The Martin Van Buren Historic Site, Columbia Co., NY
By Mindy Potts Feb 2003
Webpage and Notes by Cliff Lamere 10 Nov 2003
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This historical article about the expansion of the Martin Van Buren Historic Site near Kinderhook, Columbia County, NY is part of series written by Mindy Potts for publication in the monthly newspaper "OK Times & The Hudson River Sampler", Northern Columbia County Edition. Published in Stuyvesant, Columbia Co., NY, the newspaper also distributes a Southern Columbia County and Northern Dutchess County edition. The text and title of the original article may have been slightly revised for this webpage so that they would be more meaningful to a geographically diverse audience.
Original publication: Feb 2003,
Original title: The Expansion of The Martin Van Buren Historic Site
(Introduction by Cliff Lamere)
The Expansion of The Martin Van Buren Historic Site
The Kinderhook Town Board, in trying to keep with the idea of preserving the Town of
Kinderhook’s unique historic, agricultural and rural character, has voted on a proposed
boundary expansion of the Martin Van Buren Historic Site. The expansion would increase from
the park’s boundaries from its current 38 acres to some 300 acres. A favorable Town Board vote
is only the first step in the expansion process. Ultimately, it will take an act of Congress to approve
Expanding the boundary would not mean the park would own this new property, but it would mean the park would have the opportunity to buy the property if the current owners decided to sell. But what it also means is that some neighbors would find themselves owning property in the middle of a national park. What are implications of that? Would the land owners within the new boundary be subject to park rules and regulations? Could the National Park Service enact the power of eminent domain, and force owners to sell for the good of the community? Why does the park want so much more land? What were their plans for the expansion? And has the Park Service proven themselves to be good stewards of the currently owned 38 acres that they should have more land entrusted to them?
Because of these questions from the community, even though the Town Board had already unanimously approved the proposal, there was a second vote. Board member, Mary Kramarchyk, heard the concerns of the neighbors. Although she agreed with the plan to expand the park, she recognized that many community members were not ready to commit to it. The second vote on the proposed boundary expansion of the Martin Van Buren site was not unanimous. Mary Kramarchyk’s vote was the one against the expansion, however a vote of 4 in favor and 1 opposed, still passed the proposal.
The Lindenwald area, including a section of the historic Old Post Road, has been protected by the neighbors over the last few decades, to maintain the historicity and ambience of the eighteenth century. They left the section of the Old Post Road unpaved although the town was willing to fund its paving. Instead of replacing an unsafe bridge, the neighbors decided to close the bridge although it would be an inconvenience. The neighbors have also opposed condominiums and landfills being created adjacent to Lindenwald. The neighbors have worked to preserve not only the former home of our 8th president, but also and the land around it and the sense of community that was shared by Martin Van Buren himself.
One specific concern of some of the neighbors are the obtrusive locations of the visitor parking lot and temporary buildings the Park Service uses as offices. The buildings do not fit in with the historic atmosphere of the area. Although the buildings are considered temporary, the park has not made plans to change or remove them. One neighbor quoted Franklin Roosevelt when he, as President, was asked for permission to build some temporary buildings. He said, “There is no such thing. Once a government builds a building its there forever.”
Scott Rector, Acting Park Manager of the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, would also like to see something other than the temporary buildings, but at this point, the park has no space to build or get rid of the buildings. 26 of the 38 acres are historic property and the park is prohibited from developing on that 26 acres. Mr. Rector also acknowledges that the Park, as it is, does not give the full picture of what Lindenwald was like at the time it was owned by Van Buren. Martin Van Buren owned hundreds of acres and Lindenwald was a full working farm, a far cry from the 38 acres of park land.
While it has been suggested that the extra land could be used for experimental farming, as Van Buren, himself, was believed to have been an experimental farmer, the park is hesitant to specify what could be done with the extra acreage because the actual expansion is a long way off. The expansion proposal isn’t yet in front of congress. Even assuming congress would approve it once the proposal gets there, then the Park Service would need to apply for grant money for any purchases, and of course it all hinges on IF the land ever becomes available to purchase. The National Park Service has assured the town of Kinderhook that in the event Congress approves the proposed boundary expansion, no one would be forced to sell their property and there will be no changes to landowners properties. Those within the boundaries of the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site will not have any Park Service rules and regulations imposed on them either.
I guess there will always be questions about the “best” way to go about protecting historical property and artifacts. Any proposal will have more than one side and there will be those who disagree with the final decision. It’s a smart idea to question, gather information and be as informed as you can be. Its important to care about what’s happening just down the street even if it doesn’t directly affect you, and to see the other person’s side and be understanding. Because time may or may not tell if we made the right decisions, it is important to see the big picture, the whole picture, and choose wisely.
Link to Martin Van Buren Historic Site Website:
Visitors since 17 Nov 2003
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