Cobblestone Museum opens season early with eclipse-themed events

Photos by Tom Rivers: These hand-painted rocks with an eclipse theme are available at the gift shop at the Cobblestone Museum. They were painted by a group led by Lori Laine.

Posted 5 April 2024 at 3:36 pm

By Tom Rivers and Ginny Kropf

CHILDS – With an influx of visitors expected in the area for the eclipse, the Cobblestone Museum is opening this weekend. The museum normally opens for the season on Mother’s Day Weekend.

The museum, a National Historic Landmark, has many programs and events planned starting today through Monday. The museum wants to be part of the eclipse on Monday. Orleans County is in the path of totality for the eclipse, which hasn’t happened locally since January 1925.

“We don’t know what to expect,” said museum director Doug Farley. “There could be record crowds in the area out looking for something to do.”

The museum opened today with tours available and eclipse-themed merchandise for sale.

Orleans County Historian Catherine Cooper gave a talk today on “Spring Cleaning: Whose Idea Was That?”

Cooper didn’t want to speak specifically about the eclipse, but wanted a topic that tied in with the sun. She said the longer days of sunlight in the spring often awakened people, especially housewives, to give their homes a thorough cleaning.

The houses needed it after a winter of burning coal. That left homes with lots of dust, especially when chimneys were cleaned.

Orleans County Historian Catherine Cooper gives a talk at the Cobblestone Universalist Church today entitled, “Spring Cleaning: Whose Idea Was That?” She is holding two carpet beaters that were used to knock dust and debris from rugs. Cooper said the spring sunshine was an impetus for people to do the arduous task of ridding their homes of dust that accumulated over the winter.

Cooper, speaking today the museum, said the early settlers didn’t have many possessions, arriving with clothes, food, tools and some supplies. Gradually they acquired things.

Rugs were a nemesis to clean in the spring. Cooper, during her talk, shows carpet beaters from more than a century ago that were used to free dust and disintegrated straw from rugs.

She found notices in old newspapers invited the community for spring cleaning at cemeteries, post offices and local roads.

Cooper will give her presentation again at 2:30 on Saturday at the Cobblestone Church.

The schedule of events from Saturday to Monday includes:


  • The events begin with blacksmithing demonstrations at the forge in the blacksmith shop from 10 a.m. to noon.
  • From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., docents will share the history of the three cobblestone buildings on campus and the Vagg house.
  • At 10:30 a.m., Susan Starkweather Miller, Albion village historian, will share “History in the Headlines: 1925 Total Eclipse” in the cobblestone church sanctuary.
  • From noon to 3 p.m., weather permitting, an auto show will take place behind the Cobblestone Church.
  • At 2:30 p.m., Cooper will again present “Spring Cleaning: Whose Idea was That” in the cobblestone sanctuary.


  • On Sunday, blacksmithing demonstrations will take place from 10 a.m. to noon at the forge in the Blacksmith Shop.
  • From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., docents will share the history of the three cobblestone buildings and the Vagg House.
  • At 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., retired Cobblestone Museum director Bill Lattin will present “Church Stories You Don’t Hear at Church” in the Cobblestone Church sanctuary.
  • At 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., Lattin will share “Farm Stories” in the church sanctuary.
  • The auto show will again be on display (weather permitting) from noon to 3 p.m.


  • On Monday, tours will be available at 10 a.m.
  • From noon to 2 p.m., refreshments will be available for guests with an upgraded admission fee, or sold while supplies last.
  • Local vocalist Hannah Brewer will entertain from noon to 2 p.m. at the Visitor’s Center.

The Gift Shop and Holiday Shoppe located in the lower level of the church will be open daily, featuring solar eclipse souvenirs. Also open will be the self-service used books building behind the brick house.

 Guests are advised the Gift Shop/Holiday Shoppe will be closed during the solar eclipse. Hours will be posed inside the Gift Shop.

 Self-guided exhibits will include “Mourning Art and Sundries” in the Upper Gallery of the brick house; artwork by Tom Zangerle and 19th century painters and more than 20 historic coverlets from the 1800s in the Visitor’s Center.

Public restrooms are available behind the Ward House. Anyone requiring access to the unisex bathrooms located in the Visitor’s Center or brick house should ask the volunteer at each location.

Cobblestone Museum plans events during April 8 solar eclipse, including car show

Provided photo: Gary and Doreen Wilson of Albion expect to bring this MGTD 1952 replica to the car show at the Cobblestone Museum during the Solar Eclipse weekend in April.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 29 January 2024 at 8:53 am

CHILDS – The Cobblestone Museum is ramping up activities in preparation for the much-anticipated total solar eclipse on April 8.

Orleans County is in the direct path of this historic event and a big influx of visitors is expected to the region, assistant director Sue Bonafini reported in the winter edition of the “Cobblestoner.”

“The Cobblestone Museum is hopeful that members of the Cobblestone Society, friends of the Museum and visitors from near and far will join us for some planned events between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Friday through Sunday and from 10 a.m. until the ‘main event’ concludes Monday afternoon (April 8),” Bonafini said.

The Cobblestone’s “SOLAR” weekend is an acronym of what is expected on that historic weekend, Bonafini explained.

“S” is for shopping. The Museum Gift Shop, Holiday Shoppe and used books building will be open for browsing and making purchases.

“O” is for the Olde Tyme photo opportunity that will be available, with accessories of bygone eras provided for guests to put on and create a souvenir photo. Children can also visit the “Cobbles the Mouse” photo booth.

“L” is for learning. The Cobblestone’s docents will tell the history of select campus buildings, where storytellers will share historical accounts from the past. Exhibit rooms will also be open, where guests can learn about the 19th century coverlets of Orleans County and the Victorian Mourning Art and Sundries exhibit on display. Blacksmithing demonstrations will take place at designated times in the Vagg Blacksmithing Shop.

“A” is for an auto show that will take place from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday afternoon (weather permitting), featuring a variety of classic, antique and sports cars parked on the grounds, where visitors can see them up close and talk to their owners.

“R” is for the refreshments which will be sold on Monday, Solar Eclipse Day. Pizza will be sold by the slice, while popcorn, cobblestone candy and beverages will be sold individually or as part of the special SOLAR admission package rate of $25 per person.

Regular admission is $9 for adults and $6 for teens and students with a valid college ID. Children under 12 are free with an accompanying adult.

In addition to the special SOLAR weekend, the Cobblestone Museum is urging people to register for their February virtual lecture event, in which speaker Debra Ross will address the solar eclipse. This is scheduled at 7 p.m. Feb. 22. Ross is chair of Rochester’s Eclipse Task Force and co-chair of the AAS National Solar Eclipse Task Force.

Having witnessed the 2017 Great American Eclipse in Missouri, and understanding the implications for the Rochester area, Ross started the Rochester Eclipse Task Force, which now has more than 750 members in the area.

Ross will discuss what is going to happen in our area on April 8, what makes it such a transformational experience, how to experience the eclipse safely and who everyone should prepare to craft their own eclipse story by making the most of this moment in their own personal history and in Western New York history.

“Life is about writing your own story and you want this to be a chapter that you look back on and talk about for the rest of your life,” Ross said.

29 buildings in Childs hamlet nominated by governor for National Register

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 January 2024 at 2:59 pm

Cobblestone Museum director says designation opens up grant possibilities and benefits property owners with tax credits

Photos courtesy of Landmark Society of WNY: The cobblestone schoolhouse from 1849, left, and Cobblestone Universalist Church from 1834 are among 29 contributing buildings in the historic district in the Childs Hamlet.

CHILDS – The Childs hamlet has been nominated by Gov. Kathy Hochul to be included on the state and national registers of historic places.

The Cobblestone Museum has been working with the Landmark Society of WNY on an application for the historic designation for 19 contributing primary buildings, 10 contributing secondary structures, one contributing object as well as 12 non-contributing secondary structures and two non-contributing primary buildings. The district is at the Ridge Road and Route 98 intersection and also extends along Ridge Road that reflect the rural and commercial character of the district.

Three of buildings – the cobblestone church, cobblestone schoolhouse and the Ward House – were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993 by the U.S. Department of the Interior. The historic Childs hamlet expands the number of buildings to be recognized.

“Architectural styles seen in the nominated district reflect its long history with examples of Federal, Greek Revival, Colonial Revival, and one designed in the Craftsman style,” according to the nomination.

A National Register designation opens up grant possibilities and benefits homeowners with tax credits, said Dog Farley, the Cobblestone Museum director.

Once the designation is finalized, Farley said the museum plans to hold a community workshop to look at streetscape improvements in the hamlet.

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Landmark Society of Western New York in October 2019 unveiled its annual list of “Five to Revive,” which included the hamlet of Childs in the Town of Gaines, Orleans County. The district is home to several cobblestone buildings, Tillman’s Village Inn and other historic structures. That designation launched the effort to get the Childs hamlet recognized as a historic district.

He thanked the Landmark Society for its assistance in trying to elevate the status of the hamlet. The Landmark Society in October 2019 named the Childs hamlet to its annual list of “Five to Revive,” an annual list of historically significant sites that are need of protection and financial resources.

“The future economic potential of Childs lies in its unique historic character,” The Landmark Society stated in October 2019. “Modern planning and zoning practices that encourage sensitive new construction, along with the addition of pedestrian-oriented infrastructure and design, could help guide the hamlet’s growth and enhance its economic development.”

The Childs district includes a historic schoolhouse, the First Universalist Church, residences, a former village inn and stagecoach stop, a former blacksmith shop, and mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth century agricultural buildings such as barns.

The museum has also relocated several mid-to-late 19th century buildings. Those buildings are non-contributing to the nominated district because they were moved to the complex outside the nominated period of significance, beginning in 1977. The buildings should therefore be reevaluated as a museum unit when their date of relocation collectively achieves 50 years of age from when the last building was moved to the campus, the Landmark Society stated in the nomination packet.

Map from Landmark Society of WNY: The district is at the Ridge Road and Route 98 intersection and also extends along Ridge Road.

The description from the governor’s office about the Childs hamlet includes:

Childs Historic District, Orleans County – The Childs Historic District represents the critical relationship between rural and commercial that characterized the nineteenth century in New York. The hamlet of Childs developed at the intersection of two new state routes during the 1800s which later developed into major thoroughfares.

“The community’s proximity to the Erie Canal catapulted it onto the global stage in the 1820s, as Orleans County became the national center of wheat production as a result of being able to cheaply and efficiently ship wheat eastward. Suddenly, rural subsistence farmers were plugged into massive markets and quickly became cash crop farmers.

“This resulting economic stability led to an increase in building and infrastructure, and locals were able to construct buildings that reflected their wealth and prosperity. The architectural resources in this historic district collectively represent the hamlet’s commercial development due to its prominent location from 1820 until 1960.

“The district includes Federal, Greek Revival, Colonial Revival, and even one Craftsman-style building. The several Greek Revival structures built using cobblestones present a unique regional building material and method of construction.

“Taken together, these buildings retain their character-defining features and integrity of design, materials, workmanship, and feeling while their proximity to roadways evoke a mid-nineteenth to early twentieth-century community feel. They also highlight efforts to preserve the hamlet’s architectural heritage which dates back to the 1960 founding of the Cobblestone Society.”

The brick house from the 1820s is at the southeast corner of routes 98 and 104. The site will become the Thompson-Kast Visitor Center for the museum.

The Childs hamlet is among 37 nominations for State and National Registers of Historic Places announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul. She said the sites have been recommended by the New York State Board for Historic Preservation.

“These nominations reflect generations of community building, planning, and activities that give us a glimpse into our collective past as New Yorkers,” Hochul said in a statement. “Identifying these resources and adding them to our historic registers expands our ongoing understanding of our shared history and are important reminders of the innovation, passion, and lived experiences of New Yorkers who came before us.”

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Erik Kulleseid will now review the recommendations for approval. That list will then go to the National Park Service for a review. Once approved, they are entered on the National Register.

County planners approve $5.5 million expansion of apple-packing facility in Gaines

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 December 2023 at 9:10 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Robert Brown, president of Lake Ontario Fruit, speaks during Thursday’s meeting of the Orleans County Planning Board.

ALBION – The Orleans County Planning Board gave its blessing to an expansion at Lake Ontario Fruit, an apple-packing business on Route 104.

The company, which packs and distributes about 1 million bushels of apples each year for more than 30 local farms, is working on a 28,070-square-foot addition of controlled atmosphere storage, a $5.5 million project that would mirror a similar expansion in 2013.

The County Planning Board recommended the Town of Gaines approve the site plan for the project and also a height variance. The building is proposed to be 36.2 feet high, just above the town limit of 35 feet. The 36.2 feet is same as other buildings on site and Lake Ontario Fruit wants to maintain that continuity.

The warehouse will also be 140 feet wide and 200 ½ feet in length. The new space is needed because many of the new apple trees that were planted in recent years are coming into maturity, with a full crop expected next fall. The new addition would allow the company pack about 220,000 more bushels, said Robert Brown, president of Lake Ontario Fruit and co-owner of Orchard Dale Fruit Co. in Waterport.

The project will disturb about 2 acres, with construction taking about 10 months. Brown told the county planners that Lake Ontario Fruit is working to upgrade its stormwater management system, which includes storm sewers and a pond behind the buildings that is designed to slowly release water into Proctor Brook. The company is working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Town of Gaines on the stormwater management plan.

Lake Ontario Fruit has 71 employees and will add 10 more jobs as part of the controlled atmosphere storage expansion at 14234 Ridge Rd. The project was backed by the Orleans Economic Development Agency with nearly $600,000 in incentives, including sale tax abatements of $240,000 on construction and $156,000 on fixtures and equipment.

The EDA also approved a 10-year PILOT that gradually phases in the taxes on the new addition. Lake Ontario Fruit would get a 100 percent exemption or $34,496 off in property taxes the first year, and then 10 percent will be added each year until it’s at 100 percent in year 11. That PILOT will save the company $189,729 in property taxes over the 10 years. Lake Ontario Fruit also will be paying $155,233 more in taxes during than 10 years than is currently paid on the existing buildings.

Gaines approves ambulance contract with town paying much less in 2024

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 December 2023 at 1:45 pm

Albion fire chief says not enough ambulances available to serve community, often resulting in long waits

GAINES – The Gaines Town Board approved a contract with Monroe Ambulance to provide service in the town for 2024, making Gaines the sixth of seven towns to approve the agreement. Carlton is the last of the seven and the Town Board meets this evening at 7 to vote on the contract.

File photo: Albion Fire Chief Jeremy Graham

Monroe upped the contract from $181,200 in 2023 to $300,000 next year. The agreement for 2023 would have been $200,000 but Kendall didn’t pay anything towards ambulance coverage this year.

Among the seven towns in the agreement only Gaines is seeing a decrease, down from $24,600 in 2023 to $12,030 next year.

The other six will all pay more as part of the contract. Here are the financial terms for the other six town for 2024 (with 2023 in parentheses): Albion at $155,820 ($84,400), Barre at $13,740 ($8,000), Carlton at $22,350 ($14,800), Clarendon at $25,350 ($18,800), Kendall at $17,850 ($0) and Murray at $52,860 ($30,600).

The leaders to the towns divvied up the town shares based on call volume. An Albion resident, Jason Dragon, said he believes an error was made and some of the Gaines calls were put in the town of Albion. Part of the village of Albion is also in Gaines, and Dragon said he suspects those Gaines calls in the village were mistakenly put in Albion’s numbers and is part of the reason Albion is seeing a huge increase while Gaines goes down.

“As a taxpayer in the Town of Albion I would hope Gaines would pay its fair share,” he told the Gaines Town Board.

Tyler Allport, the Gaines town supervisor, said he would ask Richard Remley, the Albion town supervisor, to verify that the village calls were properly accounted for each town.

Albion Fire Chief Jeremy Graham also spoke during the Gaines Town Board meeting on Monday and he said the current ambulance coverage is deficient for the Albion fire protection area in Albion and Gaines.

Albion firefighters are often first on the scene for an EMS call. What used to be a 5-minute wait for an ambulance to arrive and take over for more serious EMS calls has often turned into 30 minutes to an hour, Graham told the Gaines officials.

He looked at the data since April 2023 when Monroe first started as a primary ambulance provider in central Orleans. Graham said there have been 180 EMS calls, and 68 times Albion firefighters have responded because an ambulance wasn’t available nearby.

“Monroe Ambulance can’t provide us with enough ambulances,” the fire chief said. “The patients get very upset and irate with the wait.”

The $300,000 contract calls for Monroe to station an ambulance in Albion 24 hours a day, seven days a week and one in Holley for at least 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Monroe also will draw on ambulances in Monroe County if there is a need in Orleans County.

Allport said stationing two ambulances 24-7 in Orleans County would have cost $500,000.

Dave Bertsch of Carlton, a long-time medic with COVA ambulance, said the community is getting less service despite more cost for ambulance services. COVA closed late last year due to financial challenges. COVA did not receive any government aid from the local towns.

There often isn’t an ALS ambulance available for central Orleans, Bertsch told the Gaines officials.

“I said it last year that we’re going backwards and we’re still going backwards,” he said.

Charlie Ricci, a Carlton town councilman, asked the Gaines officials if they would be willing to partner with Carlton in a contract with Mercy EMS for ambulance services. The Gaines officials didn’t comment on that request.

Navarra’s hosting 150 vendors for holiday season

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 December 2023 at 9:47 am

Photo by Tom Rivers

GAINES – Navarra’s Farm Market and Greenhouses is in its fourth year of hosting vendors for the holiday season, and this year has 149 in four greenhouses.

Pictured from left include Janet Navarra-Salvatore, James Salvatore and Navarra’s employee Madison Nardi (as well as Hank, the dog). They welcomed customers on Saturday to Navarra’s at 3272 Eagle Harbor-Waterport Rd.

The first year Navarra’s hosted vendors in 2020 there were 16. That was followed by 67 in 2021, 96 last year and now nearly 150.

The greenhouses are open for five weekends with the creations and products from the vendors. There are two weekends left: Dec. 14-17, and Dec. 21-24 with Navarra’s open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Provided photo: Santa visited Navarra’s on Saturday. He is holding Caleb Paul Allen, son of Scott Allen and Navarra’s co-owner Amanda Mrzywka.

Mrzywka opened up the greenhouses to other vendors at craft sows and festivals in 2020 because so many of the events were cancelled that year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Mrzywka sells vegan soaps, which are made without any animal byproducts.

She said crafters were all feeling the financial strain from losing those shows in 2020.

Navarra’s has proven a good location for the vendors. They are in a heated spot, and can keep their items on location for multiple days. Navarra’s has a code system to track what is sold without the vendors having to be there all the time.

There are other attractions to the site as well. Santa visited on Saturday. There are wine tastings every Sunday with Circle B Winery from Elba.

Navarra’s also hosts classes and workshops during the holiday season.

5 of 7 towns approve contract with Monroe Ambulance with last 2 voting next week

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 December 2023 at 10:59 am

Five of the seven towns in a proposed contract with Monroe Ambulance have approved a contract for 2024.

The remaining two towns, Gaines and Carlton, vote next week. The $300,000 contract requires all seven towns to ratify the deal.

The seven towns are divvying up the share for each municipality based on the call volume. That puts Gaines and Carlton among the lowest in expense. Gaines would need to pay $12,030 in 2024 while Carlton is at $22,350. (Gaines was at $24,600 in 2023 and Carlton at $14,800 this year.)

The town boards in the other municipalities have already agreed to their contributions for 2024 (with 2023 in parentheses): Albion at $155,820 ($84,400), Barre at $13,740 ($8,000), Clarendon at $25,350 ($18,800), Kendall at $17,850 ($0) and Murray at $52,860 ($30,600).

The Gaines Town Board meets at 7 p.m. on Monday at the Gaines Town Hall, 14087 Ridge Road West. There will be a public hearing on the ambulance contract and then a vote by the Town Board.

Carlton will meet at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Town Hall, 14351 Waterport-Carlton Rd.

The towns started paying for ambulance coverage for the first time in 2023. In 2023, Monroe sought $200,000 from the seven towns. It was reduced to $181,200 after Kendall bowed out of the contract, claiming it didn’t need to pay because there already was an agreement with the local fire districts in Kendall.

In 2024, Kendall will be paying out of its town budget. The $300,000 contract calls for Monroe to station an ambulance in Albion 24 hours a day, seven days a week and one in Holley for at least 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Monroe also will draw on ambulances in Monroe County if there is a need in Orleans County.

Lake Ontario Fruit pushing for $5.5 million addition to Gaines facility on Route 104

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 November 2023 at 9:31 am

GAINES – Lake Ontario Fruit is pushing for another expansion of the apple packing business on Route 104. The company is working on a 28,070-square-foot addition of controlled atmosphere storage, a $5.5 million project that would mirror a similar expansion in 2013.

The new space is needed because many of the new apple trees that were planted in recent years are coming into maturity, with a full crop expected next fall. Lake Ontario Fruit packs just over 1 million bushels of apples a year for more than 30 local farms.

The new addition would allow the company pack about 220,000 more bushels, said Robert Brown, president of Lake Ontario Fruit and co-owner of Orchard Dale Fruit Co. in Waterport.

Lake Ontario Fruit is pushing to have the new CA facility ready by Sept. 1. The company needs to have the site plan reviewed by the Orleans County Planning Board, with a final approval from the Town of Gaines Planning Board.

“We are growing a commodity that is a perishable crop,” Brown told the Planning Board.

He said the addition is an investment in the local fruit industry, which is seeing a new generation of growers taking the lead in their farms and also at the Lake Ontario Fruit facility.

Gaines planners met last week to review the site plan. Chris Watt, the Planning Board chairman, said LOF needs a final agreement from the state Department of Environmental Conservation on a stormwater management plan for the project. Watt doesn’t want to send the site plan to the county for review until there is an agreement from the DEC about the plan.

But Lake Ontario Fruit officials convinced the board to send a referral to the county, with the approval from the DEC expected soon and to be added to the application that will be sent to the county. The company asked the town to submit the application to the county so LOF could be on the county agenda for its December meeting.

Brown said the construction timeline is already about a month behind schedule.

“Every day counts,” he told the Gaines Planning Board last week.

He said supply-chain issues also are posing some challenges.

The Gaines board agreed to send the application to the County Planning Board for its review. Watt said the town will consider if there are any comments from the county in the town’s final review of the site plan. Watt said he is also hopeful the DEC will OK the stormwater management plan so the town can give its approval.

The Gaines Zoning Board of Appeals also is being asked to approve a 1-foot height variance for the building. It is proposed for 36 feet in height, just above the town threshold of 35 feet. A public hearing on that variance is scheduled for 705 p.m. on Dec. 12.

The Lake Ontario Fruit has 71 employees and will add 10 more jobs as part of the controlled atmosphere storage expansion. The project was backed by the Orleans Economic Development Agency with nearly $600,000 in incentives.

The EDA on Oct. 18 approved sale tax abatements of $240,000 on construction and $156,000 on fixtures and equipment.

The EDA also approved a 10-year PILOT that gradually phases in the taxes on the new addition. Lake Ontario Fruit would get a 100 percent exemption or $34,496 off in property taxes the first year, and then 10 percent will be added each year until it’s at 100 percent in year 11. That PILOT will save the company $189,729 in property taxes over the 10 years. Lake Ontario Fruit also will be paying $155,233 more in taxes during than 10 years than is currently paid on the existing building.

Cobblestone Museum celebrates busy 2023, looks forward to ground-breaking on visitors center

Photos by Tom Rivers: Erin Anheier is presented with the John Proctor Award from Bill Lattin, retired Cobblestone Museum director, for her service on the museum board, including the past three years as president. Anheier helped secure $229,000 in grants towards preserving buildings at the museum, which is a National Historic Landmark. She is currently working on an application to have the hamlet of Childs be included on the National Register of Historic Places.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 5 November 2023 at 8:36 am

CHILDS – The Cobblestone Society met for its 63rd annual meeting Saturday at the Gaines-Carlton Community Church.

The meeting celebrated a year in which the Cobblestone Society and Museum saw a lot of successes, the most significant being receiving enough funds to begin construction next year on what on a visitors center promoting Orleans County attractions.

Cobblestone Museum director Doug Farley welcomed guests and introduced pastor David Beach, who gave the invocation, followed by a traditional founder’s toast by Gerard Morrisey.

Richard Remley, the museum’s executive vice president, goes over highlights from 2023.

After a turkey dinner prepared by the women of the church, the members moved into the sanctuary, where board president Erin Anheier presided over the annual meeting, which included election of officers, treasurer’s report by Dick Remley and presentation of special awards.

Remley called 2023 the “emergence of the museum out of the pandemic.” After a two years of reduced programming, Remley said 2023 has been extremely active.

He named their two major projects – the Vagg House and Thompson-Kast Visitors Center. Construction is expected to being in mid-2024 to build an addition to the south end of a 1830s brick home, which the Cobblestone Society purchased as a visitors center. The addition will provide meeting space for 100 people. The Cobblestone Society met their capital campaign goal of $750,000, enabling them to purchase the Burke property without borrowing any money.

To date, 13 naming opportunities for the future visitors center have been accepted, and six are still available.

Other successes of the year include a membership dinner which raised much-needed operating funds, a Summer Soiree, flea market, and the first Historic Preservation Awards dinner. The Dunn Martin internship program provided the full expense for three summer interns, totaling $9,000. A Challenge Grant resulted in $24,575 in operating funds, exceeding their goal of $10,000.

Other grants received during the year were $13,000 from the Curtis Foundation, $32,867 from the Rochester Area Foundation, $3,000 for operating money from Orleans County, $9,000 from the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation for operating expenses and $5,000 from Go Art!.

Preservation work on the Ward House has begun with a $47,080 Genesee Valley Rural Revitalization grant.

“We are off and running for 2024,” Remley said. “For the first three quarters of 2023, our income and grants received are greater than expenditures by $36,000.”

New officers elected during the meeting were Matt Holland, president; Richard Remley, executive vice president; Christine Sartwell, vice president of development; Brenda Radzinski, secretary; Maarit Vaga, treasurer; Grace Denniston, corresponding secretary; and Gail Johnson, membership secretary.

Trustees elected were Lawrence Albanese, Erin Anheier and Marty Taber, terms ending Dec. 31, 2026; Mark Bower, Diana Flow, John Sansone and Doreen Wilson, terms ending Dec. 31, 2025; and Chris Capurso, Camilla VanderLinden, Bill Lattin and Joyce Riley, terms ending Dec. 31, 2024.

The first of several awards was the John Proctor Award, presented to Erin Anheier. Bill Lattin, retired museum director, said Anheier is “a person who does what she says.” Anheier is credited with bringing in $229,000 for the museum. That award goes to a dedicated member of the museum board of trustees.

She writes proposals to secure grant funding and also recognition on the National Register of Historic Places. She was influential in the restoration of the Hillside Cemetery Chapel in Holley. She got the Gaines Basin cobblestone school house on the National Register and now is working to get the entire hamlet of Childs listed. She also got Childs included in the Landmark Society’s “Five to Revive.”

Ginny Kropf of Medina accepts the Community Partner Award for her work as a news reporter. Doug Farley, the museum director in back, said Kropf is very reliable in writing about the museum’s activities.

Farley presented the Community Partner of the Year award to Ginny Kropf, who he said writes many articles for Orleans Hub and Lockport United Sun and Journal promoting the Cobblestone Museum’s activities.

Kropf has written 45 articles in the past six years highlighting museum programs and initiatives. Farley said Kropf has long been a dependable reporter for the community.

Lora Partyka, left, accepts the Business Partner of the Year from Sue Bonafini, assistant museum director.

The Business Partner of the Year was presented to Lora Partyka of Partyka Farms in Kendall.

“I first met Lora in 2016 when I went to ask her for an item for a gift basket we were putting together,” said Sue Bonafini, museum assistant director. “She said, ‘How would you like an entire gift basket.’ When I was short one or two sponsors for an event after the pandemic, I went to Lora, and she closed the gap.”

Partyka has continued to be a dependable contributor to the museum, donating corn on the cob and sponsoring events.

Mary Zangerle of Medina accepts the award for Volunteer of the Year from Sue Bonafini.

Volunteer of the Year for 2023 was Mary Zangerle of Medina. Zangerle began volunteering for the Cobblestone Museum in 2015 at the suggestion of Shirley Bright-Neeper. She is an avid Master Gardener and several years ago came to Bonafini and asked if she could do something “more administrative.” Zangerle learned how to use the Museum’s software and maintains records, organizes files and trains interns.

“She puts in 50 to 100 volunteer hours every year,” Bonafini said. “She volunteers year-round.”

Ann Mitchell of Spencerport, formerly of Kendall, quotes Sarah Jennie McCleery, a school teacher and resident of Ogden, from a speech given March 6, 1883. Mitchell entertained with her presentation of “Suffragettes UNITE!” at the Cobblestone Society’s annual meeting Saturday at the Gaines-Carlton Community Church.

The afternoon concluded with a program by Ann Mitchell of Spencerport, formerly of Kendall, titled “Suffragettes UNITE.” Mitchell has always been interested in the theater and singing. In 1976, she won the talent portion of the Orleans County Junior Miss Pageant.

After she was married, her husband once told her, “You have to vote. It’s your right.”

She developed Suffragettes UNITE as her final project at Brockport.

“I feel it’s important,” she said. “It reflects our history.”

In her presentation, she is dressed in period costumes as she quotes from suffragettes in our nation’s history. This includes “Equal Rights” by Sarah C. Owen Aug. 2, 1848 at the Unitarian Church in Rochester; “The Right to Vote” by Elizabeth C. Stanton on Feb. 17, 1864 in the New York State Legislature; “Is it a Crime for a U.S. Citizen to Vote?” by Susan B. Anthony in March and April in Monroe County; “Emancipation – War if we Must” by Elizabeth C. Stanton on May 6, 1873 for the National Woman’s Suffrage Association; and “On Being a Woman” by Sarah Jennie McCleary, a school teacher/resident of Ogden, on March 6, 1883 in The School Journal, Spencerport.

About 50 members of the Cobblestone Society enjoyed lunch at the Gaines Carlton Community Church.

Cobblestone Museum hosting program on historic coverlets

Photo by Tom Rivers: There are about 20 coverlets from the 1830s and 1840s on display at the Thompson-Kast Visitors Center for the Cobblestone Museum. The coverlets will be discussed in a tour and program Nov. 11 by Marty Schlabach.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 31 October 2023 at 9:40 am

CHILDS – The Cobblestone Museum will host Marty Schlabach from the Finger Lakes region, who will present an educational program at 1 p.m. Nov. 11 at the Thompson-Kast Visitors Center on the Cobblestone’s Orleans County 19th’s century coverlet collection.

The event will include a guided tour of the coverlet collection. A free will donation will be accepted.

Title of the program is “Orleans County Coverlets and their Weavers: What Have We Learned?”

Marty Schlabach

Doug Farley, director of the Cobblestone Museum, describes coverlets as “woven bedcovers.”

“In the 19th century, most American homes had spinning wheels and looms,” Farley explained. “A wide array of types of cloth was woven by the women of the family for household use, including geometric patterned coverlets. There were also professional weavers who wove specialty textiles and earned some or all of their living practicing their trade. Figured & Fancy coverlets were one of the specialty items and they required specialty equipment, usually only found in the professional weave shop.”

Following an introduction to coverlets, the coverlet weavers of Orleans County will be highlighted in this presentation, Farley said.

Schlabach became interested in coverlets though his wife, Mary Jean Welser. She has been interested in and collected textiles for many years, with a particular interest in quilts. Some time, more than 10 years ago, while pawing through a pile of textiles at a local estate sale, Welser came across two whole late 18th century quilts and one geometric patterned coverlet. This started their interest in, exploration and collection of coverlets.

As a retired librarian, Schlabach particularly enjoys the historical research associated with learning about coverlets and their weavers. He continues his interest in libraries as president of the board of the Interlaken Public Library.

He is a member of the board of the National Museum of the American Coverlet in Bedford, Pa., and two years ago, started a monthly online coverlet study group. In addition to their interest in coverlets, Marty and Mary Jean spend substantial time gardening and working on their 1840s Greek Revival farmhouse.

Reservations for the coverlet program are strongly suggested by calling (585) 589-9013 or e-mailing

‘Dreamers and risk-takers’ honored by Cobblestone Museum with preservation awards

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 October 2023 at 11:32 am

140 attend first-time event as museum seeks more supporters for mission

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Andrew Meier, an attorney in Medina who has tackled several preservation projects, served as keynote speaker on Friday at a preservation awards celebration for the Cobblestone Society and Museum.

About 140 people attended the event at Maison Albion. Meier entitled his speech, “Preservation 101: A Brief Science Lesson.”

Meier has led the ongoing renovation of the former R. H. Newell Shirt Factory. He started that project in 2005, and continues with the work on the building from 1876. It has hotel rooms, a law office, the Shirt Factory cocktail bar, and for many years was home to 810 Meadworks.

Meier said the labor from the stone and wood artisans, and other craftsmen can’t be duplicated with new buildings, where the focus is often on speed and the lowest cost possible.

Those older buildings in the county were built with old forest trees that were 200 to 300 years old. The sites were often made of the incredibly durable Medina Sandstone, which was hauled to sites on wagons by powerful animals.

“There were no concrete trucks or cranes,” Meier said. “This was all brute force, muscle labor from men and horses,” he said.

Andrew Meier acquired the Robert H. Newell Building at 113 West Center St. in 2005, when he was 25 and starting out as an attorney. The 14,000-square-foot building for 86 years was home to the Robert H. Newell Shirt Factory, which manufactured custom-made shirts, including for many famous customers, including Winston Churchill and Bob Hope. The site was originally a hotel that opened in 1876.

Orleans County continues to benefit from the legacy of people who built for the long haul with downtown buildings, churches, residences, even cemeteries, Meier said.

Meier admitted preservation projects are often very frustrating, with unknown challenges and expenses. But he said the undertakings are well worth it. Reviving a historic site or an already-built structure is good for the earth by preserving existing materials.

“Retrofitting an existing building emits less carbon than building new,” Meier said.

Meier said the four villages in the county – Albion, Holley, Lyndonville and Medina – all have buildings from the 1800s and early 1900s that are marvels. Even the hamlets and countryside in the county feature many sites that have endured for generations.

Those buildings are tremendous feats and the residents today benefit from them, and are linked to the “giants” of the past, who put so much human capital into these buildings, Meier said.

That human energy remains stored and is ready to be unleashed, he said.

“Our built environment is waiting for that little nudge from the dreamers and risk-takers,” Meier said.

Andrew Meier speaks during Friday’s preservation awards program which was held at Maison Albion.

The community is seeing the benefit of projects in the historic buildings, from bustling restaurants in Medina, and several “boutique” hotels and small businesses in the region’s historic downtowns.

Meier said he is pleased to see so many people in his hometown of Medina take a chance on the older buildings, and give them new purpose that has been embraced by the local community, and increasingly many out-of-town visitors.

“Medina has become a different town,” he said. “There is more vibrancy, more restaurants. It would have been impossible without the buildings.”

He is thankful the county largely avoided the urban renewal movement that leveled many historic downtown sites in the 1960s and ’70s. He noted Albion has the wondrous Courthouse Square, downtown business district, and Mount Albion Cemetery with the Cobblestone Museum close by.

Holley has its Public Square which is seeing a resurgence in investment, and so is Main Street in Lyndonville. Kendall’s historic tavern has been a success in the year since it opened with new owners with a vision for the culinary arts, Meier said.

(Left) Brenda Tremblay, an Albion native and morning radio host for WXXI in Rochester, served as emcee of the dinner and celebration on Friday. She told the group, “You are surrounded by so much amazing historical stewardship.”

(Right) Matt Holland, a member of the Cobblestone Museum board of directors, urged the group to donate and support’s the museum’s mission, which includes breaking ground on a new visitors center next year.

The Thompson-Kast Visitors Center will be a new building next to an 1824 brick home that will be part of the visitors center at the intersection of routes 98 and 104.

The center will join the museum’s building inventory that includes the Cobblestone Universalist Church from 1834, Brick House (museum office) from 1836, Ward House from 1836, Peter’s Harness Shop from 1838, District No. 5 Schoolhouse from 1849, Farmers Hall from 1855, Hill’s Print Shop from the 1870s, Voting House (now used book store) from 1909, Vagg’s Blacksmith Shop from 1921-22, and the Vagg House from circa 1830s and then remodeled in the 1920s.

Doug Farley, right, is director of the Cobblestone Museum. He presents an award to Steve and Paula Nesbitt, owner of the Pine Hill School at 4757 Pine Hill Rd., Barre. They were one of six winners of preservation awards from the Cobblestone Society and Museum. The Pine Hill School was built circa 1835 of fieldstones.

The award winners also received citations from the Orleans County Legislature and State Legislature.

(Left) Tim and Catherine Cooper of Medina restored the Wash Hotel, which goes back to 1852, when the Rochester, Lockport and Niagara Falls Company completed the railroad through Medina. The building was recently purchased by Rollin Hellner.

(Right) Harriet Greaser and her late husband Phil restored the Presbyterian Manse at 31 East State St., Albion. The site has now been privately owned for more than 30 years. The Greasers brought the site back to grandeur.

Diana Dragan Reed’s home at 349 South Main St., Albion, was built in 1876 and took seven years to build. Reed recently moved back to her childhood home and has made several changes more reflective of its historic character.

Talis Historic Restoration employees, Ian McAnn and Dan Totten, accepted an award on behalf of Roger Hungerford for the restoration of the Bent’s Opera House.

Hungerford restored three floor of a historic Medina Sandstone building at the corner of West Center and Main streets in Medina. The building opened in 1865. It is now home to a boutique hotel with 10 rooms, an upscale restaurant and events center.

Kim and Neal Muscarella were honored for their efforts to turn the former Cooperative Extension building at 20 Main St. in Albion into the Marti’s on Main art gallery.

Cobblestone Museum leaders said they are pleased with the attendance at the first-time event.

Canal program shines light on life of a hoggee

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 October 2023 at 11:37 am

Children walked with mules pulling boats in canal’s boom days

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Graham Kirby, 10, of Albion served as a hoggee on Saturday in a boat captained by Veronica Morgan of Albion.

Morgan put together a program, “I was a hoggee on the Erie Canal.” She wanted to spotlight the role of hoggees, who were children who walked with mules that pulled boats on the canal.

The Orleans County Historical Association assisted Morgan with the event that included activities at the Gaines Basin cobblestone schoolhouse as well as the boat rides from the canal, going from near the Gaines Basin Road bridge to near the lift bridge in Eagle Harbor.

Graham Kirby looks to the boat captain to see if he is needed for any task. The hoggees would get the captain food and be sent for other chores on the boat when they weren’t outside walking with mules.

Bill Lattin, retired Orleans County historian, was in the canal boat and shared stories and history of the canal in Gaines and Eagle Harbor during the 40-minute boat ride. Lattin is also Graham Kirby’s grandfather.

Lattin said Eagle Harbor is largely a “ghost town” now compared to the 1800s and early 1900s when it had its own grocery store, and other merchants who were coopers and blacksmiths.

Eagle Harbor also had the third golf course in the United States, a 6-hole course north of the canal that operated from 1898 to about 1940.

Lattin shared how Gaines has the northernmost point of the canal, endured a big flood in 1927 when there was a breach on the waterway. The section also has a widewaters east of Eagle Harbor where boats could turn around. The widewaters was especially needed in the early days of the canal when it was only 40 feet wide and difficult for boats to change directions.

Arthur Barnes does a pen and ink drawing of the a log cabin behind the Gaines Basin Schoolhouse on Saturday.

The schoolhouse was open for people to relax and tour on Saturday. The school was built in 1832 and is among the oldest cobblestone structures in the region.

It served as a school until 1942. Bill Lattin said there used to be 144 schools in the county. After decentralization, the number of school districts dropped to five.

Veronica Morgan captains the boat. She steered it about 65 miles from Macedon for the event on Saturday.

She wants to offer the hoggee program again in 2025, on the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal and also Orleans County.

Morgan works as a lift bridge operator in Brockport.

The Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council supported the hoggee program on Saturday, covering the cost for the boat rides and other entertainers.

The boat approaches the lift bridge in Eagle Harbor. The boat rides on Saturday were for about 40 minutes, from Gaines Basin to Eagle Harbor and then back.

Graham Kirby sounds a horn, which hoggees did to let the lift bridge operator know a boat was approaching. The horn is in the schoolhouse’s collection of artifacts.

Cobblestone Museum puts old-time artisans on display at annual open house

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 September 2023 at 10:20 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

GAINES – Leo LeBerth, left, and Matt Holland work in the blacksmith shop on Saturday during the annual open house at the Cobblestone Museum.

This was the first time both men volunteered in the blacksmith shop at the museum. LeBerth has his own setup in Ridgeway. Holland is a member of the Cobbelstone Museum’s board of directors. He has been a blacksmith demonstrator before at another museum.

The blacksmith shop used to be operated by Joseph Vagg. The original shop burned down in 1921 but was rebuilt in 1922 with the help of many local farmers who were served by Vagg.

Eliya Cooper of Hamlin gave tours of the Vagg House, which is next door to the blacksmith shop. The Vagg house was added to the museum in 2019. It is decorated to be a typical of a middle class 1930s home when electricity became more common.

Joseph Vagg and his with Nellie lived in the house. Nellie was very active in the temperance movement. She died in 1975 and donated the blacksmith shop and its tools to the Cobblestone Society.

Cooper has been volunteering at the museum as a docent for eight seasons.

LeRoy Neeper of Medina demonstrates equipment in the wood shop next to the blacksmith. The wood shop includes a band saw, wood saws, drill press lathe and an International Harvester engine from 1922.

Jan Brauer of Lewiston weaves a basket outside the Ward House. Brauer has been a basket weaver since 2002.

“It’s very meditative,” she said. “And it’s a useful craft that you can put your stuff in.”

Cat Holland of Medina, left, and Sylvia Goodstine of Kent gave turs of the Ward House which was constructed in about 1840 in the Federal style.

Holland said her favorite artifact in the house is a horsehair couch. Goodstine said she most enjoys a Wheeler & Wilson sewing machine from 1863.

Reuben Rivers chats with Georgia Thomas and Maarit Vaga. Rivers gave tours of the Farmer’s Hall, while Thomas did a butter-making demonstration and Vaga showed the harness shop next door.

The Farmer’s Hall was built in 1855 as a Universalist Church. It was then used by German Lutherans as a church beginning in the 1870s. It later became Kendall’s Town Hall. The building was given to the Cobblestone Museum in 1978. It was dismantled in Kendall and brought to the museum where it was rebuilt and now functions as an exhibition hall for 19th and early 20th century farming implements.

The museum’s entire campus was open for tours on Saturday. The event concluded with a concert in the Cobblestone Church by the Fiddlers of the Genesee.

Old-time artisans, fiddlers will be at Cobblestone Museum open house

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 4 September 2023 at 3:56 pm

Provided photo: Jim Bonafini, left, and Bill Lattin greets visitors watching the blacksmith in Vagg’s Blacksmith Shop at the Cobblestone Museum Complex. A blacksmith will be among the artisans demonstrating their trade at the open house Sept. 9.

CHILDS – The Cobblestone Museum’s campus will be buzzing with activity during their annual Open House Sept. 9.

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and feature live demonstrations by volunteers in the blacksmith and print shops. Activities in other museum locations will be scheduled throughout the day.

“Volunteers have kindly accepted our invitation to demonstrate their skills associated with crafts that would have been popular in the 19th century,” said Sue Bonafini, assistant director of the Museum. “Visiting artisans from the Genesee Country Lace Guild will bring a try-it pillow for those who would like to experience the bobbin lace technique, and a seasoned volunteer will invite guests to help make butter from cream at Farmer’s Hall, where our butter churn collection is displayed.”

Other activities scheduled for the day include chair caning, basket weaving, quilting and weaving on a portable loom.

Photos by Tom Rivers: Georgia Thomas shows young children how to make butter at last year’s open house at the Cobblestone Museum.

All campus buildings and exhibit rooms will be open for public viewing free of charge with a complimentary wrist band. Current exhibits feature Victorian Mourning Art and Sundries and a historic coverlet collection made by Orleans County weavers in the 1800s.

A food tent will offer a barbecue chicken meal with salt potatoes, baked beans and dinner roll from 58 Main BBQ in Brockport for al fresco dining or takeout. Chicken will be available from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. or sold out. Presale tickets are $17 for a $2 savings per meal. Fruit pies from Partyka Farms in Kendall will be sold by the slice.

To top off the day, fiddlers from the Fiddlers of the Genesee will play toe-tapping old-time fiddle music in the Cobblestone Church at 3 p.m. Free will donations will be accepted. For additional information or to purchase chicken barbecue tickets, call (585) 589-9013.

The Fiddlers of the Genesee perform during last year’s open house in the Cobblestone Church. They will be back for another concert on Saturday.

Flea market at Cobblestone Museum offered assortment of items

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 August 2023 at 9:03 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

GAINES – The Cobblestone Museum held its annual flea market on Saturday with 20 vendors and about 200 people stopping by. The top photo shows Adrienne Kirby at right selling used home-school curriculum.

Chris Sartwell in back sold fishing tackle and excess household items. “I don’t have much left all all,” she said about her inventory at the end of the afternoon.

Brian Stewart, left, Craig Ernewein and Bie Bradley were giving away New Testaments. Stewart and Ernewein are in The Gideons International and they estimate they have given away 1,500 to 2,000 New Testaments so far this year at the Holley June Fest, Albion Strawberry Festival, county fairs in Orleans and Niagara counties, and National Night Out in Medina.

Gertie Motulli, left, of Sweet Treats by Gertie and Beth Miller of Wild Flour Deli & Bakery served up tasty snacks and food.

The museum also served more than 200 hot dogs and 100 ears of corn. That corn was donated by Partyka Farms in Kendall.

The flea market used to be an annual event at the museum. It returned last year after about a 20-year absence. There were about 40 vendors signed up but about half decided not to attend to the threat of bad weather on Saturday.