Hiram Griggs House

Hiram Griggs is the man who could best be referred to as the “town father” of the Village of Altamont.  In 1862, Griggs began practicing law in what was then called Knowersville (late to be renamed Altamont).  Griggs served as legal counsel to the Delaware and Hudson Railroad.  Griggs helped facilitate the rail stop in the town of Knowersville on the rail line being built between Albany and Scoharie.

In 1887, the name of Knowersville was changed to Altamont at the behest of Mrs. Lucie Rochefort Cassidy.  The naming of the town was under some contention until Mrs. Cassidy actually took it upon herself to write to President Grover Cleveland about the matter.  However, Hiram Griggs’s political connections also played a part in effecting the transition from Knowersville to Altamont.

The village of Knowersville had been part of the Town of Guilderland since the very beginning.  However, in 1886 the village suffered a fire that nearly wiped out the entire business district.  This event got the public’s attention.  It wasn’t the only concern, though.  Knowersville also had other infrastructure issues.  There was too much mud in the streets and crossings, too much sewage, not enough water and no street lights or sidewalks.  These concerns led to many of the village leaders to consider the possibility of incorporating the village, making it a municipality independent from the Town of Guilderland.  As an independent municipality, Altamont (still Knowersville then) could institute and raise taxes to pay for village resources, including a system for dealing with fires and the limited water supply.  On May 20, 1890, an informational meeting was held at the Union Hotel to discuss the subject of incorporation.  Hiram Grigg, who was at the time an Assemblyman and Town of Guilderland supervisor, led the argument in favor of incorporation.  On October 18, 1890, the subject was put to a vote in a special election.  The populace of Altamont voted overwhelmingly in favor of incorporating the village, with 102 votes for incorporation and only 3 votes against incorporating the village.  The same year, Griggs was elected as Altamont’s first mayor.

Hiram Griggs held the post of mayor for eight consecutive one-year terms.  Griggs began his tenure by implementing many of the public works projects that made incorporating the village necessary, including instituting a fire department and solving the issue of Altamont’s limited water supply.  In what was then considered a novel move, Griggs funded the improved water supply from Knox by way of a municipal bond.  The new system in place, the water was then pumped to a town reservoir and from the reservoir to seventeen fire hydrants throughout the village where they could be used to prevent further fires.

Griggs was involved in establishing the Altamont fairgrounds that would become the home of the annual tri-county fair.  Griggs was also one of the principal investors in the Altamont Illuminating Company, which helped to provide public gas lights for the village of Altamont until the gas lights were replaced by electric ones in 1916.

The house belonging to Hiram Griggs was built in 1873 and still sits at 111 Prospect Terrace in Altamont.  The house has had a number of owners since Griggs’s time and undergone a number of renovations.  The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, on the centennial of Hiram Griggs’s death in 1909.

“Altamont Incorporates.” Village of Altamont. Web. 12/2/13. http://www.altamontvillage.org/pages/altamontny_museum/villageinc

Gregg, Arthur B. Old Hellebergh: Scenes from Early Guilderland.Albany, New York: Guilderland Historical Society, 1975.  Print.

Stasiuk, Philippa. “The Scallys restore Hiram Griggs’s home so that he would recognize it.”  Altamont Enterprise.  15 Oct. 2009: Web.

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