Country store takes visitors back in time (with photo gallery)
Fo’Castle Farms grew from early fruit stand to be store, lunchroom
Every time Anne Hogue walks into Fo’Castle Farms in Burnt Hills, it’s sort of like stepping into a time machine.
“We have people who are bringing their grandchildren, and they’re telling us how when they were young they remember coming here with their grandparents,” said Hogue, who, along with her husband, Glenn, owns and operates Fo’Castle Farms Country Store at 166 Kingsley Road in Burnt Hills. “It’s a step back in time, and I feel like we have customers who have grown up with us. The place really takes us back to our childhood.”
Especially for Hogue. Her grandmother, Martha, married into the family, and it was Martha and her husband, Claude Bailey, who ran the place throughout much of the 1950s and 1960s.
Opened in 1949
While the orchards and the farm go back to Claude’s father, Lt. Commander Claude Bailey, who bought the place in 1906, the country store opened in 1949.
“Originally, there was just a fruit stand, and it was Martha and Claude, the second Claude, who really grew the place to what we have today,” said Hogue. “The store opened in 1949, and the front facade got the look it has today in 1957.”
A coffee shop, which serves lunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day, was added on in the 1960s. While there have been a few renovations since Hogue took over the business from her father in 2002, it still very much resembles the place she used to hang around as a kid when her grandparents were running the store back in the 1960s and 1970s.
“We put a gas stove in the big fireplace, and I thought that might hurt the ambience, but I don’t think it did,” said Hogue, a 1977 graduate of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School. “We also opened up one room and let in some light, and while it is an old building and things have had to be done to it, it really hasn’t changed that much.”
Fo’Castle Farms sells wind chimes, lamps, throws, collectibles, toys, jams, jellies, honey, candles, lotions, soaps and more, and also has its own bakery which, along with serving lunch, creates some wonderful desserts, including its prized apple cider doughnuts.
There are still plenty of apples sold at Fo’Castle, although the Hogues no longer grow them themselves. What was once 60 acres of apple orchards has been reduced to 10 acres, and those are across Blue Barns Road from Fo’Castle and are an independent pick-your-own-apples business known as Focastle Orchards. Alan Colyer, Hogue’s father and a former owner of the country store, now runs Focastle Orchards as a completely separate entity from the store.
“The apple orchards are now a housing development,” said 72-year-old Bill Gately, a Kingsley Road native who worked at the farm and store as a boy and through college. “There used to be ski trails back there but they’re gone now. I’d pick apples when I was young, and when I turned 18 I worked in the store.”
Gately’s mother, Minnie, worked at the store for 46 years before she passed away in 2008.
“She grew up right up the street and she always loved the place,” Gately said of his mother. “They had great products and great food, and people would come from all over. There weren’t that many country stores around back then. I can remember a line of cars on Kingsley Road backed up all the way to the church. It was very popular, and they still do a great business.”
Claude Bailey Jr. was the only son of Lt. Commander Claude Bailey. Claude Jr. and Martha had three sons who all worked in the family business from time to time, and Martha had two daughters from a previous marriage, Pat and Linda. Many of the Baileys, including Claude Jr. and Claude III, often called Joe, were talented artists. Joe’s brother Bob Bailey was a race car driver and is currently owner of Racemark International, an auto accessories company with factories in Atlanta and Switzerland. While the three Bailey boys eventually got out of the family business, it was their sister Pat and her husband, Alan Colyer (Hogue’s parents), who took over running Fo’Castle Farms in the 1960s.
The original Claude Bailey was quite an important figure in Burnt Hills history, according to Rick Reynolds, a former school teacher in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake system and the historian for the town of Ballston. Born in 1869 in a log cabin in Broome County, Ark., Bailey attended the U.S. Naval Academy and served his country for 15 years. A veteran of the Spanish-American War, Bailey moved to Scotia to work for the General Electric Co., and in 1906 moved to Burnt Hills.
“He was an incredible man, who was very successful in the U.S. Navy, and was very proud of his naval service,” said Reynolds. “He was a big supporter of education, and he is the man who is credited with the centralization of the Burnt Hills school district. He began that whole process of consolidating the little one-room schoolhouses that were in the area in 1916, and he also chaired the first meeting of the Burnt Hills volunteer fire department.”
The son of a Confederate soldier, Bailey graduated from the naval academy in 1890. He sailed throughout the Atlantic and Pacific, and when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, he was on a ship that blockaded Havana Harbor and also saw action in the Battle of Manzanillo.
Bailey, who had white hair and a matching mustache and goatee throughout his later life, died in 1963 at the age of 94. Earlier that year, he told Schenectady Union-Star reporter Barbara Hayden why he and his wife, Emily Sawyer Mooers, had moved to Burnt Hills from the Scotia area.
“One day my wife and I drove by horse and buggy into Burnt Hills to a little church supper,” Hayden quoted Bailey as saying. “The people were so cordial. We were very much taken with them. We did not want to spend another winter in Beukendaal and we learned of a farmhouse we could rent for some exorbitant sum like $40 a month. We found the place was for sale and bought it for $6,000. I had never had any experience in money matters and did not know about such things as mortgages.”
Bailey called his home “Three Acres,” and while the large white house still sits right behind the store, it is no longer connected to the family. The name Fo’Castle is an abbreviation of forecastle, which is a term for the upper deck portion of a sailing ship. Gately remembers the lieutenant commander fondly, and along with working at Fo’Castle as a kid, he delivered newspapers to the Bailey home.
“He was a gentleman farmer, always a bit proper and formal, but he always gave me a nice tip at Christmastime,” said Gately. “He was a Navy commander so he’d give us orders, but he was a good guy.”
Back in 1916, it was Bailey who oversaw the construction of what is now Stevens Elementary School on Lakehill Road in the BH-BL district. It brought together the district’s three one-room schoolhouses, but not before a slight change in plans.
“They were about to start building Stevens, but one night Claude and George Schauber went out to the site, picked up the stakes and moved them back about 50 yards so they weren’t so close to the road,” said Reynolds. “It was 1916, the beginning of the automobile revolution, and they had enough foresight to think there might be an issue with cars. Can you imagine anyone doing that today?”
In the first decade of the 20th century, Burnt Hills was still quite a rural place, according to Reynolds.
“When the lieutenant commander moved there in 1906, Route 50 hadn’t been built yet, and the major intersection in Burnt Hills would have been at Kingsley and Lakehill, just north of where Fo’Castle is,” said Reynolds. “Other than that one small section, there was virtually no development. It was all farmland.”