Town park to be created at Hilton Barn site

— Photo from the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy

A map of the park shows the 14 acres donated by the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy to the town of New Scotland. The area is bordered by Route 85A, Hilton Road, and the Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail.

NEW SCOTLAND — Acres of parkland will soon surround the newly situated Hilton Barn.

The parkland is largely possible because of a donation by the great-granddaughter of Captain Joseph Hilton, Jennifer Hilton.

Hilton hopes the barn — built in 1898 — which is 60 feet high and twice as long, will be preserved and made into some sort of landmark.

“I hope it will be a place of natural beauty and enjoyment for New Scotland residents and the Albany County area,” she said. “It’s always nice to preserve open space.”

The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy's executive director, Mark King, presented the town of New Scotland with 14 acres recently donated by landowners to the foundation. The property is situated between Route 85A, Hilton Road, and the Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail, and includes the site of the Hilton Barn. The town intends to develop the property into a park, named the Captain Joseph Hilton Town Park.

“We’re hoping this would be kind of a centerpiece for the town,” said King at the Dec. 14 town board meeting. “It’s likely to be the only the green space out there,” he later added, noting the rapid development in town.

King later told The Enterprise that there could eventually be developments on all sides of the property: Kensington Woods lies to the south, and to the east is an area once proposed as the site for a big-box store that is now being considered for a mixed-use development; west of the site are a series of homes.

“There’s a tremendous amount of development, planned or envisioned,” said King. “Basically, all of it would end up in some kind of use, commercial or residential.”

King said this land, which would adjoin the rail trail, is important to preserve in order to ensure a pleasant landscape alongside the trail and to avoid legal issues with the trail adjoining private property.

Town Supervisor Douglas LaGrange told The Enterprise that some developments in town, like Kensington Woods, have been zoned to allot a certain amount of green space.

“We have a provision in our zoning code to have green space in a lot of our development,” he said.

The town currently has two parks, Stephen P. Wallace Park at 148 Swift Road in Voorheesville, and Feura Bush Park at 63 Mathias Place in Feura Bush. In the village, there are three parks: Hotaling Park at the corner of Maple and Voorheesville Avenue, Locust Drive Park, and Nichols Park behind the village hall on Voorheesville Avenue.

 

— Photo by Dietrich Gehring
The cathedral-like interior of the Hilton Barn displays its century-old structure. According to a release from the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, it is believed to be the largest post and beam structure still standing in Albany County. The town of New Scotland is looking to build a park around the site of the barn.
 
The Enterprise — H. Rose Schneider
The Hilton Barn sits upon property at the corner of Route 85A and Hilton Road. To its left is the Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail. Behind it lies property recently acquired by the town to be developed into a park.

 

 

A year-long land-grab

The conservancy had started attempts to acquire an acre of land last year to be given to the town to move the Hilton Barn to, King told The Enterprise.

“We’ve kind of had an ongoing discussion since then,” he said.

According to Daron Blake, communications director for the conservancy, the town had first approached the conservancy about acquiring the land earlier this year. The town was given 1.1 acres of land as a new site for the Hilton Barn earlier this year, and in March the barn was moved across Route 85A to save it from being torn down by a developer. It it was lowered onto its new foundation last month.

Hilton and her cousin, George Kain, another Hilton heir, sold the acre. But there was still concern over what could happen to the land surrounding the acre the barn stood on.

Following the move, the conservancy started working to purchase the entirety of the land for the town, said Blake.

“We got the one acre as soon as possible,” LaGrange said. “But we knew we wanted to expand on it.”  LaGrange noted that construction on land so close to the barn could have detracted from it, and it was important to prevent that.

Following the agreement by the town to accept the property as parkland, the conservancy purchased the land on Dec. 15 for $160,000 from Hilton and Kain.

 

Captain Joseph Hilton 

 

Honoring family

Hilton told The Enterprise she donated seven of the 14 acres, the half of the property that she owned. She also paid for half of the cost of buying the other half of the land from Kain. New Scotland resident Dr. Peter Kelly paid for the other half.

Both Hilton and Kain currently live in Virginia. Hilton said most of the dealings were conducted over the phone or by email, but she had met two or three times in person with those involved.

King explained that Hilton felt vested in the donation due to her family’s legacy in the town.

“She felt she was tied to that legacy,” said King.

Kelly, said King, was interested in donating money because he appreciated the agricultural character of the town.

LaGrange said that Kelly’s late father used to document old barns in Australia. The preservation of the Hilton barn was done by his son in his honor.

Town Board member William Hennessy said at the meeting that this was one of the largest donations to the town.

“The magnanimity she (Hilton) has for the site and the town is incredible,” he said.

Joseph Hilton, was a Civil War Captain who brought Devonshire cattle from Europe to his farm in New Scotland. Jennifer Hilton’s grandfather was born on the farm, but moved to New Jersey to work for the New York Central Railroad. The farm was sold off sometime in the mid-2oth Century, and the farmhouse was dismantled. Jennifer Hilton never lived in the area, but saw the farmhouse before it was destroyed and saw the barn before it was moved. She also witnessed the barn being moved across Route 85A.

“It was my family’s ancestry,” she explained. “Both my father and grandfather were very proud of the area.”

“I think it’s part of preserving a bit of what’s left of my family’s heritage,” Hilton said. “It’s a nice way to create a legacy.”

Hilton said she has been working upwards of three years to donate land to the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. She was first contacted by King about donating the acre for the Hilton Barn.

“I’m really happy,” said Hilton this week. “It was worth the stress and the trouble to get to this point.”

What’s next?

King described the property as an overgrown combination of trees and invasive shrubs, much different from when it was farmland.

“We’re concerned that it at least be cleaned up in the near future,” he said. “Ultimately, we’d like to see a real design for it.”

Most of the land is under a restriction to be used only as parkland, and only 20 percent of the land will allowed to be covered by an impervious surface, such as a parking lot, said King at the Dec. 14 meeting.

He later told The Enterprise that this wouldn’t include the acre originally given to the town, along with an additional acre.

It was noted at the meeting that the park will have access to the rail trail, which might encourage the county to complete the paving of the trail.

Town attorney Michael Naughton stated that there should be no environmental impacts because for now the land should remain in its natural state. He also said it is an archaeologically sensitive area and limits on tree cutting, which shouldn’t have to occur at the park, would have to be put in place to protect the threatened Northern long-eared bat population.

LaGrange told The Enterprise that there wasn’t yet an expected date for park completion, but he hoped each year some progress would be made in getting it to how town would like it to be.

“This is going to be a long process,” he said. However, he also hopes that a year from now parking and even some walking paths may be available on the land.

“To acquire 15-plus acres and moving a barn in less than a year is an incredible feat,” said LaGrange. “Now, we can kind of sit back and sort of look at it methodically.”

A park akin to Five Rivers, made up of nature trails, would take less time to create than a park with tennis courts or a swimming pool, explained LaGrange. Now, the town will need to discuss what should be put in place, along with how to fund it and how other municipalities may participate.

“It’s just been an incredible year. We’ve accomplished a lot with a lot of help,” he said.

More New Scotland News

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  • The Voorheesville Central School District in a letter to parents said that “based on the timing of when” a person newly diagnosed with COVID-19 was “last at school, the Albany County Department of Health has indicated no need for further action, on behalf of the school, to have school community members quarantine.” 

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