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Poughkeepsie's historic Nelson House now condemned

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Albany/HV: Poughkeepsie's historic Nelson House now condemned
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The Nelson House Annex is condemned by the DPW after concerns about the safety of the aging building. It's part of a historic building and hotel that's been in Poughkeepsie since 1777. As John Wagner explains, some people don't want to see a part of history go.

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- "The famous and infamous had stayed there," said George Lukacs.

Everyone from Thomas Jefferson to Elvis Presley and most famously FDR booked rooms across from Poughkeepsie's Bardavon Theater. Most of the Nelson House hotel was torn down in the 60s to make space for the current county office building. The annex preserves some of the past.

The City of Poughkeepsie historian says the structure is, in some ways, more important than FDR's home.

"His political life, his political career, his political speeches, his political rallies were from Nelson House," said George Lukacs.

The annex was converted from hotel to office space in 1970 and left vacant in 1996, with growing mold, asbestos and structural issues. The building is now condemned.

"While I'll leave to historians what had historically occurred at the Annex and what had historically occurred at the Nelson House hotel, which no longer exists, I have to face what is the current reality and the public safety and the safety and integrity of Dutchess County as a government is at risk," said Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro.

The county executive is hopeful the legislature will vote at its next meeting, October 4th, to move forward by approving the $1.75 million bond needed to pay for demolition. But preservationists believe they can keep the building in tact by raising a groundswell of support.

"You know that Roosevelt walked those floors," said George Lukacs. "It's not just a building, it's the aura, it's the history, it's the very foundation on what it stands."

"If it was Ronald Reagan, if it was Ike, I find it hard to believe that the Republicans would be so intent on paving it over," said Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner. "I just find it's funny how all a sudden, there's an emergency, sorry, we have to pave it over. I wasn't born yesterday and neither were others."

Despite FDR hosting more than 200 speeches and rallies from the hotel, the executive says they don't know if it can standup through another winter. They'd like to see it come down by early December, making way for parking and green space, short term.

"We're very interested in ensuring that we see a revitalization of Market Street, that we're a part of that, a catalyst for that and do so in a way that reflects and respects the historic nature of this current block," said Molinaro.

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