Crounse House set for demolition, again 

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Having been jointly-owned by the village of Altamont and the town of Guilderland since 2006, and after a number of attempts to save it, the Doctor Frederick Crounse House is once again slated for demolition. 

ALTAMONT — Blink and you might have missed it.

 The board of trustees on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the village of Altamont to solicit bids for the “demolition of a vacant structure at 759 Route 146.”

The 40 seconds from when the resolution was introduced to when it was adopted apparently did not leave enough time to identify the vacant structure by its more common name: The Doctor Frederick Crounse House.

“Many years ago, the Village came to the conclusion that the Crounse House was beyond repair. Since then, multiple citizen groups expressed an interest in saving the house without committing taxpayer funds. Unfortunately, all of those plans fell through leaving us back where we started but with a building in even worse shape than it was in 2016,” Mayor Kerry Dineen told The Enterprise by email on Wednesday.

“So, after meeting with the town multiple times over the winter, and allocating money for the project during our budget workshops, we are moving forward with our original plan which involves going through the bid process to remove the building and make the site safe. A building in this condition wouldn’t be tolerated for this long if it was owned by anyone else besides the Town and the Village. It’s time we hold ourselves to the same standards we expect of property owners and address this issue.”

The town and village each set aside $50,000 toward the demolition. Village Treasurer Catherine Hasbrouck told The Enterprise in April that demolition may not cost $100,000 but the village board wanted a buffer built in.

The house was built in 1833 by Crounse, Altamont’s first doctor, who lived and practiced there for six decades. He also helped the Helderberg tenant farmers during the Anti-Rent Wars when they rebelled against the feudal patroon system. During the Civil War, the 134th regiment camped in front of the house, as Dr. Crounse stayed up all night, helping the regiment doctor with the sick and wounded soldiers.

The Crounse House has been jointly owned by the village and town of Guilderland since 2006. The municipalities together paid $40,000 in back taxes to Albany County to purchase the Federal-era single-family home. 

And it’s not the first time it’s been slated for demolition.

 In February 2017, an engineer hired by the village said that, while sections in the back of the house had collapsed, the primary structure had been “in generally good to poor shape.”

In December 2017, the Guilderland Town Board voted, 4 to 0, to demolish the building at the intersection of Route 146 and Gun Club Road. Part of the building had been condemned by the town’s then-acting chief building and zoning inspector, Jacqueline Coons. 

“The whole roof on the back of it is falling in on itself,” Coons, now the town’s chief building and zoning inspector, said at the time.

In 2006, when the house was first acquired by the village and town, Altamont’s mayor at the time, James Gaughan, described the condition of the building as “fair to good.” He envisioned housing the village’s extensive archives there, where visitors could learn about Altamont’s history. But, instead, neither the town nor village did anything to restore or maintain the structure. 

There was already significant damage to the interior of the home caused by leaks when the village board considered fixing the roof in late 2015.

It was decided in November 2015 that the building would be re-roofed to prevent further deterioration, and that money from the village’s general fund would be used to pay for it. The funds would be recouped through a $25,000 legislative grant obtained by Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy.

But in January 2016, Gaughan announced that the estimated costs of re-roofing had gone up because asbestos had been discovered in the roof. 

The town board had gotten an estimate from the engineering firm Barton & Loguidice of almost $39,000 that would cover re-roofing, asbestos remediation, and some necessary structural stabilization.

In March 2018, after public outcry, the Guilderland Town Board voted unanimously to list for sale, rather than tear down, the historic Doctor Crounse House. The Altamont Board of Trustees followed suit a month later. However, the house was never listed with a real-estate agent.

In May 2018, a group of town and village residents, Historic Altamont Inc.,  expressed interest in trying to buy and save the house.

In July 2018, the town and village boards voted on an agreement that would have allowed Jay Cougar White Cloud, an internationally-known timberwright, to restore the house — without the municipalities not having to pay anything for labor or materials, in exchange for him living on the 2.8-acre property.

The plan was for White Cloud to build a timber-frame structure for himself and to showcase traditional means of construction for the interested public. In August 2018, White Cloud was in the midst of covering the leaky roof with plastic, supported by Historic Altamont, when town officials stopped them. A month of heavy rains followed.

By November 2018, the group wrote a letter to Guilderland Supervisor Peter Barber and Dineen advising them that it would no longer seek ownership of the house. Then in June of last year, billing it as a last-ditch effort to save the house, Historic Altamont asked the town and village for one last reprieve in order to pursue a grant that may cover the entire cost of restoring the decrepit yet historic home.

Later in June 2019, citing a lack of support from the village as well as time constraints, said that it would no longer seek the state grant that may have covered the entire cost of restoring the historic — yet dilapidated — home.

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