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. 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
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
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
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.
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 Baldinger