ELIZABETHTOWN - Hubbard Hall on Court Street was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, four years after it was almost demolished by Essex County to be used as a parking lot. Now, fire has wiped this landmark off the map, surprising the entire community, especially those who tried to save it from the wrecking ball.
In 1995, the Essex County Board of Supervisors gave the historic structure to the town of Elizabethtown. Two years later, it was turned over to a developer and refurbished. On Jan. 11, 2011, Hubbard Hall was destroyed by an early-morning fire.
Adirondack Architectural Heritage Executive Director Steven Engelhart was shocked to hear of Hubbard Hall's destruction. In a phone interview conducted as the fire was still burning, Engelhart described the turn of events as "a huge loss."
"Wow," Engelhart said, still trying to recover from the shock of the news. "It's hard to imagine that street without it. It's a beautiful building. It was well loved by the community."
The county's decision in 1995 to save Hubbard Hall was a turning point for Elizabethtown.
"It seemed like it would have been a rash decision (to tear down Hubbard Hall) without going to the private marketplace and give someone time to recover and restore it," Engelhart said. "It was a successful project, from an economic and restoration/preservation point of view, and the county did the right thing."
Hubbard Hall gets its name from the days when it was used by North Country Community College (NCCC), yet the building's history spans 170 years.
The year was 1840. Martin Van Buren was president of the United States. Elizabethtown lawyer Augustus C. Hand was one of New York's 41 Congressmen serving in the U.S. House of Representatives (1839-1841) alongside future President Millard Fillmore. Orlando Kellogg (1809-1865) was a young lawyer in Elizabethtown and had just built a house a short distance away from the Essex County Courthouse. That house, the Kellogg House, would eventually become known as Hubbard Hall.
From 1840 to 1844, Kellogg was the Surrogate of Essex County, replacing Rep. Hand, who served in that position from 1831 to 1839. Kellogg served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1847 to 1849 alongside future President Abraham Lincoln and again from 1863 until his death in 1865.
The Kellogg House was renovated in the 1890s as a Queen Anne-style home and was used as a residence until 1921.
In 1921, the Kellogg House became the Elizabethtown Community House, Inc., predecessor of the current Elizabethtown Community Hospital (ECH), according to the ECH Web site. The building was used in the early 1920s as a medical and surgical treatment facility. In 1924, it became headquarters for the Essex County Children's Agent. In 1926, the Elizabethtown Community House changed its name to the Elizabethtown Community Hospital and served as a non-profit voluntary hospital until October 1967, when the hospital moved to Park Street. In the 1930s, an additional wing was built at the Kellogg House to better serve the hospital's patients.
Jenifer Kuba, archivist at the Essex County Historical Society based at the Adirondack History Center Museum, was driving from her Schroon Lake home to work in Elizabethtown when she found out Hubbard Hall was on fire, and she immediately thought about the museum's membership.
"I thought about how many people we know who are members, and how many of those people were born at Hubbard Hall," Kuba said. "It's devastating to the community in that sense."
In 1969, Elizabethtown Community Hospital donated the building to NCCC. The former hospital was renamed Hubbard Hall in honor of Mr. and Mrs. W. Hustus Hubbard of Elizabethtown, original donors of the property and founding members of the Elizabethtown Community Hospital, and used by NCCC as an extension or branch campus, opening for classes in September 1970. With the help of inmates from the Adirondack Correctional Facility, NCCC refurbished the building in 1984. Facing a budget shortfall and declining enrollment, NCCC officials decided to vacate Hubbard Hall at the end of 1990. Several agencies shared the space with NCCC at the time, including the Essex County Arts Council, Literacy Volunteers of America, Essex County Mental Health, the Northern New York Center for Conflict Resolution, and New York State Occupational and Vocational Rehabilitation.
In early 1991, Essex County took over Hubbard Hall and used it as office space for several county and non-profit agencies until New York state condemned the building in 1993.
Save Hubbard Hall
Essex County found new office space for its Public Health nurses after the New York Department of State Codes Division condemned Hubbard Hall, but the Board of Supervisors was left with a decision to either tear down the historic building, which was deemed too costly to bring up to code, or hand it over to a private developer to restore it.
A group of about a dozen citizens called the Rediscover Elizabethtown Association fought to save Hubbard Hall in 1995, as members of the Essex County Board of Supervisors were mulling over its options. Other historic preservationists followed their lead. Adirondack Architectural Heritage, based in Keeseville, put Hubbard Hall on its Endangered Properties List, which is a list of historic and architectural landmarks that are in danger of being lost if something is not done soon.
The grass roots effort worked. In October 1995, Essex County handed Hubbard Hall over to town of Elizabethtown officials, who were eager to flip it to the private sector and get the building back on the tax rolls. Saratoga developer Darren Tracy did just that. In November 1997, the building reopened as an arts-and-crafts gallery and 23 offices with the words "Hubbard Hall" adorning a sign on the front porch.