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North Fifth Street Rowhouses


The "North Fifth Street Rowhouses" (37-47 N. Fifth St.) were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.

North Fifth Street Rowhouses

Description

The North Fifth Street Rowhouses is a group of six intact, almost identical, attached wood frame buildings that have recently been rehabilitated. Built c. 1869-1871, these modest two-story, three-bay residences exhibit typical features of the Italianate style, including bracketed cornices, windows with two-over-two sash and entrances with paneled reveals. Built with two or three flats in each building, the row recalls the city's industrial and commercial importance in the nineteenth century and the need for relatively inexpensive housing.

The rowhouses are 20 feet wide and just over 30 feet deep, except for the corner commercial property, which is twice as deep. Each side hall entry opens into a hallway with side wall stairs leading in a straight run up to the second floor. The simple floor plan is two rooms deep. The east (front) elevations of these six contiguous rowhouses read as one, as each is three bays wide, two stories high with basements and attic spaces. There is also a continuous gable roof, with its ridge oriented parallel to the street. On the exterior, each rowhouse has several steps up from the sidewalk to the front entry, flanked by railings up to an articulated side wall entry door with transoms above. The two-over-two wood windows have simple casings. Above the second story, along the frieze, with the attic space behind, are paired brackets further articulated by paired louvered shutters, all in keeping with the three-bay rhythm of the facade. There are three downleader pipes, connected from the roof to the basement, which give some vertical expression to the building. The corner property (#47) has a storefront that wraps around the facade.

The west (rear) elevations of the row continue with the same three-bay rhythm but, except for #47, they have three stories, including a fully exposed brick basement. The windows are one-over-one wood sash within the clapboard field that is punctuated by vertical downleaders. The frieze is articulated in the same fashion as the front elevation. In addition, there are downleaders, front and back, between #37 & #39, #41 & #43 and between #45 and #47.

47 North Fifth Street consists of four floors including basement and attic. All four floors were finished into relatively small and plain apartments. The basement and first floor apartments each had only one bedroom each. The third apartment at the second floor had access to a finished attic, which may have been used for sleeping quarters, although the ceiling height at the attic ridge is less than six feet. The majority of interior spaces have been modified over the years, and had paneled surfaces, wallboard, suspended ceilings and moderately upgraded kitchens and baths. The north elevation of #47 (along State Street) features a typical wood panel and glass commercial storefront. The articulated gable end has paired brackets within the frieze connected by wood molding pieces as it rises to the gable end. Placed within the gable end is a round-topped louvered window opening. There are two flat-roofed additions adjacent to the corner property, first a two-story building and then a one-story building, with dentilated cornices. The flat roof of the two-story building is parallel to the raking eaves of the gable end.

There are four one-over-one windows on the second floor, and six one-over-one windows on the first floor, as well as a door capped by a triangular pedimented door hood.

The adjacent properties, 45, 43, 41, 39 and 37 North Fifth Street, have been modified on both the interior and exterior in ensuing years. It is likely that these buildings originally had two flats at each address, with a living room at the front and a kitchen and bedroom at the rear.

The North Fifth Street Revitalization Project has been an attempt by Housing Resources of Columbia County, Inc. to rehabilitate and revitalize a section of the city which has continually housed the working class and poorer segments of the population since the mid-1800s. Non-owner occupants and absentee landlords have been unsuccessful in providing maintenance and upkeep and, as a result, the buildings were in a dreadful state of disrepair. This rehabilitation plan partners a county service provider with an agency that rehabilitates buildings in the City of Hudson to meet office and housing needs.

When traveling through the streets of Hudson today, one is immediately struck by the many layers of history that represent the city's rich heritage and account for much of its charm and success. There are many streets and neighborhoods that bear the scars of growth and change. In the oldest neighborhoods, significant historic properties are crowded by two-family structures and commercial and industrial buildings, as well as modern aluminum and vinyl sided homes. In other neighborhoods, numerous board-ups exist from fire or, worse, total abandonment and these sit near littered vacant lots. This diverse image defines Hudson and gives physical form to the city. These signs of decline exist side by side with other neighborhoods that have freshly painted facades and recently rehabilitated buildings, businesses and galleries that cater to the big city crowds which frequent Hudson on weekends.

Housing Resources of Columbia County, Inc. rehabilitated 37, 39 and 41 into six apartments for use by Twin County Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services' clients. The other three rowhouses were converted into 6000 square feet of counseling and administrative space for Twin County ASAS. The renovation included repair and restoration of the buildings' exteriors, salvage and reuse of interior elements, as well as adaptation to current living and work standards. The six buildings that make up the North Fifth Street Revitalization project were severely dilapidated and deteriorated and had been used and abused by a long series of unsuccessful landlords. The Twin County Apartments have two rental units each, for a total of six rental units for persons coming out of a variety of counseling programs. The Twin County Offices have group meeting rooms and individual offices. On the exterior, the buildings remain as built, except for the installation of a handicap access ramp. The interior spaces, originally two rooms deep, have offices and the middle building of the row, #45, has an interior connector oriented parallel to the street.

Significance

The North Fifth Street rowhouses are largely intact examples of mid-nineteenth century working class housing. The lots were purchased from the City of Hudson in September 1868, and the rowhouses were constructed between 1869 and 1871 by Freeman Coons, a builder, and a family of lumber merchants, Jacob Traver, William I. Traver and William H. Traver developed the row. Apparently all six buildings were developed as an investment for sale as rental housing. Most of the houses were always rental apartments, and not owner occupied.

The U. S. Census of 1870 is the first to include these parcels. However, only 43, 45 and 47 are mentioned. The 1880 Census contains information on only 45 and 47. Using this information, though, there is evidence that these buildings housed working families. The men held occupations such as carpenter and printer, while wives worked at home and young children were at school.

The City of Hudson is located on the east bank of the Hudson River in Columbia County, approximately thirty miles south of the state capital in Albany. Hudson is sited at the head of ocean-draft navigation of the Hudson River on a rocky promontory between the two inlets known as the North and South Bays. Hudson was founded in 1783 and development followed a narrow rectangular grid pattern which extended inland one mile along a gradually rising ridge. Oriented around five major east-west streets, intervening alleys and eight regularly spaced cross streets, the city was built according to a concentrated and orderly urban development plan. The area outside the established grid was reserved for agriculture, a town burial ground and future expansion.

This grid plan has remained unaltered and today contains an intact concentration of historic structures ranging from 1783 to 1935. The majority of these historic structures were constructed during the early and middle nineteenth century. It is important to note that ravines originally cut across the ridge, interrupting the grid, were gradually filled in during the early nineteenth century to allow for expansion within the established grid plan. Hudson benefits from natural harbors in bays immediately north and south of the downtown waterfront. With the construction of the Hudson River Railroad in 1850, the bays were bridged and landlocked and subsequently filled for the expansion of industry.

Beyond the original grid, the eastern end of the city encompasses the top of the ridge, known as Prospect Hill [Rossman-Prospect Historic District], which contains the old cemetery, since enlarged, on its east face and the city's water storage reservoir at the summit. North of Prospect Hill, a concentration of early buildings is located where regional highways from the north, east and south intersect as they enter the City. These existing roads follow the routes of turnpikes opened in the first decade of the nineteenth century. This area is now characterized by twentieth century suburban development.

In the original grid plan, Warren Street, the east/west axis was conceived as the major transportation link to the river and the commercial core of the city. This commercial core was paralleled by Diamond (now Columbia) and State Streets to the north and Union and Allen Streets to the south. Intervening alleys provided access to the rear of narrow, rectangular lots, a common characteristic of early grid plans.

Nine intersecting north-south streets beginning with Front Street at the river and numerically ordered from First Street east to Eighth Street at the base of Prospect Hill subdivided the plan. Fourth Street, the central cross-street evolved as another major axis within the city with the placement of the county courthouse at its southern terminus at Allen Street and the alms-house (now the city library) at its northern limit on State Street. One of the city's major churches, the First Presbyterian Church, and the site of the city's first City Hall and Jail are located at Fourth Street's junction with Warren Street. Third Street is the only street which extended south beyond the grid pattern, skirting the South Bay and becoming the highway to the lower parts of the Columbia County and lower New York state.

In terms of development, parks and parklands were planned at both ends of the city. The area atop the bluff at the river's edge was preserved as open space and named Promenade Hill. It provided a dramatic vista of the Hudson, particularly to the southwest where the river widened beneath the backdrop of the Catskill Mountains. This view, as well as that towards South Bay and Mount Merino on the east shore of the Hudson, was a popular subject of landscape paintings in the nineteenth century. At Seventh and Warren Streets a one block public square was created to provide an attractive introduction to the city from the outlying districts to the east and south. This effect was marred somewhat later when the Hudson and Boston Railroad was constructed through the park. The only other open space in the plan is at the courthouse at Fourth and Union Streets where a landscaped green is titled Washington Square.

The length of Warren Street, approximately nine blocks, is the primary architectural resource in Hudson, providing a distinctive and intact nineteenth century urban landscape. Warren Street provides a remarkably complete record of the city's architectural history. The highest concentration of structures from Hudson's initial period of growth (1784-1810) is located on Warren and Union Streets between Front and Second Streets (listed on the National Register in 1970 as the Front Street-Parade Hill-Lower Warren Street Historic District, expanded in 1985 as Hudson Historic District).

The street is now composed of a full range of largely commercial structures built between 1784 and 1930 of compatible scale and design, uniformly sited at the sidewalk's edge. Among the many distinctive and stylish facades of public, religious and banking institutions, three and four story attached commercial buildings and late nineteenth early twentieth century rowhouses, are numerous surviving vernacular brick and frame houses erected by Hudson's original settlers.

South of Warren Street, Union and Allen Streets are distinguished by exceptional residences that reflect the major periods and styles popular during the city's growth. From Third Street west, the scale and styles are more modest, but tend to have been built earlier. These homes are small brick or frame dwellings or attached rows of such houses. Allen Street, west of Second, was not opened until 1830, and its mix of working class housing and small industrial structures relates to the South Bay located below it.

The residential architecture of the north side of the city, along Columbia and State Streets, was far less varied and distinguished than that found on Union and Allen Street. These north side streets were traditionally poorer and working class and resultant neighborhoods reflected this in terms of housing stock and building materials, utilizing plain detail and little ornament. Columbia Street appears to have grown at an earlier date than State Street, which appears to have housing of Civil War period. Housing is closely situated, characterized by two story frame structures with plain detail and little ornament. Tenement groups are in evidence throughout the section. Unlike the south side, the distinctive types and design of buildings are found here on the numbered cross streets. This is the area of the city in which the North Fifth Street Houses are located.

Among the cities that developed along the Hudson River over the last two hundred years, Hudson has survived with a high degree of architectural integrity. Unique in the region for both its physical grid plan and history as an inland whaling port, its distinctive period streetscapes are unequaled in the Hudson Valley. In addition to numerous Federal and Greek Revival period buildings, Hudson has an unusually strong collection of commercial structures from the 1850s and 1860s, as well as residential streets characterized by the eclectic architecture of the mid to late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Interspersed throughout the City of Hudson, within the context of these neighborhoods, are buildings similar to the North Fifth Street Rowhouses that survive in various states of repair and ownership. Through the North Fifth Street Revitalization, the buildings have not only been saved from their previously derelict state, they serve an important function within their community. The sensitivity to the original Italianate features of the row provides additional value in understanding the way in which members of the middling and lower classes used elements of popular styles in vernacular interpretations.

Bibliography

United States Census, 1870, 1880.

Title Abstracts from Columbia County Clerk.

National Register of Historic Places Nomination-Registration Form, "Hudson Historic District," 1985.

  1. Coyne-Becker, Judy and Irwin, Michele Willey, North Fifth Street Rowhouses, nomination document, 2003, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

See Map

Street Names: 5th Street North

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