3 more sites inducted into Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 October 2022 at 9:16 am

St. Joseph’s in Albion, Canal Culvert in Ridgeway and Ryan Quarry House in Clarendon recognized by Medina Sandstone Society

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Medina Sandstone Society added three sites to its Hall of Fame at Medina City Hall. There are now 35 sites in the Hall of Fame which was established in 2013. Pictured from left include: Brandan Simon, west region canal engineer for Canal Corporation (representing the Canal Culvert); Maureen and Robert Christian, owners of the Ryan Quarry home on South Holley Road in Clarendon; and the Rev. Richard Csizmar, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Albion which was recognized for St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, its lyceum on Main Street and the chapel at St. Joseph’s Cemetery on Route 31.

MEDINA – The Medina Sandstone Society inducted three members into the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame on Thursday, bringing the total to 35 sites that have now been recognized since the Hall of Fame was established in 2013.

The three new inductees are all in Orleans County and include the Erie Canal Culvert in the Town of Ridgeway, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Albion (including the parish’s lyceum and cemetery chapel), and the Ryan Quarry home owned by Robert and Maureen Christian on South Holley Road in Clarendon.

The Hall of Fame includes churches, mansions, civic buildings, monuments and public works projects from Erie, Pa., to Buffalo, Batavia and Orleans County, Rochester and the Finger Lakes region.

Dave Miller welcomes about 30 people to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Thursday in the main meeting room at Medina City Hall. The Hall of Fame plaques are all made and donated by Takeform.

David Miller, Hall of Fame Committee chairman, said the Sandstone Society wants to showcase how the local quarried stone was used to build so many magnificent sites.

“What a wealth of beautiful buildings that have come out of the ground in Orleans County,” he said during Thursday afternoon’s Hall of Fame ceremony at Medina City Hall. “We need to appreciate them.”

About 70 sites have now been nominated for the hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame Committee wants to recognize Medina Sandstone sites with exceptional beauty, architectural uniqueness and longevity, or as Miller said, sites “that have the wow effect.”

Miller said the Sandstone Society welcomes more nominations. (Click here for more information.)

The Canal Culvert on Culvert Road in Ridgeway was initially built in 1823 for the Erie Canal. The current culvert was built in 1911 when the canal was enlarged. This is the only spot where traffic can go under the Erie Canal.

While the Hall of Fame features many ornate churches, mansions and civic structures, the Canal Culvert is the first inductee that served a more utilitarian purpose as a public infrastructure project.

The culvert has a 7 foot, 6 inch clearance, with a peak height of 11 feet inside the tunnel.

The stone tunnel is 200 feet long, 11 feet high at its peak and 19 feet wide. It is an iconic site in Orleans County, and is one of a kind on the 524-mile-long canal system – the only place where you can drive under the canal. The site has been featured on Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

The culvert was originally built in 1823 and was enlarged when the canal was expanded. The current culvert was built in 1911 as part of the Barge Canal enlargement.

The stone arch structure has a reinforced concrete prism liner directly above it, said Brendan Simon, west region canal engineer for the Canal Corp.

“The structure is near and dear to the canals,” Simon said. “I don’t know of any other structure like it on the canal system. Our staff is passionate about maintaining key pieces of infrastructure like the stone arch culvert.”

Simon said the Canal Corp. is gearing up for the 200th anniversary celebration of the Erie Canal in 2025. That year Buffalo will host the World Canals Conference.

Photos by David Miller: The Ryan Quarry House has been lovingly restored and cared for by Maureen and Robert Christian. The home was built in 1863 from stone likely obtained from the nearby banks of Sandy Creek. A former quarry on the property is now a 2-acre pond. This farmhouse became the office building for the Ryan Company quarry beginning in 1920.

The induction of the Ryan Quarry House at 4160 South Holley Rd. in Clarendon is the first Hall of Fame inductee that has a direct link to a Medina Sandstone quarry operation.

The house was likely built from sandstone from the banks of the east branch of Sandy Creek. This was in 1863 when there weren’t any commercial quarries in Clarendon.

This part of Clarendon and Holley would later have three quarries – Down’s and Gorman’s quarry in 1881, Gleason Place quarry in 1890 and the large Ryan Company quarry in 1920.

The Ryan quarry was adjacent to the house at 4160 South Holley Rd. and the building was used as an office building for the Ryan Company in the 1920s and much of the ’30s. Writing from Civilian Conservation Corps workers were found inside on the walls of the house during a later restoration.

Dave Miller of the Sandstone Society praised Maureen and Robert Christian for an extensive renovation and upkeep since they bought it in 1977. They credited their aunt Flo Johnson for saving the site when she bought it in 1950. At that point the site had been abandoned with a collapsed roof and trees growing up inside the house.

“She was told it was too far gone,” Mr. Christian said. “But she always wanted a stone house in the country.”

The Christians bought the house from her in 1977 and raised their three children at the house. Mrs. Christian said the sound of the nearby creek and waterfalls is peaceful and relaxing.

“We just love the history of it,” she said. “It’s built like a fortress.”

Her husband said the family has tried to maintain a part of the county’s sandstone legacy.

“That’s what it’s all about – being a steward of it,” he said.

Miller said the Hall of Fame would like to include more history of local quarrying families. The group welcomes biographies of families that were prominent in the local quarrying industry.

Photos by Tom Rivers: St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Albion is a new member of the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame. The First Baptist Church, right, is St. Joseph’s neighbor on West Park Street.

The induction of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church is long overdue, said Jim Hancock, a member of Hall of Fame Committee. The site was nominated this year by former County Historian Bill Lattin. It joins other Albion sites in the Hall of Fame including the Pullman Memorial Universalist Church, First Presbyterian Church of Albion, and the Civil War Monument at Mount Albion Cemetery.

St. Joseph’s Church was dedicated in 1897, built of locally quarried sandstone in a Gothic Revival style on West Park Street. The parish also dedicated St. Joseph’s School and Lyceum on Main Street in 1905 and then a new chapel at St. Joseph’s Cemetery on Route 31 in 1920. The lyceum is the first school to be included in the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame Committee praised Holy Family Parish for its care of the three sites for more than a century.

The Rev. Richard Csizmar, pastor of the parish since 1994, said many people over the years have given resources, time and talent to keep up the sites. The lyceum recently completed a $100,000 renovation, he noted.

“They’re so valuable, so beautiful, and so memorable” he said about the buildings. “They are gifts from God.”

The Medina Sandstone Society also highlighted the lyceum and chapel in the Hall of Fame induction for St. Joseph’s, which is in the Holy Family Parish.

Editor’s Note: Orleans Hub editor Tom Rivers is a member of the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame Committee.