History prevails in Ancram

Preservation group buys Stiehle house

ANCRAM—The Ancram Preservation Group is the new owner of the Stiehle house in the hamlet.

The group’s purchase of the house and property for $15,000 follows a four-plus-year legal battle with the Ancram Fire District and property owner, John F. Stiehle.

Warren Replansky, attorney for the Ancram Preservation Group (APG), told The Columbia Paper this week that Columbia County Supreme Court Judge Patrick J. McGrath ordered that the Stiehle property be sold to the APG a few months ago.

“The judge granted [the group’s] motion for a summary judgment almost in its entirety,” said Mr. Replansky, noting that the judge additionally “wanted to see proof that the APG had the funds to buy it.”

Once that proof was provided, the transfer of the property went forward and the closing was final two weeks ago. Mr. Replansky said he had just received the final sale documents Tuesday.

Neither Ancram Fire District Board of Fire Commissioners Chairman Terry Boyles nor Roderick J. MacLeod, the attorney representing the fire district and Mr. Stiehle in the case, returned calls for comment by press deadline, Wednesday.

The Stiehle house, which stands at the east end of the hamlet crossroads of state Route 82 and county Route 7, was built sometime in the first half of the 18th century. It is considered by the preservation group to be one of the oldest homes in town and one of three significant historic buildings in the center of the hamlet.

The conflict over the place began in 2009, after the fire district bought the house and property from Mr. Stiehle, in breach of a contract between Mr. Stiehle and the APG.

The APG got involved with the property when the rear part of the structure began to collapse in 2008. After securing a clear title to the house and property for Mr. Stiehle, a process that took about a year, the APG entered into a five-year lease agreement with him in 2008, APG President Christopher “Kit” White told The Columbia Paper four years ago (“Fire district takes heat,” January 21, 2010). The agreement allowed the APG to remove the crumbling rear part of the house and stabilize the rest of it.

The terms of the lease also allowed the APG “the right of first refusal” to buy the house and property for the same amount any potential buyer offered Mr. Stiehle and an option to buy the place for $35,000, if the group so decided.

After the fire district, which owns the property adjacent to the Stiehle house, offered the owner $15,000 for it, the APG told Mr. Stiehle and his attorney that the group would exercise its right of first refusal and buy the Stiehle house for $15,000.

But despite his agreement the APG, Mr. Stiehle sold the house and property to the Ancram Fire District in November 2009.

The APG lawsuit alleged that Mr. Stiehle and the fire district “were fully aware of the existence of the [APG’s] right of first refusal” and the group’s intent to buy the property.

In its suit, the APG asked the court to allow the preservation group to purchase the Stiehle property for $15,000 and that the defendants be restrained from selling the property or disposing of it in any way that would “defeat the rights” of the group to the historic building.

Mr. White said in 2010 that he was told by fire district officials that they intended to tear down the Stiehle house to make way for an access route for a possible firehouse addition. In 2013 the fire district built a 7,200 square foot addition to the firehouse just west of the Stiehle house. Fire district voters overwhelmingly approved an $895,000 bond to finance the expansion.

Along with the Stiehle house, the Simons General Store and the Tinsmith house across the road from the Stiehle house are considered historic hamlet buildings. The APG purchased and restored the general store several years ago, and that building is currently for sale.

APG Board Member R.O. Blechman said in a phone interview Wednesday, that it is the group’s intention to make the house habitable, presentable and ultimately “an asset to the town.”

Mr. Blechman said the first order of business will be to improve the house “cosmetically.” He said due to the house’s location at a critical juncture in the town it is essential to make it “presentable.” He said the group will embark on a fundraising campaign to raise the money to restore the house.

The Ancram Preservation Group is a private nonprofit corporation founded in 2000 and devoted to “promoting and advocating the architectural, economic, cultural and historic vitality of the Ancram Community through historic preservation, and cultural and educational programming in partnership with other community groups,” according to the group’s website, www.ancrampreservation.org.

To contact Diane Valden email .


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