The former prison ball field at the top of Mount McGregor may be added to the Grant Cottage property there, Friends of Grant Cottage President Tim Welch said at the group's annual meeting on Saturday.
Since the closure of Mount McGregor Correctional Facility four years ago, the state has been trying without success to sell the prison site, including the ball field, which is just up the road from Grant Cottage (obscured by trees in the image above). The state has also expanded Moreau State Park to include much of the prison grounds as well as Grant Cottage -- which, although operated by the Friends, is owned by the state parks office. Now the Friends are talking to the state about taking over the ball field.
Tourists and tour guides often saw prisoners playing baseball there, and if any balls were hit over the tall razor wire we were strictly instructed not to throw them back -- a precaution against the passage of contraband.
My first visit to Grant Cottage was in 1983, when my girlfriend (now wife) and I were hosted by the legendary caretaker Suye Narita Gambino and her husband Tony. After Suye's death the next year, the state tried to close the cottage down, prompting pushback from the community which I covered as a reporter for the Glens Falls Post-Star. The pushback resulted in formation of the Friends group.
It's a good thing that the cottage is now connected to Moreau State Park, and taking over the ball field at the summit, the site of the Balmoral Hotel when Grant was on the mountain, would be a jewel in the crown.
But one drawback of the prison closure is a reduction in security. Although the Friends have installed some features to enhance it, I still fear the cottage is now too vulnerable to vandals. The solution, I think (at the risk of violating my rule about no controversy after 1885), is to renovate the upstairs and bring back live-in caretakers like the Gambinos. (And to violate the post-1885 rule even further, I don't reckon Grant, who even as a private citizen tourist helped negotiate peace between Japan and China, would favor waging war in Syria now.)
In other news, the Friends are sponsoring a Civil War Weekend on August 11-12 on Ballard Road in Wilton, at which the main attraction will be 100-plus re-enactors, and one of the lesser ones will be authors including yours truly (maybe I'll get to do some tour guiding too).
And one of my friends from the Friends sends along this story about a good prospect for saving Grant's home as a junior officer in Detroit (below).