Fort Plain library adds visitor center for tourists

For years, visitors stepping off the docks into the village from the Erie Canal’s Lock 15 found thei

For years, visitors stepping off the docks into the village from the Erie Canal’s Lock 15 found their way to the Fort Plain Free Library, bringing with them questions about what to see and where to eat.

Staff at the Willett Street library have always welcomed these guests and pointed them in the right direction. But up until now, the library never looked like a visitor center, Library Director Laura Flynn said Friday.

Library trustees joined village officials and state Canal Corp. Director Carmella Mantello on Friday to celebrate about $260,000 in work to spruce up the library’s exterior and set up a center inside that will help guide visitors.

Village Mayor Guy Barton said visitors traveling by boat typically walk down River Street, pass the grocery store and Stewart’s shop before stopping at the library for directions and information.

“They walk down this way and this is the first open hand that can help. This welcome center makes it wonderful,” Barton said.

The state Canal Corp. received $10 million from the state Legislature to distribute as grants in an effort to improve what canal travelers see when they tie off their boats and explore the land.

Mantello said 54 nonprofits and municipalities in the state are planning or implementing projects with the grant funding.

These projects include developing bathroom facilities, providing drinkable water, and improving docks and riverside parks, among others.

The Fort Plain Free Library embarked on a $260,000 renovation project that included improvements to the entrance of the former home, built about 1836.

The grand pillars holding the front porch were rehabilitated, as was the decking. A new handicapped accessible ramp was installed as well.

Inside, visitors will be greeted with historic photographs of postcards depicting Fort Plain during the days of the Erie Canal, which was influential in the village’s development.

Another room renovated as part of the project includes new cases to display numerous artifacts from the old Clinton Liberal Institute, which burned in 1900 and was located where the Fort Plain school currently sits.

The co-ed boarding school moved to Fort Plain from Clinton in 1878 and boasted several notable students, including President Grover Cleveland, American Red Cross founder Clara Barton and Simon Lake, inventor of the submarine.

A new garden was also planted on the River Street side of the library, filled with plants and flowers seen during the 1800s, Flynn said.

Flynn said the Canal Corp.’s grant required matching funds, which came from various donors and from state Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna.

The Fort Plain Free Library, at 19 Willett St., is holding a reception from 1 to 4 p.m. this Sunday for those interested in seeing the renovations and visitor center.

Categories: Schenectady County

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