McKownville Improvement Association
- McKownville - name, attempts to rename, or form a village; annexations

Name of the hamlet
The area now known as McKownville has been part of the Town of Guilderland since 1803, when the town was created.
Early in the 19th century it was according to one source known informally as West Brighton, but by 1862 when the McKownville Post Office was first opened, the name McKownville was clearly an established usage. This was from the McKown family, the earliest to build a dwelling in this area, and in particular William McKown (1763-1843), the proprietor of McKown's Hotel and tavern on the Great Western Turnpike.
The Altamont Enterprise newspaper before 1893 used "McKownsville", as did the 1897 compendium Landmarks of Albany County, which has a brief description of the settlement. A document created for the restablishment of the McKownville Post Office in 1871 contains the name McKownsville handwritten, but with the "s" firmly crossed out. The McKownville Post Office was discontinued in 1905.
      on USGS 1893 map
The earliest map containing the name is the USGS Albany quadrangle of 1893, which reads "McKownville", and which has remained the same on all maps since that time.

The Bein atlas of 1895 shows McKownville on the map of Albany, Rensselaer, and Columbia Counties.

1917 - Village of Witbeck petition
A proposal to change the name of the hamlet was made early in 1917, as part of an attempt to incorporate it as a formally (and legally) defined village. A petition to establish the "Village of Witbeck" was circulated for signature and submitted to the Town of Guilderland, and was approved by the Town Supervisor. However an appeal to the Albany County Court by residents opposed to the proposal caused reversal of this decision, the court upholding the claim that the petition was faulty. No further activity on this proposal appears to have occurred after this rejection. An amusing contemporary report in the Altamont Enterprise covers this only documented attempt to change the name of the place. There is a recently published historical article in the Enterprise about the Witbecks, including this event.

1918 - McKownville Fire District petition
Early in 1918 a successful petition by residents to the Albany County Board of Supervisors resulted in the establishment of the McKownville Fire District. The boundaries of the District initially extended along Western Avenue/Turnpike to the present Johnston and Rapp Road intersection. After the establishment of the Westmere Fire District in 1937, the McKownville Fire District western boundary was more formally defined approximately at its present position near Schoolhouse Road.

1926 - discussion of village incorporation
Minutes of the McKownville Improvement Association board meeting in September 1926 record the intention to hold a special open meeting in October 1926 to discuss village incorporation. The files also include a map drawn in 1927 for the voting district for such an incorporation. However, no report or formal notice of such a proposal can be found in the pages of the Altamont Enterprise of that time, so it is presumed that the matter was not pursued after the meeting.

1965 - discussion of village incorporation
In 1964 the Guilderland Planning Board recommended a major lot size reduction for residential properties with the intention of permitting development of high-rise apartments in areas formerly zoned for one-family detached houses. The McKownville Improvement Association went so far as to respond to this threat to the neighborhood and its limited water supply by setting up a formal committee and calling a public meeting in January 1965 to discuss incorporation as a village, as a means to avoid this undesired imposition. This zoning change recommendation was in the end not adopted, and no further action toward village incorporation is recorded.

1980 - discussion and in-depth study of village incorporation in the attempt to prevent the building of Crossgates
Early in 1980, the McKownville Improvement Association began an extensive study of village incorporation, and promoted public discussion of the possibility, starting with the 18th March 1980 meeting. The primary motivation was the possibility of gaining local control over zoning of some part of the area required by the developers of Crossgates, and of the McKownville Reservoir watershed and Water District, and thereby preventing the construction. A meeting was held 18 June 1980 where Don Reeb presented to residents his arguments and the facts derived from his research into village incorporation. Reports after this meeting show that opinion was divided, and a significant number of residents opposed the idea, even though it was shown that no net tax increase would occur. A subcommittee of the Association continued to work, gathering more information from other New York State villages, and on an opinion survey of residents, into the fall of 1980, but the effort was then abandoned.

Annexation events and attempts affecting McKownville and adjoining areas

1871 - transfer of much of the area of the Liberty of Albany to the Town of Guilderland
 map of part of
        Albany County 1866
  part of map of Albany County (Beers atlas 1866) showing the
  boundaries of the City of Albany before the 1871 truncation.
 The long strip extending to the Schenectady County Line was
  known as the Liberty of Albany.

(click on any of the bordered maps to see an enlarged image)

City of Albany western boundaries 1871-1912
USGS 1927 Albany quad map annotated showing:
City of Albany boundary from 1871-1912 (red);
Guilderland-Watervliet (Colonie from 1896) boundary 1871-1912 (magenta)
Guilderland-Bethlehem boundary to 1912 (blue)
former Albany-Guilderland boundary (dashed thin red line)

1912 - return of a substantial part of the area of the former Liberty of Albany from Guilderland back to the City of Albany
Guilderland-City of Albany boundaries 1912
USGS 1927 Albany quad map annotated showing:
City of Albany boundary from 1912-1916 (red);
Guilderland-Colonie boundary 1896-1916 (magenta)
Guilderland-Bethlehem boundary to 1916 (blue)
former Albany-Guilderland boundaries:
(dashed red lines; thin - before 1871; thick - before 1912)

1916 - establishment of the present Guilderland-City of Albany boundary:
         - annexation of the part of McKownville east of the Krumkill east branch to the City of Albany
         - annexation of further areas of the Pine Bush in the Town of Guilderland to the City of Albany
Guilderland-City of Albany boundaries 1916 annexations
USGS 1927 Albany quad map annotated showing:
City of Albany boundary from 1916 (red);
Guilderland-Colonie boundary from 1896 (magenta)
Guilderland-Bethlehem boundary from 1803 (blue)
former Albany-Guilderland and Albany-Bethlehem boundaries:
(dashed red lines; thin - before 1871, and 1912; thick - before 1916)
former Guilderland-Bethlehem boundary:
(dashed thick blue line - before 1916)

minor changes after the 1916 annexations have been made locally
in the Albany-Guilderland boundary near Willow Street (Hamlet of Guilderland) in 1981;
in the Guilderland-Bethlehem boundary east of the NY Thruway (Three Hills Terrace)
view the current Town of Guilderland zoning map for these adjustments
(the date of the Guilderland-Bethlehem adjustment has not been identified)

1924 - petition by Three Hills Terrace residents for annexation to the City of Albany (not successful)
The Altamont Enterprise reported that some residents of Three Hills Terrace submitted a petition to the City of Albany requesting annexation of their neighborhood to the City. This request must have been unsuccessful as the area remains part of the Town of Guilderland.

1955 - petition and legislative attempt for annexation of McKownville to the City of Albany (not successful)
Significant dissatisfaction with the quality of the water supplied by the McKownville Water District seems to have been the main motive that caused a group of about 60 McKownville residents to petition for annexation of McKownville to the City of Albany. This movement was aggressively promoted by a columnist employed by the Times-Union newspaper, who was a resident of McKownville for a few years. The proponents clearly had the assistance of the mayor of Albany, Erastus Corning 3rd, as his office drafted and submitted legislation to enable this annexation. Fortunately, even though Corning was accustomed to getting whatever he wanted, in this case the opposition of a very large number of residents was so clearly expressed (536 signed the counter-petition) that the Legislature apparently took no action and the matter was quietly abandoned. A letter from McKownville resident William Embler printed in the Altamont Enterprise sets out clearly the disadvantages that the annexation would have brought and shows why there was such a large majority against it. A response by Fred Abele to one of the Times-Union columnist's repeated provocations also gives a good background to the concerns of the residents, and the probable consequences of annexation.

The water quality issues largely were caused by careless construction practices when the NY State Thruway was being built 1952-54, and siltation of the Krum Kill stream crossed by that interstate highway a short way upstream of the McKownville reservoir. The filtration plant could not cope with such repeated heavy insults, and the reservoir was significantly reduced in volume by the sediment deposited in it. The Water District and the Town of Guilderland attempted to recover some recompense from the Thruway Authority in order to dredge the sediment from the reservoir, and provide maintenance and remediation to the filters, but that agency first denied it had caused any significant problem, then stalled repeatedly the process of determining the extent of the damage, and in the end seems to have provided no, or very little, compensation. The Town eventually, in 1964, solicited bids to remove a large volume of sediment from the McKownville reservoir, and nearly $30,000 was expended to remove over 10,000 cubic yards of sediment.
They also spent about $50,000 adding more filtration and pumping equipment the next year.

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