QUEENSBURY -- Warren County government offices were scattered around the county in the early 1960s, said Richard Bartlett, a longtime lawyer from Glens Falls and former state assemblyman and judge.
The county courthouse was in Lake George, but family court and some court offices were in Glens Falls, he said, while social services offices were split between Warrensburg and Glens Falls.
“A number of citizens thought it would be appropriate to have a fairly centrally located (municipal center) that would have all the county functions nearby,” said Bartlett, who spoke at the Warren County Municipal Center groundbreaking ceremony in 1962 and dedication ceremony in 1963.
The Warren County Bicentennial Committee will hold an open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday at the municipal center to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the center’s opening.
“I showed up for the groundbreaking and the dedication, and I’m going to be there Friday for the birthday party,” Bartlett said in a recent telephone interview.
The open house is being held on a Friday, rather than a weekend day, to coincide with the county Board of Supervisors schedule, said Warren County Clerk Pam Vogel, who organized the open house.
Vogel wanted people to be able to see municipal government operations, such as the court and clerk’s office, as they were actually taking place, said Queensbury 3rd Ward Councilman John Strough, a member of the Bicentennial Committee.
Vogel said she is excited to celebrate the municipal center’s history.
The red brick with white Alabama limestone structure, which architect Milton L. Crandell designed, cost about $2.44 million to build and it took 29 years to pay off the construction bonds, according to news reports on file at the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library.
Supporters of constructing the municipal center felt it would be more efficient and would improve the county’s image, said Bartlett, who represented the region in the state Assembly at the time.
“There were a number of us who thought that with our scattered offices all over the place, that we didn’t project a progressive image,” he said. “This was an opportunity to have good-looking buildings, not grand but functional, and very visible.”
The concept of a county government campus, rather than a traditional courthouse complex, was “something new under the sun” at the time, according to a Nov. 6, 1959, Albany Times-Union report about Warren County voters approving a referendum to build the center.
“It’s quite possible that this will set a precedent among New York counties,” the Times-Union reported, calling the planned complex a “headquarters series of buildings in which virtually every county department will be housed under one rambling roof.”
Not everyone in Warren County agreed with constructing the complex.
“It was a contentious affair because there was a group in the county who thought we were spending too much money on brick and mortar,” Bartlett said. “Fred Bascom, a very prominent lawyer at the time, was among those who was very articulate in opposition to the concept. But it prevailed, and the supervisors backed it.”
The campus on Route 9 in Queensbury wasn’t the only location considered for a municipal center.
The county Board of Supervisors considered constructing a six-story office building at the site of the old Warren County Courthouse in Lake George, but determined it would cost $500,000 less to build a more suburban-type complex in Queensbury, according to a report by Clare Audette in The Post-Star archives.
Initially, county supervisors planned to build the center on the west side of Route 9, according to another Post-Star archives report.
“The chairman of the board, however, ‘got a tip’ some time ago that the state’s Northway route is supposed to pass directly through the site that had been selected,” the Aug. 27, 1956, report stated.