‘Five to Revive’ designation could help bring resources to historic district
GAINES – The recent “Five to Revive” designation by the Landmark Society of Western New York should bring attention to the historic district in Gaines, where there are cobblestone and brick buildings from before 1850.
The Cobblestone Museum is hopeful the designation will galvanize local and state officials to look for ways to make the district more pedestrian friendly, while also promoting the area as a tourism destination.
The routes 98 and 104 intersection is a busy spot in Orleans County. Not only are there several businesses and a museum in the hamlet, but motorists pass through on their way to other destinations.
The museum would like to see sidewalks in the district, better signage, historic-looking street lights and a reduced speed limit.
“This area has so much history,” said Doug Farley, the museum director. “The (Five to Revive) will do nothing but help us if we promote it right.”
Mark Tillman, owner of Tillman’s Village Inn, would like to see a reduced speed limit, and more ambitious marketing plan for the historic cobblestone district. The businesses and museum do a lot of their own marketing, and would benefit from a bigger collective push about the historic district, he said.
The district is highlighted by three cobblestone buildings – a church, a residence and a schoolhouse – that were designated as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1993. This is the only site in Orleans County ranked as a National Historic Landmark.
This ranking means the sites have national importance, including such nearby sites as the George Eastman House and Susan B. Anthony House in Rochester, the Holland Land Office Museum in Batavia, and the Darwin R. Martin House and U.S.S. The Sullivans in Buffalo.
Farley said the historic district is at a main crossroads in the county, with routes 98 and 104. The museum is exploring having a visitor’s site at the district and would welcome the county as a partner in the project, Farley told county legislators last month.
The Five to Revive has been critical in bringing attention and funding to the former Holley High School (being renovated for $17 million into apartments and the village offices) and the chapel at Hillside Cemetery.
Farley said the historic district is not well marked with signs and he is concerned about the 45 mile per hour speed limit.
“The cars travel past us at a very high clip,” Farley told the county legislators.
There isn’t much parking in the hamlet for larger tractor trailers and trucks. Many park on the edge of Route 104 near the Crosby’s convenience store.
The museum will often bring out traffic cones and have road marshals during events to make it safer for pedestrians.
Carol Culhane, the former town supervisor, manages Fairhaven Treasures at a brick building owned by Ray Burke at the routes 98 and 104 intersection. She said a reduced speed limit should be a top priority.
The speed limit drops to 40 mph near the Gaines Town Hall to past the intersection with Gaines Basin Road. Culhane would like the speed limit to go down to 35 in the historic district. But she said it isn’t an easy process to petition the state Department of Transportation and get DOT approval for a reduction in speed.
“To lower the speed limit would be wonderful,” she said. “But the state is very particular. It is a very long, arduous journey to get them to change that.”
The museum buildings are spread out on Route 104, with several buildings also on Route 98, south of Ridge Road. The museum could use more parking, and the sidewalks would make it safer for the visitors on foot, Culhane said.
Farley urged the local elected officials to work with the museum, businesses and residents in the district to develop a plan to better promote the district, and make it safer for pedestrians.
“We certainly have a wonderful historic product here that we can be proud of,” he said. “The sky is really the limit if we put on our thinking cap with the resources we have.”
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