Historic preservation is a passion of Mohawk Valley Collective President Gerritt Platel. The son of a contractor, the Rensselaerville, NY, native developed an interest in historic preservation in his youth. Having grown up in a historic community in Albany County, his appreciation of place deepened while he was an exchange student in Sweden over the course of a year.
That experience broadened his horizons, he said; and it made him appreciate where he’s from. Because of the country’s northern location, he said it was dark and depressing during the winter. It heightened his awareness not only of the landscape and the physical beauty of his hometown, but also the working landscape —its architecture and agriculture.
Taking note of Gerritt’s youthful interest in historic preservation was a gentleman in Gerritt’s hometown who teaches at Columbia University. He suggested that Gerritt enroll in the historic preservation program at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. Gerritt applied and was accepted, graduating in 2010 with a BS degree in Historic Preservation and minors in Art and Architectural History.
In addition to his studies in Rhode Island, Gerritt has also studied at the Institute for Fine and Liberal Arts at Palazzo Ruccllai, Florence, Italy.
Since the completion of his bachelor’s degree, Gerritt has plied his trade as a carpenter alongside family members, working on older homes in his community. Because of his background in preservation, he tackled a project with a restoration expert in order to restore 13 sets of 19th century windows on a local residence. That project recently netted an award from the Preservation League of New York.
In addition to his interest in historic preservation, Gerritt enjoys biking and likes to play Frisbee when he can. He’s a member of his local historical society and the volunteer fire department.
Gerritt, who has a girlfriend and a Siberian forest cat named Elsie that they acquired in Colorado, also loves to travel, having recently visited the Adirondacks. Other destinations have included the Thousand Islands, Italy, the Czech Republic, and Denmark.
In 2003 he participated in a Heritage Conservation project, taking part in small workshops related to the rebuilding of a historic bridge in Bosnia that had been destroyed during the Serbo-Croation War. When the bridge’s grand opening took place in 2004, Gerritt was among the first to cross it. He described that as a truly memorable experience.
One of the things that attracted him to the Mohawk Valley was the Erie Canalway Bike Trail. In 2010, he purchased and is still in the process of rehabilitating the Peter and Eliza Skinner House on Cliff Street, Canajoharie, New York.
Gerritt’s involvement with the Mohawk Valley Collective and his acquaintance with MVC founder Tolga Morawski were more recent. On their first meeting, Gerritt helped him get his vehicle out of a snow bank.
What does Gerritt bring to the board? He believes that he brings “a little bit of the first-hand knowledge of the practical side of what it’s going to take and what’s feasible” in the realization of the MVC’s goals and objectives. He is hopeful that he can use his education in the accomplishment of the larger projects and would like to do more on the organizational/administrative side.
“It takes a lot more time, [and] documentation to get the ball rolling,” he said.