Town of Wilton Bicentennial Celebrating 200 Years of History
FROM PASTORAL FARMLAND TO A VIBRANT COMMUNITY
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Frank and Delores Parillo arrived at Exit 16 in 1970...
They lived in a small home on the corner of Ballard and Edie Rd.
Frank was a marketing representative with Shell Oil Company while his entrepreneur spirit kicked in. In 1973 Frank and Delores took the risk and embarked on a new, exciting venture and opened Wilton Shell Service - a two-bay “Gas Station.” With the help of Frank’s father, Jim Sr., Wilton Travel Plaza – Scotty’s Restaurant opened in 1977 with twenty employees. In 1980 Frank’s brother Jim, Jr. joined the family business and Frank’s son Scott came onboard in 1995. Frank, Jim and Scott can be found at Wilton Travel Plaza – Scotty’s Restaurant making daily improvements and contributions to this day.
Forty years and three building expansions later Wilton Travel Plaza – Scotty’s Restaurant is still going strong with eighty employees (partners) as a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-aweek operation, enjoying the hard earned “We Never Close” reputation.
The Parillo family is proud of Wilton Travel Plaza – Scotty’s Restaurant and honored to be part of the Town of Wilton. We sincerely thank all our loyal customers and partners who have contributed to our 40 years of being part of the Wilton Community.
I-87 at Exit 16 215 Ballard Road, Wilton, NY • 518.584.1444 www.saratogaTODAYnewspaper.com
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200th Anniversary Commemorative Booklet compliments of
Owner/Publisher Chad Beatty General Manager Robin Mitchell Creative Director/Managing Editor Chris Vallone Bushee Design and Production Director Samantha Nock Advertising Design Morgan Rook Advertising Sales Jim Daley Cindy Durfey Photography Blackburn Portrait Design Brian Teague Carolina Wierzbowski John R. Greenwood Michael A. Panzarino of MAP Graphics PhotoAndGraphic.com Saratoga Room, Saratoga Springs Public Library Wayne Jones Welch Public Communications All Articles Written by Megin Potter unless otherwise noted A special thank you to Fran Dingeman of Network Saratoga and the Town of Wilton for all your help! Published by
Saratoga TODAY Newspaper Five Case Street, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866 tel: (518) 581-2480 | fax: (518) 581-2487
Simply Saratoga is brought to you by Saratoga TODAY Newspaper, Saratoga Publishing, LLC. Saratoga Publishing shall make every effort to avoid errors and omissions but disclaims any responsibility should they occur. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written consent of the publisher. Copyright © 2018, Saratoga TODAY Newspaper
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Welcome to the Town of Wilton
Believe it or not, this barren farmland was Wilton in 1960. We hope you enjoy this look back on our rich history and join us as we look ahead to a bright future!
tonè il W d l ie f n e e r çG s Sar atoga Spring ê
This 1960 USDA aerial photo depicts the vacant lands of Wilton east of Loughberry Lake, before the Northway was opened in 1963.
Dear Town of Wilton Residents and Friends,
The year 2018 will be a year of remembrance and celebration as the town of Wilton takes pride in its Bicentennial. In commemoration, the Wilton Bicentennial Committee has planned a series of special events designed to encourage the citizens of this township to pause, reflect and remember our history. We invite you to join us in review of 200 years in the making. Plan to come and enjoy the events and activities with your families, friends and neighbors. For complete up-to-date information on our schedule of events throughout the year, I invite you to visit www.wiltonbicentennial.com. Wilton has a rich history to celebrate and reflect upon with pride. As a community, we've witnessed tremendous growth which has created the quality of life we enjoy today. A bright future lies ahead for our children and grandchildren because of the forethought and hard work of many.
Wilton Town Officials
Arthur Johnson, Supervisor John Lant, Deputy Supervisor Steve Streicher, Councilman John McEachron, Councilman Duane Bogardus, Councilman Kirklin Woodcock, Highway Superintendent Susan Baldwin, Town Clerk Hon. Gerald Worth, Town Justice Hon. David Towne, Town Justice
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We are very grateful to our Sponsors of the Bicentennial for their support of our 200th Birthday Year of festivities. I look forward to seeing you at these exciting events! Sincerely,
Cover Art by Kendra Schieber
Arthur Johnson, Town Supervisor
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Wilton's Timeline Follow along as we watch the story unfold!
The D&H Railroad removed
The arterial was built over the old rail tracks between Saratoga Springs and Wilton
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*Not Pictured on Map Target Distribution opened in 2000. ACE Hardware opened in 1997. D.A. Collins opened in 2003.
Standard Furniture moved to Wilton (where Saratoga Hospital is now)
Trice Geron Ford moved from Congress St. to the current location of New Country, this was the first business in Wilton.
Albany Public Market opened
Pyramid Mall torn down
Pyramid Mall opened
1990 Wilton Mall opened
Wilton Square opened (Target, Home Depot, etc.)
The Northway opened
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The Wilton of 2018 Photo by Welch Public Communications
Staff: 70 Students: 1,000 Open Date: 1977 *current bldg. fall of 2012
Glens Falls Hospital Employees: 24 Sq Feet: 28,300 Open Date: 10/05/06
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Employees: 186 Celebrating their 20th Anniversary in Wilton!
Employees: 350 Sq Feet: 1,171,892 Open Date: 12/15/97
Demographics Population 16,650 • Avg. income $83,037 Avg. cost of homes $259,073 Wilton is 36 sq. miles
Employees: 500 Sq Feet: 232,790 Open Date: 06/03/03
What Locals Know •
If you’re heading to Corinth, you take Route 9N. If you’re heading to Glens Falls, you take Route 9, Route 9 is also commonly referred to as either Saratoga Road or Maple Avenue.
Even though you may live in Wilton, your mailing address will most likely be Gansevoort, and your children can attend one of three school districts.
Our Town Court used to be held in the home of Judge Westly James Worth.
Mt. McGregor Prison and Grant Cottage are both in Moreau, but you must go through Wilton to get there.
The town of Wilton used to be called Palmertown.
Howard Pettys’ saw mill was located where Scotty’s Restaurant is now, before the Northway was built.
A railroad used to run from Saratoga Springs to the top of Mt. McGregor.
Forest Ranger, George McDonnell, would hire boys over 16 to fight brush fires in the Spring and the State paid twenty-five cents an hour.
F. Donald Myers, was a school administrator from Wilton. He is the founder of BOCES in Saratoga County.
Lake Elizabeth is a large pond that is known to Wiltonians as Lake Lizzy. Families gather there for swimming and ice skating.
Projections for Wilton's Future iven Wilton’s fiscal strength (no general fund or highway tax), well maintained infrastructure, economic diversity, exceptional recreation facilities, preserved natural spaces (Wilton Wildlife Preserve, Orra Phelps Preserve) and most importantly, a community filled with wonderful individuals and families, the future is so bright I need sunglasses to look ahead at it. -Ray O'Conor
G Park Place At Wilton
ur future is the people and we have a very bright future! We have a wonderful community and we live in the #1 County in the state. It’s up to the next generation to take it from here. -Roy McDonald
Sq Feet: 22,300 Apartments: 114 Open Date: 10/01/15
would like to see Wilton keep its quiet and charming atmosphere without too much growth in the hamlets.
Employees: 650 Sq Feet: 1,506,834 Open Date: 07/05/00
I-Susan Gavin Lant
ilton continues to be a very vibrant community as it has been for the past 200 years. The Wilton Community is a strong, dynamic community that fully embraces opportunities for growth, while preserving its historic legacy, we are very proud to be part of the Wilton community.
-Charles V. Wait, Chairman of Adirondack Trust Company ilton is very proud of its past. I see the future even brighter. I see Wilton continuing to follow the same successful path with a clear vision of the community’s future needs fueled by the hard work of many dedicated individuals. -Art Johnson
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Happy Birthday Town of Wilton WRITTEN & PHOTOGRAPHED BY JOHN R. GREENWOOD
he origin of this story began one Saturday back in the summer of 1970 when my father Ralph and I were rabbit hunting west of the city along the Petrified Sea Garden Road. I was fifteen and my father was trying his best to pass down his love for hunting to me. I was much happier and more proficient at shooting a basketball than I was a shotgun, so I can assure you no rabbits were harmed then, or since, by this author. What my father and I did bag that morning was an old bottle dump. We spent the next several weekends excavating and removing bushel baskets full of antique bottles from the woods. We
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were now both hooked and a new father-son pastime was born. Unfortunately, by the end of the following summer I discovered girls were more exciting, and while my father continued chasing old bottles, I began dating. Forty-seven years later I still have the girl, and the baskets filled with old bottles. My father remained hooked on the sport and was always searching for old abandoned farm dumps. You can imagine his excitement when in 1971 he acquired an original 1856 Geil Map of Saratoga County from an estate sale. The poster-size map was marked with small black squares. Each square denoted a dwelling; be it a home, church, or business. In 1971 not only were many of the buildings on the map now gone, some of old country roads had been abandoned and no longer existed. This was a virtual treasure map for a bottle-dump sleuth.
For years the map with the golden patina remained rolled up and leaning in the corner of my parents’ closet. Rarely did it see the light of day. After the passing of my parents, I became the keeper of the map. Although it held historic value, it was the memory of those Saturday mornings bottle digging with my father that made it priceless to me. My love for learning and writing about local history revived my interest in the map in the last few years. Last year, not knowing what to do with it or how to preserve it I assembled a large PVC container to help protect it. The map again remained silent and leaning in a corner in my home— that was until I read an article about the Town of Wilton celebrating its 200th year birthday in 2018. I had done some minor research on the map and had found that the Town of Greenfield and Saratoga County each had an identical map in their possession. Since I spent the first third of my life as youth growing up in the Town of Greenfield and the second two-thirds as an adult raising a family in the Town of Wilton, my wife and I thought the map might make a nice birthday gift for the latter. Because it had been rolled up for close to fifty years the map was becoming frail and in desperate need of attention. My hope was the town might have the
contacts and resources to help, either stabilize, or restore it. If so, I would relinquish ownership of the map back to the people of the town that happened to be located right smack dab in the middle of it. I started by writing a letter to Art Johnson, the Wilton Town Supervisor. I briefly described the map and explained my idea of gifting it to the town for its bicentennial celebration. He promptly responded, and the wheels were set in motion. Art was excited about the idea and we began setting up a time for me to bring it to the town offices for a closer look. Art mentioned that Tim Welch was producing a video documenting the bicentennial and he’d like to invite him and Saratoga County Historian Lauren Roberts to join us. So, on January 18, 2018, at the Wilton Town Complex, the four of us rolled out the map to try and decide what the next course of action should be. Lauren’s expertise was apparent, and she quickly listed various options, all of which carried a different level of monetary investment. She then suggested we contact Donia Conn, a Preservation Consultant for Cultural Heritage Collections. That turned out to be the 911 call that saved the map’s life. Two weeks later Art, Lauren, and I met at the Wilton Town Offices with Donia to discuss our options. Donia’s experience and love of preserving history was clear and evident. After studying the map carefully, she suggested stabilizing it with some careful restoration and a quality backing. A finely detailed, museum quality restoration would cost thousands of Donia Conn dollars and could take years to complete. She explained that with the material and process she used, we could always go the more expensive and timely route at a later date. With that knowledge it was unanimous. The map was placed back in its tube and headed off with its newest map keeper. I was smiling a county-wide smile. At the time of this article my birthday present to Wilton is in the middle of its rebirth. It is being lovingly restored by the capable hands of Donia Conn. She has assured us it will be ready for this summer’s Bicentennial Celebration and the activities associated with it. In addition to the restoration we also agreed to have a display case with a detachable front made for the map. This will make it more accessible should future restoration or scanning be necessary. As life-long Saratoga County residents, both my wife Patricia and I are extremely grateful for the help of Wilton Town Supervisor Art Johnson, Saratoga County Historian Lauren Roberts, and especially Preservation Consultant and Conservator Donia Conn for their help in preserving this precious and historical 1856 Geil Map of Saratoga County.
Happy Birthday Town of Wilton!
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Aerial view of Exit 15 showing Pyramid Mall • 1970
Exit 15 Then & Now Prehistoric Glacial Lake Albany once covered the area that is now Wilton. When it drained approximately 10,500 years ago through the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers, it created a natural intersection in the region and left behind sandy deposits that grew great expanses of pine barrens and bluestem grass.
" Mother Nature,
with the glaciers, had an amazing affect geologically with how people inhabit the land and creating what land was good, for what purpose,” said Larry Gordon.
When the nation’s first people traversed the countryside, they settled in the places that were the most easily accessible. Following these routes, a rural farming community sprouted up in Wilton, that even in 1950, still only had a population of less than 1,500 people. www.saratogaTODAYnewspaper.com
In 1955, sections of the railroad that stretched through the center of the city of Saratoga Springs and into Wilton were moved. Saratoga Springs’ passenger station was moved from Railroad Place to West Avenue in 1958. Gordon worked as a surveyor on what would, by 1967, be an uninterrupted interstate highway connecting New York City to Canada. Known as the “Adirondack Northway,” or simply, the “Northway,” the stretch that runs through Saratoga County has two exits within the town of Wilton (Exits 15 and 16). TOWN OF WILTON 200 th ANNIVERSARY 2018 | 17
Aerial view of Exit 15 showing Pyramid Mall completed • 1972
“The Wilton exits were a big interchange in the middle of nothing,” recalls Gordon. He remembers there being a cluster of three cottages on old Route 50, which was then just a two-lane road along its length. A tremendous county sewer system project in 1969, costing $142 million in just the first phase was executed, and water lines were put in where the dirt was easiest to dig.
It was the largest of the expanding shopping opportunities concentrated in this two-mile radius that also included fast food restaurants and car dealerships, at the time. From 1970 to 1980, Wilton’s population surged 142 percent, from just under 3,000 people to more than 7,000. Town and County Supervisor Roy McDonald held monthly office hours in the mall to engage residents in the growth of the burgeoning town.
“Growth takes a natural flow,” said Gordon.
A Beacon of Hope
By 1972, the biggest news in retail up until that point came with the opening of the Pyramid Mall at Exit 15. Developed by the Pyramid Management Group based out of Syracuse, it was eventually anchored by large department stores such as Montgomery Ward and Jamesway, a Stewart’s Shop even occupied a space within the new commercial center. To capitalize on its proximity to its well-known neighbor, the city of Saratoga Springs, it was renamed Pyramid Mall Saratoga and then called simply, the Saratoga Mall.
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Aerial view of Pyramid Mall with Standard Furniture Building to left • 1976
Others integral in the formation of the development of Exit 15 included former long-time Saratoga National Bank and Trust Co. CEO Raymond O’Conor. Serving a total of sixteen years on the Wilton Town Board, on the Saratoga County Planning Board from 1987 to 1994, on the Wilton Global Job Development Corp. for six years, and on other representational boards, he was also named Wilton’s Recycling Coordinator. The first town-wide Recycling Day was held November 11, 1989 at the Saratoga Mall. Next to the Saratoga Mall, developer Wilmorite built the Wilton Mall, which opened in 1990 with anchor department stores Addis & Dey, Sears, Roebuck and Co., and Steinbach. Concerns that the town couldn’t support two malls were overwhelmed with appreciation for the fact that the additional sales tax revenue would continue to replace the residents’ need to pay any town taxes.
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Two Decades of Development
Chairman of the seven-member Wilton master plan committee, O’Conor was appointed by McDonald to gather residential input and develop the plan that was eventually adopted in 1990, laying out a lot of what Wilton looks like today. Consistently among the fastest growing communities in Saratoga County, Wilton’s population grew to include another 2,000 people according to state census records, by the end of a decade that saw massive job growth, as well. Zones for retail around Exit 15 were paired with commercial and light industrial plots at Exit 16. Additional swaths of residential and open space for active and passive recreation were factored into the plan by 1993. By the end of the 1990s, Saratoga Mall floundered and was torn down to make room for Wilton Square, which opened with stores including Home Depot, Target, Circuit City and Barnes & Noble. The Cobblestone Court Mobile Home Park shut down, as did the Trice Jeron car dealership. Just down the road on Route 50, Rex TV & Appliance and Benson’s Pet Center occupied the former Moore’s Lumber Co. lot. The brand-new Lowe’s Home Improvement Center, and fast
Saratoga Mall Demolition (late 1990s)
food restaurants including Taco Bell, KFC, and Applebee’s also opened nearby. The Walmart Supercenter was put in and the Saratoga Regional YMCA – Wilton Branch opened up as its neighbor on Old Gick Road in 2012. The Albany Public Market, the first large supermarket chain in upstate New York, was replaced by Price Chopper. Where Standard Furniture once stood, the Wilton Medical Arts complex now resides. Roadways and bridges were built in the Exit 15 area to accommodate the additional traffic demands, as well. “They seem to plop right in,” said Gordon about the slew of businesses that have filled in this area in the last two decades.
A Cash Machine
While the city of Saratoga Springs attracts tourists, Wilton gives those tourists the large-scale shopping experiences they’re looking for. Deemed by many as the town’s “cash machine,” this retail development fills a need in Saratoga County that goes beyond the elimination of town taxes for Wilton residents since 1985. “It takes money to do everything you want; we’re paying for a lot,” said Gordon. Arthur Johnson was the Town of Wilton Assessor for fourteen years beginning in 1981, in addition to serving in numerous other capacities, and has been the Town Supervisor since 2002. “The quality of life is why people want to move here, and it’s not an easy thing to create. Our vision was to have a
defined plan, and it’s been working. The commercial areas do not infringe on the residential areas, and we’ve invested a lot of money in recreation,” said Johnson. Since he’s been in office, Johnson has strived to use the money generated by the Exit 15 businesses wisely. “We’ve built the fund balance up through conservative spending and sales tax revenues,” he said.
An Unforeseen Future
As this decade draws to an end, Johnson predicts the rise of online shopping will continue to be the biggest threat to Saratoga County’s reliance on retail. “It’s definitely affecting retail, which is not good for anybody. Taxing online sales would be huge in alleviating a lot of the county’s problems. It would save the brick and mortar stores and level the playing field,” said Johnson. Despite these fears, he remains optimistic. “Exit 15 still has, in my mind, a bright retail future. We’re very fortunate because we have good, viable stores with the Walmart, Target, and home improvement stores,” he said. Echoing these same concerns, O’Conor suggests creativity will build Wilton’s future. “What’s going to happen to all this retail space? It’s been a real boon to the town. Now, there’s the whole Amazon effect. To keep retail secure, it has to be more creative and provide an experience that cannot be recreated on the internet.” •
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The Arrival Of The Wilton Mall W
hen Wilton announced they were going to put in a second mall, people were skeptical.
in Rochester, planned a $75 million shopping mall in Wilton within easy view of the already popular Pyramid Mall Saratoga.
Residents had been enjoying the money generated “People weren’t convinced at first, but I thought, Why Not?” through sales tax revenues being used to eliminate said former Town Supervisor Roy McDonald. the need to pay any town taxes since 1983. At the time, Wilton Knowing a rich commercial base brought in more sales tax was the only town in the county to have done this, but there dollars, Wilton was already blossoming into the region’s were still concerns about the concentrated development premier retail shopping district. A total of one million square happening around Northway Exit 15. feet of shopping opportunities would exist in just one square Announced in October 1988, Wilmorite, a leading commercial mile of space, growing the town’s tax base by 50 percent. real estate development and management company based
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Balancing Economy & Environment
At the time, the town was considered to have the most viable Karner blue butterfly population in the Eastern United States. A federally protected endangered species, during its larval stage it depends solely on the leaves of the wild blue lupine.
Environmental assessments, including soil erosion and sediment control measures had to be submitted for approval. Wetland, vegetation and stream protections were also put in place. Zoning ordinances that regulated water resources including the Snook Kill and Little Snook Kill Rivers, Delegan Brook and Bog Meadow Brook addressed soil conservation but also water quality, fish and wildlife populations, aesthetic appeal. They also attempted to prevent flooding and storm damage to structures.
Protecting the butterfly was the catalyst behind the effort to conserve this increasingly rare landscape.
The need to balance development with ecological preservation and providing Wilton residents with a high quality of life was something the town officials always “The butterfly was here, I had been seeing it, but blue lupine, attempted to do in their decision-making process. really to me, was just another wildflower,” said Larry Gordon, Excavation of large parcels was put under the town’s former Saratoga County Planner. jurisdiction after then Town Councilman Ray O’Conor wrote Wilton is part of the geologically significant Saratoga the Soil and Wetlands Conservation Law. The legislation was Sandplains, an area of ancient sand dunes, wetlands and in response to the clearing of 100 acres of woodland on the diverse ecological communities including meadows of Wilton Mall site in the late 1980s. lupine that are the habitat for the Karner blue butterfly.
Building the 600,000 square foot mall created approximately 1,200 construction jobs in the area. A multimillion dollar investment by Wilmorite paid for roads and sewer systems to be rebuilt and expanded, including the Route 50 bridge at Exit 15. Because of the impact made from construction and other vehicles travelling to and from the site, maintenance to Saratoga roadways was addressed, as well.
Other threatened animal species include the Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, frosted elfin butterfly, eastern spadefoot toad, blanding turtle, spotted turtle, and eastern hognose snake would be threatened, as well. The loss and fragmentation of open habitat area due to development was a major concern for some, but others were critical.
People weren`t convinced at first, but I thought...
“’What are you doing playing with the flowers and butterflies out here?’ people wanted to know. Then people were more accepting that this is an outreach area,” Gordon recalls. An active supporter of the Boy Scouts for decades, Gordon’s property is adjacent to Camp Saratoga, which operated as a Boy Scout camp from 1930 to 2001.
In 1996, a 1.1 acre parcel was the beginning of a dream of a 3,000 acre The Wilton Mall opened in August preserve for wildlife including the 1990, with anchor stores Addis & butterfly and a park for the people. -former Town Supervisor Roy McDonald Dey, Sears, Roebuck and Co., and Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park’s Steinbach. It was a large open partners are the Town of Wilton, space featuring skylights, live The Nature Conservancy and New York State Department of plants, and fountain courts. Environmental Conservation, along with Saratoga County. By the one-year anniversary of its construction, the Wilton There is an active Board of Directors made up of dedicated Mall had an eight-screen cinema and a food court with a area individuals with a mission focused on conservation, carousel made by the Venice-based Bertazzon. It boasted environmental education, and outdoor recreation. a total of 59 businesses within its walls, and more were “This is too nice of an area not to be used, with rugged opening regularly. trails and the Karner blue butterfly. People need these Some stores, including Radio Shack and Friar Tuck Books, types of places. We got what we wanted,” said former Town found it beneficial to open up shop in both the Pyramid and Supervisor Roy McDonald. Wilton Mall locations, despite their proximity. J.C. Penny Co. had its grand opening, with retailers Lane Bryant, Barbara Wilmorite sold the Wilton Mall in 2005 to the Macerich Moss, and Afterthoughts Boutique coming soon after. Company of Arizona, the third-largest owner and operator of shopping centers in the United States. Montgomery Ward & Co. opened at Wilton Mall in 1992.
If a Butterfly Flaps its Wings...
Since the 1980s, the Nature Conservancy and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation had been monitoring how the development in Wilton was impacting the environment.
A reenactment of the first town meeting 200 years ago will be held in the Wilton Mall at 3065 NY-50, on Friday, April 20th from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Afterwards, a showing of “Wilton 200,” a documentary movie about the town, will be at the Wilton Mall’s Bowtie Cinema. •
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Art Johnson, Daughter Nicole Quaglia and Wife, Sandy Johnson
Art Johnson Has It All Figured Out
orking as the Wilton Town Supervisor since 2002, Johnson strives to accomplish what is in the peoples’ best interest. The formula involves residential and commercial construction, as well as the infrastructure to support it. It factors in agricultural needs, recreational opportunities, and open space.
“It’s an important mix,” said Johnson.
Doing the Math
Art married his wife Sandy in 1971. Originally attracted to the city of Saratoga Springs, the young couple moved to Wilton when they found an affordable and relatively rural lot available two years later.
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An employee of the New York Department of Tax and Finance for 34 years, Johnson totaled up the value of the town’s property assets as the Town Assessor for fourteen years before becoming a town councilman and its Deputy Supervisor. In his current role as Town Supervisor, he serves on numerous agencies, boards, partnerships and committees, discussing what people want and how to pay for it. It’s a job that requires a balance of earnestness and decision-making, something he learned to do by modeling the actions of those that came before him, including former Town and County Supervisor Roy McDonald. “Roy had vision. I learned from him. He’s more aggressive and I’m more mellow, but he was a mentor to me. He really started Wilton,” said Johnson.
Grand Opening of Saratoga Hospital Park Place • 2017
Taking the Test
In November 2002, after spreading sand during a light snowstorm, a truck parked inside the Wilton Highway Department garage on Traver Road had an electrical malfunction and ignited. The consequent blaze destroyed a huge portion of the town’s equipment. In just a few hours, there was $2 million in damage.
The Wilton Town Highway Department is responsible for maintaining approximately 100 miles of roadway. They lost six snowplows, two tractors, two pickup trucks and two leaf machines in the fire. The town court building located nearby also sustained minor smoke and water damage. After the fire, three snow plows were salvaged and repaired while three others that were undamaged and some that were borrowed from surrounding communities took up residence at DA Collins on Ballard Road for the winter. The relationships built between the towns and counties that helped out in Wilton’s time of need were incredible, said Johnson. Responsibilities for rearranging road activities that winter were compacted by the need to file stacks of insurance claims. It was a tough time and the support he received enabled the construction of a new facility featuring an office complex and a 13,500 sq. ft. garage with 16 bays, as well as the repairs of another eight bays from the old garage that survived the fire. “I’m very pleased to have accomplished that,” said Johnson. Community Day at the Saratoga Race Course • 2017
Studying for the Future
Johnson is now calculating what can still be achieved. “We have a much younger community than those around us – recreation is very important, schools are very important… We believe in connectivity and do it whenever we can. We are what we are,” he said. For those critics that wonder if Wilton is built out, Johnson says there is still room to grow. “The lands are there. Spaces for the large track subdivisions don’t exist anymore, but on a smaller scale there are housing construction opportunities. Off Exit 16 there are shovel-ready properties. Everything is in place, those are really good lands for development,” said Johnson. Moving forward, it’s important to remember how far we’ve come. “There are a lot of great events that folks will enjoy the rest of the year. The Wilton Bicentennial is a great way to celebrate and remember our 200th birthday.” •
Grand Opening of Wilton YMCA expansion • 2012
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An Interview With
Roy McDonald I
t’s hard to be happy when it’s hard to find a job.
Roy McDonald understands this, which is why he vigorously went after employment opportunities for the Town of Wilton during his 23 years as Town and County Supervisor. As part of a dynamic team of enterprising government officials and businessmen, sheer determination created the fastest growing community with the lowest unemployment rates in New York State – and it’s all been done with no town taxes for 35 years.
“I’m not a superstar; I’m just a regular person. I had a lot of good people all around me,” said McDonald.
From Square One
Throwing 50 lb. bags of lime, teetering on a narrow ramp over hydrochloric acid in the “pickle house”, and picking up garbage – this was the summer job that allowed McDonald to pay his way through school at Hudson Valley Community College before earning his master’s degree at SUNY Oneonta. His father worked at the steel mill for forty years. Many in McDonald’s Irish family worked there at one time or another. Serving in the US Army’s 1st Cavalry Division in the Vietnam War, he still remembers the harrowed soldiers he spent time with and the toll life’s hardships can take. These experiences developed him into the practical person he is today, as did a saying from those days that sums it all up for him – “There it is.”
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Getting what he said was a great head start from the work of Robert Gavin, former Wilton Town Supervisor, with zoning regulations, the building of the Wilton Mall, and the transition of the Wilton Developmental Center into McGregor Prison, a master plan for the further development of Wilton was composed. “What a trail he started for us. It was the beginning of malls,” said McDonald. Eager to obtain input from the community, McDonald’s outreach initiatives brought many more people to some of the public meetings than even he expected. It was standing room only when more than 200 people showed up to voice their opinions at Dorothy Nolan Elementary School so changes to the plan could be made before it was adopted in 1990. “We had to start from scratch for everything, but people vote with their feet,” he said.
A Balanced Approach
father. I like getting out with the kids, it’s a lot of fun,” he said. For those working all day, the visual therapy value of getting out into nature can’t be underestimated. As a kid growing up in Troy, playing baseball and watching the games at Knickerbocker Park was his world, said McDonald. Providing that same kind of active recreation through the opportunities available at Gavin Park is something he is very proud of, he said. The passive recreation at Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park is something that he still enjoys with his two autistic grandsons. “The thing they like most is hiking, it’s comforting for them,” he said. Expanding educational opportunities is the future of Wilton, predicts McDonald. While change is inevitable, the fact that momentum progresses a town forward stays the same. While McDonald moved on from his supervisory role to serving on the New York State Assembly and New York State Senate, one simple fact remained. “We got to build a town. I like that,” he said. There it is. •
Quality of life is an important factor to consider for the present and future of a town. Comprised of responsible residential, commercial, and industrial building, the infrastructure to support them in the form of a network of roadways, pedestrian pathways, water and sanitation services, and more, must be considered. For example, through McDonald’s leadership, Saratoga County became only the second county in the state to institute a systematic 911 emergency response strategy. Circa 1979
“The post office didn’t catch up with all the people moving in. I remember this woman was cooking with oil and a grease fire broke out. She called three different fire departments. They kept telling her she wasn’t in their district and to call someplace else. The fire spread from the stove to the wall to the kitchen, and then all three fire departments showed up – but that’s how it was – you never knew if somebody was going to your house,” said McDonald.
Roy and his wife, Angelina Zaccagnino-McDonald, are the parents of three daughters. Being a father afforded him a unique perspective on business.
“I’d say, ‘I’m going to the mall’, and boom, they’re in the car,” he remembers. The appeal of concentrated retail shopping was what the young people, who were fleeing the sprawling urban areas to move to Wilton, were looking for.
Roy & Angela McDonald with their family on opening day of Gavin Park
“The retail is very, very important to us. It’s voluntary taxation through sales tax. Commuters too spend a lot of money – they need stuff,” said McDonald. Building in undeveloped natural space was also a defining feature of McDonald’s years in office. “They called me a “Green Republican” and said, ‘Gee, Roy, you’re turning into an environmentalist’, but what I am is a
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Michael Dennis M
ichael Dennis had a tremendous impact on Wilton’s landscape.
He demonstrated that excellence achieved through extraordinary accomplishments as a real estate developer doesn’t diminish one’s ability to treat the community in a monumental manner.
“Mike was always community oriented. He served on various boards. He was definitely a community leader,” said Wilton Town Supervisor Art Johnson.
Teeing Up to Take-Off
Dennis graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in business economics in 1969. After serving in the U.S. Army, he was a member of the New York State Air National Guard 247 Medical Company for five years. Mike’s father, George Dennis, bought McGregor Links
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Country Club in 1970. Originally opened in 1921, it is still considered to be one of the more challenging courses in the Northeast, complete with a classic columned club house and picturesque secluded setting. Managing the property with his wife JeanAnn, Dennis became owner and president of Dennis Land Development Co., Inc. in 1971.
Breakthrough Home Builder
The next three decades were filled with a massive buildup of residential housing options in Wilton. Dennis joined the Wilton Planning and Zoning boards, organized the Wilton Water Supply Company, and was an active participant in the Saratoga County Sewer District. He built neighborhoods and strengthened the community of Wilton with ten subdivisions, nearly 2,000 residences, a 60-acre medical and professional office park, and a public www.saratogaTODAYnewspaper.com
water supply system. Combining an equal obligation to build affordable housing with protecting water resources, he was a proponent of the public and private sectors working together on the concept of clustered housing. These subdivisions provide more open space and preserve the environment in a way that is also fiscally beneficial. Kings Mills Estate was a model of this type of building design. The 69 houses were positioned to allow for 100 acres of fields, forest, and natural resources within the property.
Business & Community Savvy
A prominent businessman, Dennis served as a member of the Saratoga Springs Chamber of Commerce, the Saratoga Builders Association, the Center for Economic Growth, the Saratoga Economic Development Corporation, and on the board of the Adirondack Trust Company to help shape the economic and educational future of the area. He was instrumental to the settlement of GlobalFoundries to the Capital District. To prepare students to work at GlobalFoundries and other tech-related firms moving into the area, SUNY Adirondack’s Wilton Campus on Route 9 was expanded by the Mountain Ledge Ltd. Partnership, in which Dennis was a principal partner. The former site of Adirondack Community College (for which he served on
the Foundation Board of Directors) now provides more classrooms, lab space, and an auditorium for the Wilton student body that has more than doubled in size. Michael Dennis donated land on Jones Road to the Town of Wilton for the construction of the Wilton Emergency Squad Building (in 1986) and Wilton Fire Company’s second station on Ballard Road. Governor George Pataki appointed Dennis commissioner to New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and he served on the Wilton Historical Preservation Commission for more than 25 years. He was a supporter of organizations including the Saratoga Center for the Family and the Alzheimer’s Association of Northeastern New York, a cause for which he raised nearly one million dollars. Dennis’ parents both battled Alzheimer’s disease, the same illness to which he succumbed in December 2014 at the age of 68. In addition to his wife JeanAnn Parish Dennis; his family includes two children, Ryan Michael Dennis and Erinn Catherine Kolligian, and six grandchildren. “We didn’t just work together, we were friends. We went skiing and played golf. He was easy-going, articulate, family-oriented and committed to the town. It was not just a business relationship, I’ve know a lot of these guys forever – they really go the extra mile,” said former Town and County Supervisor Roy McDonald. •
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Ray O'Conor Purposeful by Nature
"Whatever you can do,
or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” – J.W. von Goethe
No one made more of an impact on developing Ray’s unshakable set of guiding ethics more than his own parents. Joseph O’Conor was an insurance adjuster who went on to become a lawyer, while also caring for his family.
Along with a team of inspired individuals, Ray O’Conor helped to build the town of Wilton. He began his professional career defending the country’s borders and “It was a challenge – having a daughter and three sons, and working as a special agent for the U.S. Defense Department. it weighed on him,” said Ray. The daily stress and lack of regular exercise contributed to the need for Joseph to Continuing to look after the well-being of the country’s undergo his first coronary bypass surgery at the age of 47 citizens, he spent more than 25 years supervising their and open-heart surgery at 61. financial interests at Saratoga National Bank, while working with a long list of community service groups.
“In my life, the people that made the biggest impression were hardworking and honest as the day is long. They were all of a similar mind – always try to do the right thing,” said Ray. 30 | TOWN OF WILTON 200 th ANNIVERSARY 2018
“I watched everything my dad went through. I never smoked. I stopped drinking – it’s been 38 years since my last drink,” he said. Instead, Ray focuses on being physically fit. He’s run everything from 5K races to full marathons and completed an Ironman competition. In his sixties, he hikes an average of 20 www.saratogaTODAYnewspaper.com
miles per week and just finished the Winter 46–climbing all of the Adirondack Mountain’s 46 high peaks in winter. Living in a neighborhood that opens up to the Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park, Ray regularly enjoys an open area that he helped to create. “Everybody loves the fact that we can go right out our door and cross-country ski, or bare boot it on the trails. The sounds of owls, birds and crickets surround you - it’s like magic,” he said.
Helen Gregg, Ray’s mother, is the daughter of Irish immigrants. Growing up in the fifth floor apartment of a Hell’s Kitchen tenement, she watched her father struggle with mental illness while attempting to support the family on the wage of an elevator operator.
Thinking that happily-ever-after only happens to other people, she escaped this depressed lot in life when, at 16, she literally ran into a young man named Clarence Raymond Stephenson in New York City’s Central Park.
member of his crew, as well as his sister, who showed Ray his diary entry from the day he met Helen. It read, “I met a lovely girl in Central park today, Miss Helen Gregg. I think this will change my entire future life.”
Working for two years on the screenplay of the book, it was recently nominated for Best Script 2018 by the International Christian Film and Music Festival.
“There’s a fine line between bold and stupid,” said Ray. It’s advice that he keeps in mind while mountain climbing, as well as throughout his years on regulatory boards including the Wilton Town Board, Saratoga County Planning Board, and while developing the town’s master plan. Managing the growth of business, jobs, and the economy while balancing it with wildlife preservation is a legacy that he continues as the CEO of the Saratoga County Capital Resource Corporation, which strives to create jobs while acting in the public interest.
“Anytime you take on a project that has an impact on the Their love affair blossomed into her first marriage two years later. public it’s best to one: gather all the facts, and two: talk to people that have a point of view and beliefs that are both Serving as a B17 pilot during World War II, Helen tragically lost the same, and different than yours,” he said. her first love, but in honor of him, gave her son his name. His next tale of opportunity was inspired by a man (his guide) “She never lost that place in her heart for her first husband,” who he met while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Ray has said Ray. In 2012, Ray left his “good job at a great company” discovered that the more he learns, the better the story gets. to research and chronicle their love story in his book, “She Called Him Raymond”.
“Once I decided to take the plunge – as soon as I made that commitment – all sorts of instrumental things happened,” he said. These included meeting Stephenson’s siblings and a
Ray below the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro
Ray’s own legacy is one indelibly intertwined with the history of Wilton’s growth.
“There’s always hope and promise for a better future than today – and today’s pretty good.” •
Northshire Bookstore with Events Manager Rachel Person
Ray on the Mexican Border • 1980
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Frank Parillo Big-Time Operator
ositioned at an intersection just off Adirondack Northway Exit 16, businessman Frank Parillo is guided by one thing.
“I strive to make people happy. If we don’t, someone else will,” he said.
"What`ll It Be?"
Understanding and giving people what they want has been Parillo’s driving force since the beginning. After graduating from Ballston Spa High School in 1962, he went on to Husson University in Maine. There he met his wife Delores. They married in 1966, and moved to Wilton in 1970. A 90acre farm on the corner of Ballard and Edie Road was the first piece of what would come to be a number of property holdings here, many of which are centered around the New York Interstate Highway Exit 16 area. 32 | TOWN OF WILTON 200 th ANNIVERSARY 2018
“Wilton is a great community,” said Parillo. Working as a marketing representative with the Shell Oil Company, he was a tenant before purchasing and then reopening a small gas station on Ballard Road in 1975. The Wilton Shell Service station site grew to include Scotty’s Restaurant in 1977 with additional office space and a store in 1984. Another expansion in 1986 added on even more office space to the building now known as the Wilton Travel Plaza. “Starting with a two-bay gas station with a couple of pumps, and ending up with a twenty-acre travel plaza with ninety employees - that are all part of making Wilton Travel Plaza a success – that’s a great success story. This is where it all started,” said Parillo, whose real estate development company, Saratoga Prime Properties, LLC, has many area assets. Being one of only two truck stops on the interstate at the
time, today, eighty-percent of Wilton Travel Plaza business comes from repeat customers, said Parillo. “There’s not too many restaurants open 24 hours,” he added.
" Fill̀er Up"
Generous portions of home-cooked food served up all-day, every day, at reasonable prices (including Parillo’s favorite; the eggs and corned beef hash) is what Scotty’s Restaurant is known for. The Wilton Travel Plaza’s fully-stocked service station and convenience store is also equipped with a comfortable trucker’s lounge and more than 200 parking spaces for large vehicles. Frank’s father Jim Sr., his brother Jim Jr. and his son Scott (who the restaurant is named after) have all helped this multi-generational family business grow. Parillo also credits his many long-term and late-shift employees, as well as the town itself, for their success spanning more than 40 years.
“The Town of Wilton, planning and zoning boards, supervisor, and other town officials have been very open to new ideas, have been receptive to business and realize the importance of it,” said Parillo.
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Frank with his son, Scott
"At Your Service"
In addition to Scotty’s Restaurant and the Wilton Travel Plaza, Exit 16 is also the home to commercial distribution giants ACE Hardware Corp., Target, The Medical Center at Wilton, Alpin Haus RV, and other offices and companies that provide a significant amount of jobs in the region, while fostering substantial revenue streams into the local economy through gasoline and diesel sales tax dollars.
“We’re so close to the exit that we really haven’t had complaints about road impact. The trucking industry is really important to the business of the United States of America, especially since there are no more trains,” said Parillo. In addition to servicing those traveling through Wilton, the Parillo family strives to be responsible neighbors to residents within the local community. This includes participating as a Saratoga-Wilton Youth Baseball sponsor, helping to support the Wilton Food Pantry, and many years of involvement with the Boy Scouts of America, for which Parillo was honored to receive the 2017 Good Scout Award last year (along with Wilton resident Larry Gordon). “I want to thank the Wilton community for allowing us to be part of a great town,” said Parillo. •
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Frank with his very successful motto
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Preserving the Past L
ooking past its then dingy appearance, Shelly Walker saw potential in the Gurn Springs Methodist Episcopal Church, originally built in 1885 at Emerson’s Corners, on Ballard Road.
In 2015, after renovating the interior, the Finishing Touches Home Décor & More store and interior design office was opened in the space.
“It has character that brand new stores just don’t have,” said Walker.
The picturesque charm of the carpenter gothic style church, with its narrow pointed arch windows and quaint gabled roof, has remained since it was constructed 133 years ago at a cost of $2,000. The center of early life in the Wilton hamlet, the church was sold when the congregation joined with Gansevoort and South Wilton Methodist churches to form the Wilton Trinity United Methodist Church. “It’s a real asset that has a lot of history to it,” said the church’s current owner, Frank Parrillo. An 11-year resident of the town, Walker revived the space next to the Wilton Travel Plaza with her significant other Doug Dockendorf, owner of Priority Electric, Priority Home Solutions, and 1888ChuckIt, in just five months. The majority of improvements were done to repair the extensive water damage caused from foundation cracking and water flooding in from the adjacent cemetery grounds. “Water was just streaming into the place,” said Dockendorf. A dilapidated kitchen and dining area were removed from the basement and its concrete walls were sanded and repainted to create a large showroom space. 36 | TOWN OF WILTON 200 th ANNIVERSARY 2018
On the main level, the bathroom was redone, and the raised altar and organ floors were taken out. The wide plank pine floors were refinished once the carpeting was stripped away; the dark grey walls and trim were repainted. Quatrefoil windows and architectural detailing on the exterior (common to churches of the period) emphasize the Edwardian light fixtures hanging down from the high ceilings. The entrance is home to nests of chirping bluebirds and finches in the church’s cupola.
Spiritual Spruce Up
Since occupying the space, Walker has been introduced to its haunted history. The sounds of creaking floor boards and ringing bells are said to be the spirit of two young boys, and the ghost of a man sitting in a back pew has been seen there, but customers haven’t been bothered by their harmless presence, said Walker. The church atmosphere adds to Finishing Touches’ philosophy that some things are worth saving. Antique furniture pieces and accessories sit alongside the unique handmade new items for sale. Design Assistant Maxwell Reagan said the store’s arrangement is much like the structure itself: with unique, unexpected finds tucked in everywhere. “I definitely, in my designs, love to mix new with old. It’s always a fun design concept. Future generations should restore these old things and buildings, otherwise they will be gone,” said Walker. Finishing Touches Home Décor is located at 217 Ballard Road in Wilton. They were awarded Wilton Historical Society’s 2017 Preservation Award and will be featuring special discounts during the Wilton Historic Site Tour on Saturday, April 21st and Sunday, April 22nd, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. • www.saratogaTODAYnewspaper.com
TOWN OF WILTON 200 th ANNIVERSARY 2018 | 37
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Photos Courtesy of Saratoga Room, Saratoga Springs Public Library
The Story of the Mountain www.saratogaTODAYnewspaper.com
TOWN OF WILTON 200 th ANNIVERSARY 2018 | 39
A photo of Artist Lake, man-made lake behind the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company’s “Sanatorium on the Mountain”
Among the town of Wilton’s earliest settlers were the McGregor families who came from Scotland in 1787. Industrial brothers who were farmers that also operated a grist mill, Duncan McGregor built a small hotel on a portion of his property that came to be known as Mt. McGregor. In the 1880s the Saratoga, Mt. McGregor and Lake George Railroad bought the hotel, which became the “cottage” of financier Joseph W. Drexel, who helped to develop the ten and a half mile track system that ran from North Broadway in Saratoga Springs to the top of the mountain.
Former President General Ulysses S. Grant occupied the house in his last days surrounded by the peaceful Mt. McGregor landscape. The property has been maintained as he left it and is now known as Grant Cottage.
A Place of Rest
As soon as a railroad was completed to the top of Mt. McGregor, construction began on the gracious, four-story Hotel Balmoral. 40 | TOWN OF WILTON 200 th ANNIVERSARY 2018
In 1883, it was one of only three at the time to be lit by electricity. The Hotel Balmoral was billed as “free from fog and dew” and the “cheapest and most popular excursion in the country”. When it opened under the management of Mr. Albert Frost, it was capable of accommodating 250 guests, with each room opening onto the wide veranda encircling the structure. It was destroyed by fire in 1897. The Balmoral hotel was covered by a $28,000 insurance policy. In 1898, it was sold to A.M. Robinson and G.N. Rich of North Adams, Mass. for $70,000. In 1913, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company developed a tuberculosis sanatorium to care for thousands of their employees on the site. The “Sanatorium on the Mountain” had a labyrinth of underground passages used to transport the bodies of those who died from the disease off the premises. New York State claimed the facility in 1945 as a World War II veteran’s rest home. Offering large windows with magnificent views, a 1915 Mission-style chapel, and the Artist’s Lake… the Veteran’s Camps served as a picturesque reprieve before transitioning back into civilian life. The Wilton State School, formerly a division of the Rome State School for Mental Retardation, occupied the site from 1960 until 1975. These New York State Department of Mental Hygiene clients were transferred to the Wilton Developmental Center.
The New York State Department of Corrections operated the Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility on the grounds beginning in 1976, when the first busload of 33 inmates traveled up the winding road to the mountaintop minimum security prison. The prison’s population quickly grew to 150 residents, with 75 beds in each of the dormitories and one holding cell in each. The “mountain magic” formula for rehabilitation at the facility focused on self-improvement through a work camp structure. Crews of inmates were to use time constructively doing public service work in the community. Violence was minimal it was reported, because prisoners didn’t want to risk getting transferred. Because of the number of escapes from the massive property, it became known as “Camp Walkaway.” New additions upgraded sections of the prison to mediumlevel security. These changes included the installation of seven more cells, and the construction of at least 12’ fences topped with razor wire and sensors to detect movement around the property. Additional guards were hired, two lookout towers were built near the recreation fields and main yard, and a truck stop inspection station was opened along the roadway. This allowed the facility to house a total of 350 minimum security and 550 medium security inmates
in a state system that was struggling with overcrowding in the 1980s and ‘90s. The trend reversed by the summer of 2009 when only 49 of the minimum security beds were occupied. A long decommission process began to close-out the prison when it was selected as one of four within the state to shut-down because of the declining prison population. The NYSCOPBA correctional officers union tried to place some of the facility’s 320 employees at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock 45-minutes away, when Mt. McGregor finally closed. Spread across multiple municipalities, portions of the 1,000 acre property are still awaiting a new use. The Moreau Lake State Park owns 750 acres of the open space. Infrastructure improvements are needed to occupy the buildings because there is no natural gas supply and it relies on water from a pond on-site. “The Mt. McGregor Prison property we share with Moreau closed in 2014. There were more than 300 jobs lost, so we’re really anxious to redevelop and get those jobs back. It’s a beautiful property but it’s going to take a lot of vision and a lot of money,” said Town Supervisor Art Johnson.
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The "White Elephant" of Wilton
The Place for ACE
The historic buildings on Mt. McGregor’s large property were reopened in 1961 as the annex of the Rome State School for Mental Retardation (a name that was later changed to the Wilton Developmental Center). The facility remained operational until November 1975 when the residents were transferred to the new Wilton Development Center building on Ballard Road.
The job of what to do with the property became the responsibility of the Wilton Developmental Taskforce, which was comprised of 10 members; four state, three county, and three town representatives.
When a possession becomes burdensome, it earns the status of a white elephant; rare and valuable, but with it comes the expensive proposition of caring for it responsibly. Wilton’s white elephant was the Wilton Developmental Center.
Twenty years later, the Wilton Developmental Center was among 19 state-run institutions that were shut down. The 450 residents were moved to group homes and 1,000 state employees lost their jobs. The substantial white concrete structure, with its distinctive dark tinted bubble windows, was hungry for habitation.
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It was going to take a taskforce to redevelop the 344-acre site complete with dormitories, a large kitchen, dining room, swimming pool and truck bay. The New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities planned to use 60 acres for a summer camp program.
The taskforce’s decisions have been developed into a construction case study so that others may learn from their example. Out of all the communities experiencing closures at the time, Wilton came up with the most successful solution. After buying the property from the state, they sold 130 acres to ACE Hardware. Their $35 million investment in the parcel west of the developmental center building included the construction of a $21 million warehouse distribution center. Opened in 1997, it was the second largest of fifteen centers spread out along the east coast from Maine to North Carolina. The 800,000 sq. ft. building has 25’ racks storing approximately 60,000 items that were selected, transferred by conveyor belts, put on trucks and shipped out to more than 800 stores.
Moving Over for Target
Within a mile of ACE, discount retail giant Target moved in with the new millennium. New York only had six Target stores back then, but already 800 had quickly popped up in 40 states and scores were being added each year. Target was selling the latest fashions and home décor items at low prices in clean, brightly-lit, wide aisles. More and more people were choosing to make a Target run, leaving competitors Caldor, Bradlees, Jamesway and Kmart to feel the burn of being left behind. The 1.1 million sq. ft. building owned by parent company, the Minneapolis-based Dayton Hudson Corp., would add up to 750 jobs to the area when it opened. Plans however, positioned it to be built right on top of the existing North Road near its intersection with Ballard Road. Their $45 million blueprint for construction was adjusted for an alternate North Road to be built, running 400 feet west from its original location. An erosion control study was conducted to ensure environmental protection procedures could be put in place for the Snook Kill River, a stateclassified trout stream.
Center of Impact
warehouses. The Wilton Global Job Development Corp was formed, led by Ray O’Conor. “We added the word “Global” because that’s what we were looking at; companies from all the places out there to move in here and create jobs,” said O’Conor. In 2003, D.A. Collins Companies began investing more than $8 million in the 283,000 sq. ft. facility, which later opened as their corporate headquarters. The group of civil construction companies, originally founded by Donald A. Collins in Mechanicville, is famous for building the Twin Bridges, a pair of steel bridges spanning the Mohawk River and connecting Albany County to Saratoga County. By 2009, D.A. Collins was leasing the space that was the Wilton Developmental Center swimming pool to Tech Valley Technologies. This small business creates thermal and hit sensitive responsive shooting targets for military, law enforcement, commercial and sporting use. The Developmental Center’s dormitory space was renovated into offices and work areas for Saratoga Architectural Millwork and Custom Cabinetry. Wilton’s Blueprint for Economic and Job Growth laid out the town’s continued “can do” attitude toward building widespread impact – locally, regionally, nationally and globally. •
Several years later, everyone was still talking about what to do with the white elephant in this room of sprawling
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Jeff Brisbin Photo by Blackburn Portrait Design
Founders Forevermore raveling down trails established by the Native Americans, Wilton’s early settlers were attracted to the beautiful countryside so similar to that of their Scottish homeland.
With fertile soil to farm, lush forests to hunt, lakes and rivers to fish, brothers William and Samuel Brisbin chose the wilderness on the south branch of the Snook Kill River of what is now the town of Wilton, for a settlement in 1764. Originally crossing as soldiers under Abercrombie and Amherst in the French and Indian War, they returned to the area, built a sawmill and cut roads before moving west with the arrival of the Revolutionary War.
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Brisbin became a name so intimately associated with this region that it lives on here, as does a ghost of the Brisbins, their father James, who seems to be in no hurry to depart. James came with his second wife Margaret Carruth, at about the same time as his sons. A prosperous and influential farmer in Bacon Hill, there are reports his ghost still haunts the property. “When I was a kid, I never wanted to go in the house,” said their descendant Jeff Brisbin, who remembers always wanting to stay in the car when his family would visit. James is buried in a family cemetery near Victory Mills, but both Jeff and his father Douglas have a middle name of Carruth in honor of Margaret, who was said to be an extraordinary woman. www.saratogaTODAYnewspaper.com
Despite his eerie early experiences near Schuylerville, Jeff remembered the significant contribution his family made to the creation of Wilton and was drawn to the area as an adult. He bought his first house in the town, on Davidson Drive, in 1972. A full-time musician, Jeff now lives and works in the upstairs office of his Moonglow Road home while watching the plethora of visiting birds. Named the “Moonglow Resort,” the property has a large patio and is situated on a corner lot surrounded by natural forest. “History repeats itself. I love history, history is fantastic,” said Jeff.
Ever Present Love
An affordable home, great schools, recreational opportunities, a shopping mecca, and the vibrant small city of Saratoga Springs nearby provided a great quality of life for the Brisbin’s six children, said Jeff. “This area really is amazing when you think about it.” •
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Union Meeting House • 1805
Here Lies Our History...
Visit one of Wilton’s 16 Cemeteries
isiting the resting place of lost loved ones provides a sense of peace to the living. Monuments detailing their family and life honor those who have died, and are physical remembrances for those who mourn them.
“Cemeteries show respect for the people that came before – they show the soul of the town,” said Jeannine Woutersz, Wilton Town Historian. Genealogists and history buffs search the stones for their
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family’s roots and to find connections. Often the town’s first parks, graveyards are serene landscaped settings for walkers and runners. The beauty and tranquility found within these outdoor museums attracts photographers and other artists interested in the carvings and symbolism found on headstones, as well as the stories depicted there. Investigating dates can reveal a widespread fatal illness or a heartbreaking loss. Quotes, sayings and other inscriptions provide even more insight into the time and the people that lived during it. www.saratogaTODAYnewspaper.com
Seeing the Cemeteries
The town of Wilton has 16 designated cemeteries; 11 were once family burial places that are now owned and maintained by the Wilton Highway Department. During the 1990s, encroachment protections were put in place limiting the building of structures within a hundred feet of these hallowed grounds. The “Old Gurn Springs Cemetery,” also known as the “Emerson’s Corners Cemetery” is adjacent to the former Gurn Springs Methodist Episcopal Church, originally built in 1885 at Emerson’s Corners on Ballard Road. Located just off Northway Exit 16, the church has been renovated and is now open as the Finishing Touches Home Décor & More store and interior design office space.
The “Brick Church Cemetery” on Northern Pines Road has more than 250 burial markers. The Baptist Brick Church was built in 1854, but burned in 1935. “Dimmick Road Cemetery”, with stones dating from the early 1800s, includes a Revolutionary War Lieutenant.
The Wilton Historic Site Tour will have docents and printed information about Wilton’s cemeteries and churches as well as several other historic sites. The Tour begins at the Wilton Heritage Society Museum, 5 Parkhurst Road, on Saturday, April 21st and continues on Sunday, April 22nd. The selfguided tour goes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days. •
Across the street from the “Old Gurn Springs Cemetery” is the “John Ellsworth Cemetery” also known as “New Gurn Springs” or simply “Gurn Springs” cemetery. Beginning in 2000, Woutersz was among a group who documented, cross-referenced and mapped out the approximately 400 gravestones there. Several early Town of Wilton officials rest in the “South Wilton Cemetery” located across the road from the South Wilton Methodist Church. Originally a family cemetery, this burial place has graves dating back to 1819. The property was deeded to the South Wilton Methodist Episcopal Church in 1854 when the church was built. The church served the community for more than 130 years, until its congregation combined with other area congregations to form the Wilton Trinity United Methodist Church. The cemetery is still active. With others from the town of Wilton, Woutersz and children from Dorothy Nolan Elementary School held a memorial ceremony at the “Louden Cemetery” in 2000. Revolutionary War drummer boy Edward Bevins, who fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775, is buried at this cemetery, which was established in 1838 near the Loudon Protestant Methodist Church. The chapel burned in 1931. www.saratogaTODAYnewspaper.com
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48 | TOWN OF WILTON 200 th ANNIVERSARY 2018
Welcome to all there is to see and do in Wilton!
The Town of Wilton is a community that truly has it all... www.saratogaTODAYnewspaper.com
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Looking over the vast landscape of his life, Ulysses S. Grant spent his last month gazing out at the view from a cottage on a mountaintop in Wilton.
Grant Cottage B
efore Grant was elected the 18th president of the United States, he fought in the Mexican-American War, and was a prominent general under the direction of Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War.
Grant led the troops to victory in Vicksburg, Mississippi (on the same day as the Union Victory in Gettysburg) in 1863. That was the day that many point to as turning the tide of the Civil War and the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. Considered an inspired military genius, Grant struggled to lead a country torn apart by slavery and war. In the midst of change, there is tragedy but there is also triumph. The support for civil rights that he demonstrated was a brave example that we can still learn from today.
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Telling the Tale
A house built in 1878 by Duncan McGregor and owned at the time by Joseph Drexel proved to be the perfect escape for this grand man who was suffering from throat cancer.
“Grant had his favorite chair on the porch. It has a phenomenal view. From there he could see the entire Hudson Valley and be reminded of American history,” said Tim Welch, President of the Grant Cottage Historic Site. Finishing his memoirs there just days before his death, the book was published by Mark Twain and made what was in today’s currency, the equivalent of millions of dollars in sales. “In many ways he was always hesitant to write his memoirs because he didn’t think he was a literary man,” said Welch.
Spread the Word
There was an outpouring of support, and the nation was united in its demonstrations of honor for Grant after his death. Grant Cottage has been preserved as his family left it, complete with Grant’s personal items among the original furnishings. “He is the most famous person to have died in Wilton,” said Welch. Grant Cottage is owned by the state, but depends on admission fees, donations and volunteers. It has been recognized in national news media broadcasts including CBS Sunday Morning, the Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum, and C-SPAN. The number of visitors to the historic site has doubled in less than a decade, said Welch. Even 133 years after his death, Grant is leading the way for others to see history’s rich landscape from his point of view. A Civil War Weekend on Saturday August 11th, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, August 12th 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at 269 Ballard Road in Wilton will be featuring more than 100 reenactors dressed in uniform, with Calvary horses, pitching tents and performing battle scenarios with multiple canon blasts. Visually engaging displays of military artifacts, author readings, musical groups, food vendors and more will provide an educational and exciting experience for all. More than 75 Wilton residents who served in the Civil War will also be recognized. Grant Cottage is featured in Tim Welch’s documentary, “Wilton 200,” showing on Friday, April 20th at Bowtie Cinema in the Wilton Mall, 3065 NY-50, at 7:30 p.m. For more information go to grantcottage.net •
ottage of Grant C North view
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Scouts at Camp Saratoga • Circa 1988
The Story of
Camp Saratoga SUBMITTED BY LINDA BAKER & LARRY GORDON
n 1929 a 300-acre portion of the former Gick Farm on Scout Road was purchased by Saratoga County Council Boy Scouts to be developed as Camp Saratoga. Community funding and volunteers soon constructed a dining hall and cabins for camping as well as a swimming and boating area on Delegan Pond. The old tenant farm house and barn provided an office and area for various crafts. In the winter, ice was harvested on the pond and was sold to Borden’s milk plant in Gansevoort, which helped scouting financially. Ice cutting continued into the late 30s. During the 1930s and ‘40s Thomas Luther, a charter member of council and scouts planted pine seedlings which were selectively harvested along with native hardwoods during the 80s.
A major community fund raising program by Donald A. Collins, Chairman, was completed during 1972 and aided in improving camp facilities. 52 | TOWN OF WILTON 200 th ANNIVERSARY 2018
Camp Saratoga continued to host all-season camping, hikes, conclaves, and other outdoor programming until almost the turn of the present century. As part of the Saratoga County Council Boy Scouts of America, the scout camp played a vital part in the area program for youth. Community leaders and organizations contributed to the camp in many ways over the years, with several buildings still bearing the names of contributors such as Ellsworth and International Paper. The Karner blue butterfly may have been identified at the Scout camp as early as the 1960s when legendary Wilton naturalist Dr. Orra Phelps inventoried plants in the area. Skidmore botany students, led by Dr. Hank Howard, were aware of the butterfly in the 1970s. The Scouting community, led by myself, the property manager and a former Wilton Town Councilman, ensured protection and enhancement of the environment needed by the Karner blue beginning in the early 1980s. Twin Rivers Boy Scout Council, formed from the merger of several BSA councils in 1990, decided to sell Camp Saratoga in 1998. www.saratogaTODAYnewspaper.com
Established in 1996, Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park grew out of the vision of the Wilton Town Supervisor Roy McDonald, who partnered with The Nature Conservancy to start the new organization and establish an area for wildlife preservation, environmental education and recreation.
The Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park, Inc. provided a grant which improved the waterfront facilities to the Baker Environmental Pavilion. The Town of Wilton Maintenance Department preserved various buildings and cabins with the dining hall and kitchen to be upgraded in the near future.
Camp Saratoga’s history of community benefits to this date. The State of New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the Town of Wilton purchased Camp Saratoga. Various programs and off-road trails are maintained during the year by the state and the town. Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park and staff, along with volunteers assist with maintenance and environmental programs. The Town of Wilton contracts annually with the Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park, Inc., a non-profit corporation to provide on-site public environmental educational and recreational services. Local scout and other community youth organizations register with the Town of Wilton and Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park for various educational and recreational programs which can be found on their respective websites.
A major improvement was completed by the Town in 2013 with the reconstruction of the Order of the Arrow Bush Memorial Pavilion.
Of long-term interest is the service of approximately fifty years at Camp Saratoga of Saratoga/Warren BOCES Environmental Conservation and Forestry classes for onsite programs and training at the camp. The Nature Conservancy and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation provided the original support and direction in 1996 to preserve the endangered Karner Blue butterfly at Camp Saratoga. Many improvements have been accomplished since the Town of Wilton purchased the historic Camp Saratoga. The Wilton Rotary Club in 2005 created an interpretive Centennial Nature Trail. Alec Mackay representing the Luther/Mackay families dedicated the relocation of the Cornell Hill Fire Tower to Camp Saratoga. The tower was designated in 2017 on the National Historic Lookout Register.
Many Boy Scout Eagle Award projects have been completed in the past twenty years after the Twin Rivers Council sale of the camp.
Troop 24 Lean-to camping area
Camp fire benches for large group seating
Wild Blue Lupine propagation and hand planting over a large area along Scout Road and the cook’s cabin area
Stairways constructed to the pond and stream Landscape fencing and campfire construction
Construction of six handicap accessible picnic tables and reconstruction of the barbeque facility
The Town of Wilton has continued to provide budget support for physical care and programming at Camp Saratoga. This includes sponsorship of the annual youth fishing and stocking at Delegan Pond. Numerous other groups register with the town for property use, such as the Saratoga Stryders trail races and snowshoe run, senior bicycle touring events, Audubon programs and numerous WWPP educational and recreational events. When the camp was sold a plaque was dedicated as follows: CAMP SARATOGA BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA Saratoga County Council 1930-1990, Twin Rivers Council 1991-2001 71 Years of outdoor experience. For the community’s youth. May the spirit of the tradition continue •
A fire tower observer’s cabin was built by BOCES students and the Town of Wilton which was dedicated in 2013, National Trails Day, to Donald A. Collins. During 2016 and 2017 the town constructed a new water supply and all-seasons comfort station.
An aerial view of Camp Saratoga
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Photo by Carolina Wierzbowski
Photo by Brian Teague
Photo by Wayne Jones
Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park
Home of the
Karner Blue Butterfly! WRITTEN BY CASEY REEDER
very week throughout the year, people in and around the Wilton area gather at the Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park, home to the Karner Blue Butterfly Preserve, for snow shoeing, skiing, educational programs and numerous events to appreciate the land and its beauty, as well as value the importance of nature and its continuity. This place is truly a preserve for nature and a park for the people!
The Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park has been interactively serving its community for twenty years. Located in Saratoga County, New York, the preserve and park is located within the geologically significant Saratoga Sandplains, an area of ancient sand dunes as well as small wetlands and diverse ecological communities. The area is importantly home to the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly, the main cause behind the inspiring effort of the Karner blue butterfly preserve is to ensure the species a future, as well as conserve this increasingly rare landscape. The Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park has been serving its community since its founding in 1996. The Preserve and Park is located within the geologically significant Saratoga Sandplains, an area of ancient sand dunes as well as small wetlands and diverse ecological communities. The sandplains ecosystem is home to the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly. This small blue butterfly was the catalyst that led to the creation of the land protection effort that became known as Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park. This effort dates back to the 1980s when The Nature Conservancy and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation were working in Wilton and Northumberland to observe populations of the endangered Karner blue butterfly. In 1996, Saratoga County auctioned off 1.1 acres of land which had wild blue lupine and Karner blue butterflies living on it. The Nature Conservancy approached the Town of Wilton and asked if the town could take ownership 54 | TOWN OF WILTON 200 th ANNIVERSARY 2018
of the property and transfer it to the Nature Conservancy. Roy McDonald, the town supervisor, agreed, stating the parcel would be the foundation of a 3,000 acre preserve for the butterfly, and a park for area residents. An advisory board comprised of members from the Town of Wilton, The Nature Conservancy, NYS DEC, and interested citizens began the organization of Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park. It became incorporated in New York State in 1998, as well as a nonprofit organization in 2001. Currently, there is an active Board of Directors made up of dedicated area citizens, working to fulfill the mission that was established at its founding; to conserve ecological systems and natural settings while providing opportunities for environmental education and outdoor recreation. Today, over 2,400 acres protect significant habitats and more than 20 miles of trails provide a wonderfully fun, healthy, and educational resource for the community. Open daily from dawn until dusk, the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park is home to the largest population of Karner blue butterflies in the Northeast. Not only the residence to this endangered butterfly, the park aims to support its significant lands and provide year-round environmental education programs for the public, as well as recreational opportunities. Ample hiking and skiing trails makes it easy to appreciate nature’s beauty throughout the year. Educational programs aim to increase the public’s awareness, knowledge, and appreciation of the ecologically significant communities which exist beyond their back doors through exposing people of all ages to the joy, excitement and health benefits of being outdoors, with a hope they will realize the ever-growing need for positive and effective change. More information on the Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park can be viewed at wiltonpreserve.org. •
...And So Much More! Cornell Hill Fire Tower
WRITTEN BY ARTHUR BOYER
he park is home to a large variety of ecosystems such as woodlands, wetlands and a beautiful pond that features great blue herons, belted kingfishes and a colony of beavers. More than 120 species of birds and 70 species of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians inhabit this area. Among them, the Karner blue butterfly, a scarce and endangered species, whose ecosystem has been mostly destroyed by deforestation, is protected and contributes to the notoriety of the park. All year round, the park offers a large variety of activities such as hunting, fishing, and trapping. Over 20 miles of hiking trails are open at all times for those who feel a little more adventurous and want to enjoy the beauty of the park from within. Snow-related activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are also available during the winter months for people who enjoy the outdoors. The park offers educational programs to children and young teens to further their awareness, knowledge and appreciation of the natural environment that is around them. These programs also include fun trips such as nature walks and pond exploration. If you weren’t convinced by the numerous activities available, you can also visit and climb the Cornell Hill Fire Tower. This tourist attraction is a 60-foot high fire tower that was built in 1924 and relocated from the Luther forest to this area in 2011. The monument was recognized as a historic fire lookout in the United States. The fire tower gives you a breathtaking view of the park and is a central point of interest for many people visiting this area. •
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Gavin Park Summer Camp Experience
Summers have a lot to look forward to… Warm weather, outdoor fun and
Gavin Park! WRITTEN BY CASEY REEDER
his 53-acre facility, which includes two multi-purpose gymnasiums, fifteen athletic and baseball fields, walking paths, tracks, and much more is sure to provide you and your family with the perfect activities that can make this summer a season to remember.
Established in July 1988 by the town of Wilton, the park’s future was a vision to meet the recreational needs of people in and around the area. After four years of careful planning and hard work through a number of town officials and volunteers, the then 35-acre park was opened to the public. Families gathered at the opening to admire the park’s two basketball courts, three baseball fields, two football fields, and one soccer field. The park was named after the late town supervisor Robert Gavin, who held the establishment’s original vision. Although restricted to bed due to illness, Gavin remained heavily involved in the creation of the park, explained Jim Robinson, Robert Gavin’s long-time friend. Eight years later, the town of Wilton reached an agreement with the Saratoga Springs City School District on the use of fifteen acres of vacant land near Dorothy Nolan Elementary School which would be transformed into sports fields. After years and the hard work of many individuals and organizations, Gavin Park has successfully grown into a place where people in and around Wilton gather on a year-round basis. This recreational center aims to enrich the quality of life for residents, as well as visitors, and hopes to preserve it for future generations. Mark Marino, the park’s recreation administrator, describes the area as “the best wellkept secret” in this “very quaint community,” due to its 56 | TOWN OF WILTON 200 th ANNIVERSARY 2018
subtle location. Through the use of its facilities, Gavin Park provides positive learning, healthy competition and an enjoyable, social experience that promotes the development of everyone. These activities and experiences bring the community closer together, as well as gathers visitors who can make relationships that will last a lifetime. Gavin Park is a central recreation complex for the use of residents of the Town of Wilton as well as its surrounding communities and offers a great compilation of youth activities catering to busy parents, including an after-school program and summer day camps, which also provides the older youth of Wilton with employment opportunities. Sports programs for baseball, soccer, basketball, pickleball and coaches’ clinics are also offered to a variety of age groups. Celebrations such as the Holiday Tree lighting and Community Day makes the park a fun place to spend the day with the entire family. As the host of several regional athletic tournaments and events, Gavin Park brings thousands of people to the area who can later enjoy the town’s local shops, restaurants and hotels. From “nothing into something,” the hard workers of the town of Wilton have successfully maximized the park’s space to make it all it can be. With the construction of its new pavilion, the families of Wilton can look forward to experiencing even more at this amazing establishment. Gavin Park is open to the public, dawn to dusk, daily, with office hours; Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information: www.townofwilton.com/departments/parks-and-recreation •
An Interview with
Bicentennial Chairperson, Susan Gavin Lant WRITTEN & PHOTOGRAPHED BY MEGIN POTTER
ilton was built by its dedicated families. For most of its history, fields and small homesteads existed where the seeds of massive growth were planted by many in the 1970’s, including former Town Councilman and Supervisor Robert Gavin.
“Everybody loved him. He was an all-around good guy. He had vision, he knew how to talk to people, he was not quick to anger, he was really pretty easy-going,” said his daughter, Sue Gavin Lant. In his short term in office, Gavin instituted town zoning regulations, was instrumental in the opening of the Pyramid Mall and the Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility. Some of his ideas were more well-received than others. When residents angry about what Gavin was proposing brought guns to a town meeting, he reacted calmly and diplomatically. “He always thought everyone was entitled to their say,” said Lant. Diagnosed with heart disease, Gavin died in 1981 at the age of 46. Lant was just 12 years old, but his passion became hers. “I’ve always had a love for the town like my father did. It’s a great place to live, with great people, and great stories,” she said. Wilton’s recreation complex, Gavin Park was dedicated at a grand opening gala July 23, 1988. “It’s a great honor for the whole family that Gavin Park was dedicated to my dad. I think he dreamt of having a beautiful park here someday,” she said. Their family continues to serve the town. Sue’s husband, John Lant is Town Councilman, she is the Saratoga County Commissioner of Jurors, on the Friends of Wilton Recreation board, and the Wilton Bicentennial Committee Chair. “I’m so thankful to live in a wonderful little town that has so much history. It’s a nice safe community, with good-hearted people – it’s just wonderful,” she said. • www.saratogaTODAYnewspaper.com
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Photo provided by the Saratoga Room, Saratoga Springs Public Library
McGregor Links Going for It
he social elite of the 1920s frolicked on the grounds of McGregor Links Golf Course. Leisurely Sundays spent on the velvety greens were followed by indulgent parties at the club.
Nearly a hundred years later, as busy lifestyles put a premium on free time; McGregor Links is catering to families with a wide variety of interests.
When State Senator Edgar Brackett commissioned the McGregor Links course and club to be built, he requested the best obtainable materials be used for the high-society clientele he wished to attract.
The site offered a natural expanse of sandy loam - a rapidly drying soil that allows for a longer season of play and less delay after heavy rains. Lake Elizabeth provides a steady source of irrigation for the lush greens. Course architect Devereux Emmet molded the surface to preserve its elemental contours while also providing interesting challenges requiring players use every club in their bag. Hunting, horseback riding, tennis courts and a pool offered other diversions to guests during the warm weather months, while winter sports on the lake kept them delighted in the off-season. The spacious colonial columned clubhouse boasted high exposed beam ceilings with skylights, polished hardwood floors and decadent dining rooms with broad verandas.
The once magnificent destination deteriorated in the decades to follow. In 1960, the name was changed to Northern Pines Country Club, but was changed back when it was purchased by George Dennis in 1969 and reopened under the operation of his son Michael Dennis and wife Jean Ann, the following year. With the goal of raising the value of the club and the property surrounding it simultaneously, Dennis Land Development built residential houses adjacent to the grounds. 58 | TOWN OF WILTON 200 th ANNIVERSARY 2018
“He put Wilton on the map. He was a visionary,” said Blake Crocitto. A member of the club for 10 years, he purchased it with William Ahl in 2015 from Dennis’ daughter Erinn and her husband Dean Kolligan, who had been managing the property since 2009.
McGregor Links’ $2 million in improvements earned them the 2016 Historic Preservation Award. Most noticeable perhaps, is the additional comfort provided by the new air conditioning system. Light streams in to the newly installed granite bar, which opens to a porch with a retractable awning. Barn doors separate its staggering 410-person seating capacity, and it is now handicap accessible.
The main dining room’s mammoth bluestone fireplaces, natural wood floors, and hand-painted ceilings were designed by Finishing Touches Home Décor. The restaurant is now operated internally; is open year-round to the public, while members are given priority service. The old bar has been moved to the lounge, which also houses a golf simulator and space for games appealing to young families. Playability has been maximized on the course with the removal of 4,000 trees, an expanded irrigation system, bunker and tee box renovations. “We are ahead of schedule and are inches away from making this the elite course it used to be,” said Crocitto. Future upgrades to the pool, tennis courts, and the addition of a summer camp, will make McGregor Links into the family recreation spot Crocitto hopes to enjoy with other young families like his own. He and his wife Jennifer, a teacher at Queensbury Elementary School, have a 9-month-old daughter, Harper Ann. “We are looking at the big picture. I honestly think this will be the centerpiece of Wilton. It’s close, friendly and convenient to come to,” he said. On June 23rd, Wilton residents are invited to play 18 holes for $18.18. Call the McGregor Links Pro Shop for available tee times at (518) 584-6664. • www.saratogaTODAYnewspaper.com
hen Perry Stiles built his Wilton farmhouse in 1823, he influenced the future for himself and for so many others who would come to enjoy the property in the following centuries. It is now the home of The Wishing Well restaurant, a landmark of fine dining in the region.
Chasing the Dream
Perry was the grandson of Reuben Stiles, one of the town’s original founders whose 1775 settlement came to be known as Stiles Corners. The early 19th century house that Perry built was purchased by a Utica textile businessman named Jack Hedrick and opened to the public as a restaurant in 1936.
Wishing Well Golden Anniversary
As the Lee’s celebrate their 50th anniversary of the familyrun business, their goal is to honor their legacy as a historical presence while providing updated classic dishes in a comfortably inviting and elegant atmosphere. “Over the course of fifty years, things change, dining habits change, which creates an environment where you must evolve to survive but one constant has always been our family presence and our commitment to hospitality,” said Bob.
Just minutes from Saratoga Springs, The Wishing Well has been catering to its horseracing clientele for generations. One patron even named a mare after the restaurant. Hedrick added a bar in 1940 (because it was illegal at that time to serve alcohol from the farmhouse). Through the years, “Wishing Well” went on to earn notoriety when she was bred with “Halo,” and they produced “Sunday Silence”, winner of the establishment was operated as a seasonal restaurant the 1989 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. by the Winetraub, Lipton, and Ziebert families until Robert and Brenda Lee bought what was then called the Ye Olde A year-round dining destination, The Wishing Well Wishing Well Restaurant & Bar in 1967. Reopened the considers it a point of pride that they continue to be a following year, in 1976, they expanded the dining area. gathering point for the town of Wilton.
Living with their four children, a dog, and a cat in an apartment “The Lee family would not be able to celebrate 50 years of above The Wishing Well’s dining area, one of the children’s The Wishing Well if it weren’t for the great community in earliest responsibilities was to ensure the cat didn’t go downstairs. which it exists,” said Bob. • “We were not always successful. The cat would run around under the tables between the diner’s feet and then we’d all have to try to catch it,” remembers their son, Bob Lee. Bob and his wife Mary Alice are now responsible for running the day-to-day operations of the restaurant, an evolution that was hastened by Robert’s death in 2002. Bob’s mother Brenda is still a focal point, there every night to say hello to returning guests. “For our family, the restaurant is more than a place of business, it’s where we celebrate special occasions and where we go when life is a challenge – it has always been a home in the true sense of the word,” said Bob.
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Dottie Pepper & Dinah Shore • 1992, LPGA Photo Archives
Dottie Pepper T
he consistently extraordinary commitment of Dottie Pepper to the game of golf is legendary.
The winner of 17 LPGA titles including two major championships, she has earned accolades as a broadcaster and analyst, and served on the PGA of America Board of Directors.
Growing up, Pepper found supportive relationships - and living close to McGregor Links Country Club golf course empowered her to excel at golf early on. “McGregor was essential in my development as a player because of the proximity to my childhood home, the access I was afforded to good players and the difficulty of the tests the golf course poses on a day in, day out basis,” she said.
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Pepper’s exposure to elite athletes began with her father Don, who played in the minor leagues from 1962 to 1968, and first base for Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers in 1966. Don went on to open Duffer’s Den, a driving range and short course that has since closed. A standout at Saratoga Springs High School’s golf team, Pepper won the New York State Women’s Amateur title and was a member of the Junior World Cup team in 1981. She also took the New York State Girl’s Junior Amateur title in 1981 and '83. As a junior member at Brookhaven Golf Course, she worked with course designer and builder George Pulver.
Winning Shot, LPGA Photo Archives
Furman Women’s Golf • 1987
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2018 AT&T Pro-Am at Pebble Beach with Rory McIlroy, Courtesy CBS Sports
Farm Turkey Pepper’s
“I simply would not be where I am today without the Pulver family influence, from golf to education, to appreciation of golf course history and architecture. George Pulver was truly a genius in so many areas and his impact still can be felt in golf in this area,” she said.
Furman Women’s Golf • 1984, Furman Sports Information
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Playing on the highly acclaimed Furman University women’s team, Pepper won five tournaments and was a three-time All-American before getting her degree in 1987. Since then, she has received numerous alumni honors including being inducted into the Furman Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991, and South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.
Back on the Teeing Ground
After injuries cut Pepper’s playing career short, she went on to become a forthright television broadcaster and returned to live in Saratoga Springs in 2009. She has focused local efforts on the 9/11 Memorial and has a continued appreciation to the Saratoga-Wilton Elks Lodge, who provided an American flag and pole to the site in 2013, she said.
“I hope Wilton continues to thrive and grow in its current manner with caring employees at Town Hall (they have been terrific to my nearly 95-year-old grandmother as it comes to her tax credits, etc.) and a terrific school in Dorothy Nolan. I am still amazed at the way they can manage the budget and services provided without a town tax,” she said. Still working to advance the future of sports, Pepper recently developed the Pepper ProEyes line of sunglasses with Silhouette in Green Island and Saratoga’s Family Vision Care Center optician Susan Halstead. “Our sunglasses will help both RX and non-RX wearers have access to a lens that is wearable from dawn to dusk in an extremely lightweight, adjustable and durable frame. The wide vision corridor is great for everyone in nearly every sport but especially progressive lens wearers who struggle with head position and clear vision with the traditional progressive lens design…They will be available primarily through our webstore as well as PGA golf professionals. And, yes, we hope McGregor Links carries them!” said Pepper. •
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Dale Long & Dale Jr. at Forbes Field in the 1950’s
Dale Long Drivin' It Home
Wilton has been called home by many - including a baseball player famous for his home runs.
From the Dugout
It’s a family history story that begins more than a hundred years ago with Elmer Long, barnstorming teammate of Babe Ruth. The semi-pro outfielder was playing exhibition games during a special time in the sport. “Baseball in my grandfather’s era was a big deal, every community, every business had a baseball team,” said Dale Long Jr. 64 | TOWN OF WILTON 200 th ANNIVERSARY 2018
Elmer’s son, Richard Dale Long grew up in Missouri playing ball – football and baseball. “He was a tremendous all-around athlete,” said Dale Jr. about his father, who went by the name Dale. At 6’5” tall, the 230 lbs. left-handed high school freshman had the confidence to win a first-baseman position belonging to a senior on the team. “Because of his size, he couldn’t have played any other infield position really. There was a lot of action and he just liked it,” said Dale Jr. www.saratogaTODAYnewspaper.com
Dale played 13 seasons in the Major Leagues, with a career total of 132 home runs; he drove in 467 runs and batted .267.
The power hitter became trade bait in a game where the players were treated like pieces on a checkerboard.
He became the first modern-day left-handed catcher in 1951 while playing for the Pittsburg Pirates. Using a firstbaseman’s mitt to catch until a special lefty version could be constructed; it was an experiment that secured him a place in baseball history.
In the 1960 spring training season, Dale Jr. remembers the family had packed up the station wagon and was ready to move to Chicago from Arizona when Dale got the call that he had been traded to the San Francisco Giants. At a moment’s notice, they had to move to California instead. Among the teams Dale also played for were the Chicago Cubs and the New York Yankees.
At the peak of his career, in 1956 Dale hit home runs in a record eight consecutive games. It was a tremendous streak that has only been accomplished twice since: by Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey Jr. “Any player that can perform consistently at such a high level says the same thing my dad did – he was just so locked in that the ball seemed to be bigger and slower. He was so focused. It was a combination of physical, mental and emotional focus, and of course, luck,” said Dale Jr.
Because his father was famous, Dale Jr. said he made friends easily at each new school he went to – a total of eight by the time he was in eighth grade. “I wouldn’t have traded it for anything,” he said.
962 ees • 1 k Yank r o Y New
Illustration of Dale Long’s early career by Frank Fanning
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New York Yankees Team • 1960
When his baseball career began winding down, Dale worked as a player representative, went to umpire school and opened Dale Long’s Lounge, a night club in Adams, Massachusetts for several years. In 1967, the family moved to Clifton Park where Dale was instrumental to founding Shenendehowa High School’s football team before moving to Wilton in the early ‘70s.
During his final years, Dale was back in baseball, doing quality control work for the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, inspecting the park conditions of every minor league team east of the Mississippi River. Dale died of cancer in 1991, at the age of 64. In addition to Dale Jr., survivors included Dorothy, his wife of 45 years (who has since passed) and son Johnny.
New York Hall of Fame •
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Dale & Dorothy Long on their wedding day
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Rounding the Bases
Dale Jr. was a high school all-star who played professionally for the Florida State Rookie League. Sleeping on cots in the stifling southern heat, he found the simple boxed lunch and low pay less than glamorous. Still, he played wherever he had an opportunity to play until he ruptured his Achilles tendon, he said.
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“I’m not like my dad, but I enjoyed it,” said Dale Jr. Working for General Dynamics and Fort Miller Co. for a combined total of 28 years, Dale Jr. is now retired and lives with his wife Dr. Angela Condy in Wilton. Their two children both graduated from Saratoga Central Catholic School (SCC). Dale C. played college baseball at Division 1 Quinnipiac University and coached at SCC, as well. Dale Jr. has been the SCC Assistant Varsity Baseball Coach for 12 years and is in his sixth year as SCC Lead Golf Coach. While coaching the Saratoga Stampede baseball team, they’ve earned multiple State Championship wins. “The indoor facilities available today for an athlete to train in, we never had anything like that. There’s a lot more opportunity for kids to be successful,” said Dale Jr. With more distractions for kids and less community support behind the sport, the biggest thing hurting the game of baseball is its lack of responsible role models, he said. Dale would marshal parades, speak for free at little league banquets and drive hours through a snowstorm to make an unpaid appearance. “That was his big love,” he said. Both Dale and Dale Jr. have been inducted into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame. •
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The Town of Wilton aspires to be a safe, welcoming community for families and residents of all ages. The community shares a sense of responsibility for the Town’s natural, agricultural, open space, and scenic resources. The Town enjoys a high quality of life and a healthy tax base resulting from a conscious balance of commercial development, residential growth and natural areas. Civic involvement and community engagement are fostered by a mutual respect for all stakeholders. Assessor Kathy Austin (518) 587-1939 ext. 202 Comptroller Jeffery R. Reale (518) 587-1939 ext. 217 Dog Control Ron Stunzi (518) 587-2291 Engineer & Director of Planning Ryan Riper (518) 587-1939 ext. 215 Heritage Society Catherine Orton (518) 583-2335
Highway Superintendent Kirklin Woodcock (518) 587-1939 ext. 234 Lillian Worth Senior Center Director Robin Corrigan (518) 587-6363 18 Traver Road M, T&Th 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Gavin Park Gavin Park
Non-Emergency Fire (518) 584-1511 Station 1: 270 Ballard Road, Wilton Station 2: 4233 Route 50 wiltonfiredept.org Maple Avenue Fire Dept. (518) 584-1401 613 Maple Avenue, Saratoga Springs greenfieldfd.com Wilton Emergency Squad (518) 581-9852 1 Harran Lane wiltonems.org Non-Emergency Police: State Police (518) 583-7000 Saratoga County Sherriff (518) 885-6761
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Post Office 245 Washington Street, Saratoga Springs Gansevoort Post Office (518) 792-8777 50 Leonard street Supervising Building Inspector Mark Mykins (518) 587-1939 ext. 218 Tax Receiver Sue Baldwin (518) 587-1939 ext. 204 Town Clerk Sue Baldwin (518) 587-1939 ext. 210 Town Court (518) 587-1980 20 Traver Road Town Hall (518) 587-1939 22 Traver Road, Gansevoort Town Historian Jeannine Woutersz (518) 587-1939 ext. 227 Town Supervisor Arthur J. Johnson (518) 587-1939 ext. 218 Water and Sewer Authority Michael A. Mooney (518) 581-8626 20 Traver Road Zoning Department Clerk Lisa Muller (518) 587-1939 ext. 224
Public Schools: Saratoga City School District (518) 583-4700 3 Blue Streak Boulevard, Saratoga Springs saratogaschools.org *The elementary schools for Wilton residents are Ballard Elementary and Dorothy Nolan Schuylerville Central School District (518) 695-3255 14 Spring Street, Schuylerville schuylervilleschools.org South Glens Falls School District (518) 793-9617 6 Bluebird Road, South Glens Falls sgfallssd.org Attractions/ Parks: Gavin Park (518) 584-9455 (518) 587-1939 ext. 605 10 Lewis Drive, Saratoga Springs Parkfest July 7, 2018 wiltonparkfest.com Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park (518) 450-0321 80 Scout Road, Gansevoort wiltonpreserve.org Historic Attraction: U.S. Grant Cottage (518) 584-4353 1000 Mount McGregor Road, Wilton
Photos by Michael A. Panzarino of M.A.P. Graphics *except where noted
Pictured left to right: John Liptak Sr., Richard Helenek, Robert Helenek, Stephen Kloss Sr., William E. Morgan
Wilton Fire Department Honors those with
50+years of service D
uring the heroic early days of the Wilton Fire Department, they did it simply because they were able to. It was the volunteer era, where you learned on the job and remained dedicated to the cause.
“It was needed, so they did it,” said John Rucinski Jr., who is today the youngster of the group, with only 48 years of experience fighting fires. His dad, John Rucinski Sr., has 57.
On the Job
There wasn’t a lot of training in the 1950s and ‘60s when these guys started out. “No one knew what to do,” said William E. Morgan, a 63-year veteran firefighter with the Wilton Fire Department. They were willing to learn on the job however, and the loyal crew
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Wilton Station #1 complex with all their apparatus
of 95 members that he started with was nearly double the size of the team they have today.
Photo by PhotoAndGraphic.com
“You name it, and we did it,” explained John Sr. His dad was a fireman in Connecticut, so he spent his childhood running around the firehouse there until he was able to join as an auxiliary member at age 16. He served 10 years in Connecticut and the remaining 52 years in Wilton. Multi-generational service is a common thread that runs through this group of steadfast men. The department has three families with four generations of firefighters. “There are 20 members of my family that have been in the fire department and I just followed suit,” said Stephen Kloss Sr., a Wilton firefighter for 57 years. “It’s in our blood,” added Richard Helenek who has been on the job in Wilton for 52 years, one year less than his brother Robert Helenek’s 53 years of service.
Five Phone Fires
Once ignited, fires accelerated quickly through many of Wilton’s structures. The Rusk family house, built in 1859, was fully involved when firefighters arrived on January 3, 1970. The house had been operating as a foster home, and eight people perished in the fire, but three were able to get out, including a young boy who was found in the -23 degree temperatures barefoot in the snow. The tragic incident led to the social service practice of separating siblings when they are placed in the foster care system. Before the 911 system to dispatch calls was installed in Wilton, it was the firemen, their wives, and other family members that often manned the phones. When there was a really big fire, five phones would be ringing at once, remembers Morgan. The town’s bell would be rung and the fire would be located on a large wall map. There was an early morning fire in 1967 at the Wilton Elementary School. Several important buildings were lost in 1973 including Saratoga’s Hotel Iceland, built in 1893, and Wilton’s Town Hall in the Union Church (the town bell was salvaged).
for 1 call st
The following year, it took 12 hours and a mile of hose to extinguish a fire at Standard Furniture. Wilton’s Hillcrest Hotel was the site of a whopping 17 fires in 15 days before it was declared a total loss. The Jamesway in Saratoga Springs, and Pennell’s Hardware on Maple Avenue burned down. Fires in many other structures were exacerbated by the flammable home materials, balloon-frame and truss construction techniques used in the day.
Charged Line & Other Changes
Equipment in new firehouse
Advancements in protective equipment and apparatus meant a whole new way to fight fires. The Wilton Fire Department was proud to get a new truck in 1975. They combined their day-job skills in 1985 to build an addition to the 1946 Ernst & Young two bay firehouse they were based in. “We had to keep getting bigger trucks because the buildings kept getting bigger and bigger,” said Richard.
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From the Beginning, old firefighter helmets and gear
Parade, Competition & Mardi Gras trophies from 1973 to present
The installation of a fire hydrant system through the leadership of one local businessman made a world of difference. “Mike Dennis, he was Wilton water,” he said. Then the water lines doubled in width from 2 ½" to 5" to accommodate greater flow, and modern fireresistant fabrics replaced the old rubber coats and boots. Standardized building procedures, including inspectors and structural diagrams, now make them safer from the start, and fire investigators can identify causes afterward.
training and the will to go to a call at any hour – for free – is proving to be a challenge, however. “It’ll be paid someday, it’ll have to be, but it’s going to cost the taxpayers a bundle of money,” predicts John Sr. •
“It’s mostly ignorance that causes fires now,” said Morgan. The state-of-the-art new station on Ballard Road was built in 2002 at a cost of $2.5 million. It has 19' ceilings, five bays, a gym and a comfortable lounge. Their fleet of fourteen trucks ranges from a vintage model to the $1.2 million high-rise ladder truck they bought this year. In addition to fires, they frequently answer calls for medical assistance and car accidents. “There are 4,000 cars a day coming through Northway Exit 16, they don’t know any other way to go,” said Kloss.
Career Men Keep It Strong
The Wilton Fire Department continues to support the community through benefits, banquets and fundraisers, parade appearances, and manning special events. These have including the 1968 Wilton Centennial Parade, the World’s Largest Pizza event in 1978 and this year’s Wilton Bicentennial Civil War Reenactment Weekend, among others. This group of extraordinary men is still serving at the station, volunteering to drive the trucks, manning the radio, and maintaining the equipment, among other jobs. Finding enough new members to sustain the 140 hours of www.saratogaTODAYnewspaper.com
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Pictured left to right: Ed Fink Sr., Sara Bogardus, Patricia Alfieri, Anthony Viviani, Tyler Bennett, John King, Kyle Abrams, Lt. Michael Bogardus, Asst. Chief Gary Bullard, Dept. Chief Duane Bogardus, Capt. John McEachron, Owen Mullen, Jeff Lawton, Bill Patel, Joeseph Russo, Ray Conniff, Ed Fink Jr.
Committed to the Community
Maple Avenue Fire Company
ince 1947, the Maple Avenue Fire Company has been population expanded and that grassland was replaced by an integral part of the Wilton community. Originally homes and businesses, frequent structural fires put the housed in converted barns and school buildings, scantily-equipped crew in regular danger. their current fire station was built in the 1998. “You had to do what you had to do,” said Mike Smith. Three Those early fires were mostly brush and grass fires. It generations of his family were firemen. His father was was recorded in a diary from 1948 that one located near among the men who helped fight the infamous United Loughberry Lake destroyed two chicken coops. As the States Hotel fire in Saratoga Springs.
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Pictured left to right: John Lant, Larry Gordon, Duane Bogardus, Beverly Smith, Michael Smith
School bus accident drill
“We knew every family in the town. During Saratoga Springs’ wrath of fires, we were their first call for mutual aid because we knew everyone and that made it easier,” said former town councilman and county planning director Larry Gordon. It was common for the area’s early department store light fixtures to overheat and ignite. Anderson-Little had a $ 500,000 inventory of men’s suit when their fire broke out, but the fire company was able to contain it. Something they were also able to do with a Chinese food restaurant that endured several fires within the Pyramid Mall. The fire at Quality Gas station required multiple departments to keep a steady stream of water flowing down for eight hours to keep dangerous liquids from igniting, despite the pouring rain that day. “Every fire is different and every fire is dangerous,” said Smith. The weak and flammable construction of mobile homes resulted in many dangerous situations. The men’s rubber gloves melted from the heat, the structures’ ceilings would collapse on top of them, and they’d fall through the flooring, the team recalls.
E quipped to Protect
Advances in equipment improved greatly through the years. One of the first and most invaluable was the versatile multipurpose Halligan hand tool, which features a forked claw, a blade and tapered pick. Smith remembers using one to break into many structures as they went up in flames, including the Marine Midland bank. Approximately 30 years ago, the Knox Box, a 6-inch square safe, started being installed in the front of businesses. It contains a spare set of keys and building schematics to assist firefighters trying to enter the building. Maple Avenue firefighters attended town planning meetings to ensure these devices would be incorporated into the building plans because of their simple ability to save thousands of dollars in damage and valuable time in the event of a fire. Prior to the 1970s, firefighters used only filtered air masks to protect themselves from smoke inhalation. The invention of the Scott Airpak self-contained air canisters provided those entering into the smoke-filled rooms 30 minutes of air.
“I’ve seen a lot of people die. I honestly believe it’s a noble calling. It’s not for everyone. I’ve seen it all and have gotten to be wellcalloused,” said firefighter and town councilman John Lant. “You can put a lot of fire out in half an hour,” said Smith. 74 | TOWN OF WILTON 200 th ANNIVERSARY 2018
Neighbors You Can Turn To
In addition to fighting fires, the Maple Avenue department has many other responsibilities. Mike’s wife, Bev Smith was a long-time member of the women’s auxiliary, which helped to prepare roast beef and turkey dinners for fundraisers and social gatherings. Everyone banded together to search for people who went missing, she said. The group remembers nervously searching for a young boy who wandered off from a family picnic in the backyard, and then rejoicing when they found him sitting on a stump waiting patiently. Several years ago, they spent nearly three days searching through swamps and vacant lands for a Malta woman.
“All of a sudden she steps out from behind a tree and says, ‘I want a sandwich’,” said Bev. Modern equipment, including thermal imaging cameras allow firefighters to find people and track their resonant heat signatures. Emergency preplans can be loaded into electronic tablets for easy access, and department employee assistance program counselors are available to help work through the difficult emotions inherent in such an intense job.
Their “Are You Ok?” storm program ensures that residents are taken care of during power outages. Together, they are a team that Wilton residents trust. “We’ve become a catchall for everything. They know they can rely on the fire service,” said Deputy Chief Duane Bogardus. Fun events, including the department basketball game against teachers at Dorothy Nolan Elementary School, hose competitions and events at Gavin ParkFest demonstrate their unwavering commitment to the community. As state mandates have increased training requirements to more than three times as long as they once were, becoming a firefighter is now a time-consuming prospect that requires continuing involvement by younger members at a time when their busy lives have seen their participation numbers dwindling. “We just had seven people complete their training, so that’s encouraging,” said Bogardus. •
Attending to traffic accidents is also another important duty of the department. The turn by the Triangle Diner was difficult for large trucks to navigate, so they’d topple and drop their load all over the street, remembers Gordon. The railroad also carried large, dangerous cargo through town.
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Wilton E MS A Far-Reaching First Response Team
oday, we rely on the fast response of trusted emergency medical technicians and depend on their cool-headed comfort when we are at our most vulnerable, but Wilton didn’t get their own ambulance service until 1981.
The town was previously serviced by the Corinth and Saratoga Springs Emergency Corps, but a core group of community members wanted quicker response times in the event of an emergency. It was their determined efforts that created the Wilton Emergency Squad, Inc., led by squad president Arnold Bruno. “He was the bulldog that put an ambulance in Wilton,” said Chief Operating Officer Nash Alexander. Bruno was an engineer who had a passion for bettering his community, as were others, including Bonnie and Sharon Cooper, Muriel, Dean, and Dean Duell Jr. Through many fundraising efforts including auctions, bake sales and coin drops, the 20 member squad was able to raise enough money and equipment to begin responding to calls by 1982.
The purchase of a 3-acre lot on Edie Road from the town for $1 ended up being too swampy to build a garage on, so the squad’s single ambulance and their 1973 Pontiac, (a gift from the Wilton Fire Dept.) sat out in the open until local real estate developer Mike Dennis donated a plot on Jones Road for a garage. In 1984, after more than a year of construction, the Wilton Emergency Squad garage was move-in ready. 76 | TOWN OF WILTON 200 th ANNIVERSARY 2018
In 2004, the original three-bay building was converted into an office and a 6,000 sq. ft. addition was added on. Today, they have five ambulances and three quick response vehicles for their crew of forty employees and 25 volunteers. Alexander, who has been with the squad since 1999, became their first full-time paid employee in 2001. Back then, they answered an average of 900 calls each year. Now, they respond to nearly 3,000 calls over a coverage area of more than 100 square miles (a recent expansion resulting from a merger with the Schuylerville service area into their district).
Going Above and Beyond
“Day in and day out, our goal is to make sure we treat everybody the right way. We transport them to the hospital, offer counseling services, but also will bring their groceries in if they ask us to after we’ve assisted them to recover from a fall, for instance. We always ask, ‘Is there anything else we can do for you before we leave?’ Our goal is to make the second half of their day better than the first,” said Alexander. Providing a variety of other services including home safety audits, event detail, and medical education classes, Alexander stresses the importance of everyone learning basic CPR skills because it’s something he’s seen save countless lives. From health emergencies to infamous accidents, including those by construction workers building the Wilton Mall, and the Target Distribution center, to a 60-car pile-up on Exit 15 in 1990, they’ve proven to be an integral part of the Wilton community. “We’re an organization you can depend on.” • www.saratogaTODAYnewspaper.com
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SAVE THESE DATES
200 years of History ...One whole year to celebrate!
Historic Celebration Weekend to kick off the year’s events! FRIDAY, APRIL 20-SUNDAY, APRIL 22
April is the anniversary month of Wilton's 200th year celebration and we are bringing history back to life with the Reenactment of Wilton’s First Town Meeting at the Wilton Mall on Friday, April 20th from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Gathered around the fountain area will be representatives from Wilton Rotary, Wilton Wildlife Preserve, the Town of Wilton, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Children's Museum at Saratoga, the Wilton Food Pantry, the Wilton Senior Center, AIM Services, Inc., Grant Cottage, Wilton Heritage Society and others displaying information about their civic group/organization. The Captain Giles Kellogg's Company of Artillery will take us back in time with their reenactment of the first town meeting. Light refreshments will follow, after which we will enter the Bow Tie Cinema for the first viewing of the Wilton Bicentennial documentary film. Ballard Elementary School students will be studying Wilton Bicentennial History. Fourth graders will be studying the history of Wilton within their Social Studies classes. They will be focusing on topics of transportation, education, communication, leisure activities and industry during the 1800s and creating displays of their research. Fifth graders will be creating travel brochures that highlight focal points in the town of Wilton. Both grades will display their work for prior to Wilton's Bicentennial Historic Celebration Weekend at the Wilton Mall as well as at Camp Saratoga on April 21st and 22nd. www.saratogaTODAYnewspaper.com
"The Fresh Market in the Fresh Market Plaza, Saratoga, is donating butter cookies decorated with blue sugar to represent the Karner Blue Butterfly that is indigenous to the Town of Wilton," said the Bakery Manager, Tamara Calhoun. "We are thrilled to be a part of the Bicentennial Celebration for the Town of Wilton," said store Assistant manager, Chris Johnson.
FRIDAY, APRIL 20 THE HISTORIC WEEKEND CELEBRATION WILL ALSO BE THE LAUNCH OF THE WILTON 200 KIDS’ QUEST Kids are invited to join the fun of learning about Wilton history and earning a Wilton bicentennial patch. The Wilton 200 Kids’ Quest adventure, which was created by Wilton Boy Scout Troop 24, will launch on Wilton’s bicentennial anniversary weekend, April 20-22, 2018! Kids can complete the adventure trail anytime between that weekend and the end of summer. Register online or in person starting the evening of Friday, April 20th at the Bicentennial Anniversary program at Wilton Mall. There is no fee, but youth need to be registered to meet the requirements and earn the patch. Participants will receive an information packet with all the details when they register. Along the way, kids will showcase the fun through visuals and journaling in a digital or paper scrapbook. Present the scrapbook to earn the patch.
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The Bicentennial Historic Celebration Weekend continues with…
Historic Site Tours of Wilton SATURDAY, APRIL 21-SUNDAY, APRIL 22
Revisit Wilton history on Saturday, April 21st and Sunday, April 22nd from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. stopping at the Wilton Heritage Museum for your map to a self-guided tour that will include old churches, cemeteries, Grant Cottage on top of Mt. McGregor and the old Wilton Grange, as well as other local landmarks.
Sunday’s celebration at Camp Saratoga will include the Ribbon-Cutting for the Wilton Bicentennial Trail and Earth Day activities.
Begin your tour by stopping at The Wilton Heritage Society Museum at 5 Parkhurst Road to pick up a brochure describing the sites and showing their locations. The tour will culminate each day with a gathering at historic Camp Saratoga, now part of Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park, where you'll have the opportunity to sample Stewart's Shops’ limited-time Wilton Bicentennial ice cream flavor - Karner Blueberry. Stewart's Shops is creating an ice cream flavor in celebration of the Wilton Bicentennial which will be served during the Historic Weekend Celebration at Camp Saratoga on April 21st and 22nd as well as at Bicentennial Parkfest on July 7th. The flavor is Karner Blueberry and it will be sold in all three Stewart's Shops in Wilton: Jones Rd & Rte 50, Ballard Rd & Traver, Davidson Dr & Northern Pines. The ice cream flavor will be available at the counter for hand packed or cones. History buffs and the general public are invited to visit these sites from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 21 and Sunday, April 22. Volunteers will be available at the cemeteries to point out tombstones of many distinguished early residents who helped to shape Wilton into what it is today. At Camp Saratoga, visitors will learn more about the history of the old Boy Scout camp, the ecosystem of the Saratoga Sandplains, and the habitat and life cycle of the endangered Karner Blue butterfly. The Fire Tower will also be accessible. 80 | TOWN OF WILTON 200 th ANNIVERSARY 2018
Wilton Heritage Museum, the site of the former Wiltonville Methodist Church, at the foot of Mt. McGregor, on Parkhurst Road near the corner of Corinth Mountain Road.
The oldest church building in Wilton is the former Methodist Episcopal Church of South Wilton erected in 1854.
Scouts from Wilton Troop 24 lowered the flag for the last time at Boy Scout Camp Saratoga on April 12, 2001. Pictured are: Cub Scouts Allen and Jamie Lounsbury, Den 4 leader Bob Lounsbury, and Boy Scouts Jim and Chris Reepmeyer.
Look At All These Sites! Brick Church (Gurn Spring) (C. 1900) Ellsworth Cemetery (Gurn Springs) (C. 1900) Grant Cottage (C. 1882) Gurn Springs Church (C. 1885) Old Snook Kill Barn (C. 1800) Dimmick Cemetery (C. 1800) Louden Cemetery (C. 1838) Old Gurn Springs Cemetery (Emerson) (C. 1880) South Wilton Cemetery (C. 1850) South Wilton Church (C. 1850) Wilton Grange Hall (C. 1923) Wilton Heritage Museum (C. 1871) Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park (Camp Saratoga)
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SAVE THESE DATES SATURDAY, JUNE 23
McGregor Links Country Club is offering a one-day golfing event for only $18.18
All Wilton residents are welcome to enjoy a round of golf, cart included! We encourage you to call the pro shop early to register a tee time, (518) 584-6270. “We are proud and excited to show our residents the newly renovated course and clubhouse and welcome all to come view our property. Please join us.” -Blake Crocitto, General Manager of McGregor Links Country Club.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 11 – SUNDAY, AUGUST 12 A CIVIL WAR WEEKEND Saturday August 11th, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, August 12th 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at 269 Ballard Road in Wilton will be featuring more than 100 reenactors dressed in uniform, with Calvary horses, pitching tents and performing battle scenarios with multiple canon blasts. Visually engaging displays of military artifacts, author readings, musical groups, food vendors and more will provide an educational and exciting experience for all. More than 75 Wilton residents who served in the Civil War will also be recognized.
SATURDAY, JULY 7 BICENTENNIAL PARKFEST AT GAVIN PARK The event will include all the wonderful attractions the town’s annual Parkfest has to offer, as well as some special features including… Old Time Photos, a musical stage showcasing music “through the ages” performed by The Fyfe & Drums of Olde Saratoga, Skip Parsons Dixieland Band, Bluz House Rockers performing soul, R&B, jazz and rock followed by Latitude 43 playing Vintage Country and Americana tunes. In addition, the Captain Giles Kellogg’s Company of Artillery will be presenting an encampment scene complete with demonstrations of civilian quill writing, sewing, cooking, tape loom, and artillery demonstrations. Photos by PhotoAndGraphic.com
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The Wilton Historic Home SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 16
On Sunday, September 16th, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. - Pick up your Guide to the Historic Home Tour at the Wilton Heritage Society and Museum, formerly the Wiltonville Methodist Church located at the corner of Parkhurst and Mt. McGregor Roads beginning at 10 a.m. on Sunday, September 16th. Your self-guided tour will take you up Mt. McGregor to Grant Cottage where former President Ulysses S. Grant wrote his memoirs and spent the last days of his life. Other
attractions include The Old Stiles Tavern and the Kings Station School #5, one of the last one-room school houses used in Wilton, as well as the home featured in the movie Ghost Story. Many historical homes will be open for a walk through, while others will be drive-by only. Guides will show visitors around each open residence and share the significance it holds in Wilton’s history.
The cabin that became known as Grant Cottage was built by Duncan McGregor in 1878 and was known as Mountain House. Joseph Drexel, one of the developers of the Balmoral Hotel, knew that former President Ulysses S. Grant was suffering from terminal throat cancer and offered him the cottage for the summer of 1885. Grant came to the cottage in June 1885 and during his stay completed his memoir, which would sustain his family after his death. Grant died at the cottage on July 27, 1885.
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Come take the tour to see the rest!! King Station School District No. 5, the last one-room school in Wilton, closed in 1959.
Duncan McGregor built this home about 1830. He was in the lumber business and decided to clear the mountain in back of his house. After constructing a road to the summit, he built a small hotel that was very popular and became a weekend destination. Mount McGregor was named after him. The Myers family (grandparents of F. Donald Myers) bought this house from Duncan McGregor in 1835. This picture shows the Myers family about 50 years later.
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SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23 THE TASTE OF WILTON, FROM FARM TO CHEF A unique event which will showcase local farms, restaurants and artisan beverage makers. It takes place on September 23, 2018, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. under the tent at Gavin Park in Wilton, NY. Rain or Shine! Restaurants will provide tastings of an appetizer, main course or dessert utilizing the fresh produce from a farm that has been paired specifically with them. Food tickets are $1 each. Restaurant samples are priced in food coupons and can range from $1 to $6. The tastings will be judged by the public and a panel of judges for "Best Taste" utilizing the farm ingredients. Proceeds go to the Wilton Food Pantry. Live music provided by Larry Hooker. Here is a list of some of the participating restaurants, farms and distilleries, as of press date: The Brook Tavern, Fish at 30 Lake, Chez Pierre Restaurant, Wishing Well Restaurant, Burnt Hills Cafe, The Triangle Diner, Izzy Bella's Bakery and Market,
Featherbed Lane Farms, SUNY Adirondack Culinary Institute, 9 Miles East Farm, Gorsky Farm, Saratoga Wine & Spirits,One with Life Organic Tequila, Saratoga Apple, Lionstone NY, Springbrook Hollow Farm Distillery, Deliciously Different Catering, and Clyde O'Scope Farm. For information on how to participate, please contact us at TasteofWilton@gmail.com
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 29
The Bicentennial Year Celebration culminates with a Holiday Community Dinner at the Saratoga-Wilton Elks Lodge #161 on 1 Elks Lane in Saratoga Springs. The evening will include a sumptuous buffet dinner, carving station, dessert, entertainment, dancing and a cash bar for $20.18. Entertainment will be provided by Richie Phillips and food by Waterford Banquets. Tickets can be purchased beginning October 1st by going to www.wiltonbicentennial.com or with a check or cash at Wilton Town Hall. The final event of the Bicentennial year promises to be an enjoyable evening of fun with friends and neighbors as we bring a historic and memorable Bicentennial year of celebrations to a close, while looking forward, as a community, to the beginning of 2019!
So much fun at the gala in January... Looking forward to seeing you all in December! Art & Sandy Johnson
Susan Gavin Lant & John Lant Jeff Brisbin
Pierre, Kelsey & Patrick Baldwin
Fran Dingeman & Nancy Riely
Photos by PhotoAndGraphic.com
For more information go to WiltonBicentennial.com www.saratogaTODAYnewspaper.com
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Thank You to our Bicentennial Sponsors & More!
Diamond Sponsors Scotty’s Adirondack Trust Company
Platinum Sponsors D.A. Collins Companies Richbell Capital
Bonded Concrete Inc. Bow Tie Cinemas Fine Affairs Kodiak Construction McGregor Links Country Club MJ Engineering Saratoga National Bank Stone Bridge Iron & Steel, Inc. Wilton Mall
Silver Sponsors Belmonte Builders Child’s Automotive High Peaks Sound Market32 by Price Chopper
Allerdice Ace Hardware Belmonte & Son Tents & Events Benson’s Pet Center County Waste & Recycling Druthers Home of the Good Shepard-Wilton Lant’s Auto Sales McDonalds McGregor Medical Relia Tech Roohan Realty Saratoga Land Management Corp. Saratoga TODAY Saratoga Veterinary Hospital, P.C. Spa Septic Tank Co. SUNY Adirondack The Saratogian The Wishing Well Restaurant WJ Morris Excavating, Inc. Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park
Adirondack Sign Capital District Physicians Health Plan CT Male & Associates Dairy Haus Doggy Playcare Electronic Office Products First National Bank of Scotia Granite & Mable Works Inc.
Grassland Equipment & Irrigation Corp. Joseph P. Mangione, Inc. King Enterprises Lamar Advertising Maple Avenue Volunteer Fire Co. Marshall & Sterling Matt’s Service Center McPadden Builders, LLC Minogue’s Beverage Center Overhead Door of GF Saratoga Polo School Saratoga Wilton Elks Select Sotheby’s International Realty Stewarts Shops Stone Industries Tech II Tom Mullan Tree & Stump Removal Wilton Emergency Squad Wilton Funeral Home Witt Construction
A Special Thank you To
Fresh Market Hannaford Harriet Finch Jeff Brisbin Karen James Strack Kendra Schieber – The Sign Studio Lucille Millarson Old Time Photos Rich Richbart – Spa.net Richie Philips Rotary Club of Wilton Roy McDonald Stewart’s Shops Sue Baldwin The Captain Giles Kellogg’s Company of Artillery Tim Welch … and everyone else who has volunteered in some way to make this year happen
Bicentennial Committee Members
Chairperson Susan Gavin Lant Francine Dingeman - Network Saratoga Linda Baker Bob Barrett Karen Campola Nancy Dwyer Susan Garrett Larry Gordon Joanne Klepetar Marti LaDue John Lant Richard Lasselle Nancy Riely Historian Jeannine Woutersz
2018 Bicentennial Challenge 10
Complete challenges from the list, with proof, to earn a bicentennial patch to commemorate the Wilton’s 2018 Bicentennial! 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.
Skate at Gavin Park – snap a photo Visit the Spash Park – snap a photo Visit Parkfest Visit Grant’s Cottage – snap a photo of yourself on the Porch Visit the Wilton Heritage Museum – snap of photo of your favorite exhibit. Visit Wilton Wildlife – snap a photo of a flower or the Karner Blue Butterfly Climb the Cornell Fire tower – snap a photo from the top Attend a town meeting – Zoning, Planning or monthly town board meeting Visit town hall – pay your taxes, license your dog, get a hunting or fishing license, pick up mosquito dunks, get a building permit or handicap placard. We’ll take your photo Visit the Senior Center – snap a photo See the First Town Meeting Reenactment at Wilton Mall, April 20th from 6-7:30 p.m. Preview the Wilton Documentary at Bow Tie Cinemas on April 20th Take the Historic Site Tour on April 21st or 22nd from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Take the Historic Homes tour on September 16th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Snap a photo of 3 different blue historical markers. ex. Battle of Wilton, Grant Cottage, Gurn Springs, Cemetery Hike at Lake Bonita – snap a photo Visit Moreau Lake, swim, walk, paddleboard or hike Stop at a Wilton Stewart’s shop and have a Karner Blueberry ice cream cone or dish – snap a photo. Visit the Civil War encampment on the DA Collins property August 11th and 12th Hike one of our trails, Orra Phleps Nature Preserve, Fox Farm, Opdahl Farm or the Nielman Parcel. Maps can be found on our website, townofwilton.com
Great memorabilia for sale!
The Town of Wilton invites all community organizations and businesses to participate in Wilton’s Bicentennial in two ways: (1) by creating your own event which we will promote on the Bicentennial website and (2) by volunteering to help at the upcoming Signature events. Contact Nancy Riely with interest at (518) 587-1939 x 239 or firstname.lastname@example.org. 86 | TOWN OF WILTON 200 th ANNIVERSARY 2018
TOWN OF WILTON 200 th ANNIVERSARY 2018 | 87
The Town of Wilton is celebrating 200 years of history - from pastoral farmland, to a vibrant community! 1818-2018