– IOOF’s graceful and “strong little structure” (Gazette, A1, Jan. 31, 2012) is almost gone –
– click on a photo for a larger version –
update (Jan. 31, 2012): Today’s the fifth day of the physical demolition by Jackson Builders of the Odd Fellows Hall at 440 State St. The terra cotta façade is gone and the entire building will be removed over the next few weeks. This slideshow includes photos taken about 7:30 on this gloomy-gray morning at the site plus shots taken on November 20, 2011, when Tom Hodgkins and his children held an Architecture Appreciation Party for the building. That story is below in the original posting. At the bottom of this posting you will find a Gallery with each of the photos; clicking on a Gallery image will bring you to a larger version; scroll over a Gallery image for a description
– condemned façade of St. Paul’s Temple – IOOF Hall – during the Hodgkins Family Appreciation Party and Protest (20Nov2011) –
Tom Hodgkins and his three kids had an Architectural Appreciation Party in front of 440 State Street the past two mornings. As Tom explained in a message to our Stockade neighborhood email list Saturday night:
“We had fun today at our architectural appreciation party. The kids played music, carted around the wagon, ate candy and fruit, while I discussed the fate of the building with pedestrians.”
. . click on a photo for a larger version; scroll over it for a description . .
Tom told the Gazette in the Sunday paper today: “We’re just appreciating this building and the values it embodies before it’s gone. It’s already been done. The city’s been bought out. It’s done. We’re just here to appreciate it before it’s gone.” See “Man stands alone in protest of plan to raze historic Schenectady hall” (Sunday Gazette, by Bethany Bump, November 20, 2011, at B5; online by subscription) More of the story can be found in Thursday’s Gazette, in “Planners approve demolition of historic Odd Fellows hall” (Daily Gazette, by Justin Mason, November 17, 2011, at B1; online), which explained:
“Members of the city Planning Commission narrowly approved drastic changes to a plan they approved in July, allowing building owner Tony Civitella to demolish the entire structure at 440 State St. . . .
“The approval will allow Civitella, the president and founder of Transfinder, to immediately move forward on demolishing the entire building. His original plans called for the leveling of the rear of the structure, but to retain the ornate terra-cotta facade and about 20 feet of the building’s front.”
The Planning Board majority, with virtually no time for the public to weigh in, rushed to impose the death penalty on the Temple after Civitella came up with an engineering report saying the façade cannot be saved, and pressed for immediate action on his new plan due to imminent winter weather. We’re supposed to believe that no one at Metroplex, no one in Civitella’s organization, and none of his architects thought to ask the obvious question last Spring: “can the façade be saved and can we afford to do it?” Instead, the building gets purchased at fire-sale rates, Metroplex promises grants — including a $60,000 façade grant — and the project is announced with great fanfare and applause for Mr. Civitella and Metroplex. If there was no engineering report prior to the first approval, lots of heads should roll. Ditto, if there was an engineer’s report that endorsed the façade-saving plan.
For me, it’s much too much like the sorry Gillette House bagel shop story from January, 2011, leaving the same bad taste in my mouth. Shortly after much hoopla and back-slapping over a plan to “save” an important historical building, the shrewd businessman-buyer discovers his original plan is simply no longer viable, and civil servants with the obligation to look hard at the situation and to preserve and protect our architectural heritage give in without demanding lots of facts and taking time for appropriate consideration. It is outlandish that a decision could be made when Civitella only submitted his drastically altered plans two days before the Planning Commission hearing. Does anyone know when Civitella got the first no-go engineer’s report and when he could have first given the Commission a heads-up? It seems far too convenient that it happened so far into winter that the Commission could hide behind weather as a reason for its hasty action.
You can bet there will be a great rush to knock that building down, especially the troublesome façade. A lawsuit will be complicated and expensive, and have only a slight chance of finding a sympathetic judge who could act in time to save this fine old building.
Thanks to Planning Commission member Matthew Cuevas for trying to slow down the process by tabling the measure. And, thanks to Schenectady Heritage Foundation Chairwoman Gloria Kishton, for frantically piecing together public opposition over such a short timeframe. Especially, thank you, Tom Hodgkins and kids, for reminding us what we’re losing. As Tom told our email group yesterday:
“Spending time in that location really gives one some perspective on how few historic buildings remain downtown, and the loss of a building built by the people for the people in the name of love is a crime. Its not the loss of a bank, or some industrialist’s residence, it is the loss of a temple. “
The Hodgkins kids always make me grin (often due to their photogenic charms). But, seeing them at this Party-Protest had me smiling even more, hoping some of their dad’s zeal will rub off, so they’ll never simply take for granted the old buildings they see every day around their Stockade home. At the rate they’re coming down despite laws meant to protect them, there soon won’t be any historic buildings left to preserve in downtown Schenectady. The only, slight consolation will be that Tom and Gloria and I, and other lovers of our architectural heritage won’t have to have our Thanksgiving meal ruined with a holiday case of Demolition Agita. This year, however, I’m heading to my medicine cabinet for a second helping of architectural-size antacid.
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