A group has formed in Amsterdam to push for the restoration of Guy Park Manor, a building dating to 1766 that has been closed since 2011, when it suffered severe damage during Tropical Storm Irene.
The Guy Park Manor Restoration Group comprises Amsterdam residents and local historians interested in seeing the historic building returned to its former glory, according to spokesman Norm Bollen.
Members of the six-person committee were pulled from various local organizations, including Mohawk Country Inc., Historic Amsterdam League, the Amsterdam chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution and the Old Fort Johnson Historic Landmark.
Bollen said Montgomery County is home to more Colonial American and Native American heritage sites than anywhere in upstate New York, “and nobody knows about it.”
“And we know there’s great interest nationally as our heritage here in upstate New York is nationally relevant,” he added.
The group’s eventual aim is to open the manor as a historic site, with exhibits and tours that provide insight into the area’s Colonial history. Bollen said organizers hope to boost tourism in the region that will dovetail with other recent tourism initiatives, like the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook bridge.
Prior to 2011, Guy Park Manor — Amsterdam’s oldest building — was home to the Walter Elwood Museum, which was forced to vacate in 2011 after it was damaged. Photos from after Irene show the manor’s rear facade sheared away in places, with walls so damaged that at least one room was exposed to the elements.
Bollen said there are funds available for the restoration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but that money would have to be administered through the state Canal Corp.
“We have to make sure the state is willing to work with us,” said Bollen. “Once we know that, we’re going to try to set up something to be a part of that process.”
Guy Park Manor after Tropical Storm Irene. (Provided)
Bollen added that FEMA will only make the funds available if the agency is guaranteed the building will be lifted out of the floodplain during the restoration process, which he imagines will be a lengthy and expensive process.
“We’re just getting this thing going,” said Bollen. “The real thing is to find out if the state is going to want to work with us on getting it reopened.”
Bollen, an Amsterdam resident, said the committee has already reached out to county and local officials who have expressed interest in being involved in the project.
“Reopening Guy Park Manor as a heritage tourist attraction will help shape the city of Amsterdam and Montgomery County into a great American heritage destination,” Bollen said in a prepared statement announcing the group’s formation. “A well-thought-out destination tourism program is a vital component to any economic development plan.”
Organizers are also interested in getting help from the New York State Museum, which is housing many of the materials that were displayed in the manor before it was damaged. Bollen said the group is particularly interested in getting the museum’s help with restoring the interior of the manor.
“Our plan is to seek their help with some of the restorations and getting it back to an 18th-century period building,” he said.
Bollen added that members of the Amsterdam chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution have expressed interest in volunteering as tour guides, and the group hopes to hold their meetings in the manor once it is reopened.