An historic building on the grounds of the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base has been added to the Preservation League of New York's list of the most threatened historic sites in the state.
The Plattsburgh Air Force Base closed in 1995, but many of its historic buildings remain. The oldest of the surviving structures is the Old Stone Barracks. Built in 1838 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it features massive stone walls, heavy timber framing and a two-story columned porch along its entire north side.
Canadian developer Bernard Schneider bought the building, vacant for decades, in 2010 with the intention to redevelop it as condominiums. But he put it back on the market and is now selling it to the group Friends of the Old Stone Barracks.
Since 1999, the Preservation League of New York annually or biennially designates seven sites of historic, architectural or cultural importance across the state to save. It then works with local advocates to find ways to protect and develop the sites.
The Old Stone Barracks is one of the Preservation League’s 2014-2015 “Seven to Save.”
Erin Tobin is the League’s eastern NY Regional Director for technical and grant programs. “We do have several grant programs that are competitive throughout the state. We do look at our “Seven to Save” properties with a little bit of an enhanced eye for those grant programs. We also offer them enhanced technical services and visibility raising.”
Tobin says the Old Stone Barracks reflects the long military history of the North Country. “It is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the army base and it’s a wonderful reminder of the significance of the military history and presence in the North Country and what it meant for the history and development of this region.”
One factor in designating the building for preservation was to help buy the building from the Montreal developer. Adirondack Architectural Heritage Executive Director Steven Englehart says Friends of the Old Stone Barracks has been working for three and a half years to find a way to obtain the barracks. “We now have the prospect of saving a very, very important historic building that has really been threatened with the unknown over the last couple of years. The barracks is very different. It isn’t that one single thing happened there. It’s that so many different things happened there. It was a home to many generations of soldiers. It was the home of The Marching Band, of which John Philip Sousa was a member. It was a hospital. It was at the center of the military presence here in the North Country all across this huge arc of time.”
The Preservation League of New York State and local officials were at Clinton Community College in Plattsburgh earlier this week for the formal announcement that the Old Stone Barracks had been added to the "Seven to Save" list.
Founder and President of the Samuel de Champlain History Center and member of Friends of the Old Stone Barracks Celine Paquette presented a history of the building. “The enlisted barracks originally contained eighteen rooms. In May 1850, Stonewall Jackson was at the Plattsburgh Barracks. During the Civil War, the post operated mainly as a hospital. In 1915 the War Department authorized a program that became known as the Plattsburgh Idea and established the basis for the Reserve Officers Training Program: ROTC. The Old Stone Barracks watched as the Air Base facility was built around it between 1954 and 1955 as a strategic air command base. And in 1971 the Old Stone Barracks was listed on the Register of Historic Places.”
Friends of the Old Stone Barracks is launching a capital campaign to raise $225,000 over the next five months to finalize the purchase of the property and begin preservation.
Audio is courtesy Mountain Lake PBS.