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sandstone heritage

Several grants approved for projects in Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 December 2015 at 12:00 am

File photos by Tom Rivers – Bent’s Opera House is in line for two state grants. The building is a dominant structure at the corner of Main and East Center streets in downtown Medina.

ALBANY – State officials announced about $2.25 billion in funding for projects across the state today, and some of those dollars will go towards efforts in Orleans County.

The biggest award is $600,000 for the Orleans Economic Development Agency for a new building in the Medina Business Park. The EDA is working to have the shell of a building up to entice a company. Having the exterior of the building in place with the local permits secured would speed up the process for a company to settle in Medina, EDA officials have said.

Other Medina projects were picked for funding include $335,000 in a Main Street NY grant that will be administered by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce. The money will assist in renovation of mixed-use buildings in historic downtown Medina.

Downtown Medina will get $335,000 in a Main Street NY grant.

Bent’s Opera House, a landmark structure that opened in 1865 at the corner of Main and East Center streets in Medina, was approved for two grants. A $70,000 grant will go towards includes building stabilization, facade improvements, asbestos abatement and interior renovations at the three-story building.

The state also approved another $150,000 for Bent’s, which is owned by the Orleans Renaissance Group, for additional restoration work.

“This work will represent one phase of a multi-phase restoration project that will not only enhance its appearance, but will also enable public use,” according to the state announcement. “When complete, the Opera House will provide a safe and historic space for public gatherings and events, and will also provide space to several revenue and tax-generating businesses.”

Other projects include:

$200,000 to the Orleans EDA for microenterprise support, including downtown rental subsidies for businesses in the downtown districts in Albion, Holley, Medina and Lyndonville. Some of the state funds can also be used as grants for the small businesses adding equipment or a new line of products.

$126,210 for the chapel at Hillside Cemetery, which is owned by the Town of Clarendon. The Gothic Revival chapel was built of Medina sandstone in 1894. The state funding will go towards restoring the non-denominational chapel and repurpose it for new public uses. Anticipated use includes concerts, historical and art exhibits, and lectures.

The chapel at Hillside Cemetery was approved for state funds for restoration and repurposing.

$40,000 for the Kendall-Yates-Carlton Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. The funds will go towards updating the waterfront plan for the three towns, providing new data on current conditions, policies, and implementation tools and projects.

Issues to be addressed include community revitalization, erosion, transportation infrastructure, water quality, and harbor management. Stakeholder feedback and public input will be solicited throughout development of the amended waterfront development plan.

$36,000 for Orleans County for a law enforcement shared service and efficiency study.

“The Orleans County Sheriff’s Office and the Police Departments of the Villages of Albion, Lyndonville, Medina, and Holley will commission a study to explore the efficiency of current local law enforcement operations and compare them with alternative policing models, including the potential consolidation of the five departments,” according to the state announcement.

In addition, the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council, which is based in Batavia and serves Genesee and Orleans counties, was approved for a $37,500 grant to create a full-time program director position to increase programming and service availabilities throughout its two-county region.

The Town of Alabama, just south of Shelby in Orleans County, was approved for a $1.5 million grant for new water lines to support the WNY Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP) and nearby residents.

Would statues, public art projects help Orleans County celebrate 200th?

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 November 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers
BUFFALO – This sculpture of a bison is displayed in downtown Buffalo. It has been there for 40 years.

It was a gift to Buffalo in 1975 from its sister city, Kanazawa, in Japan as part of the bicentennial celebration for the United States the following year.

“Bison” was created by artist Cecilia Evans Taylor.

Orleans County has a big birthday around the corner. The county will turn 200 in 2024 (or it may be 2025, depending on source). I haven’t heard any rumblings about the county’s bicentennial. I don’t think the officials have given it much thought. It’s still nearly a decade away.

This painted buffalo on Franklin Street was turned into artwork by Gustavo Glorioso as part of the “Herd About Buffalo” project, when 154 buffalo roamed Buffalo streets in 2000. The project was a benefit for the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Burchfield-Penney Art Center. This one was sponsored by Buffalo Optical and called “Eye Love Buffalo.”

I think a public art project would generate excitement on the county’s 200th anniversary. I think painting fiber-glass mules would make sense because the mules were iconic animals during the Erie Canal’s heyday when mule-drawn packet boats were a frequent sight.

We could try to have at least one in each town, but hopefully there could be more. Maybe the mule public art project could happen before the 200th, and proceeds from that effort could be used to fund a bigger signature site for the county’s bicentennial.

A statue of George Washington stands in front of Old County Hall, home to Erie County government on 92 Franklin St. in Buffalo.

The statue was paid for by the Erie County Masonic Foundation as a bicentennial gift on the 200th anniversary of the country’s founding. The base of the statue includes the name of the sculptor, J. Turkalj and notes it was built in 1976.

The statue includes an inscription “1776 * 1976” with the words: “Presented to the people of the County of Erie by the free and accepted Masons of forty-nine lodges in the three Erie districts and various affiliated Masonic organizations as our contribution to the bicentennial anniversary of the United States.”

I saw the statue last Saturday while in Buffalo. There are many statues and public works of art in downtown Buffalo. I think these pieces enliven the landscape, help promote the city and build community pride.

I think Orleans County would benefit with similar projects. The George Washington statue was part of a celebration of the U.S. bicentennial.

Orleans County officially formed when we split off from Genesee County. Orleans should celebrate its bicentennial with a signature project.

I’ve been promoting the idea of a statue and heritage site for the quarrymen who worked in the Medina sandstone quarries in Orleans County for nearly a century. They helped unearth and carve the stone for some of the grandest buildings in the region and state.

Their work continues to stand out more than a century later with many of our churches, chapels and finest homes.

Many descendants of the quarrymen continue to live in the county. The quarry workers did dangerous jobs in perhaps the county’s greatest industry ever. So maybe a signature site in their honor would be ideal for the 200th anniversary of the county. Personally, I’d like to see it happen before the 200th birthday in 2024 (or 2025). The site could be a draw for the county. Why wait?

The statue of Washington notes he was the first president of the United States from 1789-1797, and also served as First Master in the Alexandria Lodge No. 22, Alexandria, Virginia, from 1788-1789.

There are other bicentennial sites and statues around Buffalo.

Poland gave this statue of General Kazimerz Pulaski to the people of the United States in honor of the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Pulaski stands outside the Ellicott Square Building in downtown Buffalo.

The statue declares Pulaski as “Hero of Poland and the United States of America.” Pulaski saved the life of George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. Pulaski would serve as a general in the Continental Army. He died of wounds suffered in the Battle of Savannah. He is one of only seven people to be awarded honorary United States citizenship.

Sculptor Kazimierz Danilewicz created the statue of Pulaski, which shows him standing erect with his hands resting on his sword.

In Buffalo, a grand trifecta of churches made from Medina Sandstone

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 November 2015 at 10:00 am

3 sites in Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame within walking distance of each other

Photos by Tom Rivers

BUFFALO – The top of St. Louis Catholic Church in Buffalo is an open work lattice spire that reaches 245 feet high.

It is the tallest open-work spire ever built completely of stone in the United States, and it is also believed to be the only remaining open-work or pierced spire in the U.S.

St. Louis was built from 1886-1889 and is considered the “Mother Church of the Diocese of Buffalo.” It features a Gothic Revival design. The church, one of the largest ecclesiastical buildings in Buffalo, can seat nearly 2,000 people.

I heard about the St. Louis Catholic Church and wanted to see it. The church was inducted into the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame in 2014.

I got my chance to see on Saturday when I was in Buffalo.

St. Louis church entryway

Even the doors and entryway to St. Louis are awesome.

St. Louis is one of three landmark churches (one has been repurposed into an events center) made of Medina sandstone that have been part of the Buffalo skyline for more than a century. The sites are all within walking distance of each other.

I visited the sites on Saturday during some down time in a Lego robotics competition at the Buffalo Academy of Science Charter School. My son is on one of the teams that competed from Orleans County.

The charter school is on Franklin Street near the Convention Center. It’s in the hub of Buffalo, near some spectacular Medina Sandstone sites.

St. Paul’s Cathedral was built by the Episcopal Church from 1849-1851. The church used stone from a quarry in Hulberton. (The 274-foot-high spire was completed in 1870.)

This church was Buffalo’s first major architectural landmark. It was designed by Richard Upjohn after he earned a national reputation for his design of the Trinity Episcopal Church in New York City.

Step inside St. Paul’s and prepare to be wowed. The columns and arches are also made of sandstone.

There are numerous large stained-glass windows, with some made by the famed Tiffany Company.

The cathedral was largely destroyed in fire in 1888. The interior was ruined, but the Medina Sandstone walls remained solid. This disaster bolstered the reputation of Medina Sandstone as a durable and fire resistant building material. Working within these solid sandstone walls the church interior was reopened in 1890.

St. Paul’s is located next to another famous structure, Louis Sullivan’s Prudential (Guaranty) Building, an early skyscraper built in 1896.

Both St. Paul’s and the Sullivan skyscraper have been declared National Historic landmarks. There are only about 30 sites with this designation in Western New York, including the Rochester region. Orleans County has one of those National Historic Landmarks: The Cobblestone Museum.

The former Asbury-Delaware Methodist Church was constructed between 1871 and 1876 and used as a Methodist church until 1980.

Other congregations occupied the building for the next 10 years, but then it sat empty, its structure deteriorating and its interior vandalized. The City of Buffalo took ownership of the building, but by 1995 stones falling from the structure caused adjacent sidewalks to be closed and the church was slated for demolition.

However an outcry from the community led to the formation of the “Citizens to Save the Asbury Church.” Legal action stopped the plans for demolition and the group began to raise funds for emergency repairs.

In 1999 musician Ani DiFranco and manager Scott Fisher negotiated a plan for purchase and restoration which began a five-year reconstruction process to create a center for music and art in Buffalo’s downtown.

The development of “Babeville” saved this beautiful, historic building and contributed to a new appreciation of Buffalo’s heritage which today plays a major role in the revitalization of the city, according to the Medina Sandstone Society.

Fall splendor at Mount Albion

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 November 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – An annual rite of passage for Orleans County residents should include a visit to Mount Albion Cemetery, especially the Civil War Memorial tower, every fall.

I went to see the tower on Nov. 7. It was a crisp autumn day. I hadn’t been up the 68-foot-high tower in a  couple years.

I was happy to see the spiral staircase is freshly painted. Last time I climbed all of the steps, there was lots of graffiti. This was taken from the top of the tower, which was built in 1876, on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the country.

I’m a little uncomfortable up high, but here is a view looking down from the tower. There are nice sandstone steps leading to the tower.

The tower provides views of scenic Albion, including the Orleans County Courthouse.

These iron gates lead into the tower, which is a memorial to about 500 Orleans County residents who died in the Civil War. Their names are etched in marble slabs inside the tower.

The cemetery on Route 31 is included on the National Register of Historic Places. There are many historic features of Mount Albion, including this hitching post that was used to tie up horses.

The cemetery, with its winding paths, is a popular spot for joggers and walkers.

St. Marys gets a new roof in Holley

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 November 2015 at 12:00 am

St. Mary’s gets a new roof in Holley

Photos by Tom Rivers
HOLLEY – Contractors are working on a new roof for St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Holley. The roof hasn’t been replaced in 38 years.

Work started about two weeks ago with Century Architectural Sheet Metal in Buffalo tackling the job. The project is expected to be complete by Dec. 1, said Father Mark Noonan, parish priest.

The former brown shingles will be replaced with a gatehouse slate color. “It’s really going to make the sandstone shine,” Father Noonan said.

The church was built in 1904 and was inducted into the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame last month.

The parish last fall announced a capital campaign with a goal for $300,000. Parishioners at St. Mary’s in Holley and St. Mark’s in Kendall came through with $585,000.

That is allowing the parish to put on new roofs for St. Mary’s and St. Mark’s, and address other facility needs. Air-conditioning was added to St. Mary’s this summer.

The interior of the sanctuary will be updated over the next one to two years. The church will reach out to a consultant on those improvements.

St. Mary’s also plans to redo the driveway to add more handicapped accessible parking spaces, and wants to put in new sidewalks.

St. Marks’ has a new restroom as part of the capital projects and will be getting new steps.

This statue of Mary was recently refurbished inside St. Mary’s. The statue was white, but it was painted with many details added. The statue was originally made in 1880.

Other statues also have been refurbished at St. Mary’s, including ones of St. Rocco and St. Patrick.

The St. Mary’s Parish is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.


Woodchuck Alley in Kendall leads to historic cemetery

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 November 2015 at 12:00 am

Orleans County’s dirt roads

Photos by Tom Rivers
KENDALL – Orleans Hub likes to feature the dirt roads in Orleans County. There are actually quite a few of them.

Woodchuck Alley in Kendall is a winding path that links West Kendall and Center roads.

The road takes you through some colorful scenery in the fall.

It was a pleasant surprise to encounter Beechwood Cemetery on Woodchuck Alley. The cemetery was established in 1828 and has some of the grandest trees I’ve seen in our county.

You don’t see too many Medina sandstone structures in Kendall, but Beechwood has this chapel from 1898.

I was surprised to see the doors are missing from the building and there is lots of graffiti inside.

There probably isn’t much traffic on this road. This was the only vehicle I saw in about 20 minutes on Friday afternoon. Notice the monstrous tree to the right.

You’ll see recognizable last names in the cemetery, which is the final resting place for many Kendall pioneer residents. Many of them died young.


One of Albions grandest voices records a CD at age 79

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 November 2015 at 12:00 am

One of Albion’s grandest voices records a CD at age 79

Joe Sacco puts out Christmas album to benefit parish

File photos by Tom Rivers
Joe Sacco sings the National Anthem during opening day ceremonies for the Little League program in Albion in May 2014. Sacco has two grandsons, Nicholas and Christopher Sacco, who played for the Sandstone Park team.


ALBION – He has sung at hundreds of weddings and funerals, and performed in jazz bands since he was a kid. Joe Sacco has used his powerful tenor voice to sing the National Anthem before Little League and professional baseball games, and many community events.

The life-long Albion resident earned a vocal performance degree at the Eastman School of Music in 1956 after 12 years of taking lessons at the school.

“Music has been very good for me,” Sacco said at his home on Ingersoll Street this afternoon. “I’m very lucky and fortunate I can still do this.”

Sacco, a former Albion mayor, decided to make the recording at age 79. In August he sang seven Christmas and religious songs for his debut CD, “A Christmas Gift For You.”

“People have asked me, ‘Joe, when are you going to make a CD?'” he said. “I figure if I don’t do it, I’ll lose it.”

The CD goes on sale tomorrow (Nov. 7) at Dance Reflections and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Most of the proceeds from the CD will be given to the Holy Family Parish.

Sacco’s granddaughter Heather Hapeman owns Dance Reflections and the CD will be available Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. He also will sell it before Christmas in the lobby of St. Joseph’s on Saturdays after 5 p.m. Mass, and on Sundays after the 8 and 10:30 a.m. Masses.

Sacco has 500 of the CDs made. Frank Zicari of Albion did the recording, and Harriette Greaser, organist at St. Joseph’s, accompanied Sacco while he sang “Alleluia For Christmas Day,” “Mary’s Boy Child,” “Ave Maria,” “Gesu Bambino,” “The Lord’s Prayer,” “O Holy Night,” and “The Birthday Of A King.”

Joe Sacco is pictured on Dec. 25, 2013, singing Christmas carols from the choir loft at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. He has made that a holiday traidtion for more than 20 years. Harriette Greaser is shown playing the organ.

Sacco didn’t pursued music as a career, although it has been a passion. He worked 10 years as an Albion police officer, and then 10 years as transportation director for Albion Central School. When the district decided to contract out transportation services, Sacco was out of a job until he was hired by the Genesee County ARC. He worked there 22 years as director of transportation until finally retiring last year at age 78.

He played saxophone and sang in the house bands at the former Apple Grove Inn in Medina for 15 years, and the Moose Club for 10 years.

Sacco said his older brother Peter was a big influence in developing his musical skills. Peter Sacco earned a doctorate in music and taught in college in San Diego.
Joe tagged along at his brother’s band gigs, playing clarinet when he was 9 and 10 with his brother, who performed at many local taverns.

Joe has stayed in Albion and these days does most of his singing at church and for community events. He said he quit smoking 40 years ago and credited that decision for giving him longevity as a public performer.

He will be part of a Dec. 6 Eastman at Albion concert at the First Presbyterian Church of Albion. His CD will be for sale at the event, and Sacco will perform with other community members during the 3 p.m. concert.

Sacco is shown singing "Birthday of the King" when he was the featured soloist during a Christmas Mass at the church on Dec. 25, 2013.


Warmth will continue until temperature drops this weekend

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 November 2015 at 12:00 am

Warmth will continue until temperature drops this weekend

Photos by Tom Rivers
RIDGEWAY – The shockingly warm weather will continue today and on Friday before a big drop this weekend. This photos shows Culvert Road in Ridgeway, looking north.

The photo was taken on Tuesday on top of the Culvert, a historic location that is the only spot where you can drive under the Erie Canal.

Here is the same road looking through the north side of the Culvert.

Wednesday was a record-breaker with a high of 78. Today is forecast for a high of 71 followed by a high of 67 on Friday.

The temperature will drop this weekend with a high of 49 and a low of 35 on Saturday, followed by a high of 47 and a low of 33 on Sunday.

Here are some more photos of the Culvert, which was featured on Ripley’s Believe It or Not! The sign on the Culvert says it was built in 1823 as part of the original Erie Canal construction. I think this is an error and the Culvert was actually built in the 1890s when the canal was widened. I’ll try to find out for sure.

There are sidewalks so you can walk through the Culvert, but it can be unnerving to have cars whiz so close past you.

The Culvert is an awesome Medina sandstone structure, an engineering feat.


Hillside Cemetery chapel will host historical lecture

By Orleans Hub Posted 30 October 2015 at 12:00 am

Staff Reports
HOLLEY – Genesee Community College history professor Derek Maxfield will bring to an end the month-long series of events on “Hillside Heritage” with a lecture on Monday at Hillside Cemetery in Holley.

Maxfield will discuss “Victorian Death and the Civil War.” The events at the cemetery, including three public lectures and a very successful ghost walk, are part of an initiative to bring more attention to the plight of the Gothic Revival chapel at the cemetery, which was completed in 1894.

Derek Maxfield

Efforts are underway to raise funds to restore the beautiful Medina sandstone building designed by Rochester architect Addison Forbes. The chapel and cemetery are included on the National Register of Historic Places.

The lecture on Monday will combine two of Maxfield’s research interests in one talk – Victorian culture and the Civil War. By 1861, Victorian culture with its many social rules dominated American society and set the standards of conduct for the ladies and gentlemen of the era.

These same social mores played an important role in bringing about the great war between the states. But the war far exceeded what the Victorians or anyone else expected bringing a cataclysm of suffering and death that would change values and culture profoundly.

The Monday lecture will begin at 7 p.m. in the chapel at Hillside Cemetery. In keeping with the season, the lecture will be delivered without the aid of any technology and the chapel will be lit with only oil lamps and candles – producing an appropriately spooky effect. While the lecture is free, donations to the chapel restoration fund will be gladly accepted.


Bronze statue sought for monument by Medina Armory

By Orleans Hub Posted 27 October 2015 at 12:00 am

Rendering courtesy of Company F Memorial Committee
A fund-raising effort has started for a bronze statue of a soldier about 7 feet tall that would be on top of an existing stone base that is 6 feet, 10 inches in height.

By Tom Rivers, Editor
MEDINA – In October 2008, a stone monument was dedicated with plaques listing soldiers who trained at the Medina Armory and fought wars on behalf of the United States.

Now, seven years later the Company F Memorial Committee wants to put a finishing touch on the monument: a bronze statue of a soldier with a rifle over his shoulder.

The statue would be almost 7 feet high. That project, plus replacing a vandalized plaque and making name changes and additions on others, would cost about $90,000, said Bill Menz, chairman of committee.

The new fund-raising campaign would also pay for a flag pole about 30 feet high for the American flag. Right now it shares a pole with a Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flag.

Menz would like to have the project complete next year.

“This is the history of Orleans County,” said Menz, who led the efforts for the Company F Monument’s first phase. “We’re trying to wake up the historic spirit of the community.”

The Medina Armory opened in 1901 for Company F, which formed in 1891. It trained at a different location prior to the Armory. In 1977, the National Guard left the Medina Armory, a site on Pearl Street. The site has been used as a YMCA for more than three decades.

Courtesy Medina Sandstone Society
Company F prepares to leave Medina Oct. 24, 1940 for training at Fort McClellan and active duty in WWII. Saturday was the 75th anniversary of their departure.

Menz was one of the soldiers to train in the Armory. That was for 18 months when he was in the National Guard in the 1950s. He served on active duty in Greenland. He attained the rank of a corporal E-4.

The monument includes 550 names of local soldiers who fought in wars on behalf of the United States. The soldiers enlisted and trained at the Medina Armory for conflicts from 1898 to 1945 including the Spanish-American War, Mexican-American, World War I and World War II.

In 2006, a group of Medina veterans, their family members and representatives from the Medina Sandstone Society embarked on a project to provide a permanent tribute to the 550 soldiers from Orleans County and the surrounding area who joined Company F.

After two years of planning, fund-raising and building the monument, it was dedicated on Oct. 14, 2008.

The Company F Memorial Committee is working with the Orleans County Joint Veterans Council and Lincoln Post No. 1483 VFW for the additions to the monument, including the statue.

Any donations for the statue can be mailed to Company F Monument, P.O. Box 522, Medina NY, 14103. For more information, click here.

Photo by Tom Rivers

Bill Menz is pushing to have a statue and another flag pole by the monument next to the Medina Armory.