Hilton Barn Public Hearing

 

Mark your calendars for a public meeting regarding the funding for the relocation of the Hilton Barn from Rte. 85A to the intersection of the Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail and Hilton Road. 

Hiltonbarn site 1 acre closer

click to view larger

Wednesday, February 17 at 5:30 p.m.
New Scotland Town Hall
2029 New Scotland Road

MHLC and the Hilton Barn Project

The Hilton barn is the largest timber-frame structure in Albany County and the largest barn of its kind in the region.  Built in 1898 by Frank Osterhout for James Hilton, the structure is 120 feet long by 60 feet wide and more than 3 stories high. The barn was constructed to house the Hilton family’s prize-winning Devonshire cattle and massive amounts of hay.  Current owners, Country Club Partners, announced in 2014 that, unless there were an interested party, the barn would be demolished to make room for a new housing development. Today, the Town of New Scotland is undertaking a heroic effort to save this historic landmark from demolition.

A year ago the Town of New Scotland reached out to the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy to see if we might have ideas for a new home for the barn if it were dismantled and relocated.  Though this approach would save the structure, an alternative idea – moving the barn to a public location – offered another possibility.

The heirs of the Hilton family still own property across Route 85A from the barn.  Could the barn be moved, intact, to a new location– one that might see the structure used as a public amenity along the rail trail?  The initial response from the two Hilton property owners was very positive, but as is often the case with real estate transactions, obstacles arose.  Discussions continued for months, while the clock ticked, each day bringing the demolition of the barn a bit closer.  Fortunately, persistence and the generosity of Jennifer Hilton, one of the two Hilton heirs, kept the project alive.  Just days away from the barn’s demise, the contract giving MHLC the right to purchase the property was signed, but the barn was still in the path of the development. 

With the turn of 2016, New Scotland inaugurated a new Town Board.  Despite a huge effort by the former Town Supervisor, Tom Dolin and many hours of work by Albany County legislator Mike Mackey, the barn’s future continued to remain very uncertain.  The new Town board acted quickly and made the bold decision to take the lead on the project.  The Town solicited bids to move the structure, worked with engineers, and pleaded for additional time from the owners.  In February of 2016 the Town board formally accepted ownership of the structure.  MHLC, with tremendous assistance from the Town attorney and many others, moved quickly toward a closing on the land where the barn will be moved.  Everyone involved sought funding sources for the project.  Representative Patricia Fahy helped secure state grant funds, Albany County identified additional funding, and MHLC donors provided land acquisition funds. 

Today, what was just a year ago, a most unlikely prospect to save and move the historic Hilton barn is on the verge of becoming a reality.  There is still a long way to go before the barn is rolling across 85A, but through a fantastic community effort, the barn has a future.  MHLC is very proud to play an important role in this project.         

The Hilton barn represents a bygone time when agriculture was a major industry in the rural community of New Scotland.  It was constructed toward the end of a transportation era when the automobile replaced horses as the primary method of travel and transport.  In 1898 hay was society’s transportation fuel, which gave way to diesel and gasoline.  Preserving the barn in 2016 comes as another transportation revolution is getting underway as electricity and possibly hydrogen begin to replace fossil fuels.

The future use of the barn has yet to be determined.  The Town of New Scotland is forming a committee to explore ideas for future use of the structure.  We at MHLC see great possibilities as the new barn location along the Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail creates a host of options.

A farmers market, a bike rental store, an interpretive history museum, a restaurant, a trail maintenance facility, and more are all intriguing possibilities for the newly relocated barn.

Regardless of the use that is ultimately decided upon,  the Hilton barn will become a destination for trail users and the public.   We view this project as one of many potential enhancements to make the rail trail a major part of the recreation and transportation infrastructure for the region.  Possibilities for connecting the rail trail to attractions including the USS Slater, the Corning preserve, the Stevens farm, as well as linking businesses and communities throughout the region is a vision the Land Conservancy is thrilled to promote.  The same community spirit that can save the Hilton Barn can be harnessed to build a bright future for pathways and transportation alternatives throughout the Capital Region.

Check back with us soon for additional information on the progress of this exciting effort to save the historic Hilton barn!

 

Local Spirit

Acquiring an acre can sometimes be as challenging as acquiring 100 acres. 

When MHLC set out to find a possible location for the Hilton barn, we had no idea the difficulties we would face.  What started as a great prospect of a donation of land turned into a struggle to purchase slightly more than an acre.  Weeks of negotiations turned into months and as demolition deadlines came and went, the Conservancy and those supporting the move of the barn sometimes felt like success would not be possible. 

Eventually, the owners of the barn, Country Club Partners, announced to all parties that additional delays would not be possible and the barn was scheduled for demolition..  The emails between the involved parties were not encouraging…

“We plan to move forward with starting the dismantling next week.”

“If we don’t have anything in the next 24 hours, we are contractually obligated to start the dismantling.”

“We are simply out of time.”

 “It appears that we are out of time.”

“Let it go.  We spent a ton of time on this.”

“Too bad, but it seems that it’s too late.”

“Any word/progress on this?  Looks dead to me.”

Despite the apparent hopelessness, one more attempt at outreach seemed worth a try.  A local high school student, Eliza Jobin Davis had written an award winning essay for the New Scotland Historical Association Newsletter on the barn.  A scanned version of the essay was sent to all parties and miraculously negotiations ceased and papers were signed a few days later to secure the new home for the barn. 

We may never know if the essay turned the tide, but suddenly the barn had a reprieve and the project had new life. 

hilton Barn002

courtesy of dietrichgehring.com

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