Schoharie still focused on the Parrott House


By Jim Poole

“Frustrating but optimistic” is the way supporters of the Parrott House describe their feelings about the Schoharie landmark’s recovery.
And that recovery may take a while, as those close to the project continue to seek a buyer for the flood-damaged former restaurant, bar and hotel.
“It keeps the fabric of the village whole,” said Schoharie Mayor John Borst. “It’s one piece that’s critical to Schoharie.”
Ever since Hurricane Irene in 2011––and maybe before––the Parrott House story has been one of starts and stops.
Dennis and Ruth Coughtry bought the Parrott House in 2015 and started restoration. But they moved out of the area, and although the project stopped, the Coughtrys still own the building.
It was almost exactly a year ago that Village of Schoharie officials planned to use grant money to buy and restore the Parrott House.
Those plans fell through, and now Madison Wellman, who works for the Schoharie Community Development Corporation and the Schoharie County Industrial Development Agency is looking for a buyer.
Mr. Wellman has had a few leads. Developer Carver Laraway was interested but decided he needed a partner before going forward, Mr. Wellman said.
Two others are interested in the property, he added.
The general idea is to restore the building to its former heyday as a restaurant and bar on the first floor and hotel rooms above.
“For generations, it was the center meeting place for banquets and big affairs,” said Mayor Borst.
“But more importantly, it was a place to get people out of their backyards and homes and get together.”
Those times may be coming again––if the numbers work.
“The next step is to determine whether an investor can get a return if he turned it into a hotel,” Mr. Wellman said.
“There’s a question of keeping it filled. I’m feeling confident it could because there’s a shortage of hotel space.”
A study done last year estimated restoration at $7 million.
That price seems too steep, according to Nan Stolzenburg, a planner and board member of the Community Development Corporation.
She cited an earlier restoration estimate of $1.5 million.
Cost will depend on its use. John Wilkinson, chair of the Community Development Corporation, said the foundation is sound, but there’s electrical, plumbing and roof work to do, along with heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
Although price is the key issue, the importance of the Parrott House is undeniable, Ms. Stolzenburg said.
Schoharie’s comprehensive plan, done in 1995, identified the building as essential to Main Street and the village’s economic development.
And for the long-term recovery plan after Irene, “the number-one thing people focused on was getting the Parrott House back,” Ms. Stolzenburg said.
A half-dozen years later, people still feel that way, she added.
“We all hope that it will be kind of what it was,” Ms. Stolzenburg said. “We need to find someone that has the vision and sees the long-term value.”
At the same, though, she agreed with Mr. Wellman by adding that “restoration’s got to make economic sense.
“We’re frustrated but still optimistic.”