Christmas fundraiser begins for Old Fort Johnson

Rebecca Webster / Recorder News Staff

The Christmas sounds of the Amsterdam High School chorus echoed through the halls of Amsterdam City Hall Saturday afternoon.

Homemade cookies were positioned near the clerks office.

Candles, hats, scarves and jewelry rested upon tables covered in red linen outside the mayor’s door.

And upon each door all throughout building hung a unique wreath or stocking, made of anything from masks and balls of yarn to paper and bird figures.

It was the second year of Deck the Doors at Amsterdam City Hall, a fundraiser for the Old Fort Johnson National Historic Landmark.

Alessa Wylie, Museum Director from the Montgomery County Historical Society, said Saturday that she was pleased with the turnout for the first day of the week-long event.

It put the attendees in the Christmas spirit, she said, and it gave people a chance to once again walk through the historic halls of Amsterdam’s City Hall.

But most importantly, it continued to bring awareness to the needs of the historical landmark.

“We’re just so grateful,” Wylie said.

All the proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the Fort Johnson Flood Recovery Fund, earmarked for the restoration of the still ravaged privy on its grounds.

As interested folk walked into City Hall, they were greeted with a few vendors selling jewelry, hats and scarves, honey, candles, and more.

And upstairs in the Common Council chambers, local historian Bob Cudmore gave talks about the history of the Mohawk Valley.

Cudmore shared bits and pieces of the valley’s history, like about a Mohawk Carpet piece of art that showed that art could be accomplished through the creation of a carpet or photos of John Duchessi when he was part of the active boxing scene in Amsterdam in the 1930s and 1940s.

But the highlight of the event were the wreaths and stockings.

Each one was created by a business or a member of the community and they were donated to the Fort Johnson fundraiser.

A silent auction went on for each wreath throughout the day as individuals perused the decor and placed bids on the ones they liked the most.

Dorothy Domkowski, an Amsterdam resident, said she came to the event last year between hearing the Cudmore would speak, taking a tour of City Hall, and listening to the chorus; she was happy to attend again.

“It is a way to get us in to the Christmas spirit,” Domkowski said.

“It supports Fort Johnson and is keeping that history preserved for us to enjoy.”

The wreaths were beautiful, she added, and it was great to see activities for the kids.

Each child that went in was given a slip of paper and were told that if they found the handful of tiny wreaths hidden throughout City Hall they would get a prize.

The children jotted their locations down as their parents placed bids on the wreaths.

There was even a craft where children, parents, and teachers could learn how to make origami ornaments that resembled wreaths.

Some residents were even lured to the event by the knowledge that their friends wreaths were highlighted there, like Deanna Palczak.

Palczak, whose daughter also sang in the chorus, said she was also there to check out one of the wreaths done by one of her old business partners who is a talented artist.

“I have an appreciation for this,” Palczak said, as she is an artist herself who does interior decorating.

Others were there to simply marvel at the wreaths, like Barbara Tomasik and Christine Andrzejewski.

“It’s a very nice location to have it in,” Andrzejewski said.  “They (the wreaths) are beautiful and authentic.”

Tomasik chimed in to say that the creators are incredibly clever people with “good imagination.”

“This brings people together and gives you a nice feeling,” she said.

But all were there to support the fort.

Kelly Sawitzki said she came with her family and couldn’t wait to check out her friend’s wreaths, but she was there mainly for the fort.

“The children need to know their history,” she said, “and everything that happened here.”

Deck the Doors will continue all throughout the week.

Residents can go in during City Hall business hours – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. – and place bids on the stockings and wreaths.

The bidding and event will conclude next Saturday, Dec. 1, at 3 p.m. where that day guided tours will also be given of City Hall.