Preservationists want to save old cobblestone school

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 March 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – This former one-room schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road, just north of the Erie Canal, has been largely abandoned since decentralization in the mid-1940s. A Gaines resident would like to see the building be saved and preserved for years to come.

GAINES – A building that has been vacant since about World War II could get new life through the efforts of local preservationists.

Gaines resident Al Capurso is leading the effort to save, stabilize and seek resources for a former cobblestone schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road, just north of the Erie Canal.

The Orleans County Historical Association will discuss efforts to preserve Gaines Basin District No. 2. The association meets 2 p.m. Thursday at Hoag Library. The public is welcome to attend and share ideas for the building.

“It is sitting there, just waiting for us to take care of it,” Capurso said about the building.

The schoolhouse was built in 1832. A log cabin schoolhouse preceded that structure at the site. Capurso said some of the early pioneers in the Albion and Gaines area attended the school. Caroline Phipps was one of the teachers at the log cabin. It’s where she got her start as a teacher.

She would later start a women’s academy, the Phipps Union Seminary, in Albion. That school was located where the County Clerk’s Building now stands next to the courthouse.

There is an effort to have a historical marker outside the building and also to get the site listed on the state and national registers of historic places.

Capurso would like to have a historical marker by the cobblestone building that notes the significance of the site as a school. He wants the Orleans County Historical Association, where he is a member, to apply for a grant from the Pomeroy Foundation for the marker. That foundation funded a marker in Clarendon for Hillside Cemetery last year.

Capurso has also recruited help from Melissa Ierlan and Erin Anheier, members of the Clarendon Historical Society, to help get the cobblestone schoolhouse on the state and national registers of historic places. Anheier wrote successful applications for several sites in Clarendon and in the Brockport area, helping the properties to be listed and making them eligible for tax credits for renovations and preservation efforts.

Capurso said community members will also be needed to help with some of the work to make the building usable as a possible museum, display area and meeting place, perhaps for the Orleans County Historical Association.

“Saving the building will be a longer term effort with human power,” Capurso said.