1257 Western Avenue -
      the Garrison house, 4 April 2004
The house that used to be at 1257 Western Avenue; picture taken 4 April 2004 just before its demolition 6 April 2004 [photo provided by Don Reeb].

This house and one acre lot was owned and occupied by the Garrison family for a long time, from 1909 to about 1973, when George Garrison died. Albert Garrison, George's father, purchased it in 1909 from Howard Purrott, who had bought it in 1907 from Mary Clark, the widow of James B Clark. James Clark bought this property 1883/01 for $1000 from Harriet Shear who had paid $900 for it 1881/08, purchased from Henry and Mary A Drumm. Henry Drumm purchased for $1000 a 2 acre lot in 1870/04 from James F. and Sarah A. McKown, which he divided, retaining the western half for himself and his son Andrew when he sold the eastern 1 acre part of it to Harriet Shear in 1881. If James F. McKown and his wife Sarah lived in the house on this eastern part, they would after they sold to Henry Drumm in 1870 have been renting from him (perhaps using the mortgage payment owed to them as collateral for this). 

The Clark's are in the 1892 NY census next to Charles Gemlick, which is consistent with Clark's occupying this house, as we know Gemlick (aka Gimlich) lived at 1245 Western Avenue. In the 1880 US census, James and Mary Clark are in the list, but at a position that implies they were then living farther east along Western Avenue; the persons in that census that from their position in the list seem more likely to be the occupants of this house are Sarah A McKown, recent widow of James F McKown, and her grandson James. Before its demolition, the town property records had a building date of 1890 for this house. If it was not rebuilt, the core of the house would have been older. The 1866 Beers map shows J.F. McKown's house in this position, and the 1851 Sidney map shows J White in the same place (and Sarah A. McKown was a White before her marriage), so if not rebuilt, this house predated 1850. Or perhaps a predecessor house occupied this same site before a rebuilding, which could have been done associated with the sales recorded in 1907, or in 1893, or earlier, possibly in 1881.

The more recent history of the house, after its sale by the Garrison estate in the 1970's to a developer, is a clear illustration of the shortcomings of the zoning code and permitted property uses in residential areas, and the inability of town governments to prevent decay of initially viable residences once they pass into the ownership of those who do not live in them and who care little for anything but maximizing the potential short-term monetary profit, and request subversive changes to the property zoning to promote this. Short-term rentals with no reinvestment for maintenance, and the failed aim of conversion of the residential zoning to business use, was the formula for the decay of this house.

Eventually it was left empty, and boarded up, and the 1 acre lot not maintained and left to become overgrown. Adjacent homeowners and the neighborhood association appealed on a number of occasions to the Town of Guilderland to have the owner maintain it. After a failed attempt in 2002 by the owner to sell to the University, in 2003 the Town did act to purchase the property and condemn the house since it was by then clearly hazardous, and in such poor condition as not to be economically repairable.
After the demolition, the Town leased the cleared lot on a long-term basis to the McKownville Fire Department, whose station is just across Western Avenue. In 2017, it was filled level and was used into 2023 as a construction storage and operations yard for the water main renewal and storm drain improvements in McKownville.

The site is said to have had "a drainage problem", and that was one of the reasons for the decay of the house. This is directly connected with the geology and groundwater conditions in this area, because the house was located next to a natural spring, which was probably the household water source in the 19th century, and the spring is in the course of a small, ephemeral tributary stream channel to the Krum Kill. Before Western Avenue was widened and filled level, probably in the 1920's or later, the stream drainage would have been uninterrupted; after the road "improvements", this drainage was probably restricted, and the house foundation significantly more threatened by water damage. The spring is here because the base of the local unconfined aquifer, the Colonie Sand, lies on the impermeable Albany Clay, and this contact is located at the elevation of the ground surface in the (former) low point in the lot (at 190 feet asl). Levelling the lot in 2017 with a few feet of gravel will not have remediated this groundwater issue. The problem is clear in a photo taken at a late stage of the demolition. In photos taken many years before, clear evidence of the bad drainage is revealed; a major rainstorm caused a temporary lake to form here in the former stream valley, by then walled off by Western Avenue, and with either a blocked, or a non-existent drainage culvert under the road.

JF McKown's house on 1866 Beers map
McKownville area on the Beers map of Guilderland of 1866.
J.F. McKown's house marked west of J Segar (Sager), who owned the house at 1245 Western Ave. It is inferred that JF McKown occupied 1257 Western Avenue, or an older house on this site.

water table showing in
      wet ground in the 1257 Western Ave lot
water table showing in wet ground near the former house foundation in the 1257 Western Ave lot, during the late stages of demolition and removal of the house, 6 April 2004. Photo taken by Alice Torda.

spring in the lot
      of 1257 Western Ave
Spring and groundwater causing damp ground (dark where damp) and localized early grass greening in the lot of 1257 Western Avenue, 19 March 2018. Rusty ferric iron discoloration from the spring water indicated by the red arrow. The top of the impermeable Albany Clay occurs here at this elevation, 190 feet above sea level, and causes this spring to be located here. All the low area is now covered with gravel for a construction yard.

flooding at 1257 Western
      Avenuefloding at 1257
      and 1255 Western Ave
Lake of ponded floodwater from heavy rainstorm, in properties of 1257 and 1255 Western Avenue . Blocked (or absence of) culvert under Western Avenue and impermeable clay under these lots caused this ponding. Pictures provided by Alice Torda. Views from the north side of Western Avenue.

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