SARANAC - The Rural Preservation Company of Clinton County is breathing new life into what's been called one of the town's most recognized landmarks.
The Centennial House, a building constructed in the early 1800s on what is today Ganong Drive, is being rehabilitated thanks, in part, to funding from the New York State Housing Trust Fund. Duquette Brothers Construction of Plattsburgh was awarded the contract, which will create three one-bedroom apartments for senior citizens age 62 and older, as well as a new office for the Rural Preservation Company, which is currently located in Tedford's Plaza on State Route 3.
"I'd say we're probably about 45 percent complete," organization executive director Mary E. Mattila said of the project.
The Rural Preservation Company purchased the house from the Saranac Senior Citizens Club in January 2006, but the building's history dates back much further than that, said town historian Jan Couture. The building, which was built as a private residence nearly 200 years ago and later became a hotel, was part of what was once called Hopper's Corners, named after one of the town's early settlers. Hopper's Corners was a central location for commercial and social activity in the town, Couture said, with performances and gatherings at the nearby Grange hall and town bandstand.
"It was a bustling area. It was the lifeblood of the town and the Centennial House was a part of that," said Couture.
Though creating more senior housing won't necessarily bring more bustle to the neighborhood, Mattila hopes the reincarnation of the Centennial House will be an important addition for the elderly community.
"I think this is ideal for our seniors, especially for ones who have lived here their entire life and want to continue to reside here," said Mattila. "This is a solution for them to stay in the area."
Mattila said she's also glad to see the project will mean one less eyesore in the town, especially one that's been vacant for the past seven years.
"The people that live here and, of course, the area around where Centennial House is, have just seen it going downhill and dilapidating," she said. "[The project] is very, very important to them. It's a historical home and to have it brought back to life is absolutely wonderful."
Couture agreed, saying she was pleased to learn the Rural Preservation Company is bringing the house back from the brink of a state where it would likely have one day been condemned.
"This is a part of our heritage," she said. "It's one of the few brick houses in Saranac and once it's gone, it's gone."
The Rural Preservation Company is currently taking applications for housing at the Centennial House, which is income-based. For more information, contact Mattila Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at 293-7569.
The project is expected to be completed sometime next month, said Mattila.