GAINES – The new director of the Cobblestone Museum in the Gaines hamlet of Childs has a passion for local history. Doug Farley also likes a challenge.
Farley for 35 years owned a Bells grocery store in Newfane. He bought the store when he was a college student.
When he sold that business he became more active with the Niagara County Historical Society, and helped to develop a state-of-art museum by the Flight of Five Locks in Lockport.
That new museum with a focus on canal history gave a new purpose for a 19th century stone church and may have saved it from the wrecking ball. Farley served as the museum’s director for a decade.
More recently, the Newfane resident has worked four years as the director of a museum in Amherst for People Inc., telling the story of people with disabilities.
“This was a great opportunity for me to grow as a more caring human being, with a focus on history for people with disabilities, an oft overlooked and disenfranchised people group,” Farley said.
Last week he was hired to serve as part-time director of the Cobblestone Museum. The museum includes seven main historic buildings near the intersection of routes 98 and 31. It has many other contributing historic elements, from outhouses to a Liberty Pole.
Farley sees compelling stories in the museum, buildings that are like tie capsules from eras long ago. The Cobblestone Schoolhouse, for example, is an intact one-room schoolhouse that wasn’t artificially created. It shows the school as it was up until it closed in the1950s. The school had separate entrances for boys and girls.
“You could spend a whole day here if you really want to take in all of the buildings,” Farley said at the museum’s main office, a brick house next to the Crosby’s gas station and convenience store.
Farley, 65, is impressed by the museum as an important historic site. He also said the Cobblestone Society has many dedicated volunteers determined to keep the museum going and share the story with the public.
He wants to boost marketing efforts and strengthen museum’s finances with more corporate support, local government backing and by drawing more visitors.
“We need a bigger marketing effort so people don’t just stop by if they happen to see the sign,” Farley said.
The museum is planning for opening day on Mother’s Day on May 14. That will include a quilt show and an exhibit of paintings featuring folk art and “naïve” paintings from unknown artists.
The museum last year was awarded a $23,000 grant for work on the church and the Ward House. The funds will go towards painting the exterior of windows and the bell tower at the church, replacing rotted window sills and repairing a retaining wall in front of the church.
The Ward House will have some of the masonry repointed, downspouts fixed to improve drainage and the front steps repaired.
Farley is happy to be busy at the museum and is impressed by the group’s volunteers.
He acknowledged many people his age are looking to slow down. He isn’t ready for that. He is happy to be part of an important mission, working to keep the museum going for years to come.
“I don’t like to sit around,” Farley said. “I was never interested in golf.”