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Banking on the past

Historic Niskayuna mansion to start new life on new site

Community room has original fireplace

Saturday, May 4, 2013
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The new Berkshire Bank in Mansion Square in Niskayuna
The new Berkshire Bank in Mansion Square in Niskayuna

— The old Stanford mansion has been through much in recent years, from the controversy over what to do with it to the site being physically moved — twice.

But it’s now about to see its new life begin, one to be spent as a bank.

Berkshire Bank has been renovating the old mansion into a modern financial institution since last year, and it now has a July 1 opening date.

With that opening, the public will get a firsthand look at what’s been done. John Prividera, an official with Berkshire Bank’s Capital Region operations, said he thinks they’ll like what they see.

“I think they’ll be pleased,” Prividera said. “What I’ve heard so far is that people have been by the building a lot and they like the way the outside remained the same. I think they’ll be just as pleased about the inside of the bank, that care has been taken to really keep some of the old stuff.”

Prividera, a vice president and regional manager, as well as branch manager Erica Hebler gave a tour of the renovations last week to The Sunday Gazette.

The inside of the bank mirrors other Berkshire branches, with a large circular center space and Berkshire’s take on teller windows at the far side. The teller “pods” allow for more direct interaction between customer and teller.

On the outside are open rooms, with windows that retain many of the original features, including molding and some stained glass. There’s also an original fireplace, which serves as the centerpiece for a community room, which organizations can use free of charge, Prividera said. The room, which seats 12 to 15 people, will be available nights and weekends.

The upper floors remain untouched, and Prividera said the bank might do something with them in the future, but would have to build outside access. There is no access to the upper floors now.

The overall interior of the first floor is distinctly Berkshire Bank, Prividera said.

“If you look at some of the other branches, the interior is similar,” he said. “But it doesn’t have as much character as it has here.”

That character comes from the original mansion, built in the early 19th century.

It has been home to three town supervisors and later became home to both the Schuyler and Stanford families, including Leland Stanford, who founded Stanford University in California in 1876.

The mansion eventually became the Ingersoll Home nursing facility, with a large addition built onto the back of the home in the early 20th century.

The recent history of the mansion, though, has been more tumultuous. Starting about eight years ago, talk of the Ingersoll Home moving began.

Ingersoll eventually moved its operations to a new building on Consaul Road, becoming Ingersoll Place, and, amid protests and legal challenges, the project to develop the land the mansion sat on finally moved forward.

The final plan from Highbridge Development was for multiple buildings housing retail shops and restaurants. The development is to be anchored by a new Walmart Neighborhood Market, now under construction.

With that came many ideas of what to do with the mansion, from keeping it on its original foundation to moving it to different parts of the property.

The mansion itself became the namesake and centerpiece of the final development — Mansion Square.

By 2009, work was under way, with the site cleared and the 20th-century addition to the mansion pulled down. Then, the mansion itself was physically moved to the State Street side, the plan being to flank it with new buildings.

Once moved, though, developers decided to move it again. Plans changed and the home survived a second, slow journey to where it sits now, near the rear of the property, facing out toward State Street and Balltown Road.

Multiple businesses are now open. Tenants for two buildings yet to be built have not been announced.

By the time the second move came around, Berkshire Bank had already signed on to be its new occupant, leasing the historic space. And now, the new bank is nearly ready to open.

Town Supervisor Joe Landry said he has yet to get a tour of the building, but he thanked the developers and Berkshire Bank for their work.

“The structure has been moved, but the structure is still the way it looked prior to movement, and it’s been improved. It’s been painted, repaired, renovated,” Landry said, “It’s in very good shape. I’m very pleased that they were able to maintain it.”

Regarding plans to have a community room in the building, Landry said he believes it will be used.

“That end of town, there’s really not a town building or public building,” Landry said.

The Niskayuna branch will be Berkshire Bank’s third in Schenectady County and 17th in the region.

“Exciting is definitely the word for it,” said Hebler, the branch manager, noting the historic nature of the building itself. “And having it in such a rich community, with so much business going on, it’s really exciting to be a part of it.”

The official opening is set for July 1, with a grand opening six weeks later. The bank is also planning other events, including a family day.

 
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