By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
ALCOVE — A cadre of volunteers is restoring a local landmark that has towered over Alcove for more than 150 years.
The historic Alcove chimney was built in 1848 when the Valley Paper Mill expanded. Both the chimney and former mill site, at Chimney Top Park, are on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, but the chimney is in need of some TLC.
The Alcove Preservation Association, which has a management agreement with the town of Coeymans, has been working with the town for years to restore the historic chimney to its former glory.
The association has been developing the Valley Paper Mill Park since 2004. Restoration work on the base of the chimney — which was damaged in a fire at the mill back in 1892, according to Tom Sweeney from the association — began in 2017 when the stone foundation was restored by O’Brien Stoneworks, a local masonry business in Alcove.
Since that time, additional work has been completed, including 10 feet of brick restored in May 2021.
“We did another 10 feet of restoration of the brick this past May,” Sweeney said. “We did a portion of the base of the chimney a couple of years ago, so this was the second phase of brickwork. The foundation was done in 2017.”
Restoring the brick that makes up the chimney itself is critical because it has been deteriorating over the years since a fire more than a century ago.
“The chimney’s brickface is beginning to fall apart because it was damaged in the fire from the mill,” Sweeney said. “That fire was in 1892.”
Restoring a 100-foot tall, 174-year-old chimney that was damaged by fire many years ago is a pricey prospect. The project received a variety of funds for the restoration, including an Albany County Legislative Grant in 2018, funding from the town of Coeymans, private donations from Hannay Reels in Westerlo, and funds from the Alcove Preservation Association, according to the organization.
The town applied for funds through New York State Historic Preservation, but the grant was declined by the state, Town Supervisor George McHugh said at the town council’s Dec. 23 meeting.
The grant application process was extremely competitive in 2021, which town officials anticipated, but applying was still a worthwhile effort, McHugh said.
Moving forward, the Alcove Preservation Association is looking to raise funds to extend the brickface renovations.
“We still have another 90 feet to reach the top,” Sweeney said.
The town owns the property where the chimney is located, but the association is responsible for maintaining the site through a management agreement with the town, he added.
While the majority of the historic chimney is still in need of restoration, work is at a standstill at the moment as the association seeks additional funds.
“We are in a pause phase right now because we need funding to go forward,” Sweeney said. “The grant writer for the town is looking at possible funding sources, but we have not yet identified any potential funding that could possibly help us.”
Anyone looking to donate to the effort can visit the Alcove Preservation Association’s Facebook page for information.
The chimney and mill site remain an important part of Alcove’s history, Sweeney said.
“It’s a local landmark that anyone who has lived here most of their lives can identify with and it’s on the National Register of Historic Places,” Sweeney said. “It’s a significant fixture of the Alcove Historic District.”