LeVie barn to be razed

Enterprise file photo — Melissa Hale-Spencer

“It’s a significant structure, symbolic of the town’s history,” said New Scotland Councilman Daniel Mackay last February as he toured the 1898 barn he hoped to save. Last week, the town board determined there were no takers to save and relocate the massive structure. The land where it stands will be a housing development. 

Enterprise file photo — Melissa Hale-Spencer

Cathedral-like: The New Scotland barn built by Frank Osterhout in 1898 for Joseph Hilton by 160 volunteers is 60 feet wide, 60 feet high, and 120 feet long. It will be razed.

NEW SCOTLAND — The LeVie barn’s reprieve from demolition has ended – only photos, architectural drawings, and salvaged beams will remain after a February deadline.

“This is the issue that wakes me up at night,” Councilman Daniel Mackay said, choking up. “We may not be able to do right by this structure.”

The owners of the LeVie barn, Country Club Partners, plan to sell both the barn lot and adjacent land to a developer which may build a dozen homes there, near the Colonie Country Club, as part of the Kensington Woods development, on Route 85A just outside Voorheesville.

The barn is known locally for its last owners, the LeVies, who used the barn and a secondary structure for a farm stand.

The barn was originally built for farmer Joseph Hilton by Frank Osterhout with a crew of 160 volunteers in 1898 — an event recorded 117 years ago in The Enterprise — and now houses equipment used on the nearby golf course.

“There’s a certain window here to try to get something done,” Mackay said a year ago, when the town began trying to save the LeVie barn from demolition. At the town board meeting last week, the board voted to close that window for lack of a solution to moving and preserving the large historic barn.

The town joined the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and Office of Parks, Recreation, and Preservation, and Country Club Partners in reviewing the history of the LeVie barn, after the property owners last year requested a water extension to the proposed subdivision. The request triggered a formal investigation process with the state Parks department, said town Supervisor Thomas Dolin.

Mackay, who also serves as the director of public policy at the Preservation League of New York State, said that a reasonable use of the barn, or a serious buyer, had not come forward in the last year.

“Until we find a viable new use for it, I’d be very concerned about raising private dollars for it,” Mackay said. With the current tax cap, he said, using public dollars to save the barn is not possible.

Mackay said that the barn did not meet the state’s needs for, and was too large to be used as, the proposed new visitor’s center at John Boyd Thacher State Park. He also said that personnel from Rensselaerville’s Huyck Preserve had evaluated the barn.

“It’s too big for their needs,” Mackay said.

The barn is 60 feet wide, 60 feet tall, and 120 feet long, and has a 60-ton slate roof.

Board member Douglas LaGrange said that the size of the barn “is its detriment, as much as its glory.”

No solutions

According to the contract signed last year between the property owners and the town, the owners agreed to refrain from demolishing the barn until Feb. 28, 2015. If the town had a proposal to relocate the barn, the owner would allow the town until May 31, 2015, according to the agreement.

Mackay said last week that the preservation tier of actions for the barn, according to the Parks department, is:

  • If the building cannot remain standing, it can be moved, or relocated;
  • If the building cannot be relocated, it should be salvaged architecturally by May 2015, at which point documentation must begin, including photos, records of the building’s size, and its craftsmanship of the post-and-beam structure.

“That is not an uncommon mitigation tool,” Mackay said. “It’s a mitigation of last resort.”

Fred Wander, of O’Connell & Aronowitz, representing Country Club Partners, said that archaeologist Steve Oberon, of Columbia Heritage Ltd. had brought forward a potential buyer, but the client was no longer interested.

“I think the issue is the cost,” Dolin said.

“It’s very significant,” Wander said.

“To relocate it in any capacity…the budget for that is probably $500,000 to $700,000,” Mackay said.

Randy Nash, a barn restorationist who has moved other historic barns, estimated last year that simply demolishing the LeVie barn would cost $5,000 to $10,000.

Board member Patricia Snyder asked at the town board meeting whether parts of the barn could be salvaged or disassembled and saved for a future use. Mackay said that disassembling the structure, marking each timber, and storing the materials for an unspecified time would also be expensive.

The timeline was agreed to last spring, board members said.

“We have a pending contract with a developer,” Wander said. The process, and the time that has passed already, has created “a precarious situation with our potential buyer,” Wander said.

 “It’s a significant structure, symbolic of the town’s history,” Mackay said last winter. “Voorheesville is known for its trains, New Scotland for its agricultural heritage...If we start losing our barns, we lose a significant component of our community.”

At the town board meeting, zoning board member Edie Abrams said that losing the LeVie barn, after losing the former Bender melon farmhouse just down the road in the hamlet of New Scotland, was depleting “the unique flavor of what our area is.”

She said that she had written to The Enterprise for years to raise awareness of the need to save the barn.

“I’m very disappointed,” Abrams said. “The town does not put a value on its history, at all. I’ve been advocating for citizen committees for a long, long time.”

“This is a lot of structure,” Mackay said. “Once people who called realized how…big it was, they sucked in their breath. The size-to-cost is what the challenge of the structure is.”

The town board met in executive session to review its contractual relationship regarding the LeVie barn, and then agreed that the town had found no way to affordably relocate or reuse the building within the one-year time frame. The board voted to have Dolin, as supervisor, sign a resolution that the town enter into a stipulation with the state parks department, the DEC, and the property owners for the barn’s historical mitigation before removal by the owners.
LaGrange, Snyder, and Dolin approved the resolution. Mackay abstained from the vote due to the nature of his “close personal relationship” with the barn’s history and his professional interests, he said. Board member William Hennessy was absent.

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