Friends of Historic Kingston recognizes year’s best preservation

Jonathan Butler of Smorgasburg and Peter Rizzo of MWest Holding, seen here with FHK award presenter Marissa Marvelli.

Jonathan Butler of Smorgasburg and Peter Rizzo of MWest Holding, seen here with FHK award presenter Marissa Marvelli.

On Friday, November 4, Friends of Historic Kingston (FHK) handed out seven preservation awards. The recipients represented a rich cross-section of the various heart-felt efforts that are helping save, restore, document and repurpose the architectural heritage of the city. While the organization’s annual awards used to be handed out at its annual meeting, beginning last year FHK held a separate event dedicated solely to this purpose. This year the ceremony was held at the Henry Sleight House, the stone building on Crown at the corner of Green that has long been occupied by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

There were also more awards than ever, which FHK president Jack Braunlein, who chaired the event, said “speaks well about the degree of preservation taking place now. We only see the effort increasing.”

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Two awards for Stewardship, recognizing the long-term preservation of two 18th-century stone houses, were given to the DAR for the Sleight House and the Bradley family for the Hoffman House, site of one of Uptown’s most famous restaurants. Braunlein said the Bradleys “have been restoring this property since the 1970s — it’s massive restoration work.” Early in the 20th century, after the Sleight House, which was originally built in the late 1600s and was rebuilt after it was burned down by invading British troops in 1777, fell into disrepair, a local chapter of the DAR took ownership and restored the property and has been maintaining it ever since.

A new award, for Project Vision and Preservation, was given to the owners of Smorgasburg & MWest Holding for their use of the abandoned Hutton brickyards as a warm-weather flea market and food court. Marissa Marvelli, who is on FHK’s Preservation Committee, gave the award to Peter Rizzo, of MWest Holding, which owns the property, and Jonathan Butler, of Smorgasbord, which she described as “a Brooklyn-born food fair extravaganza” operating in multiple locations in the city as well as Los Angeles and Kingston. Noting the site “has been deliberated over for many years, Marvelli said the team “seemingly overnight, managed to move beyond the red tape and contentiousness of its recent past to open something that is both inclusive and that celebrates the site’s incredible brickmaking legacy.” She added that the project, which involved drawing “upon the Brickyard’s significance as a 19th- and 20th-century economic engine of Kingston … is place making at its finest.”

An Excellence in Historic Preservation award was given to Kevin McEvoy for his generous and heroic rescue of the Nathaniel Booth House, which was on the verge of being torn down. Lowell Thing received an Excellence in Publication award for his book about the history of West Chestnut Street, The Street that Built a City: McEntee’s Chestnut Street and the Rise of New York City; according to FHK Executive Director Jane Kellar, the book is currently sold out — a tribute to Thing’s in-depth research and story-telling talents. Architectural historian and author William Rhoads, who gave out the award, noted that “the book is wonderfully comprehensive, describing the lives of the residents, the architecture of their homes, and just what life was like for the men, women, and children who called Chestnut Street home.”

“We wanted to give Kevin a special award for all he’s done — his research for different projects is phenomenal — as well as Lowell, who was past president of FHK and was involved in the West Chestnut Historic District designation,” said Braunlein.

Deemed a safety hazard because of falling stone from the walls, the Booth house, as it’s called, on Wilbur Avenue was about to be torn down before preservationists rallied and Mayor Steve Noble delayed the demolition so that a way could be found to preserve the building. Built in 1850, the house, which has a wood frame and stone-clad walls, likely had a commercial use and was located on the road traversed by wagons lugging bluestone down to the waterfront for dressing and shipment.

McEvoy, who did extensive research on the building — he said the stones might have belonged to an earlier 18th-century house — founded Kingston Preservation Inc. last April, which, right after taking title to the house, was issued a building permit for stabilization work. Sustainable Structures, a local contracting firm, stabilized the building so that the walls were secure and is now proceeding with further restoration, including “what period to highlight” and “clarifying the process for seeking an end user,” according to McEvoy. McEvoy said he expects to register the property as a local and National Historic Register landmark and notes the property is on the tax rolls and up to date in tax payments.

Two Restoration awards were given to Judy and Don Tallerman for their restoration of the Senate Garage as an event space and to Derrick McNab and Giovanna Righini for their meticulous restoration of their architect-designed 1880 Victorian house on Fair Street.

Judy and Don Tallerman bought the Senate House building three years ago so that Don, who owns DragonSearch, could locate his firm upstairs. The couple, who are from New York City and have a weekend house in Phoenicia, planned to rent out the cavernous space on the first floor, but after people raved about the raw space after attending a party hosted there by Chronogram, Judy began renting it out herself for weddings and other events.

As befits its name, the building was constructed in 1921 and was known as the fanciest garage between Albany and New York, according to Judy. “It’s where the chauffeurs would come and park fancy cars,” she said. It then became a car dealership and eventually was bought by Ertol, a medical filter company, who sold the building to the Tallermans after consolidating its operations at another location.

Structurally, the 19,000-square-foot building is “incredible,” Tallerman said, noting that the couple re-glazed the original industrial metal windows and preserved the original ramp leading to the top floor. They redid the original floors, painted everything, and demoed walls and bathrooms. Part of the event space’s appeal is that it’s an industrial building set in the colonial-style park surrounding the 18th-century Senate House State Historic Site.

Since January, the Senate Garage has hosted 35 events, including a launch party for the press by GM Buick, based in Michigan. “They felt this was an upcoming hipster town and brought in some cars,” Judy said. “They flew the press in and took them in test drives around the Hudson Valley, ending in Pittsfield, where everyone stayed in a boutique hotel.”

She said that many of the people booking weddings “have never come to Kingston before.” The Senate Garage’s proximity to New York City is a draw for people from Albany or Boston. “Most guests stay at the Best Western and the smattering of Air B&Bs. I’d love to have a boutique hotel here.”

In the meantime, the couple has “fallen in love with Kingston” and just made an offer on a house on Fair Street. “We’ve leaving the city,” Tallerman said. “Kingston is close to everything, and we’ve spent a lot of time in Uptown” enjoying the cafes and restaurants.

Derrick McNab said that he and his wife Giovanna, who runs an international consulting business from her home, bought their house on Fair Street 10 years ago, after selling the house they had restored in Westchester County. One draw was the carriage house on the property, which McNab renovated into his workshop (he does professional renovations) and art studio. Although the house was covered with blah gray-blue aluminum siding, he said he could tell it was designed by an architect, “because the layout was professionally designed and details, such as the casing trim, were custom designed for the house.” William Rhoads, who gave out one of the awards on Friday night, has been seeking to identify the house on Fair Street that records indicate was designed by architect Charles Romeyn, and McNab said this is probably the house, as evidenced by the fancy chimney, although as yet there is no absolute proof. Romeyn designed many of the splendid townhouses on New York City’s Upper East Side.

The maroon-painted clapboard and shingled house is light and streamlined, a signature of the late Gothic style, according to McNab. That style emphasized the vertical, “pointing upwards, and breaking up areas to make it look textured and light.” The daughter of the man who installed the aluminum siding in 1959 provided him with the exterior architectural details that had been removed; McNab fabricated those that were missing or damaged. He also installed a slate roof by himself last summer.

“I’m trying to convince people with some real gems to remove the ugly siding,” McNab said. “The biggest asset in Kingston is the incredible housing stock and the reasonable cost.”

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