Thursday, May 11, 2023

The Future for Morgan Jones's Mansion

At its last meeting on April 28, the Historic Preservation Commission held a public hearing on changes being proposed for 317 Allen Street, the dream house of Morgan Jones, a young man who had inherited a fortune from his father's manufactured soap company. 

Jones, who was born in Pittsfield, graduated from Williams College in 1901. After graduation, he traveled in Europe, as was the custom for rich young men at the time, and the buildings he saw there shaped this taste in architecture. In 1903, he commissioned the architect Marcus Reynolds, a fellow Williams alumnus ten years Jones's senior, to design a house for him, to be built in Hudson. The Jacobean and Dutch inspired mansion, which was completed in 1906, is considered by many to be Reynolds's richest and most successful design. The original drawings for the house are preserved at the Albany Institute of History and Art. In 1910, four years after construction was completed, the house was featured in a publication called The Brickbuilder. These photographs of the house appeared in The Brickbuilder.

This may be the most celebrated house in Hudson, and it is certainly the best documented.

In what is being described as "mostly restoration," some troubling changes are now being proposed for the house, mostly notably changes in the fenestration. A bay window is being proposed for the principal bedroom, as well as the addition of large windows in the part of the house where the kitchen is located.

Also proposed is the application of a limewash to mask the "patching" in the brick that has been done over the years.

During the public hearing, Matt McGhee said he was mostly concerned about the proposed bay window, calling it "a huge departure from the original intent of the building." He argued that "the back facade accounts for quite a bit and should be maintained." He reiterated that the bay window was "totally out of character with the original intent of the building" and said of the proposed changes to the fenestration, "Disrupting the original intent and appearance to this degree is inappropriate." He also expressed concern about "the degree you intend to wash over the brick."

Discussing the proposal, HPC member Paul Barrett said he agreed with McGhee regarding the bay window. Phil Forman, who chairs the HPC, commented that it was "not in the vocabulary and style of the building." Miranda Barry noted the bay window would be "highly visible." Kim Wood, who now serves as the architect member of the HPC, suggested there were "other strategies and approaches that might be more appropriate." Barrett also questioned the limewash proposed for the brick. It was decided that the applicant should respond to the concerns raised in the public hearing and by the HPC. That response is expected to happen at tomorrow's meeting of the HPC. Forman expressed the hope that "HPC input is encouraging not discouraging."

The HPC meets tomorrow, Friday, May 12, at 10:00 a.m. The meeting is a hybrid, taking place in person at the Central Fire Station, 77 North Seventh Street, and on Zoom. Click here to join the meeting remotely. 

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