Guilderland Historical Society


New Programs for Fall, 2022

September 15, 7:30 pm, in-person, Mynderse Frederick House

Guilderland as a Summer Retreat, presented by Jeff Perlee, Albany County Legislator and member of Guilderland Historical Society

From farmland to suburbia is the conventional understanding of the trajectory of Guilderland’s growth. But in between there was a period when our town was best known as a summer retreat, a place of leisure and  country pleasures for some of New York State’s most powerful families. In this presentation we will trace the origins of the summer house movement and resort and leisure development throughout the town, from the earliest retreats along the Normanskill to the rise of the resort and “summer colony” in Altamont to the creation of the Albany Country Club and attendant cottages in McKownville. Along the way we’ll meet some of the wealthy and powerful men -- and women -- who called Guilderland home, for at least part of the year,  when they were not otherwise occupied running the affairs of the Empire State and the nation. Finally, we’ll highlight the ways that the “Summer Colony” period impacted the development of the Town as we know it today. 

October 20,7:30 PM, In-person, Mynderse-Frederick House

America’s First Shaker Settlement, presented by Lorraine Weiss, Education Coordinator, Shaker Heritage Society

The Shakers are a Utopian society whose beliefs on gender and racial equality and communal living date to the late 1700s.  You may know about Shaker furniture, admired Shaker oval boxes, hummed the Simple Gifts song (‘Tis a gift to be simple, ‘tis a gift to be free…) and even worn a Shaker stitch sweater, but did you know that the Shakers’ first permanent settlement was right here in Albany County?

Having experienced persecution and rejection for their revolutionary beliefs and ecstatic form of worship, nine Shakers immigrated from Manchester, England to New York City in 1774.  Two years later they moved to Albany and settled near what is now the Albany Airport property. The Watervliet Shakers, as the Albany settlement is known, built extensive industries based on their agricultural products.  They developed the seed packing industry in the 1790s, invented the flat broom by 1815, and began an herbal medicine industry in 1827.  The Shakers remained in Albany from 1776 to 1938.  Today, there are three Shakers practicing the faith at the community in Sabbathday Lake, Maine.  It is remarkable to consider that a major cultural force in America grew from the local community founded in what today is the Town of Colonie by Mother Ann Lee and a handful of others. Lorraine Weiss, Education Coordinator at Shaker Heritage Society, will present an overview of the Shakers, touching on their unique community structure, their technical innovations and inventions, and the Shaker industries carried on at the Watervliet Shaker community.

November 17, 7:30 PM, In-person, Mynderse-Frederick House

What's New with the Old Stuff at the Altamont Fair, presented by Doug Cornwell.

Mr. Doug Cornwell will speak about the work of the Historical Preservation Committee of the Fair, which is comprised of 14 volunteers working year round in twice weekly meetings to inventory the holdings and research the history of the Fair. Doug will focus on a selection of the most unusual and unique items from the seven museums located on the fairgrounds, especially those items with local ties.

Mr. Cornwell resides in Rotterdam but was born and raised in Schoharie County. After attending Schoharie Central School, he attended SUNY Cobelskill and the University at Albany. He served as a U.S. Army Infantry Sergeant in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star.

"During the mid-1960's I started a small antique shop in a garage on our family farm along Route 443 in West Berne," Mr. Cornell explained, adding that he has been involved with the purchase, appraisal and sale of antiques for more than 30 years, including more than 500 antique auctions and shows in NY, CT, MA and VT. 

Everyone is invited to join the Historical Society members for this free program and the social hour following at the Mynderse-Frederick House 451 Route 146 Guilderland Center NY.

Previous Programs from Spring, 2022

February 24, 7:30 pm, via Zoom only (details below)

Guilderland's Historic Roadside Markers, presented by John Haluska

On Thursday, February 17, the Guilderland Historical Society will hold its first meeting of the new year via Zoom. Mr. John Haluska will give a presentation on the historic roadside markers in the Town of Guilderland. He will talk about the origin of the markers that were first placed in the 1930's, which markers have been lost, and those that remain. He will describe his own preservation efforts -- John has been repairing and repainting the Town's markers for several years -- and he will even discuss ideas for potential new markers. These roadside signs are perhaps the most visible daily reminder of the many changes wrought by the inexorable passage of time in our Town. Come hear John for a refresher course on the history of the Town of Guilderland!

Apologies - recording not available

March 17, 2022, 7:30 pm, via Zoom

Preserving Family Photographs and Documents, presented by Marrietta Carr

Photos, letters, diaries, and other important documents are cherished pieces of a family’s history, but they can also be a challenge to preserve and maintain for future generations. Preserving your family papers will assist relatives and friends (current and future) in tracing and understanding your family’s history and connections to local and community history. Marietta Carr, librarian and archivist at the Schenectady County Historical Society, will give a presentation on preservation techniques you can use for your family’s archives, including storage, handling, digitization, and organization on Thursday, March 17, at 7:30 pm via Zoom. Marietta joined the staff of SCHS in 2019 and has worked in archives, museums, libraries, and historical societies for over 10 years. Her archival preservation experience ranges from colonial land agreements to 20th century maps, and includes books, photos, recordings, and digital materials.

Zoom recording available at: 
April 21, 2022, 7:30 pm, via Zoom

McKownville - Country Club Highlands Historic District, presented by Bill Kidd

The Country Club Highlands subdivision, located on the north side of Western Avenue between Fuller Road and Knowles Terrace, was developed starting in 1910 by the Witbeck family. Thanks to their residential deed restrictions, and continuing efforts by residents and the McKownville Improvement Association subsequently, the residential character of this early-mid 20th century neighborhood remains largely intact. Most of the houses in it were built between 1910 and 1940, and with few exceptions have not been substantially altered since they were constructed. This example of an early suburban development is now a State Historic District and is expected shortly to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In this talk Bill Kidd, a resident of this neighborhood, will present some history of the developers, the houses, and the early residents, and also the nearby local businesses, and recreation provided across the then two-lane Western Avenue at McKown Grove and Witbeck Park.

Zoom recording link will be posted soon

May 19, 2022, 7:30 pm, via Zoom

Researching our 1889 Altamont home, originally built for James Bleecker Groot, presented by Bill Johnson

How does one learn about the history of an Altamont home?  Bill and Kathy Johnson bought their Altamont home in 1986 and were curious for many years about it original owner.  Finally, in 2020, they embarked on an exploration and now know quite a bit about the history of their home and its original owner, James Bleecker Groot, who a few years later built another summer home in Altamont, now the Altamont Manor, and sold his original summer home.  Come and hear what we've learned in the process, and also learn about the sources of information that you might need to explore to learn about the local history of your home.  

Zoom recording link will be posted soon