County asked to help fund historical markers

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 June 2015 at 12:00 am

File photo by Tom Rivers – The Orleans County Historical Association wants to preserve this one-room schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road in Gaines, just north of the Erie Canal. The building (pictured in March) was built in 1832 and is one of the oldest cobblestone structures in the county. The Historical Association would like to have a historical marker noting the building’s history as a schoolhouse.

ALBION – Orleans County’s pride in its history is obvious from the many markers that celebrate prominent former residents, architectural marvels and other important sites in the county, County Historian Matt Ballard said.

For many years, the county set aside funds in the historian’s budget to help pay for the blue and gold markers that are sprinkled around the county, Ballard told county legislators on Wednesday.

Ballard wants to have those funds reinstated some more markers can go up in a partnership with the Orleans County Historical Association.

That group wants a marker on Gaines Basin Road for a former one-room cobblestone schoolhouse that was built in 1832. That site “is likely the oldest cobblestone building we have in Orleans County,” said Al Capurso, who is leading the effort to preserve the former schoolhouse, which has largely been abandoned since 1944.

The Historical Association is in process of acquiring the former school house from Jim Panek, who is donating the building, Capurso said. Volunteers have been cleaning out the school house and planning for its future.

The marker would note the Gaines Basin Schoolhouse was built from field cobblestones in 1832, replacing a log cabin where Caroline Phipps taught. She would later start a seminary for women in Albion at a site where the County Clerks’ Building now stands.

Here is a rendering on how the historical marker could look.

The historical marker would cost $1,289. Capurso and Ballard asked legislators to set aside $500 in county funds for the marker. The Historical Association would pay the remaining $789.

Legislature Chairman David Callard said the county wants to first see a public campaign to cover the $500. If the funds can’t be raised, Callard said the Legislature would consider the request.

Callard also said he would like to see the group work on refurbishing some of the existing signs that have flaking paint and are difficult to read.

Capurso said the effort to preserve the schoolhouse has enjoyed support in the community, from Jim Panek, the volunteers on the cleaning crew, and the Town of Gaines, which said it would have highway workers set the marker in concrete.

Capurso said the marker and effort to save the site will honor the cobblestone masons from nearly two centuries ago, and the many students and teachers who worked out of the building.

Putting up the marker and safeguarding the building are small tasks compared to efforts of the early settlers, teachers and students.

“Our efforts pale in contrast to what they’ve done,” Capurso said.

He also praised the contributions of the late Emilio Dilodovico, a farmer who kept the schoolhouse from collapse.

“He kept it going,” Capurso said. “It’s still structurally sound.”

For more information on the project, call Capurso at 590-0763.

Bruce Schmidt, a Gaines town justice and member of the Historical Association, also encouraged the county to develop heritage tourism trails. He cited a smiliar effort in Niagara County. The trails could have locations about the Underground Railroad, Civil War and other historical sites, Schmidt said.