The Town of Colonie in Albany County, NY, owns the Stony Creek Reservoir located in southern Clifton Park, just above Vischer Ferry in Saratoga County. It was completed in 1953 at a cost of $1,800,000 and covers 297 acres holding 1.4 billion gallons of water that is carried by pipes under the Mohawk River to the residents of Colonie.
The Latham Water District closed the floodgates on the dam across Stony Creek in the beginning of June 1953. By June 14 the lake began to form with a depth of 12 feet.
The reservoir was used primarily in the late summer months when other Colonie water sources are low. However, due to alternate water sources, the reservoir receives little use today by Colonie. The creation of this reservoir in 1950 began a long feud between the Town of Clifton Park and the Town of Colonie.
The reservoir project was opposed by the Clifton Park Town Board, and was opposed bitterly by the residents in the Vischer Ferry area, as well as by some Colonie residents. Opponents offered what was called the “Ranney Water Plan” as an alternative, which included drilled wells without crossing town or county lines. It was argued that this plan would supply more water than the reservoir at less than half the cost.
At risk were several historic homes, a cemetery and a town road that would be inundated by the waters of the reservoir. Landowners would loose valuable property along Stony Creek that meandered south from Barney pond, located north of Grooms Road, to the Mohawk River at Vischer Ferry. The State approved the project in 1951.
One of the structures to be destroyed was a fine two-story Federal brick home built by Francis Vischer in 1813. Chester Hall and his wife had recently completed a lengthy and comprehensive restoration. The family cemetery, where Francis Vischer and his father Nanning were buried, was on a hill behind the house. Hall named his home Vischerdaal, and its preservation became one of the rallying points against the reservoir. Even the New York State Historical Association (now defunct) entered the dispute in favor of Vischerdaal.
The residents of Vischer Ferry and landowners around the proposed reservoir, led by A. C. Stevens and former Town Historian Howard Becker, signed petitions against the reservoir. The people in Vischer Ferry were especially concerned about being in the floodplain below the 35- foot dam. Lawyers were hired and suits were filed, but to no avail. Colonie eventually purchased the land by eminent domain. The courts awarded Chester Hall $47,000 for his land and historic home.
By spring of 1952 work had begun on the reservoir, the land was cleared, existing structures leveled, and construction on the dam and spillway begun. Finally, by the end of the year the dam and spillway were almost complete and the Stony Creek began to flood the surrounding land. On December 6, 1952 an auction was held on the grounds of historic Vischerdaal.
Dr. Edward S. Goodwin, an Albany pediatrician, won the house for $3,250. The house had to be moved before spring when the waters of the Stony Creek would inundate the area. Goodwin moved the house and re-erected it on Pheasant Lane near the Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands. Chester Hall did not attend the auction.
The waters did not quite reach the Vischer Cemetery. It was high enough to avoid being flooded, and is now on the shore of the reservoir.
John Scherer is the Clifton Park Town Historian and also Senior Historian Emeritus at the New York State Museum. He holds a Master’s degree in Museum Studies and American Folk Life from the Cooperstown Graduate Program. John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This essay is presented by the Saratoga County History Roundtable and Brookside Museum. Visit their websites and follow them on Facebook.
Photo of Vischerdaal, built by Francis Vischer in 1813, moved 1952 to make room for the Stony Creek Reservoir.
Jim Sasko says
Is anything known about the couple of homes that existed on the small raised lands flooded around the reservoir? Growing up in Clifton Park, I remember swimming, fishing, and running away from “Pudgy” the game warden that patrolled the area. I can remember a winter that we crossed the ice and found some homes that were surrounded by water, partially falling down. The reservoir was the greatest playground a kid could explore!