By Stephen Williams
GLENVILLE- The roadside historic marker for the nearly 300-year-old Yates Mansion disappeared recently. Town officials are hoping the same fate doesn’t befall the mansion itself.
The building on a small hill overlooking Maple Avenue was once the summer mansion of Joseph Yates, New York’s seventh governor, but is now vacant.
The Town Board on Wednesday adopted a townwide moratorium on approving new multifamily projects, part of an effort to buy time to save the building.
Before the vote, the board heard from neighbors and historic preservationists who support the moratorium, which is meant to discourage any efforts to buy the property and demolish the mansion to make way for a new apartment building.
Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said the 18th century mansion, which has been vacant for about two years, is in “deplorable” condition inside. “But the bones, as we say, are in great condition,” he added.
The building is currently owned by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., more commonly known as Freddie Mac, through a foreclosure proceeding. Freddie Mac is trying to sell the property. Koetzle said the current $134,000 asking price is more than the town can afford, though he hopes in the next few months it can find grants and other sources.
Koetzle estimated the building needs $500,000 in repair work, in addition to the property owing about $20,000 in back taxes.
“When you look at the cost, it will be very difficult for a private sector person to come in and do it,” Koetzle said. “To me, it seems likely it might be a public endeavor that must come in and save this building. It seems to me it must be the town of Glenville that comes in and undertakes this endeavor.”
The two-story structure at 133 Maple Ave., near the intersection with Alplaus Avenue, was built by Joseph Yates in 1734. His grandson, also named Joseph C. Yates, became the first mayor Schenectady in 1798, and in 1822 became governor — the only governor, so far, to hail from Schenectady County. It was known as the “Gov. Yates Summer Mansion.”
It’s unclear when the nine-bedroom mansion left the Yates family, but it was used as apartments between roughly the 1960s and 2011. Acreage that originally went with the property has been sold over the years, and it is now surrounded by homes and a new condominium project.
At a public hearing before the moratorium was adopted, a number of neighbors and historic preservationists spoke up for finding a way to preserve the building, while one neighbor said he doubted it could be saved and was willing to see it demolished.
“It’s a building of significant historical value,” said Mike McHale, president of the Alplaus Residents Association. “There are lots of places for apartments, and I do not think the Yates Mansion is a place for them.”
“The reason a moratorium is so important is that it gives you time,” said Gloria Kishton, chairwoman of the Schenectady Heritage Foundation. “Once a building is altered beyond recognition or demolished, there is no going back.”
A contractor who does restoration of historic homes in Schenectady’s Stockade, John Samatulski, said he is interested.
But Dave Tucci, who lives across the street from the mansion, said it has become an eyesore, and may not be salvageable. “That building has been falling apart for probably 15 years,” he said. “Moratorium or not, all I ask is that something be done with the facility.”
Koetzle said the town is willing to pursue grants and potentially put its own money into any restoration effort.
The multifamily moratorium is new, but two other pre-existing moratoriums were extended for six months, as the town continues to work on an update to its comprehensive plan. The other moratoriums are on outdoor recreation in rural-residential and agricultural areas like West Glenville, and on thrift stores, pawn shops, second-hand dealers, vapor shops and massage parlors in its research and development and technology zone at the Glenville Business Park.
A draft of the new comprehensive plan is expected to be released in the spring.
The Town Board set a public hearing for 7 p.m. Jan. 18 on granting an exemption from the outdoor recreation moratorium to Christopher Hess, who hosts an amateur wiffleball league at his property in West Glenville.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, firstname.lastname@example.org or @gazettesteve on Twitter.