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Amsterdam Seeks Preservation Of Mohasco Power House

The City of Amsterdam has gotten a financial boost to study the potential recreation opportunities around a set of historic buildings. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports leaders want to showcase the industrial history of the Montgomery County city by preserving a piece its past.

Standing along the North Chuctanunda Creek, the former Mohasco Power House once energized Amsterdam’s carpet mills.

The Power House, built in 1914, is a tall brick structure with unique arched windows.

Amsterdam Mayor Mike Villa said the city is ready to commission an engineering study of the property to look into potential re-use.

The first-term Republican mayor said he’d like to see the building connected to a trail network.

“We’re hoping to open some eyes and maybe get a positive result from the engineering firm that this can go forward and go forward from there,” said Villa. “The key is to connect our trail with the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook so we can continue this process to open up all this access to the public.”

The firm Lacey Thaler Reilly Wilson Architecture and Preservation LLP will survey the Power House.

Architect Dan Wilson said he believes the building is in good shape structurally, but that public safety will be taken into consideration as decisions are made about re-use of the site.

“That there’s high enough guard rails, that there’s ways that they can see the inside of the powerhouse without getting access to it,” said Wilson. “We’re always looking for safety but a way to maintain the integrity of the public, give the public viewsheds and ways that they can see the history.”

The analysis is supported by an $8,900 grant from the Preservation League of New York State. President Jay DiLorenzo is glad to see Amsterdam embrace its industrial and architectural heritage.

“This is just a great project to show the intersection of historic preservation and recreation opportunities and greenway creation,” said DiLorenzo. “This is a great example of what we think can be emulated in other cities within the state.”

On a quick tour of the Power House, Amsterdam City History Robert von Hasseln pointed out some of the equipment still inside the brick structure. 

“So basically these are the pumps, these are the water mains. So the water then would be routed either into the building or to be used directly as water for industrial or hygenic purposes in the mill complex…”

Von Hasseln said the most important reason to preserve the property is the importance to the area’s history. At one point in time, he explains, one in six adults in the city was employed in the city’s carpet mills. And this power plant was integral to the expansion of the mills after they transitioned from water power to coal.

“And that leads to the second reason. The second reason being is what you have here is a fine display of a whole range of evolving industrial technology,” said von Hasseln. “From the original sites of the over-and-under water wheels, to the horizontal turbines, to coal-powered steam plants, to coal-powered steam-fired electrical generation.”

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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