HPP's Work Weekend Updates Two Historic Properties in Upstate New York

a group of people helping to build an outdoor structure

One of the many projects completed during the 2018 Historic Preservation Planning Work Weekend was an enclosure for sheep at Mabee Farm in the Mohawk Valley. photo / Jeffrey Chusid

May 10, 2018

Participants in Historic Preservation Planning's (HPP) 2018 Work Weekend took on a broad set of hands-on restoration and building projects across two historic sites in the Mohawk Valley this April. Jointly coordinated by city and regional planning (CRP) department Chair and Associate Professor Jeffrey Chusid and students Hannah Miller (M.A. HPP '19) and Jill Miller (M.A. HPP '19), this year's partnership with the Schenectady County Historical Society (SCHS) led to their selection of two properties in need of work, Mabee Farm and the Brouwer House, which are located about 30 minutes from Albany, New York.

There are 10 historic buildings located at Mabee Farm including two barns, a 1760s-era brick house and summer kitchen, and a farmhouse built in 1705 that is the longest standing home in the area. The Brouwer House is a separate site that includes a 1730s colonial-era house partially surrounded by walled gardens. Both properties were in need of newly imagined preservation projects as well as general updates and maintenance.

"This year's Work Weekend included an unusually wide range of projects because we were working on a number of structures at two distinct sites," says Chusid. "Students were involved in everything from painting to timber framing to excavating a stone hearth to inventorying treasures in an attic to cleaning out a barn to refinishing an old wood floor. The buildings were amazing places to work and we were joined by so many SCHS volunteers and staff that the time passed quickly. The high turnout lent a festive air to the event and we learned a lot from numerous skilled professionals and knowledgeable amateurs."

Work Weekend was originally initiated by students who sought a way to create a tangible connection between the classroom and the professional practice of historic preservation. The large group who worked at Mabee Farm and Brouwer House included participants from the SCHS and more than 30 graduate students, alumni, and faculty from CRP who divided into teams to accomplish each task.

"Having worked at SCHS's Brouwer House and Mabee Farm sites in the past, I knew that they are both significant to the history of the region and that they could benefit from the extra hands we have available," says Hannah Miller. "It was great to see students with ranging preservation backgrounds engaged in this work that is an essential part of historic preservation. Work Weekend also provides an opportunity to bring in people who may not have volunteered at these historic sites otherwise, and I was glad to be a part of it."

The SCHS was founded in 1905 and is a prominent organization in the Mohawk Valley that invites collaborations on the work they do to preserve the history of the area, promote historical research, disseminate historical knowledge, and preserve items of local significance. This was the second HPP Work Weekend to take place at properties managed by the society.

"Thanks to the hard-working students of the CRP Work Weekend, we were able to make major upgrades and changes," says Mary Zawacki, executive director at SCHS. "The group set in motion a number of vital projects and we are so excited to see these monumental changes that we can share with the general public when they visit our properties."

By Edith Fikes

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