Beautiful and important buildings are part of what makes Plattsburgh and the North Country a great place to live, work, and visit and they present many economic, civic, and cultural opportunities for us to be an even better place.
If one was to study the key ingredients to successful communities all across the country, one of the things you'd find is that whether they are small towns or large cities, these are communities that have embraced their heritage and preserved their architecture, and made these things part of their identity and their future.
by Steven Engelhart
In thinking about the possibilities for the Old Stone Barracks, I’ve come to realize what a beautifully central location this is, both literally and figuratively, for so much of what we love and value about the North Country. You all know the marvelous two-story, Greek Revival style porch that extends along the whole north façade of the building but have you ever thought about what you can see and imagine from that porch?
If one looks to the west, you can see the northern edge of the Adirondack Mountains, one of our great natural treasures, important as a great wilderness and as a magnet for millions of visitors.
Still to the west, in the foreground, are all kinds of new economic activities, including the airport, on the New Base property and each year there is the prospect for much more to come.
To the east one sees Lake Champlain. Here, two important military engagements took place, first when Benedict Arnold’s fledgling Colonial navy confronted the British in the waters around Valcour Island during the Revolutionary War and later, when Thomas McDonough decisively defeated the British during the War of 1812. The lake then becomes the superhighway of the 19th century, linking northern New York and Vermont with the rest of the world and, in the 20th century becomes a great recreational mecca.
Looking north, in the foreground, one sees our wonderful museum campus – the Battle of Plattsburgh museum, the Clinton County Historical Association, and the Transportation Museum, all with the Oval and its marvelous collection of National Register listed buildings surrounding it.
So here there’s this great arc of history before us.
In the distance one can see the spires of the city, a piece of the hospital, the college, and the paper mill – all humming with life.
In the further distance, in one’s imagination at least, one can see our big traditional farms, dairies and orchards and maple syrup producers, and one can see new agriculture in grass-fed beef, wine grapes, berry farms, and organic vegetables. And even further to the north one can see Montreal and Canada, our neighbors and partners in so many things.
So right there from the porch of the Old Stone Barracks one can see this great arc of history, of community, of pride, of opportunity . . .
Perhaps what emerges from our public discussions is for it to be a new visitor center for the region, a place for people to get oriented to all the wonderful cultural and natural offerings that the region has to offer. And what a wonderful and authentic setting it would be for this.
Or perhaps what emerges is the need for additional public civic space - for courts and offices – or perhaps it could be used by a cluster of nonprofit organizations, all needing better facilities and a way of sharing infrastructure and staff.
Or perhaps what emerges from this public discussion is an excellent private use of the building, one that fits with the building itself and its setting on the Old Base. In private hands we can imagine all kinds of things like a new craft brewery, a restaurant, and an inn all under one very historic roof.
So wherever we end up, by being part of this effort today and going forward, you won’t ever have to worry whether or not this building has a future because we are committed to its future.