Defreest-Church House was located in Defreestville, New York, which is just across the river from Albany, New York. The DeFreest family, in the Greek Revival style, built the house in 1836. This building was recently demolished by Nigro Developers Inc., under direction of the Target Corporation.
In 1850, the house was owned by Col. Walter S. Church, who was commissioned to collect rent from the nearby farmers for the Dutch patroons who owned the land. The farmers threw a bloody revolt in 1869 up the road on Thomson’s Hill. This was called the Anti-Rent Riot, and it resulted in the demise of the patroon's claims to the large land grants they had held for 200 years.
Over the years, the building had been renovated several times. The last renovation was in 1995, when Nigro Developers Inc. bought the building to turn it into offices. The interior of the building was gutted and rebuilt, leaving only the outside shell in it's original condition, which retained it's Greek Revival look.
In the last decade, the area around the house became rather commercial. Several new strip malls and a new highway interchange were built within a mile of the house. What used to be farmland was evolving into suburban sprawl. In the year 2000, Target Corporation approached Nigro about selling the property the house occupied, and developing a new Target store to service the area. The plans for the plot involved wither moving or demolishing the building, which took up space nearly in the middle of the planned parking lot.
Protest and Demolition
Target executives stated that moving the building would be more expensive than simply tearing it down. While the structure was up to the local building standards, an engineer stated that the building would 'shake to kindling' if it were moved off its foundation. Target told Nigro to put together plans for demolition.
Outrage from the public quickly followed the announcement of the decision. Several locals from East Greenbush and Defreestville formed a community action network to prevent the building from being demolished.
The network sent a new plan to Target, stating that the house could be saved simply by moving the construction of the store 22 feet further back from the road. Target responded by saying that moving the store back would encroach on wetlands, and violate environmental standards. The network then petitioned both local and county government to do something about the situation. Althougth the house met the requirements to be added to the National Register of Historic Places, the governments did little to nothing in response. Target offered to give the structure to anyone who would pay for it to be relocated, however no one took up the offer.
The building was demolished on November 5, 2002. Police removed several protestors from the building as the bulldozers approached. It took fifteen minutes to destroy the building. The community action network immediately called for a boycott of Target stores "forever."
At the time of it's demolition, the house was the oldest structure in both Defreestville and neighboring East Greenbush. In total, the land gained in the demolition of the Defreest-Church House gave the new Target parking lot an additional 75 spaces.
This Target location opened on July 21, 2003.