A History of its Industries,
Railroads and Inventions
Albany ~ Troy ~ Schenectady ~ Saratoga Springs ~ Cohoes ~ Waterford ~
Ballston Spa ~ Corinth
South Glens Falls ~ Lansingburgh ~ Stillwater ~ Mechanicville ~ Watervliet ~ Clifton
Letter To All Brookside
September 24, 2010
Dear Brookside Member:
I'm writing today to make you aware of an issue that is affecting your
Museum and will have a far-reaching, negative impact on it.
Brookside's neighbors, Frank & Marie Rossi, have submitted a proposal to
the Village of Ballston Spa to develop their land, which borders
Brookside's. The proposal calls for the construction of six apartment
buildings to be located on Rossi's property, which runs along Fairground
Avenue and is adjacent to the museum's back yard.
In order to construct these units, the Rossi's will have to remove
approximately 40 feet of Mohican Hill. The closest apartment building
will be nearly 50 feet from the museum building.
This is important to Brookside officials and you as members of Brookside
for the following reasons:
1. The environmental impact of this development is cause for concern.
The Museum already suffers from drainage issues due to prior
construction in the area.
2. Mohican Hill, which has historical significance to Ballston Spa and
the community, will be destroyed.
3. The programs Brookside offers, including education programs and
fundraising events, will be compromised as a result of residential
buildings so close to museum property.
As a member of the museum, you have a right to know about this
development. This will have a negative impact on the Museum immediately
and will also have long-lasting impact on its future.
We will continue to update you on this process (via email and Facebook).
In the meantime, please check out these articles about the issue.
1. The Saratogian, 9/15/10:
2. The Ballston Journal,
The Village of Ballston Spa
will be considering a zoning amendment for this proposal on Monday,
September 27, at 7:00 p.m. Members who are concerned about this
development should plan to attend this meeting to express any concerns
or questions you may have.
Joy C. Houle, Executive Director
Brookside Museum/ Saratoga County Historical Society
6 Charlton Street
Ballston Spa, NY 12020
Ballston Spa Planning Board to review proposed
48-unit expansion of Mohican Hill senior housing complex
BALLSTON SPA — Plans are in the works to expand Mohican Hill, a senior
apartment complex named in honor of author James Fenimore Cooper, who is
said to have worked on “Last of the Mohicans” when he lived nearby.
Another six buildings with an additional 48 units will be added to the 10
Colonial-style buildings with 80 apartments off Fairground Avenue if the
village grants owner Frank Rossi a zoning change.
The village Planning Board will review the Mohican Hill expansion at 7:30
p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11. Planners will make a recommendation to the Village
Board, which will hold a public hearing on the project at 7:30 p.m. Monday,
Aug. 23, at the village office.
In 1996, the board approved a change of zoning from Residential-1 to
Residential-2 Senior with the understanding that the 80 apartments would be
restricted to those ages 55 and older and visitors would be limited to a
maximum of 72 hours, Mayor John Romano said.
“The property is beautifully well-maintained. They’re meticulously
well-kept,” Romano said. “Eighty-plus people close to downtown, with
sidewalks. It’s been a plus to the community.”
The expansion will bring in about $18,000 to $19,000 a year in additional
property tax revenues to the village, not counting town and county taxes,
with no impact on the school district, Romano said.
“There is a need for affordable senior housing,” he said. “Seniors paved the
way for our success. What better way to show our appreciation and gratitude
than to be able to give them the opportunity to live in the village at an
Village trustees will have the final say on whether the apartment complex
can expand down Fairground Avenue hill on the 10-plus acre site. If
approved, Mohican Hill will be even closer to the Brookside Museum, the
former Aldridge House where Cooper stayed before “Last of the Mohicans” was
published in 1826.
“He boarded there for a while,” village historian Chris Morley said. “James
Fenimore Cooper carved his initials with a diamond ring on a small window
The inn was larger in those days. “Half of the hotel is across the street,”
Morley said. “They sawed the ballroom and the upper section off.”
Morley said he received some criticism for supporting Rossi’s project back
in 1996, when the Saratoga County Fair board, which is a not-for-profit,
also was interested in the parcel.
“I helped fight for him. The fairground wanted it, and they’re tax free.
They wanted to make a parking lot,” he said.
Morley wanted the land to generate taxes instead. The village received about
$10,000 a year in tax revenues, plus sewer and water fees, for the 10
buildings, he said.
Housing versus history at Ballston
Spa public hearing
BALLSTON SPA — The Mohican Hill
senior apartments are named after the book “Last of the
Mohicans,” whose author, James Fenimore Cooper, resided
at what is now the Brookside Museum. Officials at the
museum are now fighting the proposed expansion of the
complex, which they claim threatens their historic
It was standing room only at Monday night’s public
hearing on Frank Rossi’s proposal to add 48 more
apartments to his 80-unit, colonial-style complex on
Fairground Avenue. The Village Board approved a zoning
change in 1996 that allowed Rossi to build the complex,
with the restriction that it be limited to those age 55
and older. Rossi now needs the board’s approval to
After hearing concerns and a new request from museum
officials for a land swap, Mayor John Romano said the
board will reserve a decision until its next meeting, on
“We don’t have the authority to require a land swap,”
village attorney Rich Kupferman said. “If it’s mutual,
that’s between you and Rossi.”
Brookside is on the National Register of Historic Places
and has 14,000 visitors each year, said Executive
Director Joy Houle, who read excerpts of a letter from
the trustees, many of whom were present. Seniors from
Mohican Hill also attended.
“The construction of four to six apartment units on the
hill immediately behind the museum ... could reduce the
height of the hill behind Brookside by up to 40 vertical
feet in areas and forever alter the setting in which
Brookside has resided for over 200 years,” Houle said.
Museum officials asked the village to encourage Rossi to
consider a land-swap with Brookside, so the four
buildings proposed immediately west of the museum are
constructed on the current Brookside parcel to the south
and accessed from the other side of Charlton Street. In
exchange, the piece of land directly behind the museum
would remain undeveloped, preserving the historic appeal
of Brookside and Ballston Spa and giving the museum
direct access to Foote’s Pond, which the museum also
The historic pond is located between Charlton Street and
Route 67. The 2.3-acre parcel would be swapped in
exchange for the piece behind the museum “to preserve
the visual appeal,” Houle said.
Architect Arik Mathison, vice president of the Brookside
board, spoke in favor of the land swap. With the
proposed design, “that postcard, that view, the most
historic site in this village will change forever,” he
“We’re not opposing development,” said Jeanne Obermayer,
president of the Brookside board. “Changing the backdrop
will make a huge difference.”
In July, when the expansion was first proposed, Romano
said it would bring in about $18,000 to $19,000 a year
in additional property tax revenues to the village, not
counting town and county taxes, with no impact on the
school district. The apartments are “meticulously
well-kept” and the seniors who can walk downtown are a
benefit to the community, he added.
Rossi made that point while leaving Monday night’s
meeting. “This village, just like any city and town, is
in dire need of money,” he said. About 80 residents, all
seniors, live in the current 48 apartments, and about 60
more people will live in the ones to be built.
“What we’re adding is a really good project,” Rossi
said. “These are all really good people, retired
people.” The rents will be $650 to $695 for 900 square
feet of space.
He dismissed the proposed land swap. “It wouldn’t work.
I don’t want any trails over to the pond. It will end up
with kids drinking beer and raising hell — a big beer
party,” Rossi said.
“We have the right to cut down all the trees and take
out the dirt,” he continued. But he guaranteed that
“screening will be added for my tenants not to see the
museum,” as the back of the museum is a “disgrace."
Rossi’s attorney, James Craig, said they have revised
their plan by flipping the parking lot and moving the
buildings away from Brookside, and adding more trees as
a buffer to minimize visual impact.
A builder since 1973, Rossi built about 60 homes in
Liberty Hills, built and sold the Tannery Row
Apartments, and is involved a project behind McDonald’s in Ballston.
James Fenimore Cooper, one of Brookside’s most famous
residents, lived at Aldridge House, as it was then
known, before publishing his “Last of the Mohicans” in
Brookside Museum from apartment project (Schenectady
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Brookside Museum, home of the
Saratoga County Historical Society in Ballston Spa,
is a charming place in a beautiful, bucolic setting
just outside downtown. Not only is it alongside a
brook, but a hill, which has already been damaged by
its owner (who has excavated without a permit) and
would be lost altogether if the Village Board allows
him to level it and build six, eight-unit apartment
buildings. It shouldn’t.
museum building has been there since 1792, when it
was constructed as a hotel, later to be used as
boarding house, sanitarium and private residence.
The Historical Society bought it in 1971, when it
was in disrepair, rehabbed and opened it as a museum
in 1974, featuring historic photos and exhibits,
artifacts and programs for schoolchildren.
that hill. It is wooded and also historic, the
location of the village’s centennial in 1907. But it
already has apartment buildings at the top, starting
around 100 yards from the museum, and now the
developer wants to level what’s left of it and build
more of them much closer to the museum. It doesn’t
matter that the developer, after Brookside officials
objected to his initial plans, redesigned the
project to put the apartments a little farther away.
the Stanford Home site in Niskayuna, the hill and
its trees are part of the historic and picturesque
setting, which would be forever ruined by this
museum has offered a land swap, trading the hill for
property it owns not far away at Route 67 and
Charlton Street (itself an attractive wooded site by
a brook that would be a shame to lose, but better it
than the hill). The developer apparently isn’t
interested, but the Village Board should make it
clear that the hill is off limits.