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Answering to Bolton’s Past and its Future

By Anthony F. Hall

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Proposed addition to Bolton Historical Museum signals “the story is on-going”

The Bolton Historical Museum could be enhanced by an architecturally significant new wing and acquire additional exhibition space if, that is, the necessary funds can be raised, historical society president Ed Scheiber told the Bolton Town Board earlier this month.

“This is an opportunity to display more artifacts, including historic boats, as well as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to create a building that will enhance the park and draw renewed attention to Bolton Landing,” said Scheiber.

The 1,800 square-foot gable and timber frame addition would be connected by a vestibule to the existing building, a church built in 1890, and sheathed in a contemporary architectural siding.

“The simplicity of the design complements the existing museum,” said Scheiber.

Among the design’s most prominent features are large windows, creating seamless views of the park, the lake and the mountains on the opposite shore.

“I like the fact that it’s open; it’s almost transparent,” said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover.

“The glass is intended to make the interior inviting from the park; pedestrians could look inside the building and see what’s on display; my own dream is to bring George Reis’s El Lagarto back to Bolton and display it here,” said Scheiber.

“From the inside, the vistas of the park, the beach, the lake and the Sagamore are no less inviting,” said Scheiber.

Inside the new wing, exhibits would be displayed on panels, which could be moved about as exhibitions change or removed altogether when the space is to be used for large public functions.

Ruben Caldwell, a graduate of Bolton Central School who received his M. Arch. from Columbia University in 2011, developed the designs with Leigh Salem, his partner in the Brooklyn-based firm Tack-Design,

Caldwell presented renderings of the proposed addition at the Town Board’s February 7 meeting, the first chance the public has had to view the plans.

“The museum has some amazing artifacts, some related to people of general, historical interest like John Apperson and David Smith, others relating to local life. We want to entice the visitor who may know nothing about the things of interest to us,” Caldwell said. “As of now, the entrance is not especially inviting; it’s a dark doorway resting on a plinth.”

Caldwell continued, “This is a community building; it will be the only enclosed town-owned building with a view of the lake. Because the interior is a flexible space, it can accommodate large groups, which we hope will promote collaboration among the historical and educational institutions in the town.”

According to Scheiber, the museum had originally intended a more extensive expansion, but was deterred by the costs.

“Last fall, the historical society’s board of directors met with Ruben Caldwell to discuss a more economical, practical solution to our needs,” said Scheiber. “We need more space for displays, including the display of historic boats.”

The wing is intended, in part, to be “an ode to the wood construction of the boats held within,” said Caldwell.

Among some people, the building will evoke images of boathouses, old marinas and boat builders’ workshops, Caldwell said.

“Every building contains clues about its origins,” said Caldwell.

But, he added, a building should not be so literal in the translations of its sources as to limit interpretations and impressions.

“We use elements in such a way that people can look at the building from multiple reference points, including barns, ice houses and the commercial buildings of Main Street, as well as boat houses,” said Caldwell. “The building should communicate something meaningful to a broad range of backgrounds.”

In addition to its origins, a building also provides viewers with information about its function, said Caldwell.

He added, “The function of the museum is not solely to preserve accumulated history. The contemporary feel of the new wing should remind people that we’re always creating history.  This is a building that says the story is on-going.”

According to Scheiber, approximately $76,000 has been raised to build the new wing.

The architectural work was donated to the historical society by Caldwell and Salem, who won the 2011 Charles McKim Award for Excellence in Design and the Saul Kaplan Traveling Fellowship,  Columbia University’s highest design honor.

Scheiber said the historical society would seek to raise the funds needed to construct the building through grants.

“The only way to get there is through grants,” said Scheiber. “We need to find out where the money is, and then begin writing as many grant proposals as we can.”

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William C. Thomson says:

Congratulations on the proposed on-going development of preserving our past, present, and future Bolton Landing and Lake George area with such a magnificent building and hats off to Ruben Caldwell (Ted Caldwell’s son – my friend) for all his volunteer architectural work. Bill Thomson of Braley Hill Rd.

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