A blog about Hudson, New York


Most Things Don’t Happen, This One Looks Like It Will

IMG_1238 I’m paraphrasing a line from a typically mordant Philip Larkin poem (about a favorite subject of his: death) to refer to what is happening at the former First Methodist Church at 448 Warren Street (new life). In other words, unlike Marina Abramovic’s ambitious performance art project on Columbia Street, a lot is happening at this spot, and it’s taking place right now, not at some vague time in the future. After making inquiries (of workers at the building site, knowledgeable passersby, a member of the Historic Preservation Commission, etc.) I’ve gathered the following info: David Hammons, a very “big” artist (i.e .well-known and in demand) has bought the church, owned previously by a person who reportedly stripped out a good chunk of the historic space’s interior details for some unclear purpose (possibly “a museum to herself,” I once recall her telling me years ago). Rumor has it that Hammons, who last year bought a warehouse in a section of southwest Yonkers for an art gallery and living space, is turning the former church into a jazz and arts center. What is most obvious right now is that he is doing exactly what is needed to the exterior: restoring the brownstone detailing and re-pointing and cleaning all of the brick work. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if he could also bring back some of the now absent stained-glass windows and, most ambitious of all, the missing steeple on the building’s left side? — Scott Baldinger

Taken to the Metal Shed

IMG_1236The month of May was the last for Mark’s Antiques and Larry’s Back Room at its 612 Warren Street location. A trove of unexpected, largely mechanical objets trouvé shared by Mark Wasserbach and Larry Forman, the store has been “casually” displaying its wares at 612 Warren for twenty years but suddenly became another victim of sharply rising rents on the street. As a result, Wasserbach and Forman have spent the last few weeks packing up its beguiling gee gaws and moving it all to what is now called the Antique Warehouse at 99 South Third Street, formerly the L&B Factory. By doing so, the store joins a surprisingly chock-full enterprise call Cottage Treasures and a sizable sales annex to the Lili and Loo home-furnishings emporium (259 Warren). (Many of the remarkable sculptures that Wasserbach has transformed from his stock of old industrial metal are now on view at the McDaris Fine Art gallery at 623 Warren.)

To many, the huge, ungainly sheet metal structure at 99 South Street shouldn’t be there at all, situated as it is in an area that would be wonderfully suited for a park-like extension of the Hudson waterfront. A second best alternative, perhaps, is that it is becoming a refuge for the decorative-arts retail community displaced by higher rents and might very well become a destination in and of itself for those who know Hudson for its rich supply of vintage “treasures.” Still, as I’ve written in previous posts, it’s rather unsettling to think that Warren Street might be losing its distinctive identity — not to mention original attractiveness — brought to it by its concentration of aesthetic-oriented businesses.

As I concluded in a piece called “Hudson On My Mind,” published in Rural Intelligence a few years ago: “There is nothing quite like veering from [the town’s odder vestiges of a previous era, such as a vacated orthopedic supply store] to the town’s retailers, who are so talented at window display that their storefronts sometimes look like year round art exhibitions. Considering how bleak everything might be without them, a case could be made for giving urban renewal funds to these antiques dealers, gallery owners, and other masters of retinal pleasure who have located here over the last decade or so. Or at least a tax deduction for lighting their resplendent displays at night time, no matter how many or how few might see them. The fact that their focus is an aesthetic one gives people the impression that they are too elite, specialized, expensive or unapproachable. Which misses the point entirely: like Hudson’s architectural master builders, this new generation of entrepreneurs are once again arranging things to make community life a thing of grace and beauty every day and night of the year.” — Scott Baldinger

The Ecdysiast Report

hotel gracies-001Ah, naked wood! There’s nothing like seeing a previously vinyl, asbestos or what-have-you encased old building shedding its ungainly skin to reveal the original, natural (if often damaged) structure as it was built, looking as it was meant to be and often revealing long- hidden ornament and architectural details. Happily, the trend is moving from Warren and the south side of town to State and its off streets. On the far east end of Warren, there’s even a diminutive little building near the Warren Inn that was recently stripped (bottom right); its modest size could have dissuaded owners to do the, sadly, often costly restorations but at last look they seem to have kept the faith. Let’s all hope each of these stay in their natural state and are not be recovered in something else inappropriate, which has happened often enough. Above are a few examples on all sides of town. –Scott Baldinger

Rest Stop

 

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Recently at The Red  Dot, that font of lively, cross- pollinating chat, I conversed with a nice couple from rural Connecticut who had traveled two hours to Hudson to simply hang at The Barlow Hotel and try out some of the restaurants that they had read about in Bon Appétit magazine. I asked if they planned to shop and they said, quite emphatically, “no, ”  revealing perhaps the degree to which the town is becoming more of a resort destination— a place just to chill  rather  than to decorate one’s home or embark on any other acquisitive pursuit. (Hopefully, as things progress, frequenting the remarkably sophisticated shops along Warren and surrounding streets will continue to be as much a part of visitors’ plans as it has in the past.)

In preparation for that seeming inevitability, and to take care of the stylish hordes coming here to use it as a kind of upscale rest cure, there is obvious activity: The Warren Inn’s extensive renovation  is still ongoing,  and more and more homeowners are turning their domiciles into B&Bs, in addition to the over 23 that are running now — Air ones or not. One of the largest of these is the former Front Street Guest House (above), which has previously gone through one stylish renovation already and is now being extensively undergoing another. Not much information about it is available yet, but during a recent amble down to South Front Street, I found a number of workers busily engaged inside its tarp-covered premises, and one of them, Ren Bytheway, filled me in on some of the details. The building has been bought by Germantown residents Kirby Farmer and Kristen Keck,  who were written about in The New York Times back in 2009 in an article entitled  “The New Country Squires.”  Farmer, a noted personal chef, and Keck, a producer of commercials,  have big plans for the whole building, but especially its ground floor – the former home of the restaurants Moxie’s, Maxie’s, and last but not least, Mod.  Bytheway says the space will now be be a “mercantile coffee shop and bar, ” and that the target opening for the entire enterprise is this June.  –Scott Baldinger

This Bud’s For You

 

IMG_1223Spring has sprung with a vengeance, hitting the eighties during the last two days. It was about time that the foliage responded in kind, having missed its usual mid to late April date. This shot of the 100 block of Warren Street shows the sudden blossoming of the block’s ubiquitously planted if not universally loved Bradford Pear trees. (Pretty as they are in spring, they require a lot of pruning, have a poor root system and — as if that wasn’t enough– its blossoms smell odd, to the point that the city of Great Barrington, MA removed them from its Main Street.)  Whatever you may think of them as suitable urban plantings, they were a sight for sore eyes for this botanically deprived individual. — Scott Baldinger

 

The Power of Then

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Time — or rather the stuff that happens or doesn’t happen during it–can seem to move glacially in these parts, especially during and right after a particularly grueling winter. While it’s hard to spot a trend when things are at a standstill, one thing seems to be going on as the weather gets back to normal: Much of the town’s retail is still recovering from the inclement conditions,  just starting to pick up as the weather becomes civilized. While it’s true that complaining about business conditions is a staple activity in Hudson during these periods (and even during other ones), this time things do appear more difficult than normal. Which would logically be the case during months of sub-zero temperatures, but, according to anecdotal remarks from a number of purveyors of  the antique sector of the decorative arts in particular, perhaps the first and most important catalyst in the town’s revival, there seems to be something more worrisome happening and on a broader scale than just locally. The recent folding of the Home & Garden section in The New York Times, for instance, was a shocking event that, in the larger scheme of things, is an example of this trend—a sign perhaps that people, for a variety or reasons, don’t care about vintage design like they used to. If true (and the streams of people visiting but NOT shopping seem to give some credence to this), it would definitely be a hard blow for Warren Street. Whether one could afford its wares or not, the quality and sophistication of the town’s antique and vintage businesses always seemed to contribute most perfectly to Hudson’s oasis-like beauty, and was a perfect complement to its historic infrastructure. While change is inevitable as Hudson becomes more of a food and hotel and B&B destination, one can only hope that its reputation as a decorator mecca remains as strong as always.

One encouraging sign is the reappearance of Benjamin Wilson Antiques at 558 Warren. Wilson (above, in his new shop)  has been opening up in different locations on Warren for years now, but he’s been absent from the scene for some time. He’s been missed: His remarkable eye and original take on home design is as evident as ever, and his new digs is a reassuring reincarnation. –Scott Baldinger

 

The State of State

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The catastrophic impact of the inferno at 336-338 State Street, their burned-out shells a hideous reminder of the lives disrupted and the severity of the incident, might have given a push to Housing Resources of Columbia Country to finally start work on renovating its neighbor across the street (above), which a sign on the property has implied is about to happen for quite some time now. Recent peeks while passing by the building revealed workmen (two) inside, suggesting that something actually might be; there are also wooden studs dividing its void of  an interior – a hopeful sign?

As a longtime resident of State, I’ve always felt that, sans vinyl/asbestos siding, the houses located there are the neglected treasures of Hudson and, once stripped of their dreary coverings, will reveal themselves to be of true historic and aesthetic merit. Down between Second and Third Street, a big chunk of the block escaped the  so-called “improvements” made to other buildings on the street over the last few decades –due to economics from way back when to now, and is a sight to be seen. (Up the block, the arid concrete park just built by David Deutsch, adjoining the Housing Resources building between Third and Fourth,  is just what the doctor didn’t order.)

IMG_1198Recently Carole Osterink advocated that the blocks on Fourth Street that fall outside the historic district boundaries be so designated, a no brainer of an idea since the street—with the glorious Warren and Wetmore-designed courthouse at the south end and the venerable library capping the north—is the closest thing, design wise, we have to a planned civic center.  Additionally, I rather wish that it wouldn’t get so many people riled up to also suggest that other sections nearby — part or even all of State Street but particularly those blocks that remain miraculously intact at the moment — be given landmark consideration also. If these buildings — with their abundance of Nantucket-style and Hudson Vernacular originals — don’t qualify….what does? –Scott Baldinger

Collective Style

 

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Even though there’s still an icicle firmly lodged somewhere above my sacroiliac, the second coldest winter in recorded history seems to be showing signs of  coming to an end ….enough to warrant more observant strolls up and down Warren Street and environs.

A number of such ambles this relatively balmy week revealed at least one springlike bud worth noting. Two accomplished fashionistas from New York City, Valerie Wray (pictured above) and Shawna McBean, have just opened a new boutique, Collective 23, in the spot that the cafe Swallow (now the minimalist industrial chic MotoCoffee/Machine at 357 Warren)  once occupied at 433 Warren. Wray is a founding partner of LimeLightTattoos and is the human resources director at a major music label; McBean is a former model turned fashion designer, the original founder of the clothing company SistahsofHarlem NY, and is currently the owner of Vibe Jewels. They have described their new brick and mortar enterprise in Hudson as a “combination of Henri Bendel and Etsy,” offering a  mix of accessories, jewelry, and clothing from local designers to McBean’s and Wray’s personally designed accessories, tulle skirts, and luxury metallic tattoos. There are also racks of resale Escada, Christian Dior, and Dolce & Gabbana.

Although the shop isn’t completely finished and the lighting is currently rather dim (they hope to have everything done in mid-April), its appearance continues the stretch of stylish clothing and accessories shops now marching down the upper half of the south side of the 400 block, turning it, as I mentioned ages ago (about a month) into Hudson’s version of Saville Road. — Scott Baldinger

 

What’s Cold Got To Do With It?

 

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Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day, and anyone wondering about the state of love in a cold climate (Hudson’s)  can take some comfort in the knowledge that, as Word has learned,  nearly all of the town’s more high- end restaurants  — Fish and Game, Swoon, Ca Mea, The Crimson Sparrow among them – are all booked up for the evening. (DABA, Vico, and other classy spots might be as well—but are worth a call to double check– and there is still room in the more casual dining establishments—Red Dot, among them.)  If the two — or one – of you can’t get in to a restaurant of your choice, there’s always the opening of artist Sarah Berney’s show LOVE LOVE,  being held from 6 – 9 p.m. at Steve McKay and Abel Ramirez’s 554 Warren Street storefront, where there will be drinks and Ramirez’s Valentine cookies as a consolation. And if thy passion  should continue to runneth hot and sexily enough to brave the mounting snowdrifts of yet another frigid night ( or if you’re just bored with what’s on TV), there’s the Kook Love dance party at The Half Moon, hosted by DJ Musty Chiffon and Slink Moss, starting at 10 p.m.

— Scott Baldinger

 

 

Notes From a Grounded Flâneur

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Since Carole Osterink’s and Sam Pratt’s blogs (not to mention The Rogovy Report) do such a  thorough job  covering all the news about Hudson and surroundings that’s fit pushing the “publish” button for, I’ve felt the need from the start of Word on the Street to find my own little niche based on just walking around and making something out of what I experience empirically. This is a task that has become difficult, as I’ve mentioned before, in these coldest of months:  It’s hard to come up with deeper thoughts when blizzard-like conditions and polar-vortex temperatures are blowing in one’s face (the brain happens to be near there). Being a born, bred, and corrupted citiot that I am,  however,  nothing stops me from some amblin’ around town,  and no matter the weather, Warren Street and its various denizens never fail to engage in one way or another, if not always inspire grand insights.

Still, as one reader recently asked, “What’s the word on the street?”  Here’s what I’ve gleaned from a mostly, if not entirely, recumbent position. Recently Otto, the Turkish home gift store (bottom right), has closed and is now completely emptied of goods; a strong rumor has it that its space at 437 Warren Street has been rented to the owner of Woodstock General Supply, a well-known clothing store miles across the river and through the woods. The addition extends the strip of clothing stores on the upper part of the 400 block even farther, turning it into a Hudson’s little version of Saville Row.

Up the street a bit, at 530 Warren, the late Harold Hanson’s shop, Verso (bottom left), has also been emptied, quite a while after Hanson’s  death and many months of wondering about his eclectic, affordable antique store’s fate. (The entire stock was liquidated in one day, carted off by a company that purchased the entirety of the stores’ inventory.) On a more positive note, John Knott’s establishment at his meticulously renovated, fully stocked space at 557 Warren Street (top), even without a sign to this day (or a name), is still, according to Knott, very much open for business, its stylish furnishings — for instance, two snazzy chairs in the storefront window by mid- century designer Milo Baughman (all the rage at the moment)– are for sale. And speaking of signs, the store Home has finally replaced the sign by the previous tenant, Lounge, with its own– a good sign in and of itself for the business climate of the street. –-Scott Baldinger

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