Medina will establish Sandstone Hall of Fame

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 April 2013 at 12:00 am
St. Mary's Catholic Church Medina

Photo by Tom Rivers – The Medina Sandstone Society is working to create a Hall of Fame that will recognize significant buildings and landmarks made from the local stone. The site could include St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Medina.

MEDINA – Some of Orleans County’s and Western New York’s cavernous churches, ornate public buildings, stately residences and enduring memorials share a common building block: Medina sandstone.

A local group wants to recognize some of the long-lasting and architecturally significant sites made of sandstone.

The Medina Sandstone Society has announced it is working to establish a Hall of Fame for buildings and sites made of the local stone. The group would like to induct the first class in October.

“A big part of this is we want to build awareness of the architectural beauty that was created from Medina sandstone and this wonderful resource we have in this community,” said David Miller, one of the Sandstone Society members working on the project.

Nearly 200 years ago Medina sandstone was discovered locally when the canal was dug. Some of that stone in early 1820s was used to build the Canal Culvert in Ridgeway and the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse in Rochester.

Erie Canal Culvert

Photo by Tom Rivers – The Canal Culvert in Ridgeway, built in 1823, is one of area’s most famous sandstone structures. The Medina Sandstone Society hopes to have a list of Hall of Fame nominees by August with the inaugural class to be announced in the fall.

A decade later, the first commercial Medina sandstone quarry opened. In the 100 years that followed, thousands of immigrants were drawn to Orleans County quarries, unearthing the stone and shaping it for some of the region’s most enduring and architecturally significant buildings.

Miller, Jim Hancock and John Slack think it’s long overdue that Medina sandstone is celebrated for its role in some of the area’s most recognizable structures. The trio is leading the effort to create a “Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame.” The society is developing a list of potential HOF nominees. A list of nominees may be presented to the community during Medina’s Canal Fest in August with an induction program possibly in October.

Miller and Hancock were asked by the Sandstone Society earlier this year to investigate the feasibility of establishing a Hall of Fame. The small committee said the project can be done and the full society board backed the project last month.

Miller said the HOF may be a modest effort in the beginning. The society may decide to just enshrine one site from Medina and another one from Western New York for the first class, and then add more in the following years. Or the first class could include several sites from around the state.

“We don’t have to start out with a big bang,” Miller said. “We’re going to feel our way through this. It can definitely grow.”

The size of the class, and the location for the HOF, will be determined in the coming months. Miller said the HOF will likely include framed photographs of the sites with plaques describing their significance. The owners of the buildings will be invited to Medina for the HOF induction.

“We may not limit it to one location,” he said about the Hall of Fame display. “We will put it on the Web. We could have it in the visitor’s center and maybe have a traveling show.”

Richardson Olmsted Complex in Buffalo

Photo by Tom Rivers – The Medina Sandstone Society wants to honor sandstone sites in Orleans County, the region and elsewhere. The Richardson Olmsted Complex in Buffalo, which includes twin copper-roofed towers, is one of many Buffalo buildings made from Medina sandstone.

The group’s immediate task is to identify “a list of exceptional structures locally and farther away.” He wants to catalog Medina sandstone sites. He hopes the Hall of Fame encourages more sandstone appreciation projects in Orleans County. He supports the creation of a Sandstone Trail that would link Medina, Albion, Hulberton and Holley – which were all home to sandstone quarries. Many sandstone buildings remain in those communities. A trail with roadside markers would raise more public recognition for the county’s sandstone heritage, he said.

He also would like to see each community develop walking tours of their sandstone buildings.

“The Hall of Fame is only one aspect of this,” he said. “We should develop a trail and build momentum around our sandstone. We want to give people more to do when they come to Medina and Orleans County.”