Kathy Schoolcraft took a pristine, black top hat from its old, brown box and admired its stately form.
“We hadn’t ever seen the top hat,” she said, amazement evident in her voice.
It’s just one of the treasures she and her husband, Jim, have stumbled upon while sorting through three generations of possessions in preparation for an estate and moving sale at their home, Niska Isle Estate.
At a glance
WHAT: Niska Isle estate and moving sale
WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
WHERE: Niska Isle Estate, 1220 Ferry Road, Niskayuna
The sale will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The 16-acre compound, on a peninsula in the Mohawk River, has been home to the Schoolcraft family for more than a century.
“No one ever moved out of Niska Isle — they just moved on — so I’ve got stuff that for over 100 years has been here,” said Kathy Schoolcraft.
In 1937, the first year-round residence was built at the center of the property by J. Leslie Schoolcraft, Jim Schoolcraft’s grandfather. The elder Schoolcraft was a Union College graduate who prospered in the gas and oil business.
Jim Schoolcraft grew up on the waterfront property, which now contains three homes.
He and his wife currently live in the 3,200-square-foot main house. Despite their family ties to the compound, they’ve decided it’s time to downsize.
“It’s a big thing. This has been around here a long time — three generations or better — and it’s the end of an era, basically,” said Jim Schoolcraft.
He spoke of some of the things he has decided to sell, and the memories that go along with them:
There’s a 1942 Clark Airborne bulldozer his dad, John Leslie Schoolcraft Jr., bought after World War II and used to install underground tanks when he was working in the oil business.
“They used to drop [the bulldozers] by parachute and by glider in World War II overseas, and that’s what they used to redo the airstrips and all that stuff for the service,” he said. “[It] runs, everything is there; it just needs a bearing in the final drive.”
In the home’s basement is a collection of radio-controlled model speedboats his dad made from kits back in the 1960s.
“We used to go out in the river and run them. They can go 70, 90 mph,” Jim Schoolcraft reminisced.
He also plans to part with a couple of vintage snowmobiles he and his dad used to ride on the river after it froze. One’s an Evinrude with a reverse gear and a sleigh.
Down in the basement is a series of Barrister bookcases that will be sold. They once sat in the law office of his great-grandfather, James Teller Schoolcraft. Kathy Schoolcraft said she thinks they’ve been in the home’s lower level since it was built.
“They’re kind of neat, and I had never gotten close to them because there was so much stuff down there,” she said.
Wednesday, she was sorting out sale items, a process that has been going on for about a month. Along with an assortment of glassware, vases and household gadgets is a whisk broom with a decorative sterling silver handle, likely once used to brush dust from a top hat or suit.
There’s also a pair of embossing stamps shaped like lions. One bears the notary public seal of James Teller Schoolcraft, the other of J. Leslie Schoolcraft.
There’s a meat slicer from the 1950s, a green bottle with a silver “gin” label on a chain around its neck and a cast brass gong suspended between two twisted goat horns.
Down in the basement is a massive, pine dresser from the late 19th century.
“I wish I could keep it, but I think it’s going to be bigger than my house,” Kathy Schoolcraft said with a laugh.
She and her husband plan to build a much smaller residence on property they own on Lake Champlain. Niska Isle Estate is being sold to a couple from Niskayuna, and the closing is scheduled for late September.
The buyers said they plan to keep the property as a family compound, Kathy Schoolcraft noted.
“It’s kind of nice to know that the beauty and the tranquility and the serenity will be preserved,” she said.