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Columns

October 22, 2012

October 1992 saw local 'explorations' of budgets, history

An “expensive proposition,” better transportation across Otsego County and a 500th anniversary celebration of Columbus covered some of the news as it was over a three county-region during October 1992.

If you happened to have a spare $250,000 lying around 20 years ago this month, an opportunity was yours to simply become eligible to bid Thursday, Oct. 1, for a turn-of-the 20th-century estate and mansion once owned by the Gerry family in Delaware County.

The estate, known as “Aknusti,” which is an American Indian meaning for “expensive proposition,” included 2,000 acres located off Biggar Hollow Road at the juncture of three towns — Andes, Bovina and Delhi. Robert Gerry and his wife, Cornelia Harriman Gerry, built a colonial Georgian mansion in 1912. Aknusti had been designed for the Gerry family by the Olmstead brothers, the landscape architects of New York City’s Central Park.

The estate had been sold twice since 1977, but nothing had been changed since the golden years when the Gerrys entertained famous visitors such as Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Gov. Averill Harriman and members of the Vanderbilt, Whitney and Phipps families. Aknusti had suffered a $1 million fire back Sunday, Feb. 1, 1953. Winds had fanned the flames, and firefighters had been hindered by bad weather and road conditions. The structure had been considered to be fireproof, although firefighters from Andes and Delhi had all they could do to save one wing of the mansion, leaving what was described as a smoldering mass of blackened rubble. Priceless paintings, rugs and antiques were lost, among other family possessions. Some valuables were saved, after the Gerrys servants had routinely placed many items in a vault, which remained intact, before the family departed for New York City on New Years’ Day.

There were about 150 onlookers as only four bidders submitted the $250,000 required. The winning bid was from Lynn Johnson, owner of Titan Drilling and an antique car collector in Arkville, for $1.75 million. Johnson had been a one-sixth owner of the property before this auction, as part of Broadlands Property Group. An anonymous bidder had gone as high as $1.5 million before dropping out.

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