Fortroyal Foundation, Inc. came into existence in 1984 and was founded by Karen Chaplin, who still runs the day to day operations and acts as Executive Director. She was previously the town Historian for the village of Fultonville and for the town of Glen. She holds a Masters in Fine Arts degree from Hunter College and is a distinguished sculptor and artist.
The foundation was started in honor of John H. Starin, a major figure in the region’s history. Our hope is that his legacy and his commitment to public service lives on through the work that we do.
Starin Place is home base for us. This was his sanctuary, as it is now ours.
Fortroyal focuses largely on the conservation and preservation of historic treasures. Starin Place and Donaldson Block are the highlights of these efforts, however new projects continue to come into the pipeline. Our conservation and preservation efforts don’t just involve landmarks, but also artwork, literature, and antiques, especially as related to John H. Starin and Starin Place.
Fortroyal hosts one to two artists-in-residence every year and we have a very selective process. Our artists-in-residence have gone on to win a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts, among other prestigious awards.
We are the official sponsor of Burly Bird Zine, a small quarterly publication featuring artwork and writing that embraces our collective and creative spirit.
Fortroyal is a bird sanctuary and animal-friendly location. Peacocks call Starin Place home, amongst the other wild animals that roam the property. Fortroyal has been licensed for wild life rehabilitation and animal rescue, but is now selective in the animals we take in.
Starin Place was the first place that John H. Starin built and was the hardest earned for him. He built the big house on the property in 1877 but assembled the land previous to that. Starin Place came into existence based on a simple premise: Starin loved apples.
Let us explain:
As a child, Starin was very fond of the apple. The premium, juicy, and delicious apples of the area were grown by a man named Yates and Starin’s family sold them in their Eerie Canal store but Starin was not permitted to eat them by his family. They were reserved for the customers. He was left with mealy and wormy apples. Because of this, Starin devised a plan: when he got older, he would own those apple trees himself so that he could eat them whenever he wanted. This was his early motivation and he kept at it his whole life. Starin Place was where this dream came to life.
As a child, his family owned a store on the Mohawk River as part of the Eerie Canal. In anticipation of Fultonville becoming a major stop on the Eerie Canal, he and his father, Myndert Starin, founded or expanded over 40 businesses, such as a lumberyard, dry dock storage, and asheries. He and his father helped to position Fultonville and their store as being a major stop on the Eerie Canal.
Their store became the place where mail would be dropped off by boat and Myndert Starin then delivered the mail by horseback to the people of the area. He was given the title, “Postmaster General.” As Postmaster General, he got to rename the town from “Van Epps Swamp,” to “Fultonville,” to honor Robert Fulton, whom he considered “a genius of their time.” John Starin eventually inherited the title of Postmaster General from his father.
Starin trained as a druggist and owned an apothecary. He knew about animal husbandry; he started a zoo at Starin Place. He had an aviary for rare birds. He owned horses and rare racehorses, cows, elk, buffalo, deer, and a number of different animals on the property. He had two trees from every state in the country on the property and two kinds of trees from where he visited Asia.
Starin developed a passion for steamboats, mainly because of his store on the Mohawk River and he took on the steamboat trade by force. At one point he controlled 80% of all the freight of New York City’s harbor and in 1880 became the commissioner of the port of New York City under President Grant. He became a two-term congressman in the state of New York.
He was perhaps most well-known for his Long Island Sound resort, “Starin’s Glen Island.” This was a destination geared towards the middle-class and featured five cultures of the western world on display on individual islands linked together with piers and causeways.
Throughout all that he accomplished, he was always looking out for others. He provided for the families of the area and employed hundreds and hundreds of people. He supported a town, and always gave back.
Starin was a very hardworking man. He could sit on his front porch at Starin Place on the top of the hill and watch over all the day to day activities of Fultonville, on and off the river, gaze upon everything he had created, but the fact of the matter is, he was never sitting. He was always working.
The detailed records that we have about John H. Starin were recovered through the preservation and conservation efforts of the foundation–through sources like family letters, local lore, historians, and congressional, New York State, and South Street Seaport archives.
As you can imagine, we have amassed a lot of information and archives on Starin. There is a lot more that we would love to share with you. Please be in touch to learn more.