Orleans County Historical Association celebrates a busy year

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 December 2018 at 11:33 am

Provided photos: Jim Bonafini (left), president of the Cobblestone Society and Museum, was honored on Saturday by the Orleans County Historical Association for making the wooden sign for Beardsley Creek on Route 104 in Gaines. Bonafini accepts the “Friend of Orleans County Historical Association” award from Al Capurso, president of OCHA which organized a ceremony on July 28 for the sign unveiling.

GAINES – The Orleans County Historical Association held its annual meeting on Saturday and celebrated a busy year.

The group also picked a new president. Matt Ballard, the Orleans County historian, will succeed Al Capurso.

The outgoing president said it was an active year for the organization, especially with its efforts to preserve a former cobblestone schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road.

“Progress has been made in the restoration of our 1832 Gaines Basin Schoolhouse,” Capurso said. “The electric service is in. The subfloor and ceiling are done. The exterior has restored trim and has been painted. The rubble wall has been secured. Last year the facade wall was repaired on all sides. Several pine trees have been planted and metal stakes placed marking the property line.”

Capurso praised Bill Lattin, retired county historian, for his “countless hours” of work in restoration, planting trees and providing technical assistance to workers at the schoolhouse.

John Flanagan also worked on the school for his Eagle Scout project, fixing the trim and painting at the site.

Capurso also noted that Dan Flanagan gave a 1830’s-period door for the schoolhouse. Rick Ebbs and Lattin restored the schoolhouse’s swing set and set up the schoolhouse’s privy. Ebbs also has kept the property neatly mowed, Capurso said.

Larry Albanese, president of The Oak Orchard Lighthouse Museum, served as guest speaker on Saturday during the annual meeting for the Orleans County Historical Association.

“The remaining major work is plastering the walls, refinishing the woodwork and laying the finished floor,” Capurso said. “We have applied for a Curtis Foundation Grant to assist with the plastering project. It takes vision, organization and money to conduct historical preservation of this magnitude. The result of doing nothing would have been another example of architecture destroyed and lost forever. OCHA should take pride in its courage and commitment to this project.”

For the second year the schoolhouse was on the Cobblestone Society’s Tour Of Homes during the Orleans County Heritage Festival. About 30-40 people took a tour of the schoolhouse.

Along with the DAR, the Cobblestone Society and Hoag Library, OCHA co-sponsored a reception and recognition on April 26 for author Melissa Ostrom. Macmillan published her book, “The Beloved Wild.” That historical work depicts the courage of pioneers, who were typically only teen-agers when they settled in WNY. Ostrom was presented with a pioneer log cabin model with an engraved plaque on behalf of OCHA and the history-minded community.

Capurso on Saturday also thanked the Cobblestone Society for allowing OCHA to meet in at the Cobblestone Society buildings, and to Director Doug Farley for loaning tables and chairs for events, and for updating the website. Helen Bilicki also was thanked for arranging some OCHA meetings at her residence.

OCHA also was represented with a float in two parades – the Holley June Fest and the Albion Strawberry Festival. Leroy Neeper was commended for pulling the float with his truck and loaning his flatbed trailer.

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