Hoag will shelve some of its local history programs

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 November 2013 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Village Historian Neil Johnson gives a talk today about the iron fireman that once was on top of the Hose Fire Company in Albion for three years before a Rochester Fire Company took it in 1890. Several fire companies stole the Iron Fireman from each other before it found a permanent home in Honeoye Falls.

ALBION – They have a dedicated following, drawing at least 20 “groupies” for local history lectures. But after December, Neil Johnson and Dee Robinson won’t be giving regular talks at Hoag Library.

A tight budget has prompted the library to cease some of its programs. Johnson and Robinson were almost cancelled in June but the Albion Rotary Club contributed $1,000 towards programming. That money kept the historical talks and some other programs going until December.

The library is trying to stretch its programming budget. That has resulted in some cuts.

Johnson gives a monthly lecture called “Take a Bite out of History.” He does it the third Wednesdays each month over the lunch hour. Robinson, the Gaines town historian, gives a “Tea with Dee” historical talk on the first Tuesdays each month.

They are each paid $65 for a talk, which includes their hours of research for the programs. The library has additional advertising costs for the events. The Friends of the Library pays for the refreshments for the programs.

Johnson spoke today about the saga of the 5-foot-high iron fireman that fire companies stole from each other during through 1880s until 1891, when it was finally placed in Honeoye Falls atop a building, where it still stands high in the air.

The Albion Hose Company took the fireman from Lockport in 1887 and then placed him at the top of a 75-foot-tower, where the current Perfecto Cleaners building stands at the end of Platt Street.

The iron fireman was taken in 1890 by Rochester firefighters who were in town for a firemen’s convention.

Johnson’s final scheduled lecture will be next month on Dec. 18 at 12:15 p.m. He will talk about Christmas locally during the Civil War.

Robinson likes to tell stories about women’s history. She will share about the food traditions and popular presents during Christmas 100 years ago. That lecture is scheduled for noon on Dec. 3.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” Robinson said. “It’s fun to research people.”

Both said they will continue to research local history. Johnson is trying to develop a web site with Albion history. He may put 30-minute videos on a site that is under construction.

The library is feeling a financial pinch as it pays the debt for a new library. Hoag’s budget for debt payments jumped from $64,961 in 2012 to $141,000 this year.

The library eliminated one position and cut back its programming budget from $12,000 to $2,000 to try to lessen the impact on taxpayers. The library’s budget increased from $658,908 to $678,978 in 2013. The increase would have been more without the programming and staff cuts.

Besides the new library, Hoag still has the former Swan Library mansion. That site costs about $20,000 to maintain with utilities plus insurance each year.

Library President Kevin Doherty said two prospective buyers are interested in that site. County officials had talked about making the site a local museum, but the two other buyers are also showing interest in the property.

“It won’t be immediate when we sell it,” said Susan Rudnicky, library director.

She expects the building will have to be put out to bid if the county doesn’t move on the museum idea. Library officials say they will be happy when the site has a different owner.

“Right now it is a drain on the library,” Rudnicky said.