It’s the end of an era,” said Brian Cafferty, community outreach coordinator for Hudson River Valley Resorts (HRVR), on Monday morning as demolition finally commenced on the main hotel building at Williams Lake. People have been using that phrase at public events surrounding the transition to new ownership and redevelopment of the 86-year-old Binnewater resort for quite a while now; but the sight of a huge excavator tearing off the building’s north corner made the changeover seem real in a visceral way.
“I feel a little sad,” acknowledged Cafferty, who has a long personal history with Williams Lake. “This thing was no architectural marvel, but it certainly holds a lot of fond memories for people who worked in the hotel.” Cafferty’s mother was employed as a waitress by the resort in the 1960s, he said. “I’ve been coming here since I was a little boy to go fishing.” He reminisced about walking across the railroad trestle with his friends and buying earthworms at Tom’s Bait and Tackle, which once occupied the storefront that now houses Women’s Studio Workshop.
Tim Allred, project manager for Williams Lake at HRVR, got the building-breaking underway with a flourish, announcing, “This is the ceremonial first scoop of the main building!” as the heavy machinery roared to life, taking aim at the hotel as well as widening a chunk already gouged out of the former sauna building next door. The excavators were supplied by Dan’s Hauling & Demo of Wynantskill, near Albany, and the larger of the two steel behemoths was operated by the company’s owner, Dan Wolfe, himself, according to Allred.
Debris rained down as the excavator’s mighty claw ripped up the corner of the building’s roof with a crunch of plywood. The heavy bucket then slammed down onto the roof, crumpling rafters and girders and toppling concrete-block walls. With a delicacy that would be the envy of any child who ever tried to capture an elusive toy in one of those penny-arcade prize-scooping machines, the excavator snagged a dented refrigerator and lifted it clear of the ruins, depositing it deftly in a growing pile of metal to be recycled.
As the excavating machines beeped and swiveled and rained destruction down upon the much-loved resort building, two demolition workers in reflective vests and hardhats darted in and out of the rubble, dragging out lengths of valuable copper pipe and other recyclable materials as they were freed from the crumbling structure. “Our spec for this job is to recycle as much as possible,” noted Allred. Besides selling the metal, all the concrete used in the buildings will be separated, crushed and added to the site’s new roadbeds, he said. Construction and demolition debris will be removed by Taylor Recycling of Montgomery in Orange County.
The air was soon full of billowing dust, but not every misty eye on the scene was caused by airborne particulates. “We’ll get a whole new hotel,” said Cafferty, clearing his throat. “It’ll continue the Williams legacy and create a new one.”