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HRBT Foundation gets first look at Fairhouse

May 26, 2006

(Chatham NY)

To honor their generous contribution, the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation Board of Directors got a first-hand look at the major renovation to the Fairhouse at the Columbia County Fairgrounds.

The historic Fairhouse dates back to 1884. It serves as the main exhibit hall and is the centerpiece of the grounds, but was in serious need of refurbishing.

An architect and a structural engineer determined the building was essentially in sound condition, but the floor underpinnings needing shoring up to support the weight of 100 pounds per square foot, as required by state code for an assembly hall. 

Then, the floor itself was an ugly, uneven patchwork that included very old license plates, cut up and used to patch parts of it. A new, aesthetically pleasing floor was needed, one that can withstand a lot of traffic.

The interior partitions that severely limit use of the building’s 8,000 square feet needed to come out, which meant bracing the four remaining interior columns.
Finally, the project included installing all new electric panels, wiring and outlets, fit for 21st century uses.

The project started three years ago with the support of a $2,500 grant from the Our Town Fund, administered by the Berkshire Taconic Foundation, to hire an architect firm to assess the condition of the building. They brought in structural engineers, who tore up floor boards to determine the soundness of the structure. This work was supported by a $3,000 grant from the Our Town Fund. Then, with a $10,000 grant from the Empire State Development Division of Marketing, Advertising and Tourism, the fair board hired the engineering firm of Ryan-Biggs late last summer to put together the drawings and specs  needed and to help evaluate the bids received for the work.

The Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation funded all the construction and electrical work with a $150,000 grant. It paid for major work on the sub-floor, a new floor, the removal of all the interior partitions and the bracing of the support columns as well as completely new wiring.

The construction work was done by Clifton A. Nelson & Sons of Ghent, the rewiring by Leggett Electric of Ghent.

The result is a magnificent 8,000-square-foot facility that not only will work much better for exhibitors during fair time, but also can be used by local companies who want to run their own expo, by those looking for a special venue to host a large party or banquet, and by those groups who rely on the fairgrounds to provide an ideal space for their event – from the Columbia Land Conservancy’s Farm Fest to Family Survival’s annual fund-raiser Tag Sale.

 “We greatly appreciate the Foundation’s support of this important project,” said Fair Board President Nelson (Dick) Alford. “It means this historic building is once again the jewel of the fairgrounds, a resource to share with the community.”

 “The Hudson  River Bank & Trust Co. Foundation has recognized for a long time that the County Fairgrounds and its structures are an important piece of our community, whether hosting cultural events or the annual County Fair.  We are proud and honored to help keep it a thriving place,” said Board President Marilyn Herrington.

The Hudson River Bank & Trust Company Foundation was established by the Hudson River Bank & Trust Company at the time of its conversion to a public company in 1998.  Following the merger of Hudson River Bank & Trust Company into First Niagara Bank, the Foundation continues its charitable giving as an independent organization with an emphasis on education, youth development, arts and culture, historic preservation, health care, human services and community development.   For more information on the Foundation, please visit

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