The Albany Country Clubhouse in McKownville
(left) Photo from 1895 of the house William J. Knowles sold to the
Albany County Club, before its enlargement.
(Times-Union reproduction 10 February 1963 of photo then in Morris
(right) Photo from before 1908 of the enlarged clubhouse (crop from
Augustus Pruyn photo card, in files of Albany City Library)
The gable on the old house front is the only feature remaining
obviously visible, becoming the smaller gable in the center of the
front of the clubhouse.
The club house of the Albany Country Club was much enlarged from the
farmhouse of William J Knowles, known then as
by the Club in 1894 along with 18 acres, and expanded in 1898
to a design of Marcus T
Reynolds, a well known architect of the time in Albany.
William Knowles and his family moved to a
house he purchased with 3 acres in McKownville on the north side of
Western Avenue, which can still be seen today at 1261 Western Avenue, at the
intersection with Knowles Terrace.
The Club modified a dam across the east branch of the Krumkill
stream to enlarge
a small lake for skating and swimming; this pond
and its earth dam still exist on the State University of
New York at Albany campus. The Club later expanded its
property in the early 1900's with purchases of the Hendrickson and
Sealey farms in order to build an 18-hole golf course in addition to
the original 9-hole course. The Albany Hunt and Country Club was
started in 1890, initially using a different old farmhouse as
its first clubhouse. The Albany Argus newspaper published in their
edition of Sunday 7 May 1899 an extensive article
on the newly expanded club property and the exclusive club
map covering the northern part of
McKownville, from USGS Albany quadrangle map of 1953;
showing the position of the Country Club house, and annotated to
show the location of the club pond,
and of the Barnes
Lodge (BL), a private residence also designed by Marcus
portion of vertical air photo view taken c. 1950
showing part of the Albany Country Club
property and golf course fairways, and the pond on the property.
Western Avenue is the straight road near the bottom left of the
Washington Avenue is the straight road near the upper right.
Photo view extends farther east and north than the map, and is not
shown at the same scale.
The decision in 1960 by Nelson Rockefeller, New York State governor
at that time, to emplace the University uptown campus on the Country
Club grounds was greatly
resented by many of the Club members, some of whom were
observed to continue to play golf even when the bulldozers were
starting the destruction of the former well-loved course and
grounds. The Club, after some legal negotiations, was sufficiently
compensated from New York State public funds to be able to purchase
land and create a new Club
house and grounds with a championship-quality golf course in
Voorheesville, a few miles to the southwest.
The State took
possession of the old property, including the clubhouse,
January 3rd 1961.
In February 1963, while the early stages of construction of the
University were underway, this old clubhouse was deliberately
destroyed by fire.
The Barnes Lodge was purchased by
the Capital Area Council of Churches in 1965. They repurposed the
Lodge as an interdenominational chapel for students, and it also was
gutted by fire, in May 1985.
The former location of the clubhouse was first occupied by a rank of
tennis courts; now it is in the center of the area covered in the
plastic surfaces of the two lacrosse/hockey "fields".
Part of the 1851 Sidney Map of the vicinity of Albany and Troy,
showing the area of McKownville and surroundings.
It is of historical interest that the house that William Knowles
sold to the Country Club is shown on the 1851 Sidney map, in the
right place on the west side of the Krumkill stream east branch,
labelled with the name W Cooper (William Cooper), so it was at least
that old. Another house to the north, also labelled W Cooper, may be
the location of the farmhouse
used as the first, temporary clubhouse.
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