62 Days of Summer
Drastic changes in elevation usually produce some interesting landscapes, and while that’s enough to draw many people to the Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project in southern Schoharie County, there’s plenty more.
Owned and operated by the New York Power Authority, the site’s visitor center on Route 30 in North Blenheim offers fascinating science — both natural and technological — and the historic Lansing Manor, built in 1819. The place, which should intrigue visitors of all ages, is a hidden jewel that sits on a clearing of land high above the Schoharie Creek.
And it’s all free.
“When you look out our window and see Brown Mountain across the way, you’re also looking at a power plant that’s three stories above and 10 stories below,” said Roma Buel, a tour guide. “You see the lower reservoir, and the upper reservoir is beyond the mountain, and hidden in the mountain is a tunnel system that takes power to New York City, Albany and Delhi. Between us and the plants in Niagara and the St. Lawrence area, we can cover the whole state.”
The Blenheim-Gilboa plant serves as a giant energy-storage device, and in times of need generates more than 1 million kilowatts of electricity.
“The upper reservoir is around 1,040 feet higher than the lower reservoir,” said Buel. “You need to have gravity to drop the water, and in case there’s a true blackout, you drop the water and that’s how we get our black-start capability.”
Buel and interim supervisor Adrienne Gable can also talk about the AC-DC issue, there’s a 12-minute introductory film about the New York Power Authority in a basement theater and there are natural exhibits that focus on the different animals you might see walking around that section of Schoharie County.
When you’re done at the visitor center — originally built as a barn for the Lansing farm — you can take a short walk to the Lansing home. A former mayor of Albany, John Ten Eyck Lansing built the house in 1819 for his daughter.
The Power Authority bought the house and property in 1971 for the power plant, which was built in reaction to the 1965 blackout that affected the entire Northeast. Restoration of the Lansing home began in 1977, and it opened as a museum in 2001.
“It’s decorated to reflect the time period between 1820 and 1860,” said tour guide Liz Arrandale.
Included among the artifacts in the house is the original document appointing Lansing’s son-in-law, Jacob Sutherland, as district attorney in 1819. The paper, encased in glass, has the signatures of sitting President James Monroe and his secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, who would follow him into the White House.
There’s also a desk that belonged to Washington Irving that was a wedding president from Irving to one of the Sutherland’s eight daughters.
The visitor’s center and Lansing Manor are open every day of the week, except Tuesday, from May through October.
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