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Preservation efforts intensify for Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center

February 18, 2012

As the threat to Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center (1963-1971) in Goshen, NY grows, so does local advocacy for the building’s renovation and reuse. In October 2011, the World Monuments Fund placed Orange County Government Center on its watch list of threatened cultural heritage sites. On February 9, 2012 the AIA Westchester + Hudson Valley Chapter devoted its monthly meeting to a discussion of Modern preservation in general and the Government Center in particular. DOCOMOMO was represented by NY/Tri board member John S. Arbuckle who was one of two guest speakers along with Sean Khorsandi from the Paul Rudolph Foundation. The building was deemed eligible for State and National Register listing last year.

Orange County Executive Edward Diana announced plans to replace the structure shortly after taking office in 2002. He shuttered the building following damage by Hurricane Irene last August. While some of the damage is storm related, much stems from deferred maintenance that has plagued the building nearly from its opening.

Recently, the County commissioned a report on the feasibility of reuse from LaBella Associates. The study suggests that renovation is more expensive than an undefined new construction. Local citizens and others interested in preserving one of Rudolph’s most important institutional buildings are combing through the report and responding to questionable claims such as the need to remove all of the striated concrete block because no cavities were originally created behind the block—a claim that is contrary to the construction documents and the built reality. Damage from Hurricane Irene has resulted in FEMA involvement and the county stands to gain varying amounts of funding depending on whether they renovate or build anew.

While the fate of the building is up to county legislators, local citizens and preservationists have been asking probing questions and bringing attention to relevant issues: a new consolidated government center on the scale proposed would leave up to seventeen buildings with no future purpose, some in towns economically dependent upon their presence. Also, a full study has never been completed showing the effects of additional traffic on the streets of Goshen or the environmental costs of pulverizing three concrete structures. Fiscal issues are also driving the reuse campaign as the county’s debt service—already at an all time high—would double if construction of a new consolidated government center goes through.

Orange County citizens, lead by resident and preservationist Nancy Hull Kearing, have formed The Taxpayers of Orange County, a nonprofit group dedicated to saving and restoring the building. Proceeding under the slogan “Just Fix It,” the group has organized three public forums on the future of the Orange County Government Center:

Sunday February 26 – Goshen
Sunday March 4 – Newburgh
Sunday March 25 – Port Jervis

Event details: