Ever since Adrienne Karis first saw the Green Corners School in the Glenville hills in 1972, she’s been concerned about its future. Her worries may be over.
The 1825, one-room, brick schoolhouse at 2140 Potter Road in the town of Glenville will be added to the State and National Registers of Historic Places, the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced Friday. Joining it on the registers from Schenectady County will be the church building on Wendell Avenue in Schenectady belonging to the Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady, designed by nationally known architect Edward Durell Stone and built in 1961.
Karis and Virginia Pahl, now deceased, stumbled upon the abandoned schoolhouse on Potter Road during the summer of 1972 and decided it needed some looking after. Thirty-five years later, Karis isn’t as mobile as she used to be, but the building, officially known as the Glenville District No. 5 Schoolhouse, is still on her mind.
“I think this designation will give the people that have been working on it a little more inspiration,” said Karis, who moved to Glenville in 1946 and has been involved in documenting its history ever since. “We do have a really ambitious group of volunteers, and the town and the [Scotia] Rotary all want to restore it as close as possible to the way it looked in the 1800s. I have great faith in all of these people now that it’s going to happen.”
The Green Corners School and the Unitarian church are just two of 33 sites recommended by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for inclusion in the state and national registers.
“I applaud the owners and stewards of these historic properties for taking part in New York’s preservation efforts,” said OPRHP Commissioner Rose Harvey. “Placing these landmarks on the State and National Registers of Historic Places is an important tool in their long-term survival and helps communities embrace their history and culture.”
Town of Glenville Director of Operations Jamie MacFarland said he was informally told by state officials a couple of months ago the Green Corners School was a likely candidate for both registers.
“The import of that is not yet known because we haven’t applied for any grants,” said MacFarland, “but we have some work that has to be done, and we have some great volunteers, we have the Scotia Rotary with some volunteers and some dollars to contribute, and we have Bellamy Construction, which is interested in helping. The town is so appreciative of the wonderful volunteers we have, and we are committed to doing our part. This entire community is enthusiastically behind the effort to get the schoolhouse restored to the way it looked in its heyday.”
Behind the efforts of Karis and others, Green Corners School was opened for public viewing in the summer of 1976. The hours are typically Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. during the months of July and August, but renovation work last summer reduced the public’s access to the building. While there will be more restoration work beginning in the spring, Ruth Long hopes the school will be ready to greet the public during the summer of 2014.
“We moved up here next to the school in 2000, and when Adrienne couldn’t do it anymore, we were kind of recruited and volunteered to take it over,” said Long, who along with her husband, Jim, and son Ben have succeeded Karis as the primary caretakers of the schoolhouse. “We’re always looking for more people to help with the place and to volunteer their time. There is nothing else like it in the area, so we have to do our best to take care of it.”
“It’s been a pleasure to see people like Ruth and her family come in and take over the building,” said Karis, who turned 90 this year. “People love to visit that little schoolhouse. It’s really important that we preserve it.”
Unlike the Green Corners Schoolhouse, the building at 1221 Wendell Ave. in Schenectady, in the historic GE Realty Plot neighborhood, has never had to worry about neglect. It has been a city landmark for more than 50 years, its dominant feature being the Great Hall, an amphitheater which steps downward in circular benches as a 60-foot dome rises above it. In addition to serving its Unitarian congregation, the building also hosts secular events.
Donald Whisenhunt, the society’s board president, said the process to earn the designation began a little more than a year ago.
“The building is in pretty good shape, but we were in the midst of some renovation work and had a little problem with the front of our building,” said Whisenhunt. “We had some of our members who worked quite hard on the application process justifying the designation because we knew it would open up the possibility for some grants to help pay for the work we were doing.”
Whisenhunt said he is constantly getting comments from people in the community about the building.
“The exterior is beautiful, but I think it’s really the inside that is just stunning,” he said. “People who go there for a concert, a memorial service or some other event are always telling me how impressed they are with the building.”
Also being added to the State and National Registers of Historic Places will be the Jonesville Cemetery in the town of Clifton Park. The cemetery was designed by Burton A. Thomas and built in 1864.
Earning designation in Albany County was the Albany Felt Co. complex in Menands, formerly a paper mill from 1902, and the building at 44 Central Ave. in Albany where a feed and grain warehouse stood in the 19th century.
The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation also announced this week the USS Slater and the Destroyer Escort Historical Museum in Albany was one of six winners of the 2013 State Historic Preservation Award.
A Cannon class destroyer escort, the USS Slater was built in 1944 and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.