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Historical marker at Crossroads in Gaines gets a fresh coat of paint

Staff Reports Posted 10 October 2018 at 7:36 am

Provided photos

GAINES – Another local historical marker has been cleaned up and given a fresh coat of paint. Melissa Ierlan of Clarendon has been working on the markers in recent years.

She repainted the sign at Route 279 and Route 104, the “Crossroads” of the Oak Orchard and Ridge roads. The Gaines Highway Department on Tuesday put the marker back up at the corner.

Here is how the sign looked before it was repainted.

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Cobblestone Museum supporters step up efforts to stop Dollar General

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 September 2018 at 4:40 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers: Supporters of the Cobblestone Museum have put out signs to stop a new Dollar General from being built on Route 104, across from the historic Cobblestone Schoolhouse. This photo shows a sign in front of the Ward House. The three cobblestone buildings in the museum are a National Historic Landmark.

GAINES – The Cobblestone Museum has new signs – “Save Historic Cobblestone – No Dollar General!” – also has sent a letter to the Dollar General CEO, urging the company to find another site for a proposed store.

The museum also has petitions signed by about 1,100 people, opposing a Dollar General in the historic district on Route 104, Doug Farley, the museum director, said today.

The “Save Historic Cobblestone” signs are the latest effort to raise awareness about the issue, and to urge the Town of Gaines Zoning Board of Appeals to say no to the project.

The museum also sent a letter in mid-September to Dollar General executives, including CEO Todd Vasos.

“I am writing to make you aware that the reputation of your company is being damaged,” states the letter from the museum. “There is a proposal to build a new Dollar General store in Gaines, NY. The proposed site is within the area zoned Historic/Commercial, but most significantly it is directly across the road from the only National Historic Landmark in Orleans County, the Cobblestone Historic District.

“The addition of a modern building in this district is very upsetting to many of the area residents. In fact, about 1,000 have already signed a petition asking the Town of Gaines to deny this proposal and Dollar General to find a site outside the small historic zone.”

Dollar General hasn’t submitted a formal plan for the store but has been discussing the project with the town. The ZBA will next meet 7 p.m. on Monday at the Albion High School cafeteria. The meeting site has been moved from the Gaines Town Hall to the school due to the expected larger crowd.

The museum sent its letter to the company officials at the Dollar General headquarters in Goodlettsville, Tenn.

“By pursuing this location, your company is portraying itself as uncaring and indifferent to the concerns of the local community,” the letter states. “You are also alienating at least 1,000 potential customers who will not patronize the store if built on the proposed site. Boycotting the store will not be an inconvenience to these people as there are three dollar stores within a five mile radius of Gaines, and another Dollar General three miles away in Albion.

“I urge you to demonstrate your company is a ‘good neighbor’ and find a location outside this zone for your new store. Doing so will greatly improve the tarnished reputation you are currently building with your potential customers.”

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Museum will use grant funds for work on historic Cobblestone School

Photos by Tom Rivers: The historic Cobblestone School, built in 1849, will get a new roof, paint and repaired masonry with two grants for about $30,000 covering the cost.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 September 2018 at 9:39 am

GAINES – The Cobblestone Museum is the owner and caretaker of a schoolhouse from 1849 that is one of three cobblestone buildings on Ridge Road designated as a National Historic Landmark.

The schoolhouse will soon get a new roof, repaired masonry and fresh paint on the window trim and soffits near the roof.

The Rochester Area Community Foundation approved a $21,000 grant for the work at the schoolhouse through the Lloyd E. Klos Historical Fund. The Elizabeth Dye Curtis Foundation in Orleans County will contribute $8,800 towards the schoolhouse, with the funds targeted for the roof replacement.

Doug Farley, director of the Cobblestone Museum, shows where the foundation in the school has cracks and deterioration. That corner will likely have to be removed and rebuilt.

The upcoming projects are the latest attention in preserving the historic building. Last year the bell tower was repaired and the bell rededicated.

This year, the wooden windows were removed and restored through a seminar with the Landmark Society of Western New York. The windows were repaired as part of a workshop teaching others how to fix and preserve wooden sills and frames that are about a century old.

A window specialist taught how to evaluate old windows, removing sashes from the window opening, removing putty and paint, installing new sash cords, weather-stripping old windows and other skills for preserving windows.

The upcoming project will fill some of the cracks and gaps in mortar at the school.

The window project made the museum aware of additional needs at the schoolhouse, including a deteriorating foundation, especially in the northeastern corner.

Museum Director Doug Farley and Erin Anheier, a trustee for the museum, applied for a grant through the Rochester Area Community Foundation. The organization approved $21,000 for the foundation work. The northeastern corner may have to be taken out and rebuilt.

The grant will also pay for exterior repointing of mortar. There are several gaps and cracks that need attention, Farley said.

The Rochester Area Community Foundation also provided a $23,000 grant about two years ago for work on the Cobblestone Universalist Church and the next-door Ward House. The grant covered the costs of painting the exterior of windows and the bell tower at the church, replacing rotted window sills and repairing a retaining wall in front of the church. The Ward House also had some of its masonry repointed, the front steps repaired and downspouts fixed to improve drainage.

The school – the Gaines District #5 Cobblestone Schoolhouse – is a short walk east of the Route 98 intersection on Ridge Road. The school was closed in 1952. The building was acquired by the Cobblestone Museum in 1960 – the year the museum formed.

In 1993, the U.S. Department of Interior named the school, the Ward House and Cobblestone Universalist Church as a National Historic Landmark, the highest historic designation from the federal government.

The interior of the school is largely unchanged from when the school was closed in 1952.

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Gaines gives approval for barn on 104 to be used for events

Photo by Tom Rivers: This barn on Route 104, just east of Route 98, has the Gaines town's permission to be used to host auctions, dances, weddings and other events.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 September 2018 at 11:53 am

GAINES – The Town of Gaines Zoning Board of Appeals approved the site plan and a special use permit for a barn on Route 104 to be used for a seasonal business in Commercial Historic District.

Ray Burke, owner of Fairhaven Treasures, wants to use the neighboring barn on Route 104, across from the Cobblestone Universalist Church, for retail sales, auctions, weddings and other events.

The Gaines ZBA approved the project on Monday. Burke is a member of the ZBA. He abstained from voting.

Burke acquired the barn at 14386-14398 Ridge Rd. Burke in his application said the barn would be available for the events on a seasonal basis because he uses it in the winter to store cars, boats and campers. He thinks using the site for events would fit in with the other nearby businesses.

“Our town is the center of the county at the crossroads of Route 104 and 98 and because of all the businesses on the Ridge we could become a destination for everyone travelling on these corridors,” he wrote in the application.

Burke has parking available behind the barn and east of the structure to accommodate visitors, without cars needing to back into the roadway, the Orleans County Planning Board said on Aug. 23, when that board approved the project.

The ZBA also set a public hearing for 7 p.m. on Oct. 1 for a variance request for a former cobblestone schoolhouse on Ridge Road. Bill and Jacqueline Bixler want to make the former school a one-family residence.

The Gaines ordinance requires one-family homes to be at least 980 square feet. The cobblestone school is only 896 square feet. It is on the west end of the town at 13592 Ridge Rd.

The Bixlers don’t want to change the historic nature of the building by putting on a small addition to increase the size.

Gaines town officials don’t believe the building has ever been used for a residence. The building, which doesn’t have a known construction date, is at least 150 years old.

The public hearing will be at the Albion High School cafeteria.

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Gaines expects public hearing for Dollar General store in next 2 months

Photo by Tom Rivers: Members of the Gaines Zoning Board of Appeals met Monday in the Albion High School cafeteria. The ZBA will hold its meetings there the next 2-3 months due to anticipated larger crowds because of a possible new Dollar General store on Ridge Road, across from a cobblestone school that is a National Historic Landmark. The board members include from left: Gerard Morrisey, Ray Burke, Chairman Michael Grabowski, David Thom and Curt Strickland.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 September 2018 at 8:18 am

GAINES – The Town of Gaines is expecting to soon receive a site plan for a new Dollar General on Ridge Road, a project that is opposed by the Cobblestone Museum which owns a cobblestone school from 1849 that is across the road from the site eyed for the store.

The developer for the project, the Zaremba Group, is working on the site plan, attempting to include suggestions from a state agency that has concerns about a new store in a nationally recognized historic district.

The NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation last month sent a letter to Michael Grabowski, chairman of the Gaines Zoning Board of Appeals. The state would prefer Dollar General find an alternative location for the store.

“It is our opinion that the construction of a generic retail building at this location will significantly alter the District 5 Schoolhouse’s visual environment and setting,” Sloane Bullough, Historic Sites Restoration Coordinator for the NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, wrote on Aug. 9. “The introduction of a modern generic commercial store with its associated 45 space parking and service areas will greatly impact the historic character of the National Landmark school as well as the two other nearby Landmarked cobblestone buildings.”

Zaremba isn’t looking elsewhere in Gaines for the new Dollar General. Instead, the developer will try to redesign the site to reduce the impact. Grabowski, the ZBA chairman, said Dollar General is considering suggestions from the state agency.

In her letter, Bullough said if no alternative site is found, the site across from the schoolhouse should be redesigned to have less of a visual impact. That could include having the parking lot on the side of the building instead of in front with the number of parking spaces pared down to the minimum.

State Parks would also like to see “a strong vegetative buffer be planted to visually screen the parking lot and building from the road.” The buffer could include mixture of deciduous and coniferous indigenous trees and shrubs. The trees should be planted in a staggered pattern and not in rows, she said.

“We understand that the developer and the Town of Gaines have already negotiated a low-lying sign, which is a good beginning for minimizing impact to the historic school and adjacent properties,” Bullough said.

Grabowski said he expects the ZBA will have a public hearing on the site plan in about two months. The ZBA has moved its meetings to the Albion High School cafeteria while the project is under review to accommodate larger crowds. There were about a dozen supporters of the Cobblestone Museum at the meeting on Monday. (The Gaines Town Board was also meeting on Monday and had its session at the Town Hall. The ZBA usually meets the first Monday of the month, but this month’s meeting was moved back a week due to Labor Day.)

Grabowski declined to let the Cobblestone Museum  speak about the project at the meeting Monday because the chairman said public comments will only be accepted at the public hearing. It’s the board’s policy to not allow comments on a project until a public hearing, he said.

After the meeting Doug Farley, the museum director, said the museum and its supporters welcome the opportunity to speak against the project.

Several hundred people have already signed a petition against the Dollar General in the historic district, saying the store “will mar the character and ambiance” of the Cobblestone Museum’s historic buildings on Ridge Road and also just south of Route 104 on Route 98.

The ZBA also passed a resolution to amend its by-laws insisting that all communications for projects go through the Town Hall. Grabowski said members have been called at their work places and at their homes, with other messages through their personal email.

If residents want to contact members about projects, they need to go through the Town Hall, the board voted in a majority. One member, Gerard Morrisey, opposed the issue, saying board members and the public shouldn’t be limited to the town offices.

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Cobblestone Museum hosts art show of ‘Sunday Painters’

Provided photos: Students in a class taught by Patricia Greene of Medina work on paintings earlier this year. Greene led three workshops. Some of the paintings will be on display at the museum in September and October, with an artists’ reception on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Cobblestone Universalist Church on Ridge Road.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 7 September 2018 at 4:05 pm

Jim Bonafini, president of the Cobblestone Museum, also was a student in one of the classes. Patricia Greene, the instructor, is in back at center.

CHILDS – Budding artists will show off their work during a reception at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Cobblestone Museum.

Artists are all members of the Cobblestone Sunday Painters’ group, which was taught by Pat Greene of Medina.

Many will be exhibiting their very first paintings, Greene said.

Artists are Valerie Collins, Susan Giorgio, Deb Roberts, Cathy Feldman, Cheryl Keppler, Pat Payne, Jim Bonafini and Sandy Chenelly.

In addition Greene will have five of her paintings in the exhibit.

The Sunday Painters classes are so popular, more will be scheduled in the future, according to Doug Farley, director of the Cobblestone Museum.

“This art exhibit is really amazing, considering many of the students just started painting this year at our Cobblestone Art Classes,” Farley said. “I would have thought the artists were seasoned professionals. Pat Greene has a very hands-on way of helping people get their ideas onto the canvas.”

A grant from the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council helped fund the project.

Greene led workshops on April 8 about composition, on May 6 about “Creating Drama” and on June 3 about “Learning from the Masters.”

Refreshments will be served during the reception on Saturday.

The exhibit will be open during regular museum hours in September and October – 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

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Museum has tour of cobblestone homes set for Sept. 15

Staff Reports Posted 6 September 2018 at 8:50 am

File photos by Tom Rivers: Pete Consler is pictured in front of his cobblestone home in Kent, which also includes a carriage step. Consler and his wife Joan raised two sons in the historic house, which is included on a tour of cobblestone homes on Sept. 15.

The Cobblestone Museum is highlighting eight houses in a Cobblestone Tour of Homes on Sept. 15. The event from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. is a self drive tour and includes stops from Clarendon to central Orleans County to the western end of Orleans in Shelby.

Cobblestone architecture flourished from about 1820 until the end of the Civil War with more 900 structures built in New York State during that time. Orleans County has about 100 cobblestone buildings.

The emphasis of the Cobblestone Home Tour is a focus on cobblestone masonry and its many forms of expression, said Doug Farley, museum director.

“Owners of many of the homes featured in the tour are graciously allowing ticket holders to tour the interior of their homes,” he said. “This behind-the-scene glimpse of home interiors is a favorite of previous attendees and will certainly be a highlight of this year’s tour, too.”

Those taking part in the tour are invited to set their own pace and visit sites throughout the day. A map and tour booklet containing historical information on each of the cobblestone buildings will be distributed to ticket holders.  Tickets for the Cobblestone Home Tour are available at the Cobblestone Museum, 14389 Ridge Road W, Albion, or online at cobblestonemuseum.org. Check the museum website for information on ticket prices. Additional information is available online or by calling 585.589.9013.

Tour sites:

#1 Universalist Church (1834) – Exterior & Interior

14389 Ridge Road West, Childs

Owner: The Cobblestone Museum

#2 Ward House – Exterior & Interior

14393 Ridge Road West, Childs

Owner: The Cobblestone Society & Museum

#3 Gaines School District No. 5 – Exterior & Interior

14435 Ridge Road West, Childs

Owner: The Cobblestone Society & Museum

This home owned by Mary Anne Braunbach on Densmore Road in Gaines will be part of a tour of cobblestone houses on Sept. 14. Braunbach is a past president of the Cobblestone Museum. Her home was built in the 1840s.

#4 Brown/Braunbach Cobblestone House – Exterior & Interior

14615 Densmore Road, Albion

Owner: Maryanne Braunbach

#5 Billings/Consler House – Exterior Only

965 Kent Road,  Kent

Owner: Pete & Joan Consler

#6 Gaines District No. 2 Schoolhouse – Partial Interior & Exterior

3286 Gaines Basin Rd., Albion

Owner: Orleans County Historical Association

#7 Millville Academy – Exterior & Interior

12405 W Lee Rd, Shelby

Owners: Calvin & Linda Fredenburg

#8 Butterfield Cobblestone House – Exterior & Interior

4690 Bennetts Corners Road, Holley

Owners: Erin Anheier & Russ Bosch

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Cobblestone Museum has on-line petition to oppose Dollar General

Photo by Tom Rivers: The cobblestone schoolhouse was built in 1849 and is part of the Cobblestone Museum campus that has declared a National Historic Landmark, the only historic site in Orleans County with such designation from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 August 2018 at 5:41 pm

Former director asks Gaines for one-year moratorium on new projects in Historic District

GAINES – The Cobblestone Museum is stepping up its efforts to send a message to Gaines town officials and the developer for a new Dollar General that a new store shouldn’t be built in the historic district on Ridge Road, which includes several cobblestone buildings from the 1830s to 1850s.

The museum has already collected 300 petitions with people opposing construction of a new Dollar General across Route 104 from a cobblestone schoolhouse that was built in 1849. That schoolhouse is part of the museum’s campus that has been declared a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1993.

“Please help keep our Historic District intact! Say no to Dollar General in their request to build a store across the street from the National Historic Landmark Cobblestone Schoolhouse.” That is what a new on-line petition states from the Cobblestone Museum. (Click here to see the petition.)

Museum Director Doug Farley and Bill Lattin, the retired director, attended Monday’s Town Board meeting to state their opposition to the Dollar General in the historic district. Lattin, a former Gaines town supervisor, asked the board to consider a one-year moratorium on new construction in the historic district.

The state agency that works with communities to help preserve historic sites across New York last week sent a letter to the Town of Gaines asking that an alternative site for the store be found.

“It is our opinion that the construction of a generic retail building at this location will significantly alter the District 5 Schoolhouse’s visual environment and setting,” Sloane Bullough, Historic Sites Restoration Coordinator for the NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, wrote on Aug. 9 to Michael Grabowski, chairman of the Gaines Zoning Board of Appeals which is reviewing the project.

“The introduction of a modern generic commercial store with its associated 45 space parking and service areas will greatly impact the historic character of the National Landmark school as well as the two other nearby Landmarked cobblestone buildings.”

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State agency urges Gaines, developer to find alternative site for Dollar General

File photo by Tom Rivers: The interior of the schoolhouse in Gaines remains largely unchanged from when the school was closed in the 1950s. It was a public schoolhouse for more than a century.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 August 2018 at 6:19 pm

Constructing ‘generic modern store’ across from historic schoolhouse would ‘significantly alter’ visual environment and setting

GAINES – The state agency that works with communities to help preserve historic sites across New York is asking the Town of Gaines and the developer of a proposed Dollar General to find an alternative site for the store so it isn’t in a historic district.

Dollar General wants to build a new store directly across from the District 5 Schoolhouse, a cobblestone building that was built in 1849. That schoolhouse, and the nearby Ward House and Universalist Church were named National Historic Landmarks in 1993.

“This designation is the highest recognition that the United State Department of Interior can bestow on a property or district in our country,” Sloane Bullough, Historic Sites Restoration Coordinator for the NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, wrote on Aug. 9 to Michael Grabowski, chairman of the Gaines Zoning Board of Appeals which is reviewing the project. (Click here to see the letter.)

There are only 262 sites in New York that have been designated as National Historic Landmarks and less than 3,000 nationwide, Bullough said.

“Landmark designation recognizes the exemplary historic or architectural significant a property may have in the history of the nation,” she said in her letter. “The schoolhouse, which was constructed in 1849, is an exceptional example of both the Greek Revival Style and the unique cobblestone method of construction, which is almost exclusively found in the central-eastern part of New York.”

NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation urges the town and developer to find an alternative site away from the historic district for the new store.

“It is our opinion that the construction of a generic retail building at this location will significantly alter the District 5 Schoolhouse’s visual environment and setting,” Bullough said. “The introduction of a modern generic commercial store with its associated 45 space parking and service areas will greatly impact the historic character of the National Landmark school as well as the two other nearby Landmarked cobblestone buildings.”

If no alternative can be found, Bullough said the site should be redesigned to have less of a visual impact. That could include having the parking lot on the side of the building instead of in front with the number of parking spaces pared down to the minimum.

“A side parking lot could be visually screened to lessen the project’s visual impact from the schoolhouse and the overflow parking in the rear for employees and customers could be installed to reduce the size of the parking lot that is visible from the street,” she wrote in her letter to the town.

State Parks would also like to see “a strong vegetative buffer be planted to visually screen the parking lot and building from the road.”

The buffer could include mixture of deciduous and coniferous indigenous trees and shrubs.

The trees should be planted in a staggered pattern and not in rows, she said.

“We understand that the developer and the Town of Gaines have already negotiated a low-lying sign, which is a good beginning for minimizing impact to the historic school and adjacent properties,” Bullough said.

The Cobblestone Museum is opposing the project, saying it would hurt the character of the historic district. So far 250 people have signed petitions at the museum, opposing the store across from the schoolhouse.

Eight municipal historians have also written to oppose the location of the Dollar General. Click here to see their letter to the editor – “Historians in Orleans County say a Dollar General would destroy tenor of historic Gaines” – that was published July 11.

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Beardsley Creek in Gaines, an important spot for settlers, now has a sign

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 July 2018 at 6:18 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

GAINES – A new wooden sign for Beardsley Creek on Route 104 in Gaines was unveiled today. The sign is by the home of Robert Bruning. He has lived there for 40 years. The house was built in the 1830s by John Anderson, a Revolutionary War soldier who is buried at Gaines Cemetery, behind the Gaines Congregational Church on Route 104.

Orleans County Historian Matt Ballard removes the cover for the sign.

Local dignitaries were present for the sign’s dedication. This group includes, from left: Jim Bonafini, president of the Cobblestone Society & Museum and maker of the sign; Assemblyman Steve Hawley; Gaines Town Historian Adrienne Kirby; Al Capurso, president of the Orleans County Historical Association and coordinator of the sign effort; Orleans County Historian Matt Ballard; homeowner Robert Bruning; and Lynne Johnson, chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature.

Al Capurso addresses the crowd at the sign dedication. The sign is located west of Route 98, and east of Eagle Harbor Road. This is third sign for the creeks near the historic district in Gaines. Capurso wanted to recognize the Beardsley Creek’s importance, especially to pioneer residents. He also wanted to highlight the historic area of Ridge Road with the signs at Proctor Brook, Gilbert Creek and now Beardsley Creek.

Proctor Brook passes through the Cobblestone Museum. Gilbert Creek is next to the Gaines Carlton Community Church, east of Route 98.

Beardsley Creek passes through a culvert under Ridge Road.

Capurso, a former Gaines town historian, believed the creek was named for the Levi Beardsley family who settled in Carlton in 1827. Born in Connecticut in 1777, Mr. Beardsley died on his homestead in 1867 at age 90.

But additional research showed there was an earlier Beardsley in the area. Elizabeth Hoffman, the Carlton town historian, tipped Ballard off that Selah Beardsley was the first Beardsley in the area.

Ballard learned that Selah Beardsley was one of eight men who signed a contract with the Holland Land Purchase in September 1810. The eight men from Massachusetts shared their labor and resources in acquiring land and settling in Carlton.

Adrienne Kirby, the town historian, said the sign highlights an important local resource.

Capurso said today that Selah Beardsley was the original Beardsley in the area.

“It shows you that history is always revealing itself,” he said.

Adrienne Kirby, the Gaines town historian, said the new sign is important in highlighting a local resource that is unique to Gaines.

“I am very pleased to participate in the unveiling of this sign, which has two messages for the world — Beardsley Creek runs through here, and This Place Matters!” she said.

“We live in an age where efficiency and convenience are prized above all else,” she said. “This attitude has led to a homogenization of the landscape. Strip malls and housing tracts all look the same no matter what state of the union you are in. In the face of this, local history cries, ‘This Place Matters.’ Local history values the individual and uniqueness of our communities. We celebrate the accomplishments of those who came before us. We cherish what’s one of kind. Local history reminds us of what we have done, that we might be either inspired or forewarned to do better in the future.”

Many of the town roads are named for early residents who cleared roads, built homes and established churches and businesses.

“It is because we enjoy the fruits of others’ labors that local history matters,” Kirby said. “As for Beardsley Creek, every single child who has lived on this creek over the past 200 years has climbed the willow trees that grace its banks, tried catching the minnows that show up in early summer, and observed the snails that reside here.”

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