‘Atten-Hut!’ Library heads to Armory

Institution will move one block away to leased space

HUDSON–The new home of the Hudson Area Library will be in the building known as the Hudson Armory, reports Mark Orton, chair of the library’s Board of Trustees.

The board has made that decision informally, said Mr. Orton, pending a vote at its May 9 meeting.

The Armory, at the corner of State and North Fifth streets, is owned by Galvan Partners, LLC, headed by T. Eric Galloway of New York City and Hudson. Galvan will lease about 10,000 square feet to the library at $12 per year for 30 years, said Mr. Orton.

The building’s total square footage is about 17,000. Galvan does not know yet what it will do with the rest of the space, said Tom Swope of Hudson, executive director of the Galvan Initiatives Foundation, the library’s partner in the space. GIF is a new nonprofit organization, pending its 501(c) 3 status, begun by Mr. Galloway and his partner, Henry van Ameringen.

In the memorandum of understanding between the library and Galvan, the landlord is responsible for building the infrastructure of the library within the Armory, said Mr. Orton. The library is responsible for all interior fittings, such as bookshelves and furniture, and for operating expenses, such as utilities in its space.

The new library is slated for is what’s referred to as the “drill shed” of the 1898 Armory, the large open space on the first floor, plus a mezzanine. The library plans an entrance on the State Street side of the building.

The library briefly considered moving to 360 Warren Street, the Register-Star building, which Mr. Galloway is in the process of buying. But since last fall, “the Armory was the site we had thought the most about,” said Mr. Orton.

“One of the things we like about the Armory is that our space is open and on one floor,” he said. Open space is flexible and easy to use, for patrons and staff alike. The entire library can be monitored from one central reception desk. With moveable furniture and fittings, a space used for a children’s class in the morning can function in a completely different way in the afternoon.

The library will be moving about a block, from 400 State Street, a historic building that proved too expensive to renovate and maintain.

Asked if the library wasn’t moving from one preservation headache to another, Mr. Orton said, “No, because the Armory is an enormously robust building. It’s ruggedly built. And the new library facility must meet all of the state’s building and energy codes.” Given the library board’s concern about operating costs, he added, the board might invest up front in meeting even more than those requirements, in order to lower later operating costs.

From the library’s perspective, these operating costs are key, said Mr. Orton. He said board members are very conservative; “They don’t want to build a Taj Mahal.” With its continuing operation and staffing costs, the library will always have to budget carefully.

At the same time, Mr. Orton said with enthusiasm, “one of our design objectives is to have people walk into the library and say, ‘Wow!’ We want a building that people will want to come to.

“We’re going to emphasize the special sense of the Armory, with its wonderful steel trusses, for example,” he said. “We won’t build a white box inside the Armory; we’ll respond to the space and structural elements already there.”

The Armory is in a locally designated historic district, said Mr. Swope, former chairman of the Hudson Historic Preservation Commission. GIF has just applied to have the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. According to the National Park Service website, this listing allows a property owner to do what he wants with the property, as long no federal monies are involved and state historic preservation laws are followed.

The Armory’s architect was Isaac G. Perry (1822-1904) of New York, who designed numerous public buildings around the state. A fire destroyed the drill shed in 1928, but it was rebuilt two years later. A shed addition for vehicles, added in 1957, could possibly be torn down to add a parking area.

Having almost completed “program design” for the library, which describes what the library needs, Mr. Orton and Mr. Swope, with the help of library trustee Chris Slocum, worked up a Request for Proposals for architects. “Once Galvan focuses its attention on something, they move quickly,” Mr. Orton said.

The response deadline is May 18; Mr. Orton and Mr. Swope showed the building to one interested architect on Tuesday. The library board will interview its top choices and decide on an architect by the first week in June, Mr. Orton predicted.

Speaking for GIF, Mr. Swope said, “I think this is very exciting–an incredible opportunity for the Foundation to facilitate something positive for Hudson and at the same time create a 21st-century library.”

There are challenges, he acknowledged, like how to heat the building, but “that’s figurable. It’s a dramatic interior and yet it lends itself to a library.”

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