A blog about Hudson, New York


Memories, Observations, Resentments

A dear Hudson fellow–  an intelligent, older but still “with it” kind of guy – recently expressed excitement about the upcoming NYC theater season previewed in this past weekend’s New York Times Arts and Leisure section. Pronouncements like these always inspire mixed feelings in me: excited interest on the one hand and, frankly,  feelings of sadness and resentment on the other, knowing that I’ll probably miss most, if not at all, of the new shows, living far enough from the source to make attending (not to mention covering for a major publication, which I used to do) too much of  a project.

So it was with some dread, and then relief, that I looked through the section. Two of the shows– revivals of The Elephant Man starring Bradley Cooper and directed by Scott Ellis, and the great Bernstein/Comden and Green musical On the Town, directed by John Rando, are transplants of productions I had already seen (and reviewed very positively) — the first at The Williamstown Theater Festival and the second at the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield.  I was fortunate enough to have seen the original production of another prominently advertised revival – On the Twentieth Century—a good Cy Coleman musical adaptation of the wonderful Howard Hawks/Ben Hecht film, Twentieth Century, as a youngin’ in 1978 . (It starred the late great Madeline Kahn, as  well as Kevin Kline, John Cullum, and even Imogene Coca and was directed, terrifically, by Harold Prince– while the new production stars Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher and is directed by the ubiquitous –and always dependable — Scott Ellis. Still, if need be, memories of the original will serve nicely.)  Ditto Hedwig and the Angry Inch (a thrilling discovery when it debuted starring its creator, John Cameron Mitchell, in 1998);  Side Show ( a stunningly dark musical about circus people that sadly flopped in its first incarnation in 1998);  and even A Delicate Balance. (The Gerald Gutteriez 1996 production of this Edward Albee play featured the luminous Rosemary Harris, plus Elaine Stritch, George Grizzard, and Elizabeth Wilson, and at the time, I thought  it couldn’t be beat; it is now being revived in a production starring Glenn Close, John Lithgow, and  Bob Balaban  —all favorites perhaps, but once again, if need be, I’m happy enough with  my memories).  The wonderful Helen Mirren, in  The Audience, playing Queen Elizabeth II once again, would no doubt be fun —but certainly feels like a retread, if not downright audience pandering. (The Queen is very available on DVD.)

Which only leaves Kenneth Lonergan’s  This Is Our Youth, Larry David’s  Fish in the Dark,  David Hare’s Skylight, Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play, and older-running shows like The Book Of Mormon  and perhaps Kinky Boots to feel a twinge at the possibility of missing. Though who says I definitely will?  There’s always Amtrak and the TKTS booth—or, in lieu of that, going under the bed covers and watching Rehab Addict  — a TV show not about Lindsay Lohan  but a spunky woman who likes to restore old homes using everything original to the house,  which can –and perhaps should –be seen on the DIY network, particularly by certain individuals involved in what seems like WAAAY too many “revivals” in town.

Thinking of that today, I coincidentally ran upon this oddly phrased yet observant little sign posted on the street facing yet another suburbanized, Frankenstein-like production being patched together by Eric Galloway’s Galvan Foundation at Warren and Fifth Streets. Yes, it’s true,  I made recommendations and finally approved plans for it while on the Historic Preservation Commission, but, as theater people know, it’s sometimes hard to know how the pieces will come together until the curtain is about to rise, particularly when this “impresario” is involved –Scott Baldinger unnamed

A “Barn” Razing

Well,  no, it wasn’t exactly a barn, at least not of late, but the Cherry Alley garage of 518 Union Street, which fell victim to an electrical fire a few weeks ago. The building happened to be one of my alley faves: a tall corrugated metal structure, painted bright red and crawling with (poison?) ivy. Design-wise, I’d say it was a combination of early Frank Gehry and mid-career Morticia Adams,  and while its passing is certainly no General Worth-like loss, or anything to grieve over in particular, I do regret not having taken a photo of it while it was still standing.  (In fact, I think I did…but heaven knows where the hell it is.)

What struck me the most in recent weeks since its passing is its super-quick dismantling– so fast it seemed as if we were living in a community of hell-raising Amish all of a sudden.  By the time I had written my last blog post til this one, with quite some time in between,  the structure has gone from this (first image copyright and courtesy of Michael Weaver of the Register-Star and Columbia Page)

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to this:

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to this:

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to this:

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Stairway to Purgatory

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What is it about Hudson that inspires so many would- be urban planners; worst of all, would-be urban planners who want to make an “original statement?” One of these is being seriously discussed; the other is actually under construction as we speak. The plans for the 7th Street Park, for instance, proffered generously and sincerely by landscape architect Cathryn Dwyre, are reminiscent — not of the wonderful High Line in New York City, as was perhaps intended– but of the  Robert Moses alterations to Bryant Park, Madison Square and Union Square in New York City in the 1930s and 40s (changes that were happily corrected in extensive renovations many decades later). Dwyre’s plans counter-intuitively throw out the footprint of the original as well as the idea of re-installing the central fountain statue of Venus (still in storage in a Department of Public Works garage) that once stood in the spot of a newer, unadorned and quite ungainly replacement. Dwyre has offered an asymmetrical plan that is disruptive of the simple but essential purpose of a central town square — to impose a moment of tranquil visual order and delight a midst the commercial hubbub (and visual blight) surrounding it. Dwyre has called the original 1878 layout a “default park design,” and has packed her new one with so many varying features –other than the original fountain — that tranquility will be the last thing attained should these plans somehow come to fruition.

Less noticed but far more bewildering perhaps is the “linear park” –i.e. promenade — beiIMG_1000ng constructed from the already existing concrete vest-pocket park across the street from the Opera House, up a steep staircase on Columbia Street, and all the way to State Street, where it ends abutting a vacant apartment building owned by Housing Resources on one side and a heavily vinyl-sided house on the other. A Baron Haussmann marvel of urban grandiosity this is not.(All of the photographs here are of the linear park, not of the 7th Street Park.) Made up of concrete paving and various concrete structural elements (and two nice wood benches),  the walkway,  the last element of a grand housing scheme designed by Teddy Cruz and financed by the PARC Foundation’s David Deutsch,  is a surrealist vision of urban sterility and purposelessness. It’s difficult to imagine that, once completed, it will become popular with neighborhood parents and their children, except for those who routinely carry around Bactine, Band-Aids and strongly protective head gear; more likely it will be favored by drug dealers and prostitutes not wanting to be spotted by  police who patrol 3rd Street in cars.

 

IMG_0999Mistakes like these were hallmarks of urban planning from the worst days of Moses through the 1970s;  one can only wonder why and how this phenomena has reappeared in Hudson, which offers block after block of examples of how well things used to be done long ago, “by default,”  in towns and cities all across the nation. –Scott Baldinger

Separated at Birth, Part Two

OK, we all need a little fun these days. Due to unprecedented demand (OK, just one person, who expressed mock regret at not being included, and another, who was included and said he “liked the way my mind worked”; plus a lot of new subscriptions after the first version ), herewith is the second installment of  my comparison of various Hudsonites who, to me at least,  are dead ringers for famed historical or entertainment personalities. For more serious and compelling fare, please read my positive review of Stageworks’ last presentation of the excellent Tomorrow in the Battle, which the company is reviving now, written for Rural Intelligence. It’s a play that had my mind atinglin’ then and shouldn’t be missed now. – Scott Baldinger 

 

Carole Osterink  of The Gossips of Rivertown /Geraldine Page, ingenious film and theater actress

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Dan Seward, musician, owner of John Doe Records/Rasputin, mystic, faith healer and private adviser to the Romanovs

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EllenThurston, Supervisor, 3rd District/ Queen Elizabeth I of England

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Nancy Horowitz-Felcetto, Halstead realtor/Catherine Keener, film actress

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Another Closing/Opening, Another Show

 

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“Dying is easy, retail is hard,” the maxim about comedy could be amended to read. The Darwinian struggle to stay in business, particularly if you are an independently owned shop selling objects of that ephemeral element—style – has been displaying itself in Hudson more noticeably in recent weeks.  In addition to Harvey’s Counter, whose closing Carole Osterink mentioned in today’s Gossips, there has been the recent (and almost overnight) disappearance of the megaplush antiques store NP Trent, which Word on the Street has heard will be moving to Kindherhook; last month’s closing of Mark Frisman 20th Century Design (after a steep rise of his rent at 527 Warren, Frisman decided to move his operation to St. Petersburg, Florida),  CM Cherry,  and now, Culture + Commerce Project (at 428 Warren),  which for three years featured warmly modernist furnishings, lighting, and artistic objects created by talented local artisans such as Rob Williams, Joshua Howe, and Jules Anderson.  “I’m very into brick and mortar, but it’s time to be more 21st century,”  Culture + Commerce’s owner Sherri Jo Williams says, adding that the last two weeks of the store’s existence this month will be devoted to work by artists Kahn and Selesnick, and that C+C will be a continuing presence in pop-up shops and on the internet.

Happily, many of the historic structures on Warren Street have signs announcing new businesses, demonstrating its continuing desirability as a retail destination through tough times and despite rising rents.  Classic Country will occupy the beautiful piece of stone and mortar (now, grayer than ever)  at 431 Warren;  Talbot & Arding Cheese and Provisions will (hopefully!) be opening at 323 Warren; and Hawkins New York, a modern home-furnishings store, will be the new occupant of the venerable Leader building at 339 Warren.  Elegant gold lettering and bordering in The Leader’s storefront window is just about the only change the Hawkins people will be making to the fabulously intact original signage and window details, according to the fellow who was doing the taping—presumably the owner— who said he loved and wouldn’t think of  camouflaging it;  all I can say is, whoever you are, WELCOME! — Scott Baldinger

Hudson Road Sign Inferiority Complex

Located at the corner of Columbia and 4th Streets, this flashing digital message is, perhaps conveniently, just a hop and a skip from the Columbia County Mental Health offices…. –SB20140726_213426

Gray Is The New Orange … I Mean Black

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During this, the last winter of antique dealer Harold Hanson’s life, my late friend used to always ask me why I never wore any color.  Frankly, never having been asked this question before, I found myself having to scramble up a number of reasons.  The first, quoting Chekhov’s The Seagull, was “Because I’m in mourning for my life” — a very funny line, I always thought  (an answer to the same question in the play),  but Harold didn’t laugh or seem satisfied. So I came up with more accurate reasons: that I do wear color but black and gray were what I tended to switch to in colder seasons; that I’m a native New Yorker; that I simply didn’t have Harold’s foppish flare for color, etc.  None seemed to satisfy. “We’ll just have to do something about it” he would always end the conversation.  (NOTE: Now that it’s summer, dear Harold, you might think Walt Disney himself was my personal designer, as Judy Garland once joked to the press on one bad hair day.)

Our sartorial conversation is something I think of these days, since there seems to be an ever increasing number of buildings –or important details of them – that  are being  painted a far less number than fifty shades of gray.  We all know about Eric Galloway’s fondness for Greek Revival; less known is his proclivity to paint sometimes invaluable multicolored architectural details a uniform charcoal gray. unnamed One example is 412 Warren Street, whose once fancily detailed mansard roofing has been handsomely deadened in that shade. (CORRECTION:  This should should have read “less known is his proclivity to replace … architectural details with those a uniform charcoal gray” and “…deadened with new slate in that shade” –or something to that effect. Thanks to the invaluable Carole Osterink and her The Gossips of Rivertown for setting me straight on the gruesome facts here.)  Ditto his 501 Union Street, and now, it turns out the former HQ of the Register Star, 366 Warren Street,  which will be the  new locale of Hudson Home. (One was hoping that the renovation of this building would perhaps reveal something of more architectural interest than is currently visible, although the owners of Hudson Home, Richard Bodin and Greg Feller, will no doubt do their usual expert job in making it all look luscious.)

If memory serves, the owner of 72 North 3rd Street was the first homeowner to go this route; at the time it seemed  a brilliant flash of fashion in a rather humdrum area.  Recently returning to see the owner’s gorgeous garden during Mrs.Greenthumb’s day,  it  had less impact –needing some neighbor to do something different but with equal style.

The fad seems to have even reached Green Street, where a converted Greek Revival church and a quite quotidian house across the street have gone to the dark side. Frankly, mea culpa, Harold,  I love gray and black, and think they can be clever choices for older buildings (and clothes!), but the idea of them becoming Hudson’s new default colors of choice for renovations is a tad …dispiriting.  –Scott Baldinger

 

 

 

A Mystery Window Reveals


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Saturday, July 19 should be a busy day on Warren Street. Sutter Antiques, whose staging of half of the storefront at 551 Warren I mentioned in a previous blog about vacant but seemingly occupied businesses, will be coming to life with a sale, moving all of its warehouse inventory to the 551 address for a day of large markdowns. The many classic pieces—including a Widdicomb dresser, a Paul Frankl headboard, and an atomic-sculpture — will be 40-50 percent off.

On the same day and right next door, Stair Galleries will be having an Exhibition Auction, including much of the estate of Kenneth Battelle, the hairdresser of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and sundry other superstar personalities who sported echt 60/70s doos And since, as All About Eve’s Addison Dewitt says, “We all come into this world with our little egos equipped with individual horns. If we don’t blow them, who else will?,” I feel compelled to mention that I wrote for Stair about Battelle (a seemingly lovely fellow) and the general sale of which it is part. Read at your leisure.

Farther down Warren at 426 Warren, Watson’s Cabinets have been filled with various ointments and tinctures, and is now open for business. I was generously given a sample of one of the store’s tisanes, which contained hibiscus and a couple of other herbal ingredients. I rushed the cup home and put its pleasant contents on ice;  it made me feel–pretty much the way I felt before, but I’m sure that many of my internal organs were happy. — Scott Baldinger

 

Silence Is Golden

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Linda Mussmann, the co-artistic director with Claudia Bruce of Time & Space Limited,  has certainly received her share of brickbats, including from this blog, largely (from me at least) because of her inflammatory opposition to historic preservation. But credit should be given when it is due, as it certainly is when it comes to TSL’s recent film programming. When I first saw the list of silent film masterworks that TSL will be showing for free every Friday eve through August 1 at the The Pocket Park (330 Warren Street),  my heart leapt. Man With A Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov’s purely cinematic, non-narrative dazzler, which was shown last night ), George Pabst’s Pandora Box, with Louise Brooks,  The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (which looks like much of life to me nowadays), and perhaps my fave, Buster Keaton’s The General — are so infrequently shown in public these days that it’s hard to think of a greater public service than to do so, so long as they look good. Which, from the evidence of last night’s showing, they do: perfect prints, sharply projected,  all accompanied by a modern percussive musical ensemble that sounded terrific – a bonus that one might find only late one lucky Sunday night on Turner Classic Movies. (One caveat: It is simply verboten to have any kind of spoken-word accompaniment to any silent film, but particularly one like Man With a Camera, which specifically says in the opening titles that it is a work completely free from the influence of theater or literature; Bruce’s Gertrude Stein-like poetry, which she recited throughout the film, was at best, an annoying distraction, at worst a slap in the face to the artist’s intentions. Let’s just cross our fingers that she doesn’t do the same with narrative films like Pandora Box or The General.)

A look at TSL’s scheduled indoor programming also should bring a round of applause (and audience members): Eric Rohmer A Summer Tale (not to be confused with Rohmer’s Summer, from ten years earlier, and also a fave) and the new Polish film, Lydia, one of the years most acclaimed arrivals that seemed to take forever to get to these parts, are two glorious highlights. This is the Linda that I at least can truly relate to; just imagine if you’re a kid and your mom or dad brings you to The General (which he or she should) and you see Buster Keaton’s beautiful face for the first time —  a public service that only a cultural institituon like hers can provide with such panache.  – Scott Baldinger

Mystery Windows

 

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The 500 block of Warren Street is considered by many to be Hudson’s busiest and most “desirable” location – a fact that makes the sight of its handful of recently unoccupied stores all the more noticeable. Perhaps that’s also the reason why landlords feel that having just a for-rent sign and a window covered in brown paper is not quite sufficient. I’ve noticed that many of the storefronts for nonexistent stores leave passersby scratching their heads about what exactly is going on (yes I’ve actually seen some scratching), as they stop and ponder wordless windows revealing rooms filled with stuff   – or storefronts arranged so attractively that they look like operating businesses. This isn’t a bad thing at all: It’s just part of the fun of walking around this beguiling but quirky thoroughfare.

At the top of the list is 551 Warren Street (above). Formerly the locale of Noonan Antiques, we’ve seen, since former owner Tom Noonan retired and auctioned off his goods, the gorgeously detailed entranceway’s two-sided display windows filled with a variety of eye-catching items belonging to other establishments. This is perhaps the first time I’ve noticed a store for rent so convincingly staged, this time by the landlord The Caldwell Group, which enlisted the help of neighboring businesses to advertise a sample of their wares. These include Hudson City Books (553 Warren), which provided an impressive collection of Visionaire, an uber-fashionable magazine put together three times a year since 1991 and whose back issues have become enormously valuable in the intervening time. (For example, issue no.18, the “Fashion Special”, contained a Louis Vuitton pouch within its own leather and was reportedly sold at an auction for $5,000). Behind those and books such as Madonna’s Sex (“more about being laid out than being laid,” The New Yorker wrote at the time) are original Eames shelving from Mark McDonald (555 Warren); on the right side, Sutter Antiques (556 Warren) has filled the entire section with their mix of midcentury and more venerable beauties.

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Right up the street is 557 Warren, being meticulously restored by John Knott and his partner John Fondas. Knott and Fondas are the kind of historic property owners that a landmarks commission dreams of.  (They also just purchased the Home for the Aged at 620 Union Street and plan wonderful things for that as well.) From the last I’ve heard, Knott is still working on opening a branch of his Quadrille decorative arts empire in the Warren Street building, a part of which is his fabric outlet on Route 9 in Valatie. At the moment the storefront contains what looks like a neoclassical rattan (or bamboo) chest of drawers —pretty modest compared to the handsomely lush display that James Gottlieb (of Gottlieb Gallery- 524 Warren) put together for Knott previously but also not quite as potentially controversial (filled as the former was with antique blackamoores).

At the other end of the block, No 504 is a head scratcher. Formerly the location of Elijah Slocum, which moved to where Elements once was (508 Warren), there’s nothing in the window currently announcing any future tenant. Clearly visible inside, however, is a floor covered in rugs — nice ones too — a case perhaps of the wool being pulled under our eyes?    — Scott BaldingerIMG_0923

 

 

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