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Lake George officials consider new use for old courthouse

2012-01-08T21:00:00Z 2012-07-19T16:46:33Z Lake George officials consider new use for old courthouseJON ALEXANDER--jalexander@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star
January 08, 2012 9:00 pm  • 

LAKE GEORGE -- Town officials may just bring the old Warren County Courthouse back to its former glory.

First, though, money must be found to update the 167-year-old Canada Street building and an agreement must be reached with the Lake George Historical Association, the current tenant.

"I’ve told the board we can do anything that we can find money for," said Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson. "What we’re trying to do is secure the building, keep it in good health and generate some income."

Lake George took ownership of the courthouse when the Warren County seat moved to Queensbury in 1963. Between 1845 and 1963, the courthouse was the site of countless murder trials, Victorian and Edwardian-era justice, and where local convicts were housed.

It’s now the home of the Lake George Historical Association museum.

It annually costs the town around $60,000 to maintain and heat the building, Dickinson said. The courthouse is listed on the federal register of historic places.

One proposal would see the town modernize the heating system, windows and make the structure handicapped-accessible.

Local buildings and grounds crews have already surveyed the building, and bringing it up to date could be costly.

"We certainly don’t want to take on a new expense," said Councilman Vinnie Crocitto. "We really need to sit down and go piece by piece as a full board."

Hard and fast cost estimates haven’t been developed for the project, but officials said it could run as high as $100,000.

Town officials are researching if federal or state grants are available to fund the project.

Lake George currently holds court at the Town Hall. Officials have grappled with securing the space, which is shared with the Town Board, for years. Lake George’s two town justices, Brian Reichenbach and Michael Stafford, have asked for a change of venue, officials said.

But there’s another issue with moving into the historic structure.

The Lake George Historical Association runs its popular summertime operation out of the old county courthouse. Artifacts and relics of Lake George’s history are displayed throughout the courtroom and old Warren County jail.

Historical association President Alex Parrott said he’s expressed his opposition to the proposal to town officials.

"It’s not a courthouse anymore," Parrott said. "It’s a museum."

The museum is open from May to October each year; it was visited by 3,000 people last summer.

Town officials indicated no proposal regarding the building would move forward without reaching an agreement with the historical association.

Other issues with the site include limited parking, especially during the summer tourist season, and the historical designation limits what renovations can and can’t be made.

"You can tackle the other issues," Dickinson said. "But when you talk about parking, that’s an issue."

Still, there’s a growing feeling among town officials that something should be done with the relic of Warren County’s past.

"It’s not dead," Crocitto said of the proposal.

Dickinson said a second proposal has been discussed among town officials, although he declined to provide further detail because the idea hasn’t been brought to the full Town Board.

"I’ve been pummeled with ideas," he said of his first week in office. "Some seem good, and others seem absurd."

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(3) Comments

  1. Solidarity
    Report Abuse
    Solidarity - January 10, 2012 7:58 am
    Clearly, the Lake George Historical Association and the Warren County Historian need to get on the ball. The idea that this building would find a better use than a museum is absurd, but shows the failures of our local historical community organizations.
  2. Jeromie_C
    Report Abuse
    Jeromie_C - January 09, 2012 8:05 am
    dear Lake George, get in touch with a film project. It's happening in Albany and Schenectady. Certain scripts call for older looking buildings for locations. I'm serious
  3. OliverHardy
    Report Abuse
    OliverHardy - January 08, 2012 11:33 pm
    Researching Federal or State grants......... . About a year ago or so Sen. Schumer came to town to announce about $963,000.00 in grant money for South Street. Then and now the United States was trillions in debt. There was and is no " grant " money available. Sen. Schumer knows we do not have that money and so do all of you. We took a loan for that money and made the rest of the country liable for it. This is an opportunity for us to find private funding for this building if it means so much to us. Does it? We have an opportunity to begin to show the rest of the country that it is not business as usual anymore. Constant clamoring about Washington and Congress being the bad guy. Time to look at ourselves. If we take a loan again for this then we no one else to blame but ourselves.

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