Back row, from left: Rep. Paul D. Tonko, Altamont Free Library Director Joseph Burke, Altamont Free Library Board President Christine Carpenter, Assemblymember Patricia A. Fahy and Altamont Mayor Jim Gaughan pose with volunteers from Guilderland High School during the Library’s 10th annual gala. (Photo courtesy of Altamont Free Library)
ALTAMONT — In 2007, the Altamont Free Library was located in the basement of the Key Bank building at 105 Park Street. That was the year the library began holding its annual gala to raise funds for the renovation of the historic Altamont Train Station, where it now resides.
The Altamont Free Library was established and chartered with the State of New York on July 1, 1916. Over the years, it has had a variety of addresses:
From its founding until January 1919, it was located at the Sturges property at 109/111 Maple Avenue. It moved next door to the Van Aernam property for just two years before moving again in 1921 to rooms in the former Hallenbeck — currently Fredendall — Funeral Parlor on Heldeberg Avenue. In 1925, growth in membership and the library’s collections necessitated a new home; This time the library moved to the former Beebe Harness Shop at 119 Maple Avenue until the sale of that property brought about the library’s relocation to the back of an adjacent building. When the Post Office was completed in 1961, space became available in the Lainhart Block and the library moved again in February 1962.
On Nov. 19, 1972, ceremonies were held to celebrate the library’s move to its location at Key Bank.
According to the library’s director, Joe Burke, the library had outgrown that space by 2007 and the first gala was one of several efforts to raise funds for the renovation of the Altamont Train Station. “That fundraising effort took many forms and many years and involved volunteers from every corner of the village and beyond,” he said. “Those efforts culminated our 2012 move into the Altamont Train Station, our forever home.”
Each year, the library honors a member of the Altamont community who has contributed to it — and to the library in particular. This year, it was a group of women called the Train Station Quilters who have, over the past ten years, donated several masterwork quilts for fundraising raffles, raising thousands of dollars for the library. They have done a number of other charitable projects, including the 2015 Million Pillowcase Project for children in foster care and the construction of a quilted covering for the Orsini Flag at the Homefront Cafe.
“This year’s gala went incredibly well,” said Burke. “We were totally sold out and had to add additional tables to an already packed room to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend. Overall, we had about 180 guests. As far as how much we raised, we’re still figuring that out as the bills for decorating and catering are still coming in, but it would be a fair assumption that it will be more than $15,000 and possibly as high as $18,000. For an organization with an annual budget of just over $160,000, that’s a lot.
“We use that revenue to support our collections and programs and to maintain our historic structure. We are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, so repairs to the building can often cost quite a bit more than similar repairs to more modern buildings.”
Since 2007, said Burke, the library has continued many of the traditions that began during that inaugural fundraising effort: an annual chicken barbecue, a sponsorship drive for holiday decorations and the gala.
“The gala offers not only an opportunity for us to raise some money,” he said, “it’s also a huge community event that folks look forward to all winter.”