Roundup #2 and Pics from Athens, NY

In addition to a couple of ongoing research projects, I’ve been spending a good chunk of my time working for TSTC writing posts for their blog, Mobilizing the Region. A couple of weeks ago I rounded up the pieces I had done over there so far, and I figure it’s time for another roundup. I’ve been told I’m potentially the most productive MTR writer ever, so here’s hoping other people appreciate my writing.

I took the opportunity in my last roundup to post a few pictures and observations from my latest trip to Schenectady, so I’ll add some more Upstate jaunt pictures to this post as well (little traditions are nice). Last Sunday, G and I took a quick trip to the Hudson River village of Athens, NY. Athens is very small but has a notable collection of 19th-century architecture, and isn’t quite as precious or yuppified as places like Hudson or Saugerties. A few pictures from the trip:

Looking across the Hudson from Athens to Hudson

Looking across the Hudson from Athens to Hudson

Former church, now not a church (perhaps used as a residence, hard to tell)

Former church, now not a church (perhaps used as a residence, hard to tell)

Large house with a very distinctive cuppola.

Large house with a very distinctive cupola.

Laneway buildings along an alley in Athens

Laneway buildings along 1st Alley in Athens. Looking north between Water and Washington Streets.

The last one of these, in particular, isn’t just a pretty picture; there’s a lesson to it. One of the very early posts on this blog was about how Hudson, NY’s exuberant mix of residential architecture can teach us about what we’ve lost by stifling creativity through zoning. The existence of extensive, large, and flexible-use buildings along alleys in a small, old town like Athens holds a similar lesson.

Contemporary planners and urbanists often hold up backyard and alleyway buildings–what are now called Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)–as an easy way to add density and low-cost housing options to residential neighborhoods composed mainly of single-family homes. ADUs tend to inspire fanatical opposition among NIMBYs, so it’s worth remembering that their existence isn’t any new plot; it’s an established American tradition dating back centuries. These buildings have likely been used as stables or garages for most of their history, but also show signs of having been lived-in (perhaps by servants) at some point. There’s nothing new under the sun.