Sharps Corner boomed and receded along with U.S. Route 20

— Photo from the Guilderland Historical Society

The Sharp-Jeffers House stood opposite Judge Jacob J. Clute’s house on what was a working farm. Just beyond the two houses on Western Turnpike was a covered bridge over the Normanskill which was removed in the early 1920s when Route 20 was paved. This house is no longer standing.

Sitting impatiently, waiting for the light to change at the intersection of routes 158 and 20, few drivers are aware that these corners have a rich history dating back to the 18th Century. Once this area was part of a land grant called Elizabethfield, a wilderness tract of 1,322 acres running along the fertile banks of the Normanskill, a 1764 gift from Patroon Stephen Van Rensselaer II to his daughter, Elizabeth, and new son-in-law, Abraham Ten Broeck.

Gilbert Sharp, a Revolutionary War veteran who had served in Albany County’s 7th Regiment, was deeded a parcel of 161 acres plus 20 perches (an obscure English measurement) along the Normanskill in 1801. Our late town historian William Brinkman noted that Gilbert Sharp had “Land Bounty Rights,” but it is not clear if this was a factor in his acquisition of this part of the Elizabethfield grant.

About the same time that Gilbert Sharp took possession of his land, the Great Western Turnpike was laid out, cutting through the center of his farm. According to Brinkman, Sharp took advantage of turnpike traffic through what was a sparsely populated section of the turnpike to run some sort of tavern.

The site of his house, barn, and family cemetery were located on the southeast corner of what became a crossroads. Sharp family descendants farmed this land for over a century until their land was taken away from them by the city of Watervliet in about 1917. Watervliet used power of eminent domain to dam the Normanskill to create a reservoir, flooding several farms along that length of the waterway.

Arthur P. Sharp’s 1928 obituary stated he was the last descendant to have been born and lived on the old Sharp homestead until forced to move. The farmhouse and barn are now long gone and that corner is overgrown with trees and brush. The family cemetery still remains.

At an early time, a road, probably nothing more than a dirt track, connected the area of Hendrick Appel’s Tavern and the original Helderberg Reformed Church (now called Osborns Corners — the intersection of routes 158 and 146) ran north past Gilbert Sharp’s farm, crossing the Great Western Turnpike (now Route 20), to create the intersection.

By the early 1900s, this became known as Sharp’s Corners because supposedly there was a member of the Sharp family living on each corner. This road continued on to cross Old State Road at Parkers Corners and beyond to Rotterdam. Today this is designated Route 158.



County Judge Jacob J. Clute, a local celebrity who was esteemed as “a prominent and highly respected citizen,” owned a gentleman’s farm along the Normanskill, which was the family’s summer home. His name appears frequently in The Enterprise, both socially as a summer resident and professionally relating to cases in his court.

With his brother-in-law as farm manager, the property was in operation as a year-round farm where fine carriage horses were raised. The judge made many improvements to the house, which was a local showplace.

His niece Ina Clute inherited the property, marrying Lloyd Sharp; the couple lived there until the 1970s. The house and barns remain today. The Clute farm occupied the southwest corner until eventually a corner lot was sold off and has been the site for various commercial purposes since the 1920s or 1930s.

Across the Turnpike from Clute’s home was another imposing home acquired by Arthur Jeffers who married a member of the Sharp family. Sadly, after several changes in ownership, this lovely house burned in 2004.

When the Jeffers lived here, the property was part of a working farm. The original barn burned in 1927 and Mr. Jeffers invited his neighbors to help with a barn razing (that’s quoting the announcement in The Enterprise!) before erecting a big new barn that year, which still stands today.

Sometime in the 1920s or 1930s, the northwest corner of this property was sold for a service station as well. The whole area around the corners was originally agricultural, and many other families farmed in addition to the Sharps.

In the marshy overgrowth along the Normanskill and its tributary the Bozenkill or among stands of woods then still to be found in the vicinity, so much wild game abounded that it was a sportsman’s paradise. Hunters’ exploits were often reported in The Enterprise.

During the spring of 1888, three minks and 75 muskrats met their end, shot by Alvin Sharp who by December 1895 had already killed three foxes and 140 partridges and trapped 40 skunks. The pelts could be sold, supplementing a farmer’s income.

The stands of trees not only provided shelter for wild game and firewood for stoves, but extra cash for farmers as well. In 1893, Gilbert Sharp sold “lots” of trees, receiving “fair prices” for the timber.

A hemlock tree from Peter Sharp’s farm (now the Knaggs farm on Route 20) was taken to Tygert’s Saw Mill on Black Creek not far away, where it was expected that it would produce 1,200 feet of lumber. Having that saw mill a mile away provided a ready market for timber.

Although Sharps Corners had its own identity, it was simply an area of working farms on a crossroads. Unlike other area hamlets, there was no one-room school, church, general store, or post office.

Children hiked a distance either to Osborne Corners or Dunnsville schools. Churchgoers trekked to either Parkers Corners Methodist Church or Helderberg Reformed Church at Osborn Corners. Until the advent of Rural Free Delivery in the 1890s, residents had to travel to Dunnsville for their mail and there or to Fullers to shop at a general store.



The 20th-Century arrival of the automobile and the designation of the Western Turnpike as U.S. Route 20, a main route into western New York, transformed Sharps Corners especially after Route 20 was paved through that section in the early 1920s.

There was money to be made from all those travelers passing through and, by 1927, Al and Eleanor Folke opened a Texaco gas station, restaurant, and tourist cabins on the northeast corner of the intersection.

A menu surviving from their Sharp’s Corner’s Grill offering “real home cooking” and the additional information, “yes, we have beer” dates the menu from the time when Prohibition ended or soon after.

An official notice in The Enterprise on July 14, 1933, announcing that beer and wine could be consumed “on said premises,” shows the Folkes wasted no time getting permission to sell alcohol at their restaurant.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner were offered at 1930s prices — pork chop dinner 60 cents or steak and potatoes, vegetable, bread and butter, coffee, tea or milk for 75 cents. Their place sold ice cream and candy as well, attracting neighborhood children on their way home from school.

After Al Folke’s death in 1959, his wife, Eleanor, continued the business with help from Walter A. Sharp, her neighbor, until 1968. The restaurant was eventually converted into a residence and within recent years was demolished along with the remaining derelict cabins. Wooden sheds are sold on the property today.

This intersection saw not only increased through traffic on U.S. Route 20 but, as more and more Guilderland residents took jobs at General Electric, Route 158 traffic volume grew as well, making these corners the perfect location for a gas station or two as time went by.

On the northwest corner, two brothers-in-law, Evan Crounse and George Armstrong, opened the Sharp’s Corner Garage in 1930, “always at your service,” doing general repairs and Chevrolet Sales and Service in addition to selling gas.

There were eventually two garages facing each other across Route 20, each with a series of owners. Another longtime garage there was Sands Esso Service Center and today is the site of Ma’s Gas Station.

With the volume of traffic flowing in all directions, often at high speed, Sharp’s Corners quickly turned into a deadly intersection. Endless accidents, often leading to fatalities, occurred there especially after Route 20 was paved in the early 1920s.

After one more tragic death in 1930, Supervisor Edwin J. Plank went to Albany to appeal to the State Highway Department to place a stoplight at Sharp’s Corners. Claiming in recent years there had been five persons killed at this intersection, not to mention the numbers injured and the damages to automobiles, he was apparently successful in his quest for a traffic light.

When, in 1935, another man died in an accident at the intersection, it was noted, “The light was not working properly and may have been the cause of the crash.”

It must have been one of the first, if not the first, traffic light in the town of Guilderland, although it may have been a flashing red-yellow light instead of the type that is there now.

Folke’s tourist cabins had become outdated after World War II when more sophisticated travelers demanded additional amenities. William and Trudi Goedde opened the Charldine Motel two-tenths of a mile east of the intersection, looking across Route 20 to the reservoir and escarpment beyond.

Once the Thruway opened its full length in the mid1950s, traffic on Route 20 became mostly local causing motel owners to scramble to find new sources of income.

In 1961, the Goeddes were offering to rent motel rooms on a long-term basis to new teachers while three years later they advertised the Charldine Rest Home connected to the motel, catering to the elderly by the week or all year-round.

By 1966, they opened a restaurant with spaghetti dinner and southern fried chicken on the menu. Finally, in June 1971, the Goeddes sold their Charldine Motel to Mr. and Mrs. Ditterly.

One February night in 1979, fanned by high winds, a destructive fire raced through the motel destroying it. The property where it was once located stood vacant and overgrown until 2010 when commercial buildings were erected there.

Where once stage coaches rolled and oxen hauling freight wagons lumbered along, today endless passenger vehicles and heavy trucks speed through, oblivious to the long-ago turnpike and the Sharp family members who once lived on each corner.