Architect Peter Sweeny was attracted to CVPA and The Point by the opportunity to both tell an important overlooked story and to return a potential economic asset to the Mid-Hudson community. “On the one hand, there’s no site dedicated to telling the story of the role that Calvert Vaux played in the evolution of American architecture and landscape design,” says Sweeny. “And, on the other, there are nearly 20,000 square feet of historic interiors at The Point that could be used to generate economic activity benefiting the Staatsburg/Northern Dutchess community, NYS Parks and the Mid-Hudson region.”
When invited to the CVPA Board, Sweeny made a solo visit to The Point. As hikers often do, he first came upon the 1855 mansion that Vaux designed for Lydig and Geraldine Livingston Hoyt when it was revealed by a turn in the road as Vaux’s picturesque scheme for the site intended. “It was a misty morning and the discovery was magical,” Sweeny says. “It was easy to see the potential.” A practicing architect for more than 35 years, Sweeny has repurposed many industrial buildings in New York City and the Hudson Valley as artist spaces, mixed-use commercial/residential and light manufacturing facilities. “Adaptive reuse, sustainable repurposing, has become something of a passion,” Sweeny notes.
By age 11, Sweeny already had a sense that creating buildings was what he wanted to do. Trained at Rhode Island School of Design, London Architectural Association and Cooper Union, he’s had the opportunity to be a part of an impressive number of commercial, industrial and residential projects running the full gamut from preservation to new construction. Notable projects have ranged from the award-winning 1987 façade renovation for Carnegie Hall with James Stewart Polshek & Partners to recent adaptive reuse schemes for the Cannonball Factory in Hudson NY that houses online retailer Etsy and the Catskill Mill complex, mixed use residential, retail and studios/workspaces in Catskill NY. He has undertaken rehabilitations requiring New York City Landmarks Commission review and approval and completed both new construction and rehabilitation for eight buildings at Bard College.
The founding chair of CVPA’s Restoration & Sustainable Reuse Team (R&SR Team), Sweeny currently co-chairs the group with new CVPA Board member David Ashen. Together, Sweeny and Ashen play two critical roles for the future of The Point: guiding restoration projects and exploring possible future sustainable uses for the site. Recently, Sweeny developed a scope of work for urgently needed stabilizations to the Hoyt residence. “Although we worked with NYS Parks to do $1.1 million in restorations to the mansion in 2014-2015, new issues emerge constantly in a structure nearly 170 years old, especially one that is unoccupied,” Sweeny notes.
“The Point’s barn complex offers development opportunities that can generate operating revenues to maintain the site and enhance the regional economy,” Sweeny notes. “However, the Hoyt mansion is a crucial historic asset that gives the site unrivalled purpose and value. We must protect this central asset.”
Sweeny recently compiled a scope of work for stabilizing the Hoyt residence. “Every building needs regular and timely maintenance. Not only will addressing urgent compromises now help forestall larger problems with higher costs from continuing to develop, it will also protect the asset value of a major public treasure. This includes the potential for adaptive reuse, a key strategy for saving the overall site,” says Sweeny. To read more about the Hoyt stabilization project, see the Campaign 2023 update in this issue.
“The Hoyt Carriageway Bridge is another critical component of our 2023 work,” Sweeny continues. “CVPA is turning the corner on a multi-year project to reopen the bridge so that we can restore the picturesque experience of visiting The Point as Vaux intended. ” Closed in 2015, the bridge had also provided highly valued access to Mills Norrie Park and the Hudson River for the hamlet of Staatsburg. Sweeny is working with CVPA Chair Jon Lawson, who heads the organization’s new Site Committee, to organize volunteer projects to help address some of the carpentry and general labor components of the bridge rehabilitation. “We anticipate hosting an increased number of workdays at The Point this year,” Sweeny notes.
A critical step for saving The Point is to find uses and complementary partner-users for its buildings and landscape that generate income for restoration and ongoing operation of the site. “Recruiting real estate development and related professionals to the Team can bring important skills and contacts to the discussion,” says Sweeny. “We hope some of our readers will hear our call for hands-on help with the bridge re-decking and others will respond with professional expertise to help us develop sustainable uses for The Point’s historic buildings.”