Developer Eyes N.Y. "Mount Vernon"
Story by Catherine Finn / Nov. 9, 2006
From Preservation Online
Neighbors of a 19th-century house in Niskayuna, N.Y., are trying to
fight a commercial development on its 12-acre estate that will turn
the nursing home into a restaurant.
Schenectady-based Highbridge Development, which will be able to buy
the land once its building permits are approved, wants to demolish
the 1840s addition to the Stanford Home, move the main building from
its hilltop to another part of the property, and convert it to a restaurant.
Highbridge not only wants to build businesses on the land but level
the hill that many locals consider a defining feature of the property.
Originally 800 acres, the estate was the home and farm of John Duncan,
whose son was reportedly a Loyalist spy during the Revolutionary War.
In 1816, after a fire burned down the original house, the Schulyer
family built the existing Federal-style mansion. Josiah Stanford bought
the house before the Civil War, and his family started selling off
the land in the 1920s.
"The mansion has changed little over the years and is still beautiful
and imposing," says John Wolcott, a local preservationist who
co-founded Friends of the Stanford Home last November.
Wolcott's group is in a prolonged battle with the developer, government
officials, and the owners of the nursing home. They hope that because
of the presence of an aquifier-which, if disturbed, could raise water
levels in the area-the Stanford Home and its hill will remain untouched.
Moving the Federal-style house would disqualify its consideration
for historic designation, and Linda Champagne, a member of Friends
of the Stanford Home and town historian, wants the house recognized
as a historic site. (It is currently not on any local, state, or national
register.) She envisions the building as a learning center for the
history of the land and property. There are a large amount of antique
books, letters, and artifacts that Champagne says could be displayed
in the building.
"There's nothing like it. We have such rich documentation on
the history of the building and the surrounding area," Champagne
says. "It's our Mount Vernon."
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