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Historic Building On Former Plattsburgh Air Force Base Sold

WAMC/Pat Bradley

The oldest building on the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base has new owners and a new plan for its future. On Monday the new proprietors and plans for the Old Stone Barracks were announced.

Built in 1838 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, the Old Stone Barracks features massive stone walls and a columned porch running along its entire front length.
The building was sold in 2010 to Montreal developer Bernard Schneider, whose plans for it never came to fruition.  So the building was put back on the market. In August 2014 the Preservation League of New York State placed the Old Stone Barracks on its Seven to Save list of threatened historic sites. At the same time a group called Friends of the Old Stone Barracks crafted an agreement with the Montreal owner. On Monday, Friends of the Old Stone Barracks Board President Jerry Bates announced the sale of the building and surrounding 7 and 3/4 acres.  “We’re pleased to announce that the Friends have come to an agreement with the Valcour Brewing Company. We have assigned our contract to purchase the Old Stone Barracks property to them. Coming to this agreement achieves the most important goal of the Friends of the Old Stone Barracks which was to insure the appropriate adaptive reuse and preservation of the barracks.”

Preservation League of NYS Regional Director Erin Tobin says the building was placed on the statewide list due to its historical significance.  “This whole effort will be a model that we can use around the state of how the advocates came together to work with the past developer who had a project that was not conducive to the historic property and then found a developer who was willing to come in and properly  rehabilitate the building.”

Adirondack Architectural Heritage Executive Director Steven Engelhart has worked for 25 years to aid historic landholders, and he is looking forward to working with the Old Stone Barracks’ new owners.  “The building has been empty since the 1960's and the base couldn’t even figure out a way to reuse it. But in Terry and Mary Theresa we’ve found just the right people who have that connection to the military. They want to use the history of the building to play off of how they market themselves and their products. They, I think, will be very, very respectful of the building and the site and the history.”

Valcour Brewing Company proprietors Terry Schmaltz and Mary Theresa Pearl are military veterans and plan to create a brewery, tasting room, general store, offices, inn and events center. Pearl is excited that they can help the community and  enhance historical awareness by redeveloping the property.  “When we saw that this was for sale it was like, oh my gosh we can save that building and do the brewery. We went inside. It’s structurally very sound. We want to keep as much as we can showing the stone and the construction. It’s down to the studs so we can see everything, all the beauty of when it was first constructed.”

It’s not typical for the Preservation League to have a property saved so quickly, but Tobin says the Friends had a good strategy.  The League will continue to offer technical assistance and Tobin adds that renovating the building as a brewery and inn is appropriate reuse.  “It’s not necessarily always about the use, but about how the use is going to fit into the building. The idea that it will be a gathering space, that’s how it’s conducive, while respecting the history of the building.”

Closing was scheduled Tuesday. The purchase price of the property is $168,000 plus 2014 taxes. Renovations are budgeted in excess of $1.5 million. The brewery is scheduled to open next summer.

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