City of Amsterdam receives grant for structural analysis of historic broodmare


CITY OF AMSTERDAM — Ongoing efforts to preserve the historic broodmare barn will get a boost with a state grant to the city to carry out a structural analysis of the landmark to identify issues at resolve and open up opportunities to seek other grants to complete the work.

“It can have a lasting impact,” supervisor Thomas DiMezza said Wednesday.

The $4,000 technical assistance grant from the Preservation League of New York State and state Arts Council program partners will cover 80% of the cost of the study. The city will provide a matching share of $1,000.

The study will be completed by the city’s engineering firm, Delaware Engineering, later this year to assess structural integrity and explore areas of the building that need to be addressed. The analysis will outline recommended work with cost estimates, while advising the city of appropriate steps that can be taken to address issues in the interim.

“These grants are used to jump-start preservation projects that need to be done,” DiMezza said.

Extensive work has already been done to restore and maintain the remaining structures of the former Sanford Stud Farm along Route 30 since they were acquired by the city in 2006. Previous work includes exterior structural improvements to stabilize barns, roof replacement, installation of light rods, drainage re-routing, water and sewer installation to support a new bathroom and electrical work.

DiMezza estimated the completed projects totaled approximately $600,000 in grant funds, in-kind services provided by the Department of Highways, city contributions and funds raised by the Friends of Sanford Stud Farm.

“It’s going to improve that and find out what else the barn needs to preserve that area,” said DiMezza, president of the Friends group.

The broodmare is the largest of the structures acquired by the municipality. The barn has suffered previous damage from the now corrected drainage issues which will be assessed as part of the structural analysis. The study will also examine options for stabilizing the second floor where the dormitories were located when the farm was in operation.

“Make sure this area is secure and the floors can hold someone riding in this area for visitors to look up and see what the jockeys and farm workers looked like. There’s a lot of historical value in what was there,” DiMezza said. “Some families in this area still remember their parents or grandparents working on the farm.”

Louis “Sam” Hildebrandt, Jr. described the farm’s global significance during its operation as a breeding and training center for thoroughbred racehorses for more than 100 years after it was established by the Amsterdam carpet industrialist Stephen Sanford in the late 1870s. Hildebrandt is the current registrar of the Friends of Sanford Stud Farm, a non-profit organization committed to the preservation of the site in partnership with the city.

“The farm was a breeding facility, they were known across the ocean for their breeding lines.
It was one of the biggest in America until the 1950s or 1960s,” said Hildebrandt, whose father was a jockey at Sanford Stud Farm. “The broodmare was probably the heart of Sanford stud.”

The 1,000+ acre property consisting of approximately 40 buildings with dirt and grass surfaces, an obstacle course and indoor training track was sold in 1986. Most of the original structures have been demolished and replaced with a commercial development.

One of the surviving original barns in Tessiero Square behind the Carnegie Development-owned Towne Square shopping center partially collapsed in 2019. The building was later razed.

“If they are neglected like the other buildings, age will destroy them and we refuse to let that happen,” Hildebrandt said of the remaining structures. “It’s part of the history of the Mohawk Valley and certainly part of the history of Amsterdam.”

Although there are no immediate threats to the broodmare, the structural analysis will allow the town and the group of friends to prioritize future projects to ensure the long-term preservation of the site and foster its use as a than public space.

“It’s stable enough for people to come in and visit, but not to a point where we can finish this and have it as a destination point,” Hildebrandt said.

The city has made the broodmare available for public and private events in recent years and the Friends held an annual fundraising open house at the site before the pandemic suspended the event indefinitely. Photos displayed throughout the barn reflect the importance of the site during its operation and document the work that has gone into its preservation.

DiMezza hopes the grant-funded structural analysis will bolster efforts to restore and maintain the broodmare for public enjoyment.

“We want to be able to grow, prosper and preserve what’s already there so that people, when they walk in, have a sense of the legacy the Sanfords had in this area,” DiMezza said.

Contact Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.


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