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Village planners applaud museum plan

This rendering shows the final plan for the Shaker Museum in The Village of Chatham. The view is looking north across Austerlitz Street. Image courtesy of Shaker Museum/Annabelle Selldorf, Architects
The brick building as it looked this week. Photo by Parry Teasdale

CHATHAM—The Shaker Museum presented plans to the Village Planning Board for the museum’s new site at 5 Austerlitz Street at an online meeting Monday, January 25.

“If I had to vote right now, I’d vote yes,” said Planning Board Chair Dan Herrick of the designs for the brick building near the traffic circle in the village. Other board members also voiced their support and voted to hold a public hearing on the project at their next meeting in February.

Planning Board Member Francis Iaconetti said the project was “a positive for the village” and the museum’s thoroughness was appreciated.

The museum came before the Planning Board in September 2019 for a general site plan review, which the board approved. At that time, the application submitted to the Planning Board said, “the Shaker Museum seeks to re-purpose the existing brick structure for use as a museum, administrative offices and a teaching center.”

In February 2020, the Shaker Museum announced it had purchased 5 Austerlitz Street, and received a $1,569,000 grant from Empire State Development through New York State’s Regional Economic Development Councils (REDC) initiative to support a project “that will transform the building into a museum and community cultural center,” said a press release.

The release also quoted the museum’s Executive Director Lacy Schutz saying, “The purchase of the building in Chatham and the support of New York State represent a significant step forward in the Shaker Museum’s efforts to fulfill its strategic plan to make its collection accessible to the public and to establish the museum as a regional resource and destination.”

Last August the museum announced the hiring of Selldorf Architects and in a press release at that time said, “the $15-million project is expected to break ground in 2021 and be completed in 2023. To date, $6.3 million has been raised in the capital campaign to support the facility, which includes a major gift from Columbia County resident Jack Shear” and the REDC grant.

In November of last year, the museum received approval for a height variance from the Village Zoning Board of Appeals. At that meeting, there was a discussion of “a portion of the building that is to be the addition to the historic structure and has a stairway bulkhead as well as an extension to the top of the elevator, as well as some mechanicals that will sit on top of the roof that will require a minor variance for the height. This will not exceed the height of the existing building,” according to the minutes of the ZBA meeting.

The museum also presented the site plans to the Village Planning Board in November. At that meeting, the minutes show that architect Annabelle Selldorf told the board that the museum planned to keep the original building intact and that “there will be one single addition that is connected to the main structure with the most minimal connection via a small bridge.”

At that meeting in November, the Planning Board had questions and concerns for the Shaker Museum. At the meeting Monday, Ms. Schutz pointed out where the museum had addressed the board’s concerns in the plan.

She reviewed the history of the building and looked at other buildings in the village, and in the surrounding area, pointing out that the footprint of the 1811 House, which is across the street, is larger than 5 Austerlitz Street. She also pointed out the mix of styles of buildings in the village.

The plan calls for parking on Austerlitz Street, River Street and on the property. There is a separate plan for a parking lot on a site across the street from the building in the spot that was until recently the Chatham Pizza Den. Ms. Schutz said that the museum does not own that lot and that they would have to come back to the Planning Board with plans for that site. She also said that it would not just be Shaker Museum parking but parking for the village.

Ms. Schutz thanked the Wood family of MetzWood Insurance, who sold the building to the museum. She talked about the state of the building, which will need major masonry work and that they will basically need to construct a building inside the old structure. But she said, “We are a museum, and we honor the past.”

‘If I had to vote right now, I’d vote yes.’

Dan Herrick, chairman

Village of Chatham Planning Board

There were also discussions of the landscaping, a crosswalk on Austerlitz Street and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant ramps, as well as lighting.

Board members talked about information that was available at the Tracy Memorial/Village Hall for them to look at before the meeting. Board member Leslie Korda said that was “very helpful.” The Shaker Museum staff plans to leave that information at the Village Hall for the public. And Ms. Schutz said the museum welcoms a public hearing.

The Planning Board public hearing will be held on February 22 at 7:30 p.m. online. For more information about how to attend the meeting go to

The Shaker Museum currently has a site in Old Chatham, which houses the administrative offices, collections, library, and archives. Since 2004 they have had a site in New Lebanon, which, according to their website, consists “of 11 Shaker buildings on 91 acres.” The the museum’s name has been changed from Shaker Museum & Library to Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon.

For more information about the Shaker Museum go to

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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