! Even though it was back in the early 1970's I can still hear Coach Frank Hamblet telling us to be proud of that sports complex just as if it were this afternoon. He often said it was the envy of the Capital District.

  2. Bob - Jeff and I very grateful for your reply. But I think you are wrong. While I was playing that sport called tennis and your were down on the real field...all I could hear was Coach Hamblet yelling at you. LOL. If we all take a brick or a book or a troubled student and invest.....perhaps we can turn this situation around and, student by student create an academic miracle. The teachers are there doing their best. The students are probably dazed by COVID and isolation. But the community is untapped and Lisamarie is doing her best but she needs us locals to giver her a roadmap to part of the plan. As the bricks go up I ask everyone in Hudson to find their own brick. We truly need to rebuild these schools from the bottom up. Call Lisamarie directly She is a charmer. But also extremely focused and efficient with her mission. Offer your help. Hudson can change this. Thanks Bob and BTW, Coach Hamblet would come and tease the tennis o\ a nice way. But we got it. He was a giant. Still we all loved him. Ken