A blog about Hudson, New York

Monthly Archives: March 2011

Between a Rock and a HardiPlank®

From one angle rendered in drawings, the design by Galvan Partners for four new houses on Union and First looks good (top). From another (above),  its uniform massing and pedimented Greek Revival styling has a cramped, necropolis-like quality. But on balance,  I’d say nicely done and (if it were up to me) full steam ahead, since the site is one of the most damnably depressing in all of Hudson. Except for one problem: the developers stated preference for HardiPlank®  instead of wood for siding, which ensures that once built it will all look more Target than Tara, as authentic as a roomful of drag Scarlett O’Haras .

Authenticity of materials is especially important when building in the landmarked districts of towns and cities, where the brick, mortar, stone, and wood can be seen and felt all around you.  Sometimes you can almost hear it too. Louis Kahn once wrote that he asked a brick what it wanted to be and it said an arch. Ask HardiPlank® what it wants to be and it will say “a cookie cutter suburban townhouse development.”  (It’s called HardiPlank ® –ok I”m going to stop using the ® symbols now– not because it’s hardy or hard, although I’m sure that it is both, but because its inventor is named James Hardie. I assume it’s a plank but it doesn’t have a bit of wood in it; it’s made up of something called fiber cement, which  is NOT harvested from the lungs of longtime Columbia and Greene County residents as rumored.)

Contrary to the developers’ protestations at Historic Preservation Committee hearings, HardiPlank looks and feels different than the wood used on genuinely old houses. The difference,  perhaps subtle at a distance, will be more obvious in this case because Galvan wishes to build fully to the street wall  and is seeking a zoning variance from the city to do so.  One condition before granting their request should be that the houses be made of materials that  pass muster when experienced as closely as the developers wish theirs to be. The preservation committee should not hesitate to Press Hard™  for the real deal. –Scott Baldinger

News on the Rialto

The Mod Squad

….And speaking of  urban renewal concepts, a case could be made for awarding grants to those intrepid souls who dare to open fine dining establishments in dormant areas of town. (This is certainly better for economic development than rewarding such efforts with punitive, duplicitous, unneccesary, and costly police stings against underage drinking.)  Following in the footsteps trail blazed by the Red Dot over twelve years ago is the Mod Restaurant, which moved from Catskill and opened on Front Street this past Wednesday. Mod’s food, service, prices and vibe were all dandy, and the crowd upbeat and eager for new taste sensations.   Pictured above is co owner-chef Dana Wegener working hard on opening night.

Things should really get cracking  on this corner (thankfully, minus the crack) when Andy King opens up his multi-room Front Street Inn in the space above and to the left of the restaurant.

A Mysterious Window on Warren

A reader queried us: “Do you know anything about the diorama that’s always on display at the end of Warren Street – the one right before turning onto Worth Avenue/Route 9? Whose is it and why is it there?”  A quick visit to the location, which turned out to be 829 Warren Street, and then back to our own Business Guide gave us the answer: 829 is the Warren Street Hudson bed and breakfast  and the display is by its owners, Michael Sedlacek and Connie Lam.  Lam says that the diorama is sometimes made up of items from their home furnishings and fashion accessories line, which can be viewed on their web site . But, she adds, it’s just as often is put together from “stuff found in the attic, whatever inspires us at the moment.”

Our Town

A couple of weeks ago Joanne Durfee of  WMHT announced plans to do an  hour long  television show called Our Town Hudson, and solicited the participation of local videographers and the people who love them. Durfee says she’s still looking for volunteers to shoot material; those  interested  can email her at  jdurfee@wmht.org or call at  518-880-3459

–Scott Baldinger

Edifice Complex

I’ve read War and Peace, Magic Mountain, and all of Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley mysteries. But it took a special effort to make head or tails of the saga of where Hudson’s Department of Social Services—and by extension its police headquarters and municipal court—will end up.

Right now DSS is located in an office park- type structure on Railroad Avenue (below right), where its lease is up very soon. Recognizing years ago how cramped that building had become, Columbia County planned to move it, first to a site purchased for the purpose many miles out of town in  Ockawamick (i.e.near Philmont)  and then, due to  vociferous community opposition to the distance, much closer to a vacant former Walmart building on Fairview Avenue.  But now because of  budgetary constraints, particularly  after wasting so much money on the (currently unused) Philmont site, the county has gotten cold feet about the Walmart plan, which would have required many millions of dollars to buy and at least that much to renovate. The last update is that they are thinking of staying in the current location and making do.

This has seriously frustrated Hudson mayor Rick Scalera’s plan to use the Railroad Avenue building for the police and municipal court —a move mandated by New York State  because of the glaring inadequacies of the building currently serving both functions  But now he can’t because of the county’s mercurial decision-making process.

How much easier at least some of this might have been had Scalera not authorized, as one of his first acts of mayor in 1994, the demolition of the historic 4th Street School, pictured above —a fine (and sizeable) example of  Romanesque Revival architecture designed by Hudson’s own Henry Moul. This sadly absent building would have been a terrific place for a court and police headquarters (if not large enough for DSS), a civic center crown instead of what is now an ungainly void (below left). –Scott Baldinger

A Parisian in America

Store owners interested in giving their establishments a Paris-in-the-1950s makeover, should take a gander at Stair Gallery‘s English, Continental and Americana Furniture, Paintings, Drawing and Decorations auction, scheduled for this Saturday and Sunday (March 19 and 20) and previewing now. Of the the 150 architectural drawings and watercolors on display as part of the sale, I was also intrigued by the modernist architectural renderings from England of the same era. Their locales are not always clearly specified but tended to look like Tuscon or Miami Beach during the heyday of  Morris Lapidus.   –Scott Baldinger

Counting Our Blessings

Hudson’s own Melissa Auf der Maur, formerly of  the Smashing Pumpkins and now doing her own brand of ethereal modern rock, played at Club Helsinki last night.  It was a special experience not only because it was opportunity to hear a terrific musician giving a crack performance with a superlative back-up band. It was also a chance to savor all of the features of the club itself: great acoustics and sound system in a gorgeous and comfortable space, good food served expeditiously, a staff that handles the crush of a sold out show with grace, and an audience as responsive as it is well behaved.  Moments like these and you can’t help but think that, for all the tumult and uncertainty in the town, someone up there must likes us. –Scott Baldinger

Easier Being Green

The Indoor Spring Market, which began this Saturday at Christ Church (413 Union Street),  sounded like a great idea. And low and behold –it was (is/will be). On its first day,  the place was packed with a critical mass of participating farms and vendors selling local eggs, breads, milk  lamb, beef, chicken, sprouts, cress, apples, cider donuts, wines, mushrooms, granola, soaps, wool, flowers and prepared foods. Lots of happy people too. I made at least one great meal using a small portion of the baby greens pictured above, provided by Blue Star Farms from Stuyvesant. (See our Events and Home pages for details.)

If that list didn’t include all the food groups you were looking for, walk just a few paces down the street to Rick’s Sidewalk Grill. Rick gets his hot dogs from Hudson’s very own food wholesaler, Towne and Country, so its all “local.”  –Scott Baldinger

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