Sonnenberg expansion plan unveiled

A gathering of state and local leaders Wednesday unveiled plans for an expanded Sonnenberg Mansion & Gardens State Historic Park. Outside the park’s Victorian-era mansion on Charlotte Street, proponents of the project — including volunteers of the nonprofit Sonnenberg organization — learned details for a new visitors center and other improvements.

“The Friends of Sonnenberg are to be thanked for thinking boldly and big,” said Rose Harvey, commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation at the event that revealed conceptual drawings of what will be a new gateway, welcome center and other features. The state parks office, which acquired the Sonnenberg property in 2006, recently added the vacant Army Reserve property adjacent to the historic site, along with another parcel at Charlotte and Gibson streets for the expansion.

Acquisition of the former Army property returns that parcel to its roots, as it was once part of the lavish 19th-century summer home of Frederick Ferris and Mary Clark Thompson that is Sonnenberg.

“The expansion will solve a lot of shortcomings to the visitor experience,” said Chris Zeltmann, regional director for U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Transfer of the reserve property to the state parks office also includes a $220,000 purchase of a roughly 1.6-acre parcel at Charlotte and Gibson to create a new, more visible and landscaped gateway. Parking for 140 vehicles will include a bus turnaround, and because traffic will enter from Gibson Street (Route 21) it will become a direct link to the state Thruway. The new entrance will also help divert traffic from a residential street.

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