News Column

Barracks earns Seven to Save designation

August 6, 2014

By Cara Chapman and Lois Clermont, The Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, N.Y.



Aug. 06--PLATTSBURGH -- The Old Stone Barracks, under contract for purchase by a local nonprofit group, has been named to the Preservation League of New York State's 2014-15 Seven to Save list.

Along with that announcement, the Friends of the Old Stone Barracks formally launched a capital campaign at a public unveiling at Clinton Community College Tuesday night to raise $225,000 over the course of the next five months to complete purchase of the building.

"The $225,000 includes the cost of the building and includes the cost, as we see it, of some basic repair work, securing the foundation and some operating funds to carry us through," Friends President Jerry Bates said.

READY TO HELP

Erin Tobin, regional director of the Preservation League's technical and grant programs, explained that the barracks is one of seven sites across the state that the league will focus on for as long as necessary.

"As it (the barracks) looks to its next chapter in its life, the Preservation League will look to provide some priority in terms of what funding we have available," she said.

"We will support these fundraising efforts, and we're very, very happy to provide whatever enhanced visibility and raising awareness we can do."

The Old Stone Barracks, constructed in 1838, is the oldest building at the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

"Since 1999, Seven to Save has mobilized community leaders and decision-makers to take action when historic resources are threatened," League President Jay DiLorenzo said Tuesday in a news release.

"A Seven to Save designation from the league delivers invaluable technical assistance, fosters increased media coverage and public awareness and opens the door to grant assistance for endangered properties."

UNDER CONTRACT

The nonprofit Friends of the Old Stone Barracks was formed to negotiate with Montreal businessman Bernard Schneider to acquire the property.

He had purchased the 7.75-acre property from Plattsburgh Airbase Redevelopment Corp. in 2011 for $35,000, proposing its conversion to apartments -- an idea that raised public ire.

Schneider put the property back on the market for $400,000 in 2013.

Friends of the Old Stone Barracks now has a contract to purchase it for $168,000, Bates said, less than its most recent assessment at $185,000.

Without any publicly announced fundraising, the group has been able to raise $17,000, enough to make the $10,000 down payment and leave some working capital.

A CALL TO THE PUBLIC

Friends of the Old Stone Barracks now looks to the people of the North Country to assist with funding.

"We're going to raise the money with your help by reaching out to the thousands of people near and far who recognize that the barracks is among the most historic buildings in the North Country, is among the most threatened buildings in the North Country and is also a place with incredible promise," said Steven Engelhart, executive director of Adirondack Architectural Heritage and Friends group member.

Engelhart said that while fundraising goes on over the next five months, the Friends group wants to start involving the public in discussions about the site's future by holding public forums and reaching out through social media.

"We're going to try to bring as many of you into the conversation as possible so that within a relatively short amount of time, collectively, we will find out what the highest and best use is for this building, for this property."

Engelhart said possibilities that might emerge could include using the barracks as a visitors center, for public or civic space or to house a cluster of nonprofit organizations.

He said private uses could range from a craft brewery to a restaurant to an inn.

Bates said he does not think any uses are out of bounds, so long as the barracks' facade does not change.

"The interior can be remodeled in whatever way it's suitable," he said. "The preservation effort is generally to keep the outward structure intact."

NEXT CHAPTER

Engelhart said the purchase of the Old Stone Barracks brings two opportunities to the North Country: to save the site and to become a preservation community.

"If one were to study what are the key ingredients to successful communities all around the country," he said, "one of the things that you'd find is that, whether they are small towns or small cities, these are communities that have embraced their heritage and preserved their architecture and made these things part of their identity and part of their future."

Tobin said the Preservation League would "make sure that we can support the Friends of the Old Stone Barracks and the entire community that rallies around the preservation and adaptive use of this wonderful building.

"It's such a delight to be in a community that is so excited about its history, that has come so far so fast," she said.

"Although it's been four years, and I'm sure a very long four years, in preservation-advocacy efforts, that's a nanosecond because these efforts take decades, and it's really wonderful to be a part of this as it moves forward to its next chapter."

Email Lois Clermont: lclermont@pressrepublican.com

Twitter: @EditorLois

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(c)2014 the Press-Republican (Plattsburgh, N.Y.)

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Source: Press-Republican (Plattsburgh, NY)


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