Chamber Phoenix Award: Fair Haven Treasures
Ray and Linda Burke bring a grand old house back to life
GAINES – Ray Burke says he was looking for a “project.” About two years ago he and his wife Linda bought a stately old house at the corner of routes 98 and 104 in the heart of the Cobblestone Historic District.
The house has been vacant for five years and needed significant renovations. Burke and a team of volunteers went to work. The site was given a new life as “Fair Haven Treasures,” a business featuring crafters and artisans. Fair Haven now has nine vendors with room for more.
The Chamber of Commerce has picked Fair Haven for its “Phoenix Award,” recognition given to a significant restoration effort. The award will be presented on Sept. 20.
“It’s a lovely old home and I’m glad we did it,” Mr. Burke said. “It’s been a lot of work and there’s more to do.”
Gaines Town Supervisor Carol Culhane watched the old brick house decline in recent years before the Burkes bought it. She served on the Zoning Board of Appeals with Mr. Burke a few years ago and the two became friends. Culhane suggested the Burkes buy the building and she envisioned it as a site for high-end artisans, live music and other special events.
Culhane and her husband Gerry helped bring the building back to life. They teamed with the Burkes and other volunteers to remove plywood and linoleum from the floors, and discovered hardwood floors underneath. They took out one wall to make a bigger room that can be used for performances, book-signings and public events.
“You could see the house was declining,” Culhane said. “It’s so tragic to see these beautiful stately homes decline.”
She grew up in the “Dutchtown” neighborhood in Rochester. That area in Jay, Childs and Ames streets has been overwhelmed with crime, and so many of the houses, even her old high school, have been torn down, Culhane said.
When she saw the brick house deteriorating, she worried it would meet the same fate as some of the beloved buildings of her youth.
The 3,040-square-foot brick house was built in 1834, the same year the Cobblestone Universalist Church was erected across the street. Burke said the house is a prominent location and should be a showcase for the community.
“It’s the crossroads of the county and the crossroads of our town,” he said. “It’s a stately building that sits up on a hill.”
Burke is retired from DuPont in Rochester. The former machine shop foreman also has renovated smaller houses as rental properties. He has built his own plane and driven a Harley. He was looking for something else, a new challenge with the brick house.
“I’ve had all the toys and I’ve always been busy,” he said. “I can’t stand to sit still. This house will probably never be done. The list is on and on.”
Burke put in a new driveway and parking lot for the house, which required 1,300 tons of stone. He just added three flag poles out front and in the spring, there will be an International Peace Garden by the flags. It will be the second peace garden in Orleans County. Brown’s Berry Patch has the first.
To be a peace garden, the site needs to have a historic connection to the War of 1812. The site was once owned by John Proctor, who is considered the Paul Revere of Ridge Road. He warned residents the British were coming during the War of 1812. Proctor also gave the hamlet the name Fair Haven.
Culhane helps manage the site, lining up vendors and planning events. Fair Haven will begin offering “paint and sip” classes every two weeks beginning on Sept. 17. Participants can sip wine and paint in classes led by Culhane.
Fair Haven also is working with two other businesses, Tillman’s Village Inn and The Cabaret at Studio B, for an “Evening in Orleans” this Sunday. Fair Haven will host a wine-tasting from 3 to 4 p.m. before the activity shifts to the Village Inn and then the Cabaret.
Burke said he has been encouraged by the business partnerships in the community and other new business ventures. Tillman’s is expanding its dining facilities, and Ridge Road in Gaines also is home to other recently opened ventures including the Old Goat antique store, Cobble-Ridge Co-Op and the Rocking R Ranch.
He sees the Ridge Road corridor as a draw for culture and history enthusiasts.
“Things are happening in the town,” Burke said.