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History put on the map, at last

Slingerlands home to Bethlehem’s first historic district

Former Bethlehem Town Supervisor Sam Messina commends Town Historian Susan Leath and the residents of Slingerlands on their work to bring the Slingerlands Historic District into fruition.

Former Bethlehem Town Supervisor Sam Messina commends Town Historian Susan Leath and the residents of Slingerlands on their work to bring the Slingerlands Historic District into fruition. Photo by Marcy Velte.

— After more than two years of work, the Slingerlands Historical District has officially been added to the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

Town residents and local officials came together to celebrate the milestone on Sunday, Sept. 30, at the Slingerlands Community United Methodist Church. All of the research required to finish the project and qualify for the distinction took many months, but residents had talked about creating the district for nearly two decades.

“It’s exciting for us to get to this point,” said Bethlehem Town Historian Susan Leath.

The district extends from Couse Lane to Helderberg Parkway, and along New Scotland Road. It also includes Mullens Road and Bridge Street, which follow the Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail.

The town is home to single locations on the National Register of Historic Places, but this is the first Bethlehem historical district to be added to the list. Many parts of the town have been in constant use for so long they’ve been modernized, Leath said, but in this part of Slingerlands the original architecture largely remains.

The process to establish a district started several years ago with the installation of a blue-and-gold historic marker next door to Ilona Muhlich’s New Scotland Road home. The marker acknowledged the nearby burial ground of 19th century resident Andrew Conning. This put Muhlich’s own property in more of a historical context, and she next sought the help of Leath and Tony Opalka from the State Historic Preservation Office to get the entire neighborhood added as a historical site.

There are about 100 buildings within the district, but only about half have historical significance to the region. Leath said to create the proposal, residents had to be interviewed to learn information about each building. The application then focused on properties with the most extensive history.

“We focused on the history of the district up until the automobile-suburb era, so about the 1920s,” said Leath, who explained the area has three periods of significance: from when Slingerlands was first formed to the railroad era, and then when automobiles were introduced. Each period had an impact on the hamlet’s architecture and history.

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