The Schenectady Heritage Foundation was started in 1979 to help preserve historical landmarks in the Stockade area.
Since then, the Foundation has grown to not only preserve and maintain the historical landmarks in the Stockade but all over Schenectady County.
“When it was founded in 1979, the purpose was to focus strictly on historical preservation in the Stockade historic district,” said Gloria Kishton, principal officer of the Schenectady Heritage Foundation. “The Foundation is an offshoot of the Stockade Association. It was founded by a group of Stockade residents decades before that.
“At some point, after the association had been in existence for a while, they realized that there was a need to focus on historic preservation because the association also does a lot of other things, like social events, addresses public gardening and that sort of thing. They wanted to focus on historic preservation.”
The Schenectady Heritage Foundation’s website states that the foundation is guided by the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for the treatment of historic properties. The National Park Service administers the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“There was, and there remains to be, a great need in the Stockade and our other historic districts in Schenectady, especially in the Stockade,” Kishton said. “They are constantly under stress from different forces, like development, zoning, etc. That is really the mission of the foundation and why they thought it was needed.”
Every year the Schenectady Heritage Foundation honors people who help make significant improvements to the structures they own. This year’s winners were Haley Whalen, owner of Arthur’s Market at 35 N. Ferry St.; Diane Runkel, owner of the Kranick Family House at 12 N. College St.; and Jac Solghan, owner of 16 N. Church St.
There was no ceremony last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kishton discussed the importance of preserving buildings like these.
“We think it’s very important,” Kishton said. “I would go back to the federal government, which established these historic preservation programs … that’s how the modern preservation movement got started with all levels of government.
“Our standards come down from the federal government that they pass through the New York state government, which has a department known as SHPO, which is the State Historic Preservation Office, and then it goes down to local level. We have local districts that have been identified and registered, as well as landmark buildings that may stand alone.”
Kishton cited the Nott Memorial at Union College as a stand-alone building that is an historical landmark and needs to be preserved.
“What if Union College or someone else wanted to purchase the Nott Memorial and demolish it?” Kishton said. “You might think that’s an extreme example, but those types of things have happened. In Schenectady, Proctors Theater was actually threatened with demolition decades ago. A group of people organized and saved Proctors from demolition. I don’t think anybody has to remind anyone how important that theater is as an economic generator in our community.
Plus it’s such a wonderful venue for the arts.
“We, as a society, have decided that these places are important to preserve. They offer a connection to our past and our history, but also they offer a real basis for economic development and heritage tourism. Those are some of the reasons why we think it’s important. They really are critical in creating a particular sense of place for people. Those things are not only seen in the Stockade but in the other historic districts where the property values now remain higher than nonhistorical district areas.”
People can donate to the Schenectady Heritage Foundation by going to www.schenectadyheritage.org/donate/.