It’s not up to Stewart’s to decide, it’s up to us! 

— Photo from Tom Capuano

The Wayside Inn once stood on the site that Stewart’s now occupies in Altamont. Tom Capuano suggests the new Stewart’s store could be built to look like the historic inn.

To the Editor:

I “attended” the Altamont Planning Board’s Zoom meeting Monday night about the new Stewart’s plan, and I was shocked at the discussion regarding the façade of the proposed building. The façade is the most culturally significant aspect of the plan.

The way the store will look and “fit in” with Altamont’s unique character is of great importance to a lot of people, as the many, many public comments posted on the village website demonstrate.

Two things shocked me: the planning board members’ near total neglect of the fact that several architectural design experts had offered their expertise in their carefully detailed letters; and the intransigence of the Stewart’s representative regarding proposals to alter the façade.

A comment I heard him say on several occasions was “I’m not doing that”: This was his way of quashing suggestions that were unacceptable to him.

But it’s not up to Stewart’s to decide, it’s up to us! That is, to our planning board.

In a previous letter, I urged the village to get Stewart’s to design its new store to look like the building that once stood on that very same spot: the historic George Severson Inn, also known as the Wayside Inn on the old Schoharie Plank Road. I’ve attached a photo of it again.

Imagine how this would complement our “Museum in the Street” and the New York State historic marker that still stands behind Stewart’s. No one could say “it doesn’t fit in” with the village, because its design is foundational to our community.

But I’m no expert. More important than pushing my own idea, I would say to the planning board: Why not go to the experts who wrote to you, to the people who understand history and architecture and the way it should be manipulated to complement the traditional styles of our village, and let the experts come up with the design?

The planning board members should not be deciding on this or that detail of the façade, on the stone vs. the brick, on the columns, the light posts, the gables, the corbels, etc. as if their own personal tastes were relevant — leave that to the experts in historic architectural design!

And just as importantly, do not allow Stewart’s to say, “I’m not doing that.”

What’s important is to create in the façade a visual experience that communicates not Stewart’s corporate image but Altamont’s unique character, and not just for our generation but for the generations of future patrons who will be visiting our village and our Stewart’s store.

Tom Capuano


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