On Thursday, September 22, the History Room at the Hudson Area Library presents a lecture about urban renewal in Hudson, fifty years after the initiative to eliminate "urban decay" demolished and reimagined Front Street and most of what was traditionally known as the Second Ward. The following is quoted from the press release announcing the event:
Urban renewal transformed Front Street and the blocks between Columbia and State Street, west of Second Street. Franklin Square, Chapel Street, Fleet Street and Market Place were erased from the network of city streets. Approximately 176 buildings in all were demolished, requiring the relocation of about 850 people. Demolition and the subsequent new construction took place between 1970 and 1972.
Ted Hilscher, Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia-Greene Community College, will show and discuss approximately fifty photographs of buildings no longer standing and streetscapes no longer existing. These photographs have been made available for the first time since they were taken through a collaborative effort by the late Arthur Koweek, longtime Hudson Planning Commission Chair, and the Columbia-Greene Community College Library.
Hilscher will then facilitate a discussion of the legacy of urban renewal in Hudson. Anyone with recollections of the impacted areas of the city prior to urban renewal is encouraged to attend, as well as those who wish to talk about how Hudson and its residents were impacted.
In addition to his professorship at Columbia-Greene Community College, Ted Hilscher is a graduate of Hudson High School, has a Bachelor's Degree in American Studies from Fordham, a Master's in US History from SUNY Albany, a Law Degree from Albany Law School, and a law practice with his wife in Catskill.
The image chosen to accompany the press release is this one, which shows the building that once stood on the southwest corner of Warren and First streets, as a crew prepares to demolish it.
The following pictures were taken of the building in the 1930s by well-known photographer Walker Evans.
Back in 1994, Art Koweek and his colleague in carrying out urban renewal in Hudson, Bill Loewenstein, were invited to speak at a meeting of the Vision Plan Task Force, the grassroots initiative that produced the 1996 Vision Plan. At that meeting, Koweek told a story about the demise of this building. I was present at the meeting, and I retell the story as I remember it.
The Hudson Urban Renewal Agency was eager to demolish the building, but it was getting pushback from the Hudson River Valley Commission, an agency created by Governor Nelson Rockefeller in 1965 to study and conserve the scenic and cultural resources of the Hudson River Valley. The Hudson River Valley Commission wanted the building spared. Koweek and Loewenstein took a representative of the state agency on a tour of the building, and on that tour, their guest from the state had the misfortune of stepping on the unstable bit of floor and breaking his leg. After that, Koweek recounted, with a chuckle he shared with Loewenstein, there were no more objections to the demolition.
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