The 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
Ah, 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
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
Spring 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