Saratoga County

Ballston buys historic Hawkwood property

The town of Ballston has bought the historic Hawkwood property at the corner of Route 50 and Middle
Photo from town historian Rick Reynolds, circa 1900. Unidentified members of the Baker family.
Photo from town historian Rick Reynolds, circa 1900. Unidentified members of the Baker family.

The town of Ballston has bought the historic Hawkwood property at the corner of Route 50 and Middle Line Road, following two years of negotiations.

The heavily wooded 246-acre property, which includes historic building foundations, is to become a passive recreation park, open to the public for hiking, cross-country skiing and similar uses.

“This park will provide many uses and great experiences for our town residents,” said Supervisor-elect Tim Szczepaniak, who will take office Friday. “I envision many school field trips to this beautiful nature park where children will not only enjoy the nature, but will learn its history.”

It is known as “Hawkwood” because that was the name of a mansion that once stood on the property. The land was owned until earlier this month by John Hubbard Taylor, who lives out-of-state, and the estate of William Taylor.

“A sincere and heartfelt thank you to the Taylor family, whose patience and commitment to preservation allowed us to take ownership of this jewel,” Town Supervisor Patrick Ziegler said in a Facebook post.

He also thanked the Frank Schidzick estate for its role — providing the money that allowed the town to make the purchase.

Records at the Saratoga County Clerk’s Office in Ballston Spa show the Taylor family selling the property to the Schidzick estate for $575,000, then transferring ownership to the town for a dollar. The private land conservation group Saratoga PLAN will hold a permanent conservation easement on the site to prevent its future development.

The Schidzick estate bequeathed roughly $800,000 to the town after Frank Schidzick’s death in 2001, to be used for recreational purposes. The Ballston Lake farmer’s bequest hasn’t been spent before now because the town residents debated potential uses. In early 2014, a tentative agreement was reached to use it to buy the Hawkwood land, but detailed negotiations took until now to bear fruit.

The only other Ballston town park is Jenkins Park in Burnt Hills.

The deal closed earlier this month and deeds were filed with the Saratoga County Clerk’s Office on Dec. 21.

The park, yet to be named, will be open for picnicking, walking and bird watching in the summer, and snowshoeing, snowmobiling, hiking and cross country skiing in the winter. Hunting will not be allowed.

According to town historian Rick Reynolds, the original building on the property dated back to the 1790s. It was built by Henry Walton, who he said bucked the trend at the time and decided not to build his mansion in Saratoga. In the 1800s, the property was owned by the wealthy Delevan family of Albany, and later by another wealthy family, the Bakers.

Reynolds said old foundations from the original house remain, as well as remains from outbuildings. The town will conduct an archaeological dig on the property in the near future, he said.

Szczepaniak said some of the remaining Schidzick estate money can be used for needed improvements at the new park, including a parking area and restrooms.

The town comprehensive plan in 2006 identified Hawkwood as a property worth trying to permanently preserve, along with the nearby Cappiello farm on Route 50. The Cappiello property has since been acquired by another farmer and has been placed under a permanent conservation easement.

Volunteers are being sought for the town Parks and Recreation Committee, which is chaired by Councilwoman Kelly Stewart and will help oversee the park. Anyone interested in serving may contact her through the Ballston Town Hall.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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