Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Of Interest and Importance

The New York Times reported this afternoon that the U.S. Department of Transportation is proposing new rules to increase the safety of trains carrying crude oil: "Government Proposes Faster Changes in Rail Tank Cars."

The Parapet from a Different Vantage Point

Parapet Revealed

This picture was received minutes ago. 

The mansard roof is off, and it appears that a substantial part, if not all, of the stepped parapet remains.

Photos courtesy Virginia Martin and Bruce Mitchinson

Roof Removal Update

These pictures show the state of things at the Warren Inn at around 11 o'clock this morning.

Photo: Virginia Martin

A Footnote to the Post About Elbert Payne

At the end of 2012, Gossips published the accounts of General Rosalie Jones and her suffragist army marching from New York City to Albany in December 1912 to deliver a petition for equal rights to Governor William Sulzer at his inauguration.

The army spent Christmas in Hudson, at the General Worth Hotel, and on her return journey to New York, General Jones stopped off in Hudson to help organize the suffrage movement here. During her visit, she was the guest of Mrs. Morgan Jones, who resided at 317 Allen Street, and on New Year's Day, General Jones held a meeting of Hudson suffragists at the home of Mrs. A. V. S. Cochrane, the wife of Judge A. V. S. Cochrane, at 437 East Allen Street.

At that meeting, a "Suffrage club" was organized, and the woman who was elected to chair the organization was Eloise Payne, the sister of Assemblyman Elbert Payne, the subject of yesterday's post. Eloise Payne was a schoolteacher who, in 1913, lived with her mother, Mrs. Horace Payne, and her brother Richard at 38 South Fifth Street.

38 South Fifth Street today

What's Beneath?

The removal of the "mansard" roof on the Warren Inn, added in 1959 when the building was converted from a movie theater to a motel, started this morning.

The Historic Preservation Commission made the restoration of the stepped parapet on the facade a condition for granting a certificate of appropriateness. The state of the masonry that survives under the mansard roof will determine if the restoration will be possible.

Photos courtesy Virginia Martin and Bruce Mitchinson

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Human History Behind a Hudson House

Yesterday, I received an email from someone interested in the work of Hudson builder and architect Henry S. Moul. At the Columbia County Historical Society, she'd been looking at Modern Buildings by Henry S. Moul Architect, in which houses are identified not by address but by the names of the people for whom they were designed and built. Using city directories and census records, she had located most of the houses, but one was causing a problem. It was this one, labeled "Residence of the Late Hon. Elbert Payne, Hudson, N.Y." She asked if I could tell her where the house was located.

I didn't immediately recognize the house, but knowing when it might have been built gave me a pretty good idea of where it would have been built, so I printed out the picture and headed out in search of it. It didn't take very long at all to find it, at the top of McKinstry Place.

Finding the house piqued my curiosity about the person for whom it was built: the Late Hon. Elbert Payne. So, combining the information from city directories and census records provided by the person who asked about the house with what I could discover in old newspapers on Fulton History, I was able to put together this brief account of the brief life Elbert Payne.

Elbert Payne was born in Hudson in 1874 and was educated in the public schools. He graduated from Hudson High School in 1891, at the age of 17, and took a job as a bookkeeper with the National Hudson River Bank, then located in this building at 231 Warren Street.

Over the next nine years, Payne worked his way up to assistant teller, but in December 1900, he resigned his position at the bank to become deputy county clerk. This little social note, discovered in the Hudson Daily Register on March 2, 1898, when Payne was 24, reveals something of his character and reputation:
Elbert Payne the popular bookkeeper at the Hudson River bank was among Hudsonians in attendance on a swell wedding in New York last evening.
On June 2, 1901, the "matrimonial engagement" of Elbert Payne and Grace Parker was announced in the Hudson Evening Register. Grace was the daughter of Byron Parker, the plumber. Elbert and Grace would marry on December 16, 1901, but between the engagement and the wedding, Elbert, then 27, was elected to the State Assembly.

Payne was the Republican candidate for assemblyman, and his nomination met with great derision from the Hudson Daily Register, which was the Democrats' newspaper at the time. The Register considered him too young, too inexperienced, and too much under the influence of Louis Payn, the boss of the Republican "machine." Here's some of what the Register had to say about him in October 1901.
Even if Mr. Payne were fitted by experience for the office for which he was been nominated, he should be squelched because in accepting the nomination he has placed himself under obligations to perhaps the most dishonest and the most unscrupulous politician that this country has ever known. 
However, even if the shadow of the unprincipled political mountebank were not hovering over the youthful and inexperienced Elbert, there would still be reason for voting for this opponent, J. Clarence Rightmyer. Mr. Rightmyer is a man of affairs, a taxpayer, who has had experience in the world, while Elbert Payne is a boy scarcely out of his "teens," a recent high school graduate who knows as little about legislation as a brindle cow knows about the science of gastronomics. . . .
Nothing has been said in favor of Elbert Payne by the Republican press except that he is a good bookkeeper. This the Register is willing to concede. You know Goldsmith said that a man who was a good bookkeeper was good for nothing else, and years seem to have proven the logic of this assertion. . . .
Despite the efforts of the Hudson Daily Register to discredit him, Elbert Payne was elected to the New York State Assembly in November 1901. In December, he and Grace Parker were married, and in January he took his place in the State Assembly representing Columbia County. On February 4, 1902, a little item appeared in the social notes in the Hudson Register, reporting that "Assemblyman Elbert Payne is occupying his new residence on McKinstry Place." 

His life seemed perfect--new wife, new home, new career in politics, and (although he may not have known it at the time) there was a baby on the way. But tragically, on March 4, 1902, Elbert Payne died of pneumonia. On March 5, the Albany Evening Journal reported the response in the Assembly to his untimely death.

House To-day Passes a Resolution on 
His Untimely Demise.
Before the Assembly adjourned, Mr. [William] Bennet [21st District New York County] offered a resolution on the death of Assemblyman Elbert Payne of Columbia county. The death of Mr. Payne, the preamble to the resolution declared, had removed an honorable and highly conscientious representative, who filled the position to which he was elected with faithfulness and credit to his district and who, during this brief career as a legislator, had won the esteem and regard of his associates.
The speaker was directed to appoint a committee of seven members to attend the funeral of Mr. Payne.
Mr. Bennet said the duty he performed in offering the resolution was the saddest one he was ever called on to perform. The death of this colleague seemed cruel and unnecessary. He was but 28 years of age. No man was held in higher esteem.
In a list of legislative appropriations reported in the Albany Evening Journal on August 28, 1902, this item appeared:
For Grace Parker Payne, widow of the late Elbert Payne, member of assembly, to pay in full his salary, fifteen hundred five dollars and sixty cents, said amount to be paid from the appropriation made by chapter six hundred forty-four of the laws of nineteen hundred and one, for compensation and mileage of officers and members of the legislature.
It is not known how long Grace continued living in the house on McKinstry Place after her husband died, but the Hudson city directory for 1902 lists Grace Parker Payne as living at 436 Warren Street--her father's house, over the plumbing business--and ten years later, the Hudson city directory for 1912 also gives her address as 436 Warren Street.

Grace Parker Payne survived her husband by little more than a decade. She died on November 19, 1915. Her obituary in the Hudson Evening Register, which appeared on the day of her death, was explicit about the circumstances of her death and abundant with praise.

Mrs. Grace Parker Payne died at her house in this city at about 10 o'clock this morning.  She had been troubled with a growth for a year, being in a hospital in New York for five months undergoing serum and X-ray treatments, but she gradually kept growing weaker. She did not suffer any pain, and was able to be up until this week. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Byron Parker, of this city, and the widow of Elbert Payne, who died while serving in the legislature as an Assemblyman. They were married December 16, 1901, and the death of Mr. Payne occurred in the following March of pneumonia. She is survived by a son, Elbert. . . . 
She grew up to womanhood in this city and her pleasant temperament and her happy ways made her many friendships. She was a woman respected by all for her many fine traits of character. She was a member of the Presbyterian church, and until her health became impaired she was the assistant librarian at the D.A.R. library, serving about seven years in this position. She was a member of the Hendrick Hudson chapter, D.A.R., and also a member of the Woman's club, being ever active and interested in those things which tended toward the city's and its people's betterment.
An item on the same page of the Register that day announced the funeral arrangements: "Funeral from her late residence, 436 Warren Street, on Monday [November 22] afternoon at 2 o'clock."

Park Meeting Canceled

Tonight at 6:30, there was supposed to be a meeting to discuss the proposed "re-imagining" of the Public Square, a.k.a Seventh Street Park. Gossips had just received word that the meeting for tonight has been canceled and rescheduled for Thursday, August 7, at 6:30 p.m., at 1 North Front Street.

Photo courtesy Historic Hudson

Truck Toll

The Register-Star this morning reports on the progressive collapse, owing to heavy use and heavy rain, of Columbia Street--the route through the city for trucks traveling on Route 9G: "Six sinkholes take out city's Columbia Street." Interestingly, although this seems to be the perfect justification for detouring trucks around the city, this doesn't appear to have been done.

Power Struggles

The Register-Star reports today that Mayor William Hallenbeck has announced a change in the City's source of energy: "Mayor: City changing energy plans." Previously, also on the mayor's initiative, the City has been powered exclusively by wind energy, purchased from Virdian Energy, a company for whom former Assembly member Pat Manning is an independent associate. Now the mayor wants a mix of renewable energy sources, including solar panels to be installed on the Central Fire Station, as well as on other city buildings. 

Solar panels on the Central Fire Station is not a new idea. Back in January 2013, the Common Council heard a presentation from local solar energy company Lotus Energy for doing just that. That proposal, which had been the initiative of Victor Mendolia, got bogged down with questions of whether or not the City could put solar panels on a building it doesn't own (the Central Fire Station is leased from Community Initiatives Development Corporation, which built it in 2005) and sank completely when Mendolia announced his intention to run for mayor. Now it's back, but this time, according to the mayor's plan, the solar panels would be installed by Viridian.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Of Interest

To celebrate its 125th anniversary, Congregation Anshe Emeth has created a video that recounts the history of the Jewish community in Hudson. The video, which can be viewed here, provides a fascinating look at Hudson history and some interesting historic photographs, including these two, which show, respectively, Boy Scouts parading on Warren Street in the days before urban renewal (shown is the corner of Warren and First streets) and the house that occupied the site of the current synagogue until 1965 when the synagogue was built.

Hudson in the Berkshires

My Anne, the inspired and haunting solo performance by Sarah Schaeffer, adapted from The Diary of Anne Frank, will be presented tomorrow night, Tuesday, July 22, at 7:30 p.m. at Hevreh of the Southern Berkshire, 270 State Road, in Great Barrington. My Anne, which has developed and directed by Carol Rusoff, the creator of the Hudson Teen Theater Project, was originally performed at the the Hudson Opera House on Holocaust Remembrance Day in April 2013. Tickets are $20 and are available at the door.

Mrs. Greenthumbs Day

By all accounts, Mrs. Greenthumbs Day was a great success. Adam Clayton has a report about it in today's Register-Star: "Mrs. Greenthumbs Tour returns to Hudson."

Here's a little bit of Hudson history Gossips heard while visiting the gardens on Sunday. Back in the late 1980s, when Mrs. Greenthumbs was first getting her garden at 611 Union Street going, the code enforcement officer at the time, obviously believing that the only appropriate thing to grow in a yard was grass, cited Mrs. Greenthumbs for "excessive vegetation." She had to take him through the garden and tell him the names of all the plants to prove that this was a garden and not a yard run amok with weeds.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hooray! It's Mrs. Greenthumbs Day!

It may be cloudy now, but clear skies and sun are expected by afternoon. Overcast or sunny, it's still a perfect day for visiting gardens, so get out and enjoy Mrs. Greenthumbs Day in Hudson. 

Until 9:30 a.m. today, you can request a PDF of the map below by sending an email to Gossips. After that, you'll have to get your copy of the map at The Secret Gardener, 250 Warren Street, or Lili and Loo, 259 Warren Street.

The gardens--fourteen of them all together--are open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Use the map and look for purple and green balloons to find your way to each site.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Commercialization of Warren Street

Historic images of Hudson provide evidence that Warren Street was always a mix of commercial and residential buildings. In 1868, when the picture below was taken, the 500 block of Warren Street--a block we think of today as almost exclusively commercial--was made up principally of private residences, sharing space with the Central House Hotel, which stood at the corner of Warren and Fifth street, and a few retail shops.

In the 1970s, when retail businesses migrated to the strip malls of Greenport, many of the storefronts on Warren Street, particularly below Fifth Street, were converted into apartments. There was no longer a demand for retail space on Warren Street, but there was a need for low-income housing.

The beginning of the 21st century saw the return of storefronts on Warren Street, in response to the new demand for retail space. In many cases, the new storefronts were a matter of revealing or restoring what had been there before.

In other instances, storefronts were created in buildings that had originally been residential and were still residential at the time of the transformation.

In the past year or so, the Historic Preservation Commission has seen many proposals for alterations to residential properties to accommodate retail activity. Several of these have been for buildings in the 100 block of Warren Street, which is the most residential in character of any block of Warren Street and the only block that back in the days of urban renewal anyone thought worthy of preserving.

In January 2013, the HPC denied a certificate of appropriateness to a proposal to install a triple window in the facade of 103 Warren Street. It was a close vote, with three members of the HPC (Rick Rector, Phil Forman, and Peggy Polenberg) voting to grant a certificate of appropriateness, but the members who felt the proposed windows changed the character of this early Federal clapboard house, thought to be the first home in Hudson of the Proprietor Thomas Jenkins, carried the day. (Six months later, in a comment on Gossips, the owners of 103 Warren Street shared their opinion that the HPC had been right in denying a certificate of appropriateness. "While the third window would have been helpful to the shop, it would also have broken the formal symmetry that makes the building work. It was a tough call, but the correct one.")

In December 2013, the HPC granted a certificate of appropriateness to create a storefront at 117 Warren Street. The building had originally been a private residence, but the ground floor became a store very early in the 20th century. Around 1985, the store was converted into an apartment. Because there was precedent for the ground floor of the building to be retail space and because the facade of the building had little authenticity left, the HPC granted the certificate of appropriateness to the creation of a storefront in the building that vaguely resembled what had once been there.

Now there is a new proposal before the HPC to introduce a second storefront into the building at 134-136 Warren Street. The new storefront would fit between the two porticoes, and the ground floor apartment at 134 Warren Street would become retail space.

The building started out as two townhouses--private residences. At some point, what were originally single family houses were divided into apartments. A search of the Hudson city directory for 1912 reveals that William Marshall, engineer, lived at 134 Warren Street, and John McHenry, machinist, and Mrs. Johannah Swaine lived at 136 Warren Street. This detail from an aerial photograph of Hudson taken in the 1930s shows that the building was at that time still two townhouses.

Later in the 20th century, a storefront was introduced, and the ground floor of 136 Warren Street became a snack bar, which in the 1990s--and probably for decades before--was Don's Confectionery. In about 2002, before there was a Historic Preservation Commission, the storefront at 136 Warren Street acquired its new facade (which always seemed inspired by a London telephone booth), and the interior was renovated to become first the Scandinavian restaurant Bolgen & Moi and later, as it is now, Vico

Additional changes were proposed for the building: replacing all the windows on the second floor and in the mansard roof (all of which are now the original wood two over two windows), and making repairs to the clapboard using Hardiplank.

The proposal for 134 Warren Street prompted HPC member Tony Thompson to ask, "Do we allow all buildings on Warren Street to be morphed into storefronts?" In response, his colleague on the HPC Phil Forman argued that "Warren Street has morphed back and forth as residential and commercial" and the HPC should facilitate the transformation. "We should see that it can happen in an appropriate way." He went on to suggest that in making a decision about the proposal, the HPC should weigh "social values above and beyond the aesthetic considerations."

When the HPC voted on whether or not the application for 134-136 Warren Street was complete, Forman and Peggy Polenberg voted that it was, Rick Rector, Jack Alvarez, David Voorhees, and Thompson voted that it was not. To make the application complete, the HPC requested photographic evidence that the original windows were beyond repair and required replacement and historic photographs of the building showing the building before the storefront at 136 Warren was added (Gossips has provided the detail from the aerial photograph) and before the existing storefront was altered to its present design. 

The HPC will take up the application again at its next meeting on July 25.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Help for Gardeners and Wannabes

This Sunday, when you visit the fourteen gardens that will be open for Mrs. Greenthumbs Day, you may experience garden envy and be inspired to start a garden or improve the one you already have. Should this happen to you, help is at hand. On Mrs. Greenthumbs Day, copies of Cassandra Danz's second book, Mrs. Greenthumbs Plows Ahead: Five Steps to the Drop-Dead Gorgeous Garden of Your Dreams, will be available for sale at the Hudson Opera House, 327 Warren Street, at a special discount for the day of 20 percent. As if that weren't enough, half the profits from the sale of the books will go to the "Hedge Fund" for making improvements to Hudson's parks.

The gardens will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 20. Maps showing the location of the fourteen gardens will be available that day at The Secret Gardener, 250 Warren Street. If you want your very own copy of the map before Sunday so you can plan your route in advance, send an email to Gossips, with the word "Map" in the subject line, and a PDF of the map will be sent to you promptly.

The Lowly Shall Be Exalted

Back in 2005, when the trustees of the Hudson Area Library bought 400 State Street, it seemed the underappreciated 1818 building had achieved what every endangered historic building needs and deserves: a purpose and an owner who wanted to be a good steward. 

The optimism for 400 State Street was short lived. Six years later, the library trustees, with new leadership, sold the building to the Galvan Foundation. This didn't bode well, especially since Galvan's "special adviser" Rick Scalera delighted in opining that   "a lot of retaining walls can come out of that building." 

But strangely, since Galvan acquired the building, although there have been no visible changes or improvements to the building, 400 State Street has been elevated to the level of icon. It is featured in the Galvan Foundation logo . . . 

and that logo appears on a sign hanging from the building on South Third Street that once was Harmon's Auto Repair . . . 

and on hoodies and T-shirts worn by Galvan work crews.


The Times They Are A-Changin'

On Tuesday, the Common Council voted to override the mayor's veto of amendments to the mass gathering provisions. The alderman who cast 352 of the 457 nay votes opposing the override and supporting the mayor was Fifth Ward alderman Robert "Doc" Donahue, who during the 2013 campaign cited as his greatest achievement during his twenty-odd years on the Common Council "Being part of the legacy that Mayor Richard Scalera left our city."

On Wednesday, the Register-Star did a story about the "cease and desist" manifesto that appeared mysteriously last Saturday, on utility poles up and down Warren Street: "Anonymous letter poster comes forward, seeks change." The article by Arthur Cusano revealed what many had known for a while (that the author of the manifesto was Jacob Plourde) and reported the reactions of the two people to whom the manifesto was addressed: current mayor William Hallenbeck ("So the threats against me continue") and former mayor Rick Scalera ("The only people who can remove me from politics are the voters and me").

And today the Register-Star reports on the creation of Hudson FORWARD, the initiative of the indefatigable Tiffany Martin Hamilton: "School board veep starts citizens action group." The expressed purpose of Hudson FORWARD is to "focus the collective energy and talents of progressive thinkers to drive positive change within our community," and the following specific issues have been identified:

  • Thoughtful development of the town's waterfront (the LWRP, which has yet to be ratified at the state level, is not enough).
  • The establishment of a local dog park.
  • Better/alternative parking facilities for the businesses in town; exploring the idea of eliminating meters altogether to promote business.
  • A real plan for the further cleanup and development of the Town Square/7th Street Park.
  • Appropriate cleanup/renovation of the park at Promenade Hill.
  • Attracting new businesses to Hudson, particularly green ones.
  • The exploration of partnering with educational institutions to encourage them to establish a local presence.
  • The development of a "green belt" in town that connects Hudson to the Greenport Conservation Area via a boardwalk, as formerly proposed by the Columbia Land Conservancy.
Sounds good to me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Coming to Fairview Avenue

Once upon a time, this little house stood at the corner of Fairview Avenue and Bayley Boulevard.

The little house had been there for a very long time, much longer than the other houses around it, but in May it was decided that the little house was in "ill repair" and needed to be torn down.

On Wednesday night, the plan to construct a four-unit apartment building on the two lots where the little house once stood came before the Zoning Board of Appeals. The building proposed would have two stories with two apartments on each floor. These are the elevation drawings of the front and back of the building.

There are some details of the design, in particular the six over one double hung windows, that seem intended to echo the Arts & Crafts design of some of the other houses in the neighborhood. Lew Kremer, the architect for the project, called the proposed use and the design "harmonious with the surrounding neighborhood," noting that there were apartments in nearly all the structures along Fairview Avenue. The project requires an area variance because the setback on one side of the lot will be less than what is required by the zoning code.

At Wednesday night's meeting, the ZBA accepted the application as complete and scheduled a public hearing on the project for Wednesday, August 20, at 6 p.m., to be followed by the ZBA's regular monthly meeting at 6:30.