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