The Dr. Crounse property will always hold a special, revered place in my heart

— Enterprise file photo — Elizabeth Floyd Mair

The front door and sidelights of the Doctor Frederick Crounse House will be preserved and displayed in the Guilderland Public Library.

To the Editor:

I just drove by the Crounse House and saw that village vehicles were parked there. I knew that before the Crounse House was demolished, the village would remove the front door and sidelights to be preserved and displayed in the Guilderland Public Library in honor of the legacy of Altamont’s Dr. Frederick Crounse. Thank you, Director Tim Wiles, for your appreciation of our local history.

With the doorway removed, the house is now ready for demolition, which I understand will take place next week. Having been involved with others in trying to save the building for some time because of the role Dr. Crounse played in our history, I find that I have developed a kind of emotional response to the thought of it actually coming down.

I even thought of having some kind of a memorial tribute to Dr. Crounse at the site as it crashed to the ground — but was told it would be unsafe, possibly illegal, and far better to write something here.

As pertains to the historic significance of the Dr. Crounse house/property to the community, I approach it from a little different perspective than some do.

The fact that Guilderland and Altamont bought the property to begin with seemed such an important statement as to its value to the village. This coupled with the request of the mayor that I bring a group of community people together to make recommendations about the future uses of the building seemed to add to the sense that this was an important site to be honored and revered.

In addition, in my opinion, the following historical record by Arthur Gregg of the 134th Regiment from Schoharie camping on its way to war justifies that the Crounse homestead as a venerated space:

“... in his yard, all around his house, and in the surrounding fields, on the night of September 22, 1862, the nearly one thousand soldiers of the 134th Regiment of the NY Volunteer Infantry camped for the night and were attended by this tireless physician before departing in the morning for Albany and beyond to fight in Gettysburg and in the Atlanta Campaign of the Civil War.”

When else in our history would over a 1,000 soldiers, plus many wives and families as camp followers, descend on our village en masse to rest and be attended to by a trusted village doctor? Just try to imagine what it was like that day — nervous young men, families saying goodbye, perhaps double the number of people in the village. I would contend that this may have been the most impressive, important date and event in our Village history.

And, even though the soldiers didn’t return home as a group, they certainly traveled to Schoharie via Altamont as the main direct route, and surely some suffered injuries, who were attended by Dr. Crounse along the way. One of those returnees was a man who had lost both legs in the war, and who stayed at the local inn close by on his way back to Richmondville, Schoharie County. And this man, in fact, was the stenographer at Abraham Lincoln’s deathbed after the assassination.

Dr. Crounse was also highly acclaimed for his efforts on behalf of the anti-renters in the Hilltowns. And, as pertains to his role Altamont’s early history specifically, he deserves our recognition as the first doctor of “West Guilderland,” graduating at 24 from medical school, and building his house and detached doctor’s office here in 1833, one of the few remaining buildings built before the Civil War:

“... from his homestead, in all seasons and every kind of weather, Dr. Crounse set out in his horse and gig on his rounds to deliver babies, care for the sick and offer his professional support to all who needed him, serving our community for over 60 years,” Gregg wrote.

There are those who diminish the importance of preserving old structures, especially if they have “no architectural significance.” But that is not the issue here, other than it is one of the oldest structures remaining in the village. The value is in what occurred at that location — at that site, on those grounds, and by who lived, worked, and served there. That is why for me the Dr. Crounse property will always hold a special, revered place in my heart.

A biography of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in America, in 1849, begins at a 2018 event where they are honoring her “before .... an elderly and unremarkable building.” But it was in that building where Elizabeth Blackwell established the first hospital for women. I smiled as I read that when I thought, in our small home-town way, we could have honored Dr. Frederick Crounse at his home, “an elderly and unremarkable building,” because it was in that building that our esteemed country doctor established the first medical practice in Altamont — and went on to add so much more to our history.

Kristin Casey


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