Editor’s Note: As we pause to celebrate the holidays and reflect on the year, we are shining fresh light this week on some of the brightest good news stories of 2018. The stories have been updated to include new developments since their original publication. The following is an update of a story that was last updated on the front page of the Nov. 13 edition. The original story is included below the update. The stories are separated by diamonds.
GLENVILLE — The historic Yates Mansion isn’t done giving up its secrets.
When a contractor earlier this month removed a modern rear addition as part of the town’s efforts to restore the 220-year-old Maple Avenue mansion, it uncovered a previously unknown stone cellar/foundation. The purpose of the foundation remains a mystery, since there’s no passage from it into the rest of the house.
“It’s definitely a separate structure. We don’t know what it was,” said Glenville Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle. “We’re going to get some archaeologists in there. It’s definitely interesting.”
The town bought the former home of early New York governor Joseph Yates in 2017 with the goal of preserving it. Since taking ownership, the town has had the modern interior gutted — the mansion had been carved up into apartments.
In 2019, the town plans to start renovations in earnest, using $150,000 in state grant money. The plan is for the mansion to become a town history center.
The addition that was removed was built around 1990 and was used for a time as professional offices, but it was in poor condition.
“There was water damage. It had no historic value, and it did not fit architecturally with the rest of the building,” Koetzle said.
The newly discovered foundation, which Koetzle estimated is 7 or 8 feet deep, has been covered for safety reasons.
GLENVILLE — The town is starting to peel back layers to reveal the historic bones of the Yates Mansion, where a New York governor once lived.
“We’ve uncovered a lot since we began the renovation,” said Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle, during a visit to the 220-year-old mansion on Monday. “When we first bought the house, it was difficult to see the grandeur — it was all cut up into apartments.”
The town bought the Joseph Yates home on Maple Avenue in April 2017 to save it from the wrecking ball, and officials have been methodically working toward the day when it can reflect the grandeur it held when the nation was young and the American Revolution was still within living memory.
The town’s plan is to repair and restore the mansion, which was carved up into apartments and then allowed to deteriorate for decades.
In removing the plasterboard and drop ceilings that formed the apartments, layers of original brick and hand-hewn wooden beams have been revealed. In the attic, wood-pegged rafters common in early American construction are now visible.
The town bought the mansion for $100,000 and spent the remainder of 2017 planning, fundraising and working toward getting the property onto the State and National Historic registers. The interior cleanup and demolition began earlier this year.
In the spring, the town also removed some overgrown trees from the front of the property, making the mansion more visible from Maple Avenue.
Work continues: In coming weeks, a poorly constructed 1990s addition on the back of the building will be removed, Koetzle said.
So far, Koetzle said, the town’s work has cost less than $50,000, paid for with private fundraising and grants. The state Assembly, through Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, R-Ballston, secured a $100,000 grant for the work, and state Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville, garnered an additional $50,000 in state money for the work. The search for more money continues.
The 2019 town budget includes $73,000 for the start of post-demolition renovation.
“We really anticipate 2019 being the year when we do renovation,” Koetzle said.
Ultimately, the town’s goal is for the mansion to become a “history center,” containing archives from the town’s 200-year history, with space for exhibits and small public meetings. The first floor would be used for meetings and exhibits, and the second floor would store the town’s archives.
The property, located on what then would have been frontier on the north side of the Mohawk River, was acquired by Joseph Yates of Schenectady in 1734. Until recently, it was believed parts of the mansion were that old, but a state historic preservation specialist who visited last year said the mansion looks like it was built in around 1800.
The family was prominent. The original Joseph Yates’ grandson, Joseph C. Yates, became the first mayor of Schenectady in 1798, appointed by Gov. John Jay, who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
In 1822, Yates was selected as governor by the state Legislature (that’s how governors were picked at the time). He is the only New York state governor to hail from Schenectady County. Yates was the state’s seventh governor, serving two years. The Yates family lived in Schenectady and used the 6,200-square-foot mansion as a summer residence.
Yates’ descendants moved to the mansion full-time in the 1880s, and an addition was built on the east side of the building at about that time.
It is unclear when the nine-bedroom mansion left the Yates family, but it was used as a restaurant and a rooming house, called the Governors Inn, from roughly 1922 into the 1940s. An addition was added to the west side of the building 1922 to expand the inn.
It was converted into apartments and used as a rental property between roughly the 1960s and 2011. It suffered from neglect during that time and finally was seized in foreclosure by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., which sold it to the town.
Repair and renovation costs are likely to exceed $500,000, and the original goal of having it ready for the town’s bicentennial in 2020 is looking unrealistic, Koetzle said on Monday. He believes the cost of the project is more than a private owner would ever have spent.
“The more we get into it, the more we think that this was the only way to save it. It doesn’t make sense as a private endeavor,” he said.
Despite the cost, Koetzle believes the restoration is worth it, for the sake of history.
“We have a long history of taking down our historic structures in town, and this is really the last one left — the most significant,” he said.