Amsterdam is at a crossroads as two efforts — economic development and historic preservation — clash in the middle of a reconstruction project.
The Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency is coordinating a half-million-dollar redevelopment of the three-story building at 46 E. Main St.
The whole building has been gutted except for the third floor, where a massive mural depicting scenes from pre-industrial Amsterdam adorns the walls.
Mayor Ann Thane is calling on AIDA to make time for a walk-through in hopes of preserving the mural.
The origin and creator of massive piece of artwork has been a mystery for three years now, but historians believe they’ve identified the artist.
Worley Moat, who died in 1908, is likely behind the picturesque scenery that includes a rendition of historic Old Fort Johnson with the Kayaderosseras Creek running alongside it.
Former Fulton County Historian Peter Betz pored through old newspaper articles and found references to Moat, a popular artist whose work was featured in agricultural magazines.
Betz said an 1894 newspaper story reported Moat creating “numerous portions of the Mohawk Valley” in the Main Street building — called at that time the hall of the Kenneyetto Tribe of Redmen.
Thane on Wednesday said efforts should be made to preserve the mural. “The city of Amsterdam laments every time we eliminate a part of our history,” she said.
The former Esquire Novelty building was torn down during the past month, and the once-mighty Chalmers Knitting Mill on the city’s South Side is now a flat patch of ground.
Losing these and other aspects of the city’s history, Thane said, is painful.
AIDA director Jody Zakrevsky on Wednesday said it’s unclear if the mural can even be saved.
It was painted on wallpaper sometime in the late 1800s or early 1900s, and the wallpaper is peeling behind it.
But Zakrevsky said contractors remodeling the building are avoiding the third-floor space where the mural sits.
“We recognize that to some people, the mural is an important aspect of the community’s heritage,” he said.
The building is undergoing a full rehabilitation, with new electricity, plumbing and other mechanical upgrades.
As envisioned, it will feature retail space on the first floor and residential space on the second and possibly third floor.
The project itself is being paid for with three separate grants, Zakrevsky said: $120,000 from the Amsterdam Urban Renewal Agency, $200,000 from the state Department of State and $225,000 from Empire State Development.
He said contractors will avoid disturbing the mural for now until city officials decide on a next step.