New Sandstone Hall of Fame nominees called ‘magnificent’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 November 2014 at 12:00 am

Provided photo – St. Peter’s Cathedral in Erie, Pa., towers 265 feet and remains a dominant part of the city skyline.

MEDINA – Eleven sites, some soaring 200 feet or higher, have joined the list of nominations for the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame.

Some of the nominees are huge and breathtaking in their size. St. Peter’s Cathedral in Erie, Pa., takes up about three city blocks. It towers more than 265 feet.

“It is truly a magnificent structure with massive amounts of Medina sandstone,” Jim Hancock, a member of the Hall of Fame Committee, said during a nomination reception on Thursday.

The church was built in 1894. It was the first site outside New York State to make the list of nominees.

Photo by Tom Rivers – The First Presbyterian Church in Albion, shown during a winter storm last February, has endured many Western New York winters.

Three sites were nominated from Orleans County: First Presbyterian Church in Albion, built in 1874; the former St. Rocco’s Catholic Church (now Cornerstone Christian Church), built by Italian immigrants in Hulberton in 1906; and Robin Hill Manor, a residence completed in 1952 by William Smith in Lyndonville.

Several locations in Buffalo also were nominated: The Asbury-Delaware Church (now known as Babeville), built in 1876 and now a performing arts venue and events center owned by singer Ani DiFranco; the Olmsted Circles at the Buffalo parks, built in 1876; the Buffalo Crematory from 1885; and the W.H. Gratwick House, built in 1888 but torn down in 1919. (Because it was demolished it wouldn’t be included in the Hall of Fame).

John Slack, a member of the Hall of Fame Committee, discusses the Olmsted Circles, which have been nominated for the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame.

Two sites were nominated in Jamestown. St. Luke’s Episcopal Church was constructed from 1892 to 1894. The site includes a tower with a clock on four faces, as well as the city’s only chime bells. The Prendergast family funded the church project.

That family also paid for Jamestown’s public library. The James Prendergast Free Library opened in 1891. The building consumes an entire city block on Cherry Street. The library has rounded arches, a turret on the southeast corner and stone steps that were cut from a single stone to help the steps weather the harsh winter climate.

Photo by Tom Rivers – The Prendergast Library in Jamestown is one of two sites from Jamestown nominated for the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame.

The HOF Committee traveled to Central New York to visit the Sonnenberg Mansion in Canandaigua. The Queen Anne-style mansion was built from 1885 to 1887 and has 40 rooms. The Sonnenberg Mansion and its gardens are now a part of the New York State Parks Department.

Provided photo – The Sonnenberg Mansion is now part of the NY State Park Department. The 40-room mansion was completed in 1887.

The nominated sites join 15 holdovers from 2013 for consideration for the Hall of Fame. Six inaugural sites were enshrined last December. The second class will be inducted in the spring.

“We can be proud of the Medina Sandstone Society for recognizing the beautiful sandstone buildings that have been erected from Orleans County stone,” said Kathy Blackburn, director of the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce.

During a reception Thursday at the Medina Theatre, she praised the Sandstone Society for working to preserve and promote the Medina Sandstone heritage. The Sandstone Society also gives out annual grants for local community projects.

Jennifer Wells-Dickerson speaks about her great-grandfather, Pasquale DiLaura of Albion, who kept the sandstone industry alive from 1920 to the 1960s.

Thursday’s reception included a feature about Pasquale DiLaura. When the sandstone industry was struggling in 1920, he opened a quarry in Clarendon and lined up work for the stone masons. DiLaura led the crews that built the Hamlin Beach State Park. He taught the young men in the Civilian Conservation Corps how to cut stone. Many of those structures endure about 80 years after they were built.

DiLaura’s stone also was used for the Lake Ontario State Parkway and many other local projects. His great-granddaughter, Jennifer Wells-Dickerson, shared his story during the reception on Thursday. She said she is working on a book about DiLaura.