HILLSDALE — The Columbia Turnpike-East Tollhouse on Route 23 in Columbia County will be moved 30 feet from its original site to protect the structure from road threats.
The Hillsdale building was among a group nominated for a place on the New York State Historic Registry.
In a statement, Gov. Kathy Hochul noted the importance of protecting historic buildings and the role they played in shaping the present.
“New York’s built environment reminds us of our state’s rich and diverse history,” Hochul said. “These nominations reflect parts of our past and demonstrate New Yorkers capacity for growth, innovation, demonstration and change. Adding these sites to our historic registers emphasizes the roles that they have played — and will continue to play — in New York’s story.”
The Columbia Turnpike-East Tollhouse was built in 1799 east of Mitchell Street and Mansfield Road. The tollhouse collected revenue from travelers for the Columbia Turnpike Company, which remained in operation from 1799 to 1907.
The Columbia Turnpike linked Columbia County’s farming and industry to Hudson River ports. It operated along the Columbia Turnpike until 1908 when it was turned over to the county, and then to the state, which rechristened it as New York State Route 23.
The tollhouse was closed in 1907 when it became a private residence over the next few decades. In 1970 the house was acquired by Eldena Jenssen of Hillsdale. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 23, 2016.
In 2016 Friends of the East Gate in Hillsdale acquired the tollhouse from the Jenssen family, mostly thanks to a donation from Edgar Masters of Copake Falls. Friends of The East Gate was formed in 2016 to raise money to preserve the tollhouse. It is a group of local residents, civic leaders and historic preservationists who want to develop the building into a historic center and exhibition space.
Following this, in 2018, the William G. Pomeroy Foundation installed a historic marker.
Susan Hughes, a historian and archivist at the Pomeroy Foundation, described the process to install the marker.
“In 2017, the Friends of East Gate, Inc., applied for a New York State Historic Marker grant to commemorate the East Gate Tollhouse, one of two remaining tollhouses on the Columbia Turnpike,” Hughes said. “By submitting contemporary maps, deeds and other documents such as toll receipts, they were able to meet the Foundation’s requirements for primary sources to support the marker’s text.
“One of the core initiatives of the Pomeroy Foundation is to help people celebrate their community’s history. Buildings such as the East Gate Tollhouse serve to educate the public and foster historical tourism, which in turn can provide economic benefits to the towns where the markers are placed.”
James Wagman, president of the Board of Friends of East Gate, said he hopes to move the building to a new foundation further back from the road, reconstruct the toll gate and restore the exterior and interior of the building.
“The approval to set the building back is the beginning of the restoration process,” Wagman said. “It has to go through one more set of national review and then we’ll have the right to move this landmark back on its existing site, which is important in keeping its historic designation.
“Once that’s done, we started a campaign for funds to do the work to raise upwards of $500,000. The money is needed to pick the building up and move it to a new foundation, and restore it to what the building would’ve looked like during its heyday, 1799 to 1907. Our goals within the next several months are to put our campaign together and start fundraising at www.friendsofeastgate.org.
Structures this old often come with concerns about damaging the structure during the moving process. Friends of East Gate has been in touch with several house movers, especially those that specialize in moving historic structures.
“Our goal is to first build the foundation for the new location and then we’re going to pick it up chimney and all and move it back,” Wagman said. “We’re assuming we’re going to pick up from the second floor because the first floor and cellar structure have been destroyed from years of neglect from ice and snow. We have it temporally secured. It’s stable now”.
The next step in the process is a review by the National Park Service. The review is expected to take up to two to three months.
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