A Brief Overview of the Development of Country Knolls

countryknolls1977

A view of Country Knolls in 1977

A Brief Overview of the Development of Country Knolls
In the summer of 1964, the area which now comprises Country Knolls was a vast and open space. Beyond Ushers Road, heading north, lushly wooded countryside, punctuated by rolling knolls and occasional small streams dominated the landscape. Towards Raylinski Road, the land opened up and was cleared for farming. The Adirondack Northway has been open in Clifton Park to Exit 9 since December 1959; it was not opened up to Exit 10 until November 1961.
A small airstrip known on the maps as Jewett Field was located in the vicinity of Burning Bush Boulevard. The “runway” was in the vicinity of the present day basketball court by the pool. A couple of flimsy hangers stood in the vicinity of where the clubhouse is now. The structure we came to now as “the hanger” (on the corner of Burning Bush Boulevard) was, in reality, never a hangar for airplanes, but rather a structure used by Martin Jewett to store his trucks used in his sand mining business. Mining “molding sand” was a popular enterprise back then and the land where Country Knolls stands was famous for its “Albany Glacial” sand. The hamlet of Jonesville was the population center of what was truly a rural area.
The land upon which Country Knolls was to be built was divided into roughly five separate parcels. Landowners included Thomas Oil Co., Gilbert Mauer, Casimir Raylinski and John Bellott. They were agreeable to selling their land to Robert Van Patten. The land was valued at about $500 an acre, but Van Patten paid the landowners $750 – $1000 an acre, payable of a 10-year period without interest. The landscape and rural nature of this community was about to be changed forever.
On July 15, 1964, Section 1 of “Country Knolls Estates” was given final approval by the Town of Clifton Park Planning Board. Construction commenced immediately.
The original section of Country Knolls is located off Ushers Road and consists of fifty homes on the Ridge Lane, Manor Court, Hillcrest Drive and Meridian Lane. The houses offered were essentially the five basic Van Patten styles, that by 1964 had been built for four years down at Clifton Knolls. However, to entice would-b buyers to move “all the way” to Exit 10, Van Patten offered early buyers a $500 price reduction from the Clifton Knolls price. These five styles were to dominate the landscape of Country Knolls, and with one exception, are still being built in Clifton Park. They consisted of two colonials and three ranches. They ranged in price from the low to upper 20′s. They were all original designs.
Section by section, Country Knolls was built and slowly began to expand to the north and northeast. A model home was built at 182 Wood Dale Drive at the corner of Ushers Road. The swimming pool was constructed in 1968, and sales took off, reaching a rate of about 200 home a year. The two “duplexes ” at the beginning of Burning Bush Boulevard were built to temporarily house families moving in when their homes were not quite finished.
In those days, virtually all phases of construction was handled bu the Van Patten organization, the only parts sub-contracted out were the driveways (which were put in by King Paving), and the foundations, with footings were hand dug by Sonny Van Wormer and his brother. Plumbers, masons, electricians and carpenters all worked for Van Patten, and Van Patten himself could be found quite often right along side his workers, which a t busy times numbered over 200. In fact, by the mid-1960′s Van Patten was fabricating his own aluminum siding. Houses would be built almost assembly line fashion, street by street. On certain streets, due to their desirable location, the houses would carry “premiums” of $2500. Starting around 1968, the framing lumber for the houses was pre-cut in the newly construction warehouse (across form the present day Van Patten Golf Course) in Elnora. The wood would then be trucked to the site and assembled. An individual by t he name of Rocky Graziano supervised the warehouse operation >Virtually all mortgages were written by Schenectady Saving Bank (now Northeast Savings Bank), whose president at the time was a friend of Van Patten. All it took was a $100 deposit and a handshake. There were no written contracts. If the buyer didn’t like the house as built, the $100 would be refunded and the deal canceled. If by the time the house was finished Van Patten came to dislike the buyer, he’d refuse to sell the house.
Framing was handled by specific crews who were dedicated to a particular style of home and were lead by a foreman working without blueprints. Oddly, Van Patten never named the homes, but would refer to them simply by their style. The ranches were simply call the 4-bedroom, the 3-debroon or the raised ranch and were framed by crews led by Don Ward. Th two colonials began to cause confusion, as they both had the same number of rooms. As a result, these two homes soon acquired the names of their framing foreman. Hand Graves was in charge of framing one, and this house was there fore referred to as the “Hank’s”. Stan Marrick was the foremen in charge of the other colonial, thus the “Stan’s” was born. It was only years later tha sales agents attached more formalized names to these homes. The Hand’s became the Hanover, the Stan’s became the Standish, the four-bedroom ranch became the Executive Ranch while the three bed-room because the Top-Half (it was essentially the top half of the raised ranch). The Raised Ranch never acquired a formal name.
By 1972, eight years after construction began, almost 900 homes had been constructed in the Clifton Park portion of Country Knolls including 136 homes in the separate “Longkill” section (1970), and 100 in the “Ashley’ section (1971). Occasionally, modifications would be made to the design of a particular style house. For example, around 1970, as a result of an ambitious homeowner named Phil Lecroix adding a porch to the front of his Stans on Shadow Wood Way, Van Patten followed suit, lowering the roof line at the same time. The “Top-Half” ranch went through three different front facades. There were also variation of particular models, such as the “Short” or smaller Stans and raised ranch, as well as a 6-bedroom deluxe Stans, which was about a $4000 options. YOu could also order, if there was sufficient space on your lot, a triple garage Hanover, or a side entry 2-car garage. The raised ranch wold eventually be phased out by Van Patten, but the early 1970′s saw the addition of two new models, the Saratoga an Saratoga Deluxe, two colonials somewhat smaller than the Stans. Van Patten file plans with the Town of Malta to extend Country Knolls in that town. Approval was granted, and by April 1972 the firs 30 Malta homes went on the market, located on Garrison Lane, Walden Glen and Village View Bluff. A Hanover now cost, $44,900 while the Stans went for $40,900. Ranched ranged from $34,500 – $38, 500. The Malta section carried an official name of “Country Knolls North,” but as the Malta section eventually merged with the rest o f Country Knolls, the “north” designation slowly faded and the entire development was simply known as Country Knolls. Colored siding eventually became and option int the Malta section.
By 1974, almost 300 homes had been completed in Malta and Country Knolls was largely completed. Van Patten shifted his attention to the newly approved Country Knolls South development of Plank Road. Construction in Country Knolls soon ceased, for a period of 14 years.
In 1988, construction equipment returned, and Van Patten constructed almost 60 homes in the area surround Huntington Parkway. Sub-contractors by this time played a much larger role, and while some new models were introduced, many of the original style homes were still being built.
Incredibly, twenty-nine years after the first house was built in Section 1 off Ridge Lane, the Van Patten organization, headed by Robert Van Patten, Jr. is in the process of constructing nine new homes boarding the original section, some on Ridge Lane itself. and yes, you can still buy a brand new “Hanks”.