McKownville Improvement Association
- Thomas F Woods House - LaGrange lot 8

East of the (former) Holt-Harris property, the easternmost lot of the Christian LaGrange tract was a separate privately-owned property, and not taken by the State when it took the adjoining Country Club property in 1961. But it was sold to the Faculty-Student Association in 1965, and the northern part became for a while the property of the Albany Collegiate Interfaith Center. In 1977, the southern part was given to the University, and in 1987 the University purchased the northern part.

Map of Lands of the heirs of Christian LaGrange (deceased), 1881; lot 8 of this map.
The map shows Cynthia A LaGrange as the owner in 1881.

1st January 1877 - John B LaGrange and others sold lot 8 to Cynthia A LaGrange
Deed book 301 page 69.
(and John B LaGrange bought the adjacent lots 6 and 7 from Cynthia A LaGrange and others, also on 1st January 1877)

20 November 1907 - Cynthia A LaGrange sold lot 8 to Susan Barkhuff
Deed book 567 page 100.

24 November 1914 - Susan Barkhuff sold lot 8 to Thomas F Woods.
Deed book 630 page 227.

        of the Thomas Woods house, December 1966Thomas F Woods built a house on this lot, collecting and using lumber and fittings from various historic Albany houses and old commercial properties. It was reported in Joyce Durgerian's 1966 article about this house in the Turnpike Record that he used it as a recreational retreat but never lived here for long intervals. As a result, there are no census or city directory records of occupancy to constrain the building date, which could have been not long after Woods bought the land in 1914.

Judge Holt-Harris lived in it briefly for a year or so before his house nearby was built in 1948-49.

Thomas F Woods died 17 December 1949, and his will devised the property to his son Thomas S Woods.

30 January 1954 - Thomas S Woods sold the southern part (approximately 2/3) of lot 8 with the house to Alfred L and Helen C O'Brien.
Deed book 1390 page 125.
18 January 1960 - Thomas S Woods sold the northern remainder (approximately 1/3) of lot 8 to Alfred L and Helen C O'Brien.
Deed book 1639 page 1.

3 June 1965 - Alfred L and Helen C O'Brien sold all of lot 8 and the house to Faculty-Student Association of State University of New York at Albany, Inc.
Deed book 1831 page 479.

interior of the Thomas Woods house December 1966
The Faculty-Student Association used the house to provide accommodation, and it was occupied by the Dean of Students in 1966 when the Turnpike Record news article was written, and the interior photos taken. We have not located any photo of the exterior of this house.

Photos by Jim Lund

7 January 1969 - an Option Agreement between the Faculty-Student Association and the Albany Collegiate Interfaith Center was signed, for the purchase of the northern part of lot 8.
Deed book 2029 page 35.
14 May 1971 - the northernmost part of lot 8, a rectangle 265 feet long on the west and east sides, 1.605 acres, was conveyed to Albany Collegiate Interfaith Center
Deed book 2029 page 27.
This deed contains the restriction: "This conveyance is also made on the express stipulation that the land hereby conveyed shall be continuously used as a religious center by and for the students, faculty and employees of State University of New York at Albany, and such restriction shall be a covenant which shall run with the land." 

This house was originally accessed along the driveway from Waverly Place, past the house of Judge Holt-Harris, although the option agreement of 1969 states that there was also vehicle access from the then adjacent SUNYA parking lot.  In 1974, the University announced that they were thinking of converting the house to offices. The McKownville Improvement Association expressed a firm opinion to the Town Supervisor and to the University administration that the residential area should not be invaded in this manner. Judge Holt-Harris being a university trustee probably helped a lot to squash this idea.

21 September 1976 - an easement was agreed for University Auxiliary Services over part of the Albany Collegiate Interfaith Center parcel to access and maintain the well, pump house and water line for the Woods House
Deed book 2121 page 387.

26 April 1977 - University Auxiliary Services at Albany Inc. (as successor to Faculty-Student Association of State University of New York at Albany, Inc.) gift to the People of the State of New York, the southern part of lot 8 (592.58 feet, 3.606 acres). This mentions the water supply easement of 1976, perhaps suggesting the house was still standing. The boundary recitation in this deed confuses north and south, and east and west; a geographically dyslexic lawyer!
Deed book 2132 page 1019.

At a later date, not well recorded (probably before 1980), this house was demolished by the University. It is not known whether any of the historic fittings or lumber were rescued, nor what happened to them if any were preserved from destruction. We have not found any published report of the destruction of the house by the University.

13 July 1987 - Albany Collegiate Interfaith Center sold to the People of the State of New York (Trustees of the State University of New York) the northernmost part of lot 8, a rectangle 265 feet long on the west and east sides, 1.605 acres, for $46,000. The Interfaith Center had not built any structure on this lot. This sale occurred just after the Interfaith Center had sold the adjacent lot to Holt-Harris, after the destruction by fire and demolition of the Barnes Lodge in 1985.
Deed book 2344 page 55.
25 October 1987 - a minor correction to this deed; Deed book 2351 page 927.
These contain this statement: "Being and intending to convey the same premises as conveyed by Faculty-Student Association of State University of New York at Albany, Inc. to Albany Collegiate Interfaith Center, Inc. by deed dated May 14, 1971, and recorded June 9, 1971 in Liber 2029 cp 27."
[but contain no mention of the religious use restriction, nor of the access and water supply easements in that deed]

map of LaGrange lots
        6-8 on 2001 air photo
On construction about 1995 of the RACC (recreation and convocation center building now known as the SEFCU arena), the University perimeter road was relocated into this area of lot 8, and a high berm was bulldozed west of the road, past the former site of the Woods House, to shield Judge Holt-Harris' house from the lights and traffic noise of the road, now running much nearer to his house than before, and from the lights and activities at the arena and the adjacent parking lot.

Air photo taken 2001 showing lot outlines with LaGrange lots 6, 7, and 8 labelled. The former positions of the Thomas F Woods House, and of the Barnes Lodge (later Chapel House) shown by the red squares. When the photo was taken, the Holt-Harris house (HH) and the Nicholas Lane house (NL) were still standing.

lot outlines and air photo basemap obtained 24 Nov 2021 from:
Town of Guilderland interactive mapping site

return to older houses and buildings of McKownville