Dr. Reist's Biography

Biography of Dr. Reist

Dr. Henry Gerber Reist was born 27 May, 1862, in Mount Joy, PA. He was an outstanding student going on to earn a degree in mechanical engineering at Lehigh University in 1886. The same school awarded him an honorary doctoral degree in 1922. In 1908 he married Margaret Breed of Lynn, Massachusetts.

After several earlier positions, Dr. Reist joined General Electric in Schenectady in 1894 taking charge of the design of alternating-current machinery. He remained head of this department at GE until his retirement in 1931. During his tenure he oversaw the design of some of the most important and prestigious power generating equipment in the world, e.g. the Conowingo generators in Maryland, the Keokuk and Cedar Rapids generators on the Mississippi River in Iowa, and the Niagara water wheels in western New York.

Dr. Reist was a botanist, horticulturist, painter, photographer, member of the Union College faculty, member and officer of the Schenectady Park Board, a member of various honorary and professional societies, holder of many patents in electrical engineering (especially those related to fabricated castings), a widely published author of engineering studies and author of an important family genealogy. He traveled widely including trips to Japan and China.

He acquired the Sanctuary lands in the late 1920s or early 1930s. These lands had been the farm of the Pearse family, one of the founding families of Niskayuna. In 1934 he contracted with Paul Schaefer for the restoration of the still standing Pearse homestead on St. David’s Lane. In exchange for his services Paul received a three-acre portion in the northeastern corner of the farm which became the site of his home, now the Center for the Forest Preserve of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks.

Dr. and Mrs. Reist lived in the Realty Plot in Schenectady until his death on 5 July, 1942, at the age of 80. Mrs. Reist assigned this land, 109 acres in extent, to the Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club on 17 November, 1965, with expressed limitations:

“ . . . that the premises here in conveyed shall forever be held as a bird sanctuary and nature preserve for scientific, educational, and esthetic purposes, and shall be maintained as far as practical in their natural state and managed in accordance with sound conservation practices, including the undertaking of scientific research projects, the maintenance of fences and foot trails and provided that a nature center and/or club headquarters may be constructed thereon”.

People who have the good sense to set land aside for parks, preserves and wild areas are among the wisest of the wise.