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Cobblestone Museum kicks off new season on Sunday

Photo by Tom Rivers: Doug Farley, director of the Cobblestone Museum, is pictured with a “This Place Matters” banner in front of the Cobblestone Universalist Church at 14393 Ridge Rd. The banner is part of a national campaign to highlight historic sites by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Cobblestone Museum opens on Sunday with paintings, quilts and textiles on display, as well as the important artifacts in the museum buildings.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 May 2017 at 9:42 am

Mothers are welcome to tour historic site and see exhibitions for free on May 14

CHILDS — Sunday is Mother’s Day, which is also the traditional kick off of a new season at the Cobblestone Museum.
The museum is opening a new season with an exhibit from “Sunday Painters of Yesteryear” and a display of coverlets and quilts from the museum’s and community members’ collections. Mothers will be welcomed to the historic complex for free, and also will be given a flower. Opening day is from 1 to 5 p.m.

The museum this year also is offering free admission throughout the season for children 12 and under who are accompanied by an adult.

The museum is a National Historic Landmark with a collection of more than a dozen structures near the intersection of routes 98 and 104. The Cobblestone Universalist Church, built in 1834, is the oldest cobblestone church in North America. The church will host the art exhibit and display of quilts and coverlets.

The museum has a new logo as part of a branding campaign.

The “Sunday Painters” feature more than 50 paintings from people with no formal training in art. The artists painted for fun, often on a Sunday. The paintings were collected by Rene Schasel and Bill Lattin, the retired museum director. (There will be a First Friday reception for the exhibit on June 2 in the evening.)

The museum hired a new director for this season. Doug Farley started on March 1. He said he has developed a greater appreciation for the museum’s local, regional and national importance.

“Now that I’m seeing the great asset that we have and its potential as a heritage tourism destination is exciting,” Farley said. “The museum tells of the influence from the opening of the Erie Canal. Farmers could afford to build nice houses because they had a market for their goods. It speaks of the great wealth of the area after the canal opened.”

Farley and the museum’s leaders would like to see the historic site have a greater role in promoting heritage tourism locally. The museum is planning a VIP celebration on June 14 to share a vision for the future, which would include a new visitor’s/welcome center for the area.

That building is eyed for behind the Ward House on Route 104, where current restrooms are located. If the project becomes a reality, Farley said those restrooms and a next-door outhouse could be relocated to the cobblestone schoolhouse down the road.

The June 14 event at the Daughters of the American Revolution is an opportunity for feedback on the visitor center, and to see if there would be community support for the project.

The museum is also working to keep up the existing historic structures. Some of the windows in the church will be repaired and repainted this year. The Ward House also is receiving new steps and drainage improvements to protect the building.

The museum is pursuing other grants and support to help maintain the historic site, including an engineering assessment of Farmers’ Hall on Route 98 near Proctor Brook.

The museum was established by the Cobblestone Society in 1960 and opened for its first tour in 1961.

For more information, click here.

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Gaines Basin cobblestone schoolhouse goes from verge of extinction to historic designation

File photos by Tom Rivers: Volunteers worked to save a former Cobblestone Schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road in Gaines, just north of the Erie Canal. The school was built in 1832, and may be the oldest cobblestone building in the county.

Staff Reports Posted 10 May 2017 at 6:46 am

Governor approves site for State and National Register of Historic Places

GAINES – A cobblestone building constructed in 1832 and used as a schoolhouse until 1944 was on the verge of falling down, until a a group of volunteers put on a new roof and stabilized the building.

The Orleans County Historical Association has given it new life as a meeting place.

This week Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the schoolhouse was headed for the State and National Register of Historic Places. It is one of 20 sites around the state headed for the lofty status.

“The history of the Empire State is the history of this nation,” Governor Cuomo said. “These designations will help ensure the storied sites and places that dot every corner of this state, will be preserved for future generations of New Yorkers.”

Volunteers in 2015 cleared most of debris from the inside of the former school. Gaines Town Historian Al Capurso said many pioneer children in Orleans County were taught at the school, which was also used for countless town meetings.

The State and National Registers are the official lists of buildings, structures, districts, landscapes, objects and sites significant in the history, architecture, archeology and culture of New York State and the nation. There are more than 120,000 historic buildings, structures and sites throughout the state listed on the National Register of Historic Places, individually or as components of historic districts. Property owners, municipalities and organizations from communities throughout the state sponsored the nominations.

Once the recommendations are approved by the state historic preservation officer, the properties are listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places and then nominated to the National Register of Historic Places, where they are reviewed and, once approved, entered on the National Register.

State and National Registers listing can assist property owners in revitalizing buildings, making them eligible for various public preservation programs and services, such as matching state grants and state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits.

For the past two years, the Orleans County Historical Association has worked to save and stabilize the building at 3302 Gaines Basin Rd., just north of the Erie Canal.

The 913-square-foot building hasn’t been used much since it was closed as a school in 1944. Nor had there been much upkeep of the building until 2015.

Al Capurso, the Gaines town historian, pushed to save the building from collapse. The site received a new historical marker in October 2015.

He thanked Erin Anheier of Clarendon for writing the nomination for the schoolhouse.

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Navarra’s Farm Market and Greenhouses perseveres after difficult loss

Photos by Kristina Gabalski: Siblings Jenna, Amanda and Markus Mrzywka pose among and assortment of plants in one of their greenhouses at 3272 Eagle Harbor Rd.

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 4 May 2017 at 6:06 pm

Windstorm also took down greenhouses in March

File photo by Tom Rivers: The powerful winds on March 8 blew off the plastic on four of the buildings at Navarra’s in Gaines.

GAINES – March 2017 weather brought misery for residents across Orleans County, but for brother and sister Amanda and Markus Mrzywka of Navarra’s Farm Market and Greenhouses on Eagle Harbor Road in Gaines, the severe weather was just one part of a series of life-altering challenges which came just as the intense work of preparing for the upcoming growing season got underway.

First, there was the devastating wind storm of March 8, which resulted in the loss of four of their six greenhouses. The following week, the late-season snowstorm dumped two feet of snow.

Then, on March 21, Paul Navarra, the owner of Navarra’s, and Amanda and Markus’ uncle, died unexpectedly.

Still reeling from the weather-related challenges, the siblings – including sister Jenna, their mom Joan, aunts, uncles and cousins – moved forward by pulling together as a family and utilizing amazing resilience to get the business back on its feet.

Amazingly, despite all the unexpected setbacks, Navarra’s greenhouses are back up and functioning and full of lush, young plants destined for area gardens and municipalities. The business opened for the season April 28, just as it has for years.

“We are very afraid that customers will think we are not opening this season because of the loss of my uncle and with all the damage we went through,” Amanda said. “Many think we couldn’t possibly get our greenhouses fixed and ready in time for this season.”

One of the main greenhouses at Navarra’s bursting with plants and hanging baskets. Herbs in the foreground are just getting their start.

The family overcame the early March windstorm damage by moving quickly. Amanda and Markus said they were eating a mid-day meal March 8, when they realized how severe the winds had become and discovered the plastic which covers greenhouses was beginning to tear.

They knew the plastic would have to be completely removed immediately to prevent it from blowing into the nearby roadway. The seedlings and young plants already growing in the damaged greenhouses had to be transferred to ones that were still intact.

Amanda Mrzywka demonstrates how to use Navarra’s new needle seeder, which is run by an air compressor.  Acquiring the seeder was a dream of her late uncle Paul Navarra. It makes the process of starting seeds much easier and faster. Amanda said she can plant a 512 count tray in 1 minute, 40 seconds with the seeder. Eventually, Navarra’s would like to be able to offer custom seeding to area growers.

After the wild early March weather, the family worked swiftly to reconstruct the greenhouses which had been lost.

“We had a lot of crews come out to volunteer and help us replace plastic and wood,” Amanda said.

All the help from family and friends enabled Navarra’s to continue with the early spring work of seeding and starting new vegetable, flower and herb plants to sell for the coming growing season.

The family is also working to cope with the grief of the loss of Paul. Amanda and Markus say Paul had undergone hernia surgery in late February and was recovering, when he died unexpectedly at home on March 21.

The three Mrzywka siblings have been a part of the greenhouse business and farm their entire lives and were determined to keep it going. Amanda and Markus have become co-owners, and will carry on a family tradition which began decades ago. Their sister, Jenna, also helps out as does their mom, Joan Navarra-Mrzywka, aunts, uncles and cousins.

“We are a fourth generation farming family,” Markus said.

Paul Navarra was well known in the area for his attendance at the Rochester Public Market, where for about 30 years he sold vegetables, fruits and flowers grown on the farm and in the greenhouses.  Markus will now focus on maintaining that tradition and will be at the market at least four days each week through the growing season. He is also in charge of the farming operation.

Markus and Amanda pose behind Martha Washington geraniums under the familiar tent at Navarra’s on Eagle Harbor Road. Markus, who is taking charge of the farm side of the business, said he is hoping the weather will dry out soon so he can focus on planting vegetables and fruits.  The produce will be sold at the Rochester Public Market and at Navarra’s Market and Greenhouses.

Amanda says Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren presented the family with a certificate of recognition for Paul’s dedication to the Rochester Public Market. It will be framed and hung in a new seasonal building at Navarra’s Farm Market and Greenhouses.

The building will have a prominent spot at the market and be used as a protected spot for cash registers and displaying gardening items, vegetables and fruits. Customers will see the familiar tent again this year outside the greenhouses, but the seasonal building will add a new dimension to their shopping experience.

Lucy, Navarra’s popular greenhouse kitty, checks to see that the Gerbera plants are growing properly.  She welcomes treats and affection from customers.

Visiting Narvarra’s now, it’s hard to tell what the family has endured preparing for the 2017 season. The greenhouses are back up and functioning and the assortment of plants – most grown from seed on site – is astounding.

“It makes you stronger,” Joan Navarra-Mrzywka said regarding the unexpected obstacles the family and business has faced this spring. Paul Navarra was Joan’s brother and the two were especially close.

“We just take it one day at a time,” she said.

Navarra’s is open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.  The Farm Market and Greenhouses are located at 3272 Eagle Harbor Rd. just north of the canal.

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Son uses CPR to save father after heart attack

Photos by Tom Rivers: Kenny Capurso gave his father Al Capurso CPR on March 23 after he suffered a heart attack at home in Gaines. Al Capurso gave his son “Lifesavers” candy for his life-saving actions.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 April 2017 at 10:55 am

 ‘I’m eternally grateful for what Kenny did – that he knew what to do and did it.’ Al Capurso speaking of his son

GAINES – Al Capurso called out this son at about 10:10 in the morning on March 23. Capurso was upstairs. Kenny, 18, was down the hall in his room.

He rushed to to see his father, who was having a heart attack. Mr. Capurso, 64, gasped for air, and then was unconscious. His eyes were closed and he wasn’t breathing. He appeared paralyzed.

Kenny quickly called 911 and a dispatcher gave him CPR instructions: two quick breaths and 30 compressions.

Kenny also remembered the basics from health class in middle school. He moved his father to the floor, gave him two quick breaths and then 30 compressions.

After two cycles, his father started breathing again with shallow breaths. But that stopped and Kenny resumed CPR.

He did CPR for about 5 minutes until paramedics arrived from the Central Orleans Volunteer Ambulance. COVA medics would shock Capurso three times with a defibrillator in the house. The medics and volunteer firefighters transported him from upstairs, down a narrow staircase, and to the ambulance, where he was shocked twice more.

Capurso was stabilized at Medina Memorial Hospital, and then flown by Mercy Flight to Rochester General Hospital, where he had heart surgery. (He now has a pacemaker and defibrillator.)

He spent eight days in the hospital and has been home for about week, already back to planning projects in his role as Gaines town historian.

Capurso is a retired social worker who ran the Bait Barn, a tackle shop by his home on Route 279 for more than 20 years. He is well known locally, active in the Democratic Party. He sings and plays his guitar at many local events.

“I’m eternally grateful for what Kenny did – that he knew what to do and did it,” Capurso said at his home on Friday.

Kenny works at Tractor Supply in Medina, starting his shift at 3 p.m. On March 23, he and his father were planning a late breakfast of French toast, hash browns and sausage.

Kenny remembers his father calling out his name: “Kenny.”

The son went to check on his father. He called 911 and was able to quickly start CPR.

He made sure his father’s mouth was clear. Mr. Capurso had heart surgery two years ago. He suffered a broken sternum and five broken ribs from the CPR. That is still tender.

Capurso has no memory of the heart attack and the life-saving efforts afterward. He didn’t have a heart attack due to blockage. The bottom of his heart was quivering, and not not beating. There was a potassium imbalance.

Al Capurso sings and plays his guitar in the fellowship hall at Christ Church on Oct. 24, 2015. He performs at many local community events.

It took about five days after the heart attack until Capurso was alert in the hospital. He requested his guitar. The first song he played and sang was Kenny’s favorite: “The Cat’s in the Cradle,” a folk rock song.

Al on March 31 posted a message on Facebook: “I’m home in the warm hold of my loving family. So grateful to God for this chance.”

Kenny called the middle school on Friday and spoke with Principal Dan Monacelli. Kenny told the principal his middle school health class, led by teacher Pat Uveino, included CPR. Kenny used that knowledge on March 23, allowing him to save his father’s life.

The family also wants to thank the dispatcher that morning, the COVA medics, and volunteer firefighters. Capurso was at Medina Memorial Hospital for two hours. The doctor and staff there had him stabilized so he could fly by Mercy Flight. The staff also determined he would need the higher-level care at Rochester General.

“We want to say thank you to all of the first responders, and the doctors and nurses that worked on him,” Kenny said.

Capurso and his wife Chris have four children, and seven grandchildren.

“It’s the proudest moment of my life,” Kenny said. “I saved my father’s life. My mother, brother and sisters can talk to him again.”

Kenny said his parents have long instilled the importance of community service in their children. Kenny said he wants to pursue a career as a paramedic.

The family also wants to encourage others to know CPR.

“CPR is everyone’s job,” said Chris Capurso. “Everyone should know it.”

Al Capurso is pictured on Oct. 17, 2015 when a new historical marker that was unveiled by a former one-room schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road, just north of the Erie Canal. The schoolhouse was built in 1832 and is one of the oldest cobblestone buildings in the area.

Mr. Capurso is back to working on local historical and heritage projects. He was instrumental in saving a former cobblestone school house on Gaines Basin Road.

Capurso sent an email on Thursday to members of the Orleans County Historical Association, notifying them the schoolhouse has qualified to be listed on the New York State and National Registry of Historic Places. Capurso is president of the OCHA.

He wants a flag pole at the site, a marker on the building noting it’s on the state and national registers, a new front door and new paint on the trim. Boy Scouts are helping with some of those projects. Capurso is working towards a July dedication of the flagpole. He also wants a bench out in front of the school in memory of Woody baker, the past OCHA president who supported the schoolhouse’s preservation efforts.

He also is working to have the bell tower refurbished at the cobblestone schoolhouse on Route 104 that is part of the Cobblestone Museum. Capurso is planning an Aug. 19 event of the bell’s dedication in honor of William Babbitt, who was superintendent of the construction of the school in 1849. Babbitt donated the bell to the school in 1849. Some of his descendants are expected to attend the August dedication of the restored bell tower.

Capurso’s wife, Chris, said her husband is dedicated to his local projects.

“He’s back to going 100 miles an hour,” his wife said.

Mr. Capurso said the projects don’t feel like work.

“It’s fun,” he said.

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Long-time antiques dealer sees value in items from yesteryear

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 February 2017 at 1:46 pm

‘The crazier, unusual stuff, the better’ – Robin Stelmach

Photos by Tom Rivers: Robin Stelmach is pictured inside Americana Unlimited Antiques, his business at the corner of Ridge Road and Route 279 in Gaines. Stelmach will be doing an antiques appraisal fair on Saturday at Tillman’s Village Inn as a benefit for the Cobblestone Society.

GAINES – When Robin Stelmach was a college student at Brockport about three decades ago, he would drive Ridge Road from Niagara County to Brockport. There were about 20 antiques businesses then.

Now there are only a few remaining. Stelmach’s business, Americana Unlimited Antiques, has been based in Gaines on Ridge Road for about 20 years. He is at the corner of Ridge Road and Route 279, a 9,000-square-foot building that used to be a stage coach stop in the 1800s and later served as a grange.

Stelmach has all kinds of stuff inside, including paintings from untrained artists, bicycles, mounted animals, furniture, business signs, vintage beer bottles and fishing lures. It’s all old stuff.

Robin Stelmach likes to collect clown shoes, which he said are hard to come by. “You never know what people will collect,” he said.

Stelmach, 53, has been in the antiques business since he was 8. It’s been his full-time profession since 1990. He doesn’t do any sales on-line.

“Most of my business is word of mouth,” he said today. “Most of it is out of state.”

Stelmach can identify almost any household object, any artifact that may have been stored away in an attic for years – even decades. An antique appraiser and dealer needs to be versatile, with know-how in just about everything, he said.

“You can’t be one-dimensional in the antique business or you will fail,” he said today.

While Stelmach has a general knowledge of all kinds of antiques, he said he specializes in guns, coins and rugs.

This Saturday, Stelmach and another antique dealer, Mark Christopher of Dream Speaker Antiques, will have an antique appraisal fair at Tillman’s Village Inn at the corner of Ridge Road and Route 98. The event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. is a benefit for the Cobblestone Society and Museum. (Click here for more information.)

Stelmach encourages people to not throw away things that might seem like junk until they have an antiques professional take a look. He said there may be unexpected treasures in the attic. Some old Levi’s jeans from the early 1970s are worth $500 to $1,000, for example.

Some people stash away old pocketwatches, coins, pottery, furniture, even beer bottles that may jump in value over the years.

He does a few antique appraisal fairs each year, with shows in the Adirondacks and Massachusetts. Stelmach is a former trustee for the Cobblestone Museum. He wanted to do a local event to support the museum.

“People really just want to know and understand what it is,” he said about some of the items discovered in houses and garages.

Stelmach sells all kinds of stuff, from old bikes (ones with banana seats are popular) to paintings from untrained artists. Chinese porcelains “are really hot right now,” and vinyl records are making a comeback.

Among his vast collection, Stelmach said three pairs of clown shoes are among his favorite. “They’re very rare,” he said about the shoes. “Most clowns are buried with their shoes.”

His collection of taxidermied animals include polar bears, caribou, moose, bison and a giant tuna.

“Anything is collectable,” he said. “You never know what people will collect.”

The antiques business is a tough one, especially in this part of the state. The market is depressed around Orleans County. Stelmach sells many of his antiques out of the area.

The biggest factor making antiques  a challenging business, though, may be changing demographics. Stelmach said younger adults, ages 45 and under, prefer homes with less stuff.

“People don’t collect as much as they used to,” he said.

But he said the market is always changing. He thinks there will be a resurgence even among younger adults for antiques, for items that aren’t mass produced and cheaply made.

“We live in such a throw-away society right now,” Stelmach said.

He welcomed people to bring in items on Saturday, from original art to household furnishings (pictures of a bed or dresser would suffice).

“The crazier, unusual stuff, the better,” he said. “I’m good at knowing what things are.”

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Crosby’s remodels stores in Albion, Gaines

Photos by Tom Rivers: Melissa Clark, store manager of the Crosby’s in Gaines, is pictured by the new expanded beverage area at the convenience store located at the corner of Routes 98 and 104.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 February 2017 at 2:31 pm

This group cuts the ribbon on the improvements at the Gaines store. They include, from left: Darrin Barber, Crosby’s director of operations; Tim Buchman, senior account manager for Schmitt Sales which supplies the Crosby’s with fuel; Janice Hunt, district supervisor; Missy Kruger, former store manager now at Hamlin store; Melissa Clark, store manager; Carol Culhane, Gaines town supervisor; and Doug Galli, vice president and general manager for Crosby’s.

GAINES – Crosby’s, which owns 49 convenience stores in Western New York, today celebrated recent renovations of the stores in Albion and Gaines.

The company made a six-figure investment in each location, upgrading kitchen equipment, the interior décor, adding digital menus, and expanding the beverage offerings with more machines for coffee, milkshakes and fountain sodas.

“We’re not just a gas station,” said Doug Galli, Crosby’s vice president and general manager. “We’re a convenience store that also sells gasoline.”

The company wants to promote its pizza, sub sandwiches and high-quality coffee, Galli said.

Crosby’s tries to upgrade each store every seven to eight years, he said.

The Gaines and Albion stores will also soon get order kiosks, which will speed up the time for customers to place orders.

Carol Culhane, the Gaines town supervisor, said the Gaines store in historic Childs is busy. She remembers when the site was once a small grocery store owned by the Radzinski family. In the late 1990s, the Piedimonte family tore down the grocery store and built a new convenience store and gas station called JP’s II. Crosby’s acquired the site about seven years ago.

“They have a great business,” Culhane said today during a ribbon-cutting celebration. “They’re friendly and the store is always well kept up.”

She said it is a popular spot on Ridge Road.

“It’s a great place where you can grab and go,” she said.

The Gaines store has 13 employees. Crosby’s also owns stores in Orleans County in Albion, Kendall, Clarendon, Holley and Medina.

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County approves $3K for Cobblestone Museum

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 December 2016 at 2:36 pm
Photo by Tom Rivers: The cobblestone school house is part of a museum complex that has been declared a National Historic Landmark.

Photo by Tom Rivers: The cobblestone school house is part of a museum complex that has been declared a National Historic Landmark.

ALBION – The Cobblestone Museum, which has been shut out of Orleans County budget in recent years, was approved for $3,000 from the county’s contingency fund on Wednesday.

County legislators met for a year-end meeting and unanimously approved the funds for the museum, which operates with two part-time employees, as well as a buildings and grounds laborer.

The museum complex includes seven historic buildings, as well as outhouses and other important community artifacts.

The museum in August was approved for a $23,000 from the Rochester Area Community Foundation. That money will go towards restoring windows on the Cobblestone Church, and repointing on the historic building, as well as work on the next-door Ward House, which was built around 1840. The stairs on the house have been crumbling and will be fixed with the grant funds.

The museum’s Board of Trustees has reached out to the county and other supporters to help with a deficit in the annual operating costs of running the museum, which is the only National Historic Landmark in Orleans County.

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Cobblestone Museum honors supporters

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 November 2016 at 8:28 am


Photos by Tom Rivers

GAINES – The Cobblestone Society and Museum held its 56th annual meeting on Thursday evening at Tillman’s Village Inn and honored several supporters for their efforts at the museum.

The following are pictured, from left: Emily Maxwell, secretary and vice-president elect for Brockport History Forum; Robert Bretz, president of Brockport History Forum; David Mitchell of Christopher Mitchell Funeral Homes; Shirley Helfer; and Patty Blackburn, illustrator for new coloring coloring book about the museum and Cobble the Mouse. (Not pictured: Georgia Thomas and Kim Martillotta-Muscarella.)

Business Partner of the Year: Christopher Mitchell Funeral Homes was recognized for being a steady supporter over the years, including sponsoring events this year at the museum. Christopher Mitchell was the first sponsor to step forward and support the Halloween Bash on Oct. 21. David Mitchell of Christopher Mitchell was praised for supporting many local organizations, including the museum on Route 104 and Route 98 in Childs.

New Partner of the Year: Brockport History Forum. This group of students at Brockport enjoys history. Many of the members are history majors, but not all of them. They helped put on the Halloween Bash at the museum. That event attracted more than 100 people and raised $1,100 for the museum. The activities included wine tastings, music, ice cream from a food truck, “ghoulish games,” a Halloween costume contest, pumpkin painting contest, swing dance lessons and lectures.


Kim Martillotta-Muscarella organized several art shows at the Cobblestone Museum this year.

New Partner of the Year: Kim Martillotta-Muscarella. The Albion resident coordinated several art shows at the museum as her “First Friday” shows moved from her house on Main Street in Albion to the Cobblestone Church. The shows drew hundreds of people to the museum, and also showcased several local artists. The shows included wine-tastings and refreshments.

Volunteer of the Year: Shirley Helfer. She gave nearly 70 hours at the museum, helping to prep buildings for weddings and other events. She volunteered at the gift shop and was flexible in helping behind the scenes.

Georgia Thomas of Medina is dressed up as Cobble the Museum Mouse during the Fourth of July parade at Lyndonville.

Georgia Thomas of Medina is dressed up as Cobble the Museum Mouse during the Fourth of July parade at Lyndonville.

John Proctor Award: Georgia Thomas and Patty Blackburn. This award is named for the founder of Childs who helped establish the Cobblestone Church. The Ward House, which is part of the Cobblestone Museum, also was built in 1840 under the direction of Proctor. The award in his honor is given “for selfless efforts to promote the Cobblestone Museum.”

Thomas and Blackburn worked together to create a coloring book. Thomas wrote the book which shows Cobble the Mouse visiting the different buildings at the museum. Blackburn illustrated the book.

“Other museums have coloring books with a character,” Thomas said in a July interview. “Cobble is a wonderful mouse and he gives you an enchanting tour of the museum.”

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Gaines cuts town taxes by 9 percent

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 November 2016 at 7:50 am

However, fire protection rate sees big increase in 2017

GAINES – The Town Board approved the 2017 budget on Wednesday that reduces taxes by 8.5 percent, with the town-wide tax rate dropping from $3.90 per $1,000 of assessed property to $3.37.

Property owners outside the Village of Albion will see their tax rate fall from $4.67 to $4.19.

The town will collect less in taxes to support the town’s general and highway funds. This is the second straight budget residents are getting a reduction. The tax levy, what the town collects in taxes, has decreased from $279,500 in 2015 to $268,500 in 2016 to $245,550 in the next budget. That’s a $33,950 decrease over two years, or a tax cut of 12.1 percent.

Town Supervisor Carol Culhane said the Town Board and department heads have worked hard to bring down taxes for residents.

“We have a great team here,” she said during Wednesday’s Town Board meeting.

One resident, Bob Nashburn, thanked the board for a tax reduction.

“I congratulate you guys,” Nashburn told the board during a public hearing on the budget. “For 39 years my taxes went up, up, up.”

Gaines was able to reduce taxes partly by using more fund balance or money from its reserves. In 2016, Gaines used $9,917.60 in fund balance. In 2017, the town will use $28,773.80.

The town also is benefitting from a big increase in assessments, fueled by Intergrow Greenhouses.

The town’s assessed value is up 7.4 percent or by $8,593,053, going from $116,551,683 in 2016 to $125,144,736 for 2017.

Residents outside the village will see an increase in their fire protection rates, raising those rates from 32 cents to 71 cents per $1,000 of assessed property.

In the 2016 budget, Gaines paid the Village of Albion $35,305 for fire protection. In 2017, that cost is up to $90,000.

Overall spending in the budget – 10 water districts, general and highway funds – will increase from $1,289,469 to $1,334,643.

Culhane said the board is looking at a capital improvement project at the Town Hall. Gaines received a $75,000 state grant for energy-efficiency projects. Culhane said the building will likely be insulated with new windows, and an enclosed porch area at the front of the building.

The town is working on the scope of the project and expects to seek bids for the work in the spring with the project to be completed in the fall. Culhane said the town has been setting aside funds for building improvements and could spend $50,000 from its own money for the improvements.

The Town Hall opened in 1991, and Culhane said there hasn’t been many changes to the site since then.

“It has held up quite well, but we all agree it is not energy efficient,” Culhane said.

Used books are money-maker for Cobblestone Museum

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 September 2016 at 11:12 am

Former Voting House has become popular spot at historic site in Gaines

Photos by Tom Rivers: The former Voting House in Hamlin was moved to the Cobblestone Museum in Gaines in 1999. The Voting House was built in 1909 by the Monroe County Board of Elections. Monroe County made many of the voting houses that were placed in voting districts in Monroe.

Photos by Tom Rivers: The former Voting House in Hamlin was moved to the Cobblestone Museum in Gaines in 1999. The Voting House was built in 1909 by the Monroe County Board of Elections. Monroe County made many of the voting houses that were placed in voting districts in Monroe. The gray tote in the lower right is a spot to place donated books.

GAINES – Twenty years ago the Hamlin town historian offered the community’s old Voting House to the Cobblestone Museum Hamlin had a local history museum but it went defunct and the Voting House was available.

Bill Lattin, the museum’s director at the time, didn’t think there was room at the museum for the small building. But Lattin kept thinking about the Voting House. He knew there used to be some in Orleans County, but they had vanished from the landscape.

Sue Bonafini, the volunteer coordinator for the museum, restocks books inside the Voting House.

Sue Bonafini, the volunteer coordinator for the museum, restocks books inside the Voting House.

The museum also had an annual used book sale on the Fourth of July weekend. It was always a chore to set up for the book sale, and to put leftovers back into storage.

Lattin thought the Voting House would be a good fit as a permanent location for used books. In 1999, the Hamlin and Gaines highway departments moved the building to the museum.

It’s behind the brick house, next to the Crosby’s gas station. The Voting House was cleaned up and repainted to resemble its original colors.

It also is stocked with books, and is popular in the community. Hardcover books sell for $1 and paperbacks are 50 cents. A metal box is mounted inside the site and people pay on the honor system.

Last year the used book sale raised $1,000 for the museum. It generated $550 in sales through the end of August.

“I originally didn’t think we had room for it,” Lattin, now retired as museum director, said today. “But it’s been a nice little addition for the community.”

The Cobblestone Museum has donated books on the shelves in the former Voting House.

The Cobblestone Museum has donated books on the shelves in the former Voting House.

There are two plastic garbage totes by the voting house for people to donate books. Museum volunteers go through them and organize by topics.

Two volunteers, R.J. Bannan and Erica Wanecski, have been instrumental in keeping the Voting House replenished with books this year, said Sue Bonafini, the museum’s volunteer coordinator.

“We get really good merchandise,” she said.

Popular authors such as Stephen King, Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts are quickly snatched up, and many classics also are popular, as well as coffee table books and the latest best-sellers. (On Wednesday, I bought “The Boys in the Boat” – the story of the 1936 US Olympic rowing team.)

The used book sale is open during regular museum hours, and often later. Bonafini noted many of the sales happen after hours.

She thanked the community for donating their books, and the customers for buying them on the honor system.

For more on the museum, click here.

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