Plan proposed to revitalize Town of Montgomery landmarks

By Connor Linskey
Posted 9/8/21

The Town of Montgomery is developing a plan to revitalize three of its landmarks: the Benedict Park Farmhouse, the barn at Benedict Park and the Colden Mansion Ruins.

Qualis Architecture, PLLC was …

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Plan proposed to revitalize Town of Montgomery landmarks

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The Town of Montgomery is developing a plan to revitalize three of its landmarks: the Benedict Park Farmhouse, the barn at Benedict Park and the Colden Mansion Ruins.

Qualis Architecture, PLLC was hired to conduct the building condition survey for the farmhouse. They made observations from a site visit.

“Nothing in here is at all set in stone,” Montgomery Town Supervisor Brian Maher said regarding the plans to revitalize the Benedict Farmhouse. “This is us having a conversation starter. It is my goal to just come to some sort of decision-making process.”

The farmhouse property is the former home of the dairy farmers the Burnetts and later the Benedicts. The Town of Montgomery acquired the 102-acre property in the early 2000s. The farmhouse itself was built in the late 1800s and is eligible for historic registries. It was rebuilt in the 1970s after the older barn burned down.
Lauren Tarsio, principal for Qualis Architecture, noted that the farmhouse can still be of use to the town.

“Considering it has not been inhabited probably since the town has owned it, it is in pretty decent condition,” she said. “It’s absolutely salvageable.”

There is spalled brick at the foundation of the house as well as areas where mortar has deteriorated. If the exterior continues to deteriorate, that could lead to weather infiltration into the basement.

The exterior of the building also features several broken windows. The threshold at the main entrance on the north side of the property is rotting. Wood trimmings around the windows and doors need to be replaced. Vegetation has enabled mold to develop on the exterior of the building. The building is also in need of a fresh coat of paint.
Access to the building is also problematic. The staircase at the south entrance is in disrepair. The building exterior’s handrails do not comply with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations. The handrails will have to meet the regulations if the building is to host events.

There are also problems with the interior of the farmhouse. There is a hole in the roof and it is also suffering from water damage. The gutters were built into the roof and have rotted away, causing water infiltration. Birds have infested the building as well.

Tarsio recommends the town perform a hazardous materials survey on the farmhouse. She noted that the town should research options for funding the revitalization of the farmhouse. Her suggestions included historic preservation grants, donations as well as a capital bond.

Tarsio also recommends that at a minimum the farmhouse should be mothballed. This is estimated to cost $150,000.

The exterior of the barn has a concrete entry pad into what was the dairy-processing area. It is not leveled, which could cause trip hazards. The lack of flashing around the exterior of the barn’s windows can lead to water infiltration.

Water infiltration has also caused mold to grow in the barn’s ceiling.
Regarding the barn, Tarsio again recommends the town perform a hazardous materials survey. The town should decide if there is a use for the structure or a portion of the structure. Tarsio suggested the barn be used as a storage and maintenance facility or as an exhibition space.

Tarsio noted that adaptive reuse of the structure for the public purpose of such as storage, workshop/maintenance facility or exhibition space should be budgeted between $850,000 and $1,000,000. The cost to demolish the structure should be budgeted at approximately $500,000. Tarsio added that the cost to demolish the structure and build a new 2,000 square foot, pre-engineered metal building to mimic the architecture of the original dairy barn on the property should be budgeted at approximately $1,220,000.
Montgomery Town Supervisor Brian Maher underscored the importance of revitalizing the farmhouse.

“This building has been talked about getting revitalized for quite some time,” he said. “It’s been sitting, getting worse and worse and the point of this meeting is to begin to turn the corner and come up with a plan. Give ourselves some timeframe and some options and really see this hopefully get revitalized and be able to explain to the public how and when we’re gonna do that.”

After discussion with the town board, Maher noted that he will develop options to improve the property. He hopes the farmhouse will become a place where the community can congregate.

The Colden Mansion Ruins sit on an 8.5-acre site on the corner of State Route 17K and Stone Castle Road. The property was acquired by the town in 2005 and is listed on the state and national registries of historic places. Today, much of the structure of the mansion is gone and vegetation is growing on the side of the building due to neglect.

Tarsio proposes several uses for the ruins. It could be a historical park with walking trails to connect various historic ruins throughout the property with plaques describing their significance. Another one of her ideas is to make the site a picnic area. The Colden Ruins could also be home to a farmer’s market.

The New York State Historic Preservation Office also made recommendations on what the town should do with the ruins. They suggested the town remove trash from the site and thin the number of trees in the south and west yards at the site of the Colden Mansion Ruins to allow a more unobstructed view of the building.

The office recommends the town remove deadfall on an annual basis and fill in depressions as well as ruts with clean fill to facilitate grass mowing. They also feel that the town should remove the orange safety fence and replace it with a split rail fence or some other permanent fencing.

Further recommendations from the state historic preservation office include the installation of permanent fencing around the five stone-lined wells and one brick-lined cistern as well as the installation of permanent fencing around the mansion’s slave cemetery.

To provide visitors a place to rest, the state historic preservation office suggests benches be installed on the site. In place of the no trespassing sign, the office recommends installing a sign noting the hours of operation. They also suggest the town spray the site with insecticide to protect the public from ticks.

For next steps regarding the Colden Mansion Ruins, Tarsio recommends the town apply for grant funds to purchase benches, high quality long lasting signs and permanent fencing/posts. Tarsio also wants the town to apply for grant funds to hire a remote sensing firm to relocate the slave cemetery using a technique such as ground penetrating radar. She noted that vegetation should be trimmed along the mansion ruin walls and in the interior of the mansion on an annual basis with hand tools to prevent small vines and trees from taking root. This will allow the trunk/stems to die naturally without the need to remove the roots. Tarsio also hopes the town will create a visitor center on the site.

Maher noted that the town has funding available from projects approved through the planning board which could be used to revitalize the Colden Mansion Ruins.

“This area has been for me personally an area of interest that means a lot in terms of revitalization,” he said.

Like the Benedict Farmhouse and barn, Maher will think of potential options to revitalize the ruins and present them to the town board.

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