Vacant building on Schenectady’s Barrett Street to be restored

145 Barrett Street in Schenectady on Friday.

145 Barrett Street in Schenectady on Friday.

SCHENECTADY — A vacant building originally constructed in 1900 that once housed the meeting place for a local carpenters union during the labor movement before becoming a jazz club in the 1990s is on the path towards historic recognition — and restoration.

Christopher Marney is hoping to have 145 Barrett St. added to the city’s Historic Overlay District, which would make the building located about a block from City Hall eligible for historic tax credits while applying strict standards for historic properties laid out in the city code. 

Marney and his husband acquired the property in 2017 with the intent of turning the former townhouse with a brick facade into a restaurant, but plans fell through and the pandemic took root a short time later. 

The building has been primarily used for storage in the years since, but Marney said he was recently “bit by the historic preservation bug” after purchasing a home in the Stockade that he is currently restoring. Marney is a lawyer for the city who has served on the Historic District Commission. 

“My building isn’t as old as my house in the Stockade, but it is historic and it really is one of a dying breed of these kinds of smaller historic buildings in downtown Schenectady,” he said. 

The City Council, on Monday, will vote on resolutions setting a 30-day public comment period for the rezoning request and referring the matter to the Planning Commission for further review. The property’s rezoning would not impact the zoning of any adjacent properties. 

Marney is also hoping to have the building listed to the state and national historic registries, but decided to have the building recognized as historic locally in order to apply the historic building codes, which he said are key to preserving the city’s history.  

Originally constructed between 1899 and 1900, 145 Barrett St. was built as a townhouse, but became home to the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Local Union No. 146 in 1928.

The building was eventually turned into a mixed-use facility, with retail on the lower level and the union utilizing the building’s second floor through the 1980s, when the structure was converted into a bar and music venue, according to a letter Marney submitted to the city as part of his rezoning request detailing the building’s historic significance. 

“The Property remains one of the few historic properties left in what was once originally a residential street containing numerous townhouses along Barrett Street,” the letter reads. “It is an early 20th century example of an adaptive reuse conversion of a residential structure to commercial, likely due to what was a rapid expansion of downtown Schenectady, and embodies the distinguishing characteristics of a traditional, colonial revival, commercial building.”

The Yours Jazz Nightclub operated in the building throughout the 1990s before closing in 2013. The building has sat empty since.

But Marney said he is talking with a potential tenant interested in using the facility as a music venue, though he declined to provide any additional details. He did say site plans could be reviewed by the Planning Commission sometime this summer. 

“They’re not jazz musicians but it would be some type of venue,” he said. “They’re still working on the details.”

He added the building is in relatively good condition given its age and lack of use in recent years.

The inside has been stripped back to its 1920s look, which has uncovered a number of issues with the plaster, but the exterior needs only a few masonry improvements and a plan to install new windows is currently being drafted.

“It’s part of a group of buildings in the city that were dedicated to these labor uses,” Marney said. “Many of them are no longer with us, but we have several buildings that were host to fraternal organizations and labor union halls right here in downtown Schenectady.”

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.  

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