A group attempting to preserve a historic corner of downtown is making progress, but still has a way to go before it has the money it needs to purchase one of the oldest homes in the city.
The Baldwin-Buss House Foundation last week announced it will exercise its 90-day extension option to raise funds needed to purchase the Baldwin-Buss Merino House and associated commercial properties.
The foundation now has until Nov. 7 to raise $1.7 million to purchase a .92-acre parcel of land adjacent to the First and Main Business District and the Hudson National Register business district.
An agreement with the seller provided the Foundation 120 days to raise funds to purchase the house and two commercial buildings also located on the property by Aug. 10. The agreement also provided for a three-month extension at the discretion of the Foundation, effective upon payment of funds in addition to an amount held in escrow.
Baldwin-Buss House Foundation co-president Inga Walker said the extension will enable ongoing work to identify potential donors and sponsors.
"Many in Hudson have been forthcoming with commitments to support our initiative, but $1.7 million is a lot of money," she said. "We are making progress toward our goal, but are not there yet."
Kathleen Russell, Secretary and Treasurer of the Foundation, said Hudson residents have thus far contributed more than $500,000.
"The spontaneous and concerned support of our community is encouraging," she said. "We are reaching out to local businesses to seek their support and sponsorship for this important project. The way I see it, we are at a pivotal point in Hudson’s preservation history."
The Foundation seeks to preserve the house and prevent commercial development around it. While a 2015 plan to move the house and build 23,000 square feet of larger-scale buildings never materialized, there is now renewed interest, said Foundation co-president Donovan Husat,
"Hudson residents have already expressed concern about large commercial development in the historic downtown," Husat said. "If our Foundation fails to secure the property, a developer most likely will, and that will change the entire character of the house and Hudson’s Village Green. Not only will the vista change from the intersection of Routes 91 and 303, but it will add traffic and further complicate the existing shortage of parking in the area.
"If I were a First and Main merchant or restaurant proprietor, that would concern me," Husat added.
The Foundation said in a release that a surge in donations following a successful marketing initiative gives the foundation hope that it can meet its fundraising objectives. This surge was complemented by a donation from a benefactor who agreed to provide funds for the additional $5,000 escrow deposit.
Adding to the momentum was the receipt of two grant appropriations — one from the ICF Foundation of Hudson for $50,000 and the other from the Fairlawn-based Lehner Family Foundation for $20,000. Other grant applications are pending.
The release stated the scope of the project aims to return to the community an integral component of Hudson’s cultural and architectural heritage, and increase economic vitality on a blighted section of the historic Village Green. Many in Hudson know the house as the "Merino House," which was occupied since 1907 by generations of the Merino family.
Until his death in 2016, it was last locally owned by Hudson native and beverage merchant Rich Merino. The high-style Federal House is the second oldest in Hudson, dating to 1825.
"When restored, the house will transform the Village Green," said Russell. "This is a very blighted area of our business district. Improvements made to the historic house and the vacant land will return the parcels to a contributing and productive community asset,. Its potential as a center for art, culture, history and community use is very high."
The Baldwin-Buss House Foundation is accepting commitments to donate toward the purchase at its website, www.bbhfoundation.org. When sufficient funds are promised, the money will be called in and the purchase completed.
"Commitments to donate large and small amounts are all welcome," Russell said. "They all count and they will all help to preserve the historic beauty of Hudson’s unique downtown."