Planners approve old cobblestone school as meeting house

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 December 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers  – Volunteers have worked to save a former Cobblestone Schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road in Albion. The school was built in 1832, and may be the oldest cobblestone building in the county.

ALBION – A cobblestone building from 1832 that was used as a schoolhouse until 1944 will find new use as meeting place for the Orleans County Historical Association.

The group has worked the past year to put on a new roof and stabilize the building at 3302 Gaines Basin Rd., just north of the Erie Canal.

The 913-square-foot building hasn’t been used much since it was closed as a school in 1944. Nor had there been much upkeep of the building until this year.

Al Capurso, the Gaines town historian, pushed to save the building from collapse. The site received a new historical marker in October, and the Historical Association is trying to get it listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

On Thursday, the Orleans County Planning Board approved the site plan and recommended the Town of Gaines approve variances and give a permit for the Historical Association to use the building for a public/semi-public community facility.

The association needs 200 feet of frontage but the property only has 125 feet. It also needs a minimum lot size of 40,000 square feet, but only has 22,500. Planners backed the frontage variance of 75 feet, and a 17,500 square foot variance for minimum lot size.

The Historical Association didn’t create the hardships for the variances, planners said. The group should be commended “for restoring a vital piece of Orleans County history back to an active use.”

The site shouldn’t draw too much traffic. There is parking available in the back on a hard-pack surface for about 20 vehicles.

Capurso told planners on Thursday the site will be used for meetings and could be home to donated artifacts.

The Historical Association in 2016 plans to repair the floor, have the building rewired and ceiling and walls plastered. Some missing sections of cobblestones will be replaced with appropriate soft lime mortar.

In 2017, Capurso said he expects the site will receive donations for a piano, school desks, teachers desk, wood stove, tables, chairs and wall hangings.