Cobblestone building owners will open doors to public on Saturday

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 September 2013 at 12:00 am

7 houses and cobblestone church will be on tour

Photos by Tom Rivers – This home owned by Ken and Mary Anne Braunbach on Zig-Zag Road in Gaines will be part of a tour of cobblestone houses on Saturday.

The Cobblestone Universalist Church on Route 104 was built in 1834. It’s part of a museum that is a National Historic Landmark, the only site in Orleans County with that designation.

GAINES – Between 1825 and 1860, early settlers in Orleans County, many of them farmers or quarry workers, used round stones on the exterior walls of their houses.

They set the stones in rows, using lime mortar. The buildings have proved durable, and unique to western and central New York where about 900 cobblestone structures still stand.

Orleans County has about 100 of them, including the Cobblestone Universalist Church built in 1834. That church and a house next door will be part of a tour this Saturday that also includes six other historic cobblestone homes.

The tour is a fund-raiser for the Cobblestone Society Museum. It also provides the public a chance to compare the masonry and architectural features of the buildings, and see how the property owners have worked to preserve the interiors or to make some modifications. Organizers believe this is the first local historic home tour that exclusively features cobblestone buildings.

Mary Anne Braunbach serves on the museum board of directors. Her home on Zig-Zag Road will be on the tour.

Braunbach and her husband Ken are both retired teachers from the Lockport school district. Braunbach, an Albion native, was looking for a house in the country about 19 years ago. She and her husband were looking for a house in either Middleport or Medina to stay close to Lockport.

Then they saw the house on Zig-Zag. It needed some work, but the two teachers liked the history behind the house, which was built in the 1840s.

They have filled it with antiques and other pieces that have a connection to the community. Braunbach also owns a historic downtown building. When she was cleaning out the basement of 138 North Main St., she found three empty glass bottles of beer from the 1800s. She cleaned the bottles and has them on display in her house.

She also has been collecting containers from the 1800s that were used to transport goods by canal boats. Those salt glaze pottery jugs were used to send hard cider great distances. Other containers held grains.

Braunbach has other local historical pieces, including artwork about the canal, including the Main Street lift bridge.

“This home is full of sentimentality,” she said. “That’s why I love this house so much. It has a story. I’m proud to be part of the area’s history.”

Cobblestone home builders set round stones in mortar as part of the exterior walls.

Braunbach and her husband put a cedar addition on the back of the house. People know they enjoy local history. One friend gave them a hitching post. They bought another one, giving their property three of those artifacts from the horse-and-buggy era. They believe one by the road is an original from more than a century ago.

The Braunbachs hope the house endures as a historic site for years to come. Mrs. Braunbach is exploring having it on the National Register of Historic Places.

Other houses on the tour include the Ward House owned by the The Cobblestone Society Museum, Bullard-Lattin House owned by C.W. “Bill” Lattin, Burgess House owned by Theresa Ames, Steward House owned by Sheri Egeli, Blood House owned by Dennis and Beth Thompson, and the Tolford House owned by William and Cecelia Feldman.

The tour runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Advance sale tickets are available at the Hoag Library and the Cobblestone Society Museum. On Saturday, tour programs and day-of-tour tickets will be available for pickup at the library and the Cobblestone Society Museum. Call (585) 356-5532 for more information.

The Braunbachs’ property includes three historic hitching posts. This one is unusual with its cube shape.