What if we could build a structure similar to the Crounse House as a welcoming entrance to our village?

To the Editor:

I wholeheartedly support everything said in last week’s editorial about learning to preserve our history.  I, too, was saddened to learn from Enterprise reporter Elizabeth Floyd Mair that demolition was on last week’s Guilderland Town Board meeting agenda.

The pang of sadness was especially difficult for me because it was just two years ago that the then-mayor had asked me and others to help with community support to try to save the building.  This, compounded with Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy’s grant through Guilderland of $25,000 to repair the roof, gave us a glimmer of hope that we could in fact preserve the structure in honor of Dr. Crounse.

After not having heard much about the plans for the building and property since its purchase in 2006, I was happy to hear the board was finally able to focus on this project, and felt willing to participate in a community fundraising effort, if necessary.

We toured the building several times, met as a group and with our local museum officials, contacted local contractors to consider least expensive ways to do the work, spoke with and received support from some neighbors, recommended a plan and appeared before the Altamont Village Board.

However, after hearing the report from the village engineers that it would cost $112,000 for initial work even before consideration of interior renovations — for a total amount someone at the meeting said could be as much as $500,000, I realized it just wasn't going to be possible to save it.

This was reinforced when some members of the village board said the amounts were too much to spend on a house that “has been talked about not being historic.”

As a community member, I feel partially responsible for this loss, having not stepped forward back in 2006 to help when the building was in salvageable condition. At the time, however, many of us were working both on the train station [renovation for the Altamont Free Library] and the 2006 Village Comprehensive Plan.

We did insure, though, that a goal was included in the plan to preserve existing historical resources, and further, to prepare an Historic Resources Inventory and map to guide village decision-making.

As we lose elements of our historical past, as in this case, and the recent demolition of the old tavern on Route 20, we do have many wonderful examples of efforts to protect our history, as in the many homes individuals continue to refurbish; the owners of the Van Aernam barn on Brandle Road; and, of course, the incredible community effort to preserve and repurpose the Altamont Train Station.

But I hear what Melissa is saying — we must be ever vigilant.  We must, “Let us learn to preserve our history.”

One last comment.  Some of us had great hopes of refurbishing the Crounse House as an exhibit space for Dr. Crounse and the Village Museum, as well as a Welcome Center for Altamont, West Guilderland, Thacher Park and the Hilltowns — highlighting the beauty, businesses, and opportunities for outdoor recreation.  What if we could raise not $500,000 but say $250,000 to build a structure similar to the Crounse House, and use the old Crounse House front door and entryway (perhaps the only salvageable portion of the house) to still create a welcoming entrance to our village?

I for one would be happy to participate in such an effort and I bet there are many other members of the community willing to come on board.  Just a thought ….

Kristin Casey

Altamont

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