Find us on Facebook

sandstone heritage

Batavia is home to 2 grand churches made of Medina sandstone

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 October 2016 at 10:31 am


102316_batbaptist1Photos by Tom Rivers

BATAVIA – In 1890-91, a towering church made of Medina sandstone took shape at 306 East Main St. in Batavia.

First Baptist Church used rough-faced gray Medina sandstone and Albion redstone to build one of  Batavia’s most striking landmarks.

The two types of sandstone in gray and red “create decorative patterns,” according to The Architectural Heritage of Genesee County, an impressive book on the inventory of Genesee’s most striking residences, churches and public buildings.

The Genesee County Landmark Society published the exhaustive book in 1988. The Baptist Church is on the cover.

The book lists Pierce and Dockstader of Elmira as the architects and John Shaefer as the local contractor. The structure has many characteristics of Richardson Romanesque with rounded windows. (Click here for more on Richardson Romanesque, first used in Buffalo in 1870 with the Richardson Olmsted Complex.)

“The extraordinary elongated round tower is actually a chimney stack,” according to Architectural Heritage of Genesee County. “The typical wide rounded arch forms the top half of the stained glass window facing Main Street.”

Catherine Roth headed the book project for the Landmark Society. In the book’s preface, she said the Landmark Society created the book to encourage the recognition of architecture as an art form that should be maintained and enjoyed.

“The Landmark Society feels architecture is a heritage that should be cherished and handed down through the generations as moments in history that cannot be preserved in any other way,” Roth wrote.




102316_batstmarys2St. Mary’s Catholic Church

Fifteen years after First Baptist opened, Catholics completed their own church made of Medina sandstone. St. Mary’s Catholic Church was completed in 1906 at 20 Ellicott St.

The church was made of rusticated Medina sandstone and is the oldest Catholic church building in use in Batavia.

The church was designed by John Copeland of Buffalo and John Pickert of Batavia was the contractor.

“Pointed arched windows including ones of stained glass depicting the life of Christ, small side projections suggesting buttresses and a crenellated bell tower are all Gothic design elements,” according to Architectural Heritage.

I was concerned St. Mary’s might close with the recent downsizing in the Catholic diocese. The parish in Batavia also had St. Anthony’s, a more recent building near Richmond Memorial Library (also a spectacular Medina sandstone building.)

The parish opted to keep St. Mary’s open. St. Anthony’s has been acquired by City Church and, after months of renovations, will have its first Sunday service at St. Anthony’s on Nov. 13 at noon.

The parish about a decade ago did extensive renovations to St. Mary’s, especially inside the building.


This is the only church I’ve noticed where the letters are protruding, and not etched into the stone. It is a magnificent achievement by the stonecutters from more than a century ago.


This church is a showcase of the red sandstone.


Return to top

4 sites added to Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame

Photo by Tom Rivers: The new inductees of the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame are pictured today after an induction ceremony at Medina City Hall, where the Hall of Fame is located in the main meeting room. The inductees include from left: Emma Flower Taylor Mansion in Watertown, owned by Katherine and Richard Pyne; Hillside Cemetery Chapel in Clarendon (Erin Anheier in front and Melissa Ierlan from Clarendon Historical Society); Sonnenberg  Manor in Canandaigua (David Hutchins, executive director of Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion, and Deborah Kelly, program manager); and the First Presbyterian Church of Buffalo (Christina Banas, front, is the church business manager and Elena Delgado in back is the church pastor). Takeform Architectural Graphics in Medina donated the plaques for the Hall of Fame.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 October 2016 at 7:52 pm

2 mansions, a towering church, and a cemetery chapel all recognized

MEDINA – Four exceptional structures made of Medina sandstone were inducted today into the fourth class of the Hall of Fame for the Medina Sandstone Society, with two mansions, an enormous church and small cemetery chapel all recognized for their enduring significance to their communities.

The Medina Sandstone Society created the Hall of Fame in 2013 to recognize outstanding sites made of the local stone. The Hall of Fame is located inside Medina City Hall in the main meeting room. City Hall is a prominent Medina sandstone building on Main Street.

The initiative has proven an eye-opener for the Hall of Fame committee, which has travelled throughout Upstate New York, and even to Erie, Pa. to see some of the nominated sites.

“There are really some gorgeous, gorgeous buildings,” said Hall of Fame Committee member Jim Hancock during today’s induction ceremony.

He is on the committee with David Miller and Don Colquhoun. They travel together to visit the nominated sites. They look for architectural significance and uniqueness, overall beauty, longevity and maintenance.

The following were inducted in the Class of 2016 (Descriptions courtesy of Medina Sandstone Society) :

• Hillside Cemetery Chapel in Clarendon


Located just outside the village of Holley, Hillside Cemetery is an active town cemetery established in 1866 and developed between 1866 and 1938 at 4065 Holley-Byron Rd. An elegant Gothic Revival style chapel was built in 1894 for $3,350 and is a primary feature of the cemetery.

Originally constructed for burial services at the cemetery, the 20-by-32-foot chapel was designed by Rochester architect Addison Forbes and features Medina sandstone construction, a slate roof, and decorative glass windows. The chapel and cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.

In 2014 the Landmark Society of WNY selected the chapel for inclusion as one of their Five to Revive properties. In 2015 the Town of Clarendon was awarded $126,210 from the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council to help fund much-needed repairs to the cemetery chapel.

The Clarendon Historical Society was praised for pushing to raise awareness of the chapel and secure the funding for repairs. Erin Anheier, one of the Historical Society members, said the grant documents were signed today and she expects much of the work to happen next year.

She is hopeful the chapel will be used for community events, including art shows, musical events and even small weddings.

“They’ve brought the chapel back to life,” said HOF Committee member David Miller.

Anheier thanked town officials, and local residents for supporting the efforts to save the chapel.

• Emma Flower Taylor mansion in Watertown

102016_mshofwatertownBuilt in 1896 as a wedding present to his only surviving child by then NYS Governor Roswell Pettibone Flower, the Emma Flower Taylor mansion in Watertown is an outstanding example of the Queen Anne architectural style, one of the most recognizable of the Victorian styles. It is located at 241 Clinton St.

It is a massive 2 ½ story mansion constructed of rock faced, random course Medina sandstone. The home was designed by Charles Rich of the NYC firm of Rich Lamb, which also designed Sagamore, the home of Theodore Roosevelt on Oyster Bay, Long Island.

It has many distinguishing features including a porte-cochere, tiled roofs, a wrap-around porch on the first floor, second floor porches, rounded corner turrets, large overhanging gables, an asymmetrical footprint and surfaces, and widow bays. Its most unique feature is the use of Medina sandstone which was quarried in Medina, moved to the site by rail, and cut on site.

The mansion was converted to eight apartments in 1940 after Mrs. Taylor’s death. The Sandstone Society said it is a magnificent structure which was built and maintained in the classic Victorian tradition both externally and internally. The present owners, Richard and Katherine Pyne, have stayed true to preserving this architectural gem in its original Queen Anne style. The Pynes have owned the mansion for 13 years. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

“This is a labor of love owning these structures,” Mrs. Pyne said. “We look after it with love year after year.”

• First Presbyterian Church in Buffalo

102016_mshofpres2The First Presbyterian Church of Buffalo, New York was established in 1819 and was the first organized church in Buffalo. The current building, made of beautiful Medina sandstone, was designed by Green & Wicks and was built by Jared Hyde Tilden. In addition to this wonderful church, a 163-foot tower was completed in 1897. In both cases the style is Richardson Romanesque. Upon the completion of this tower, the congregation formally dedicated the sanctuary on May 6, 1897.

When this church was first thought to be sited, the congregants and trustees wanted to be in the midst of the expanding population in Buffalo. As the city grew, so did First Presbyterian and its desire to grow their mission. As a result, they assisted in the formation of thirty-nine other congregations.

Today, almost 200 years after its formation, First Presbyterian and its beautiful sandstone edifice are examples of truly outstanding longevity, both in spirit and structure, HOF member Jim Hancock said.

The church is located at 1 Symphony Circle across from Kleinhans Music Hall. Houghton College uses the church for classes. The Village Church also has services at First Presbyterian.

Elena Delgado, the church’s pastor, said First Presbyterian is challenged to maintain “the brick and mortar” of the property due to a declining membership and aging congregation. The church has welcomed the other organizations to use the site.

“It’s an extraordinary jewel of architecture,” she said. “It’s very majestic and it means so much to the community.”

• Sonnenberg Manor in Canandaigua

102016_mshofsonnebergFrederick Ferris Thompson, a prominent banker in NYC, and his wife Mary Clark Thompson –whose father, Myron Holley Clark, was governor of NYS in 1855 – purchased the Sonnenberg property in 1863, keeping the name which means “sunny hill” in German.

In 1887, they replaced the original farmhouse with a 40-room Queen Anne style mansion at 151 Charlotte St. The mansion was designed by Francis Allen, a noted Boston architect. Allen also designed and oversaw the remodeling of the mansion approximately 15 years after it was constructed.

The mansion’s facade is rusticated Medina gray and red sandstone. After Mary Clark Thompson’s death in 1923, the property was sold to the Federal Government who built a veteran’s hospital The government used the mansion to house doctor’s families and some nurses. In 1972 the mansion and its grounds were transferred from the Federal Government to a local non-profit organization formed to restore and reopen the property. It was opened to the public and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. The property is now under the New York State Parks System.

“Not only is the building magnificent, but the grounds and the gardens are as well,” said Hancock, the HOF committee member. “You have to go visit.”

David Hutchins has been the site’s executive director for 11 years.

“It’s an incredible place,” he said. “I’m honored to be there and proud to be part of its legacy of preservation.”

For more on the Hall of Fame, click here.

Return to top

New Sandstone Hall of Fame sites to be inducted Oct. 20

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 September 2016 at 8:04 am
Photos by Tom Rivers: St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown is a sprawling and towering church edifice constructed from 1892 to 1894. The site includes a tower with a clock on four faces, as well as the city’s only chime bells. It is among the past nominees considered for the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame.

Photos by Tom Rivers: St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown is a sprawling and towering church edifice constructed from 1892 to 1894. The site includes a tower with a clock on four faces, as well as the city’s only chime bells. It is among the past nominees considered for the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame.

MEDINA – The Medina Sandstone Society will be inducting the fourth class of impressive Medina Sandstone buildings on Oct. 20 during a ceremony at City Hall at 1 p.m.

The Medina Sandstone Society has inducted 14 structures into the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame since it was started in 2013. The honorees are recognized with plaques inside City Hall, which is an impressive sandstone structure on Main Street.

The building’s owners have all attended the induction ceremony so far, including the leaders of an Episcopal church in Erie, Pa.

The Sandstone Society wants to recognize great buildings made of the local stone. Towering churches, ornate mansions, impressive war memorials have all been inducted, with additional nominations, including eight this year.

The Sandstone Society considered the eight new nominees, plus about 20 holdovers from previous years. The Hall of Fame selection committee includes Jim Hancock, David Miller and Don Colquhoun.

The new nominees for this year include: Emma Flower Taylor Mansion in Watertown, the Lafayette Lofts (Lafayette Presbyterian Church) in Buffalo, Christ Church in Rochester, Old Federal Building (Rochester City Hall) in Rochester, First Presbyterian Church in Buffalo, St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church in Buffalo, Zion Episcopal Church in Palmyra and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Sanborn.

For more on the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame, click here.

Return to top

Hamlin Beach State Park getting overhaul

Staff Reports Posted 21 July 2016 at 7:45 pm

Bathhouse gets $1.5 million in upgrades, $750,000 more in park improvements coming

Hamlin Beach bathhouse

File photos by Tom Rivers – The Bathhouse, built of Medina sandstone, is pictured before receiving $1.5 million in improvements.

HAMLIN – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the $1.5 million initiative to modernize and preserve the Depression-era bathhouse at Hamlin Beach State Park is complete.

Construction has also begun on a $750,000 project to expand educational and recreational activities within the Park’s Yanty Marsh – an ecologically unique area, popular for birdwatching, fishing, paddling and nature observation. The enhancements will feature a new boardwalk nature trail and observation tower.

The projects are funded by Governor Cuomo’s NY Parks 2020 program, a multi-year commitment of $900 million in private and public funding to revitalize State Parks.

Hamlin Beach is just east of Orleans County.  The park includes many structures made of Medina sandstone. When the country was in the grips of the Great Depression in the 1930s, the Civilian Conservations Corps was established. About 2 million people were put to work, including about 1,200 people at Hamlin from June 1935 to August 1941.
“New York’s parks are gateways to the unique natural beauty that exists in every corner of the state,” Governor Cuomo said. “Beyond their unrivaled aesthetics and array of recreational opportunity, our parks are places of solace for millions of New Yorkers and visitors alike. The improvements at Hamlin Beach State Park are essential to its long-term viability and preservation, and with new scenic trails and modern facilities, will continue to attract visitors and inject more tourism dollars into the Finger Lakes’ economy.”

Modernization of Depression-Era Bathhouse

The bathhouse, built of Medina sandstone in 1939-40 by members of the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, underwent a complete renovation to protect the building’s historic integrity and modernize public spaces. The project included:
• Repurposing the front lobby area to allow for a new food services and public programs.
• Renovating both the Men’s and Women’s Locker and Bathrooms to fully meet current codes, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.
• Repairing the historic masonry and replacing the roof with material to reestablish the building’s historic appearance.
• Renovating the exterior area of the facility, including new stamped concrete walkways, an ADA compliant ramp, new landscaping, and outdoor shower towers.
• Rehabilitating the lifeguard/first aid area.
• Replacing the water, sewer and electrical systems of the building.

Yanty Marsh Nature Trail Rehabilitation and Improvements

State Parks has also begun a $750,000 project to enhance educational and recreational activities in the Yanty Marsh, an ecologically unique area of the park.

The project calls for the construction of a new boardwalk over Yanty Marsh with a large turnaround, providing visitors a 360-degree view of the marsh. The boardwalk will enhance both recreational and educational opportunities within the Yanty Marsh area, providing visitors a closer view of the flora and fauna found within the marsh.

An existing observation platform, located northwest of the proposed boardwalk near the edge of the marsh, will be replaced with a new ADA-compliant platform at a higher elevation at the same location, offering visitors, such as bird watchers, an expansive view of the Yanty Marsh area.

Additional improvements include:
• Rehabilitating and resurfacing the park’s existing the self-guided Yanty Marsh Nature Trail;
• Creating two “potholes” or open water pockets, one on either side of the proposed boardwalk, to provide new habitat for aquatic flora and fauna, increasing the diversity of species present within the Yanty Marsh area;
• Constructing a new shelter within the picnic and parking area to enhance public use of this portion of the park;
• Modernizing the area’s outdated car-top boat launch to encourage public access to the park and Lake Ontario.

Visitors should be aware the Yanty Marsh area will be closed to the public during construction activities.
“Hamlin Beach State Park has hosted memorable gatherings of friends and family for generations, and the historic bathhouse renovations and Yanty Marsh improvements will ensure these happy traditions continue,” State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said. “I’m grateful that Governor Cuomo understands the importance of protecting and enhancing what is special about Hamlin Beach and all of our State Parks across New York.”

Hamlin Beach bathhouse

Hamlin Beach with its many Medina sandstone buildings was nominated for the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame in 2013.

Holley students observe Flag Day; Chancellor of the Chapel winner announced

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 14 June 2016 at 12:00 am
Holley students on Flag Day

Photos by Kristina Gabalski – Holley Elementary students march from the school to the Railway Depot Museum for Flag Day ceremonies Tuesday morning.

HOLLEY – Donning their best red, white and blue, and singing patriotic songs, Holley Elementary School students paraded to the Railway Depot Museum on Tuesday morning for the 59th Flag Day observance in the village.

The students gathered outside the Depot along with school and community leaders to sing and play music, bestow citizenship awards, and announce the winner of the “Chancellor of the Chapel” fundraiser/election.

Holley students on Flag Day

It’s all Red, White and Blue as the parade enters the Public Square in Holley.

Members of the Holley Central Elementary School Student Council announced the results of voting in the “mock political race” for the Chancellor of the Chapel. Gamma the Dog was declared the winner.

A total of $2,630.53 was raised during the year-long fundraising/community service effort which benefits restoration of the historic 1894 Medina Sandstone chapel at Hillside Cemetery.

Gamma the Dog was “elected” Chancellor of the Chapel.  He accepted the Keys to the Chapel during the Flag Day ceremonies and looks as if he will take the responsibilities of his new position very seriously.

Melissa Ierlan accepts the whopping donation check from Chancellor Gamma.  It will be used for restoration work at the Hillside Chapel.

Clarendon Historian Melissa Ierlan thanked participants for their efforts.

“The kids enjoyed it, it was a nice project for them,” Ierlan told Orleans Hub.  “Most importantly, they got behind something and made a difference.”

The mock Chancellor election included four candidates: Samson the Dog, M&M the Goat, Scarlett the Hedgehog, and the winner, Gamma.

Ierlan said voting was tight between Samson and Gamma until the very end of the election. A last minute donation of $200 ($1 per vote) for Gamma as well as two other large donations – including one from the Holley Rotary in Gamma’s favor – put him way in front with about 900 votes. Samson came in second with approximately 500 votes, Ierlan said.

Chancellor Gamma looks lovingly at his owner, Alexander Zelent, who holds the key to the Chapel – the Medina Sandstone chapel at Hillside Cemetery, while Clarendon Historian Melissa Ierlan gives Chancellor Gamma a congratulatory embrace.

Holley Elementary Student Council Advisor Sally Martin said in addition to the Chancellor fundraiser/election, students sold geraniums, decorated chapel-shaped donation containers (created by former Holley art teacher Larry Dabney) for distribution throughout the community, and participated in a read-a-thon to raise this year’s funds.

“The support from the community was amazing,” she said.

Holley students on Flag Day

Some of the youngest participants watch the Holley Elementary band play.

Sally Martin with Holley Elementary Chorus

Sally Martin directs the Elementary Chorus as they sing patriotic songs.

Holley Flag Day 2016

Perfect weather and a festooned Depot Museum made for a festive setting at Tuesday’s Flag Day ceremonies in Holley.

Holley Elementary Band

Holley Elementary Band members play “When The Saints Go Marching In.”

 Return to top

Sandstone Society seeks nominations for Hall of Fame structures

Staff Reports Posted 31 May 2016 at 11:00 am
St. Paul's Cathedral

File photos by Tom Rivers St. Paul’s Cathedral in Buffalo was named in the inaugural Medina sandstone Hall of Fame Class of 2013. St. Paul’s was built by the Episcopal Church from 1849-1851. The church used stone from a quarry in Hulberton. (The 274-foot-high spire was completed in 1870.) This church was Buffalo’s first major architectural landmark. It was designed by Richard Upjohn after he earned a national reputation for his design of the Trinity Episcopal Church in New York City.

MEDINA – The Medina Sandstone Society is pleased to announce that it is accepting nominations for the Sandstone Hall of Fame induction class of 2016.

he Sandstone Society started the Hall of Fame in 2013, and has inducted 14 structures so far. Plaques and pictures of the Hall of Famers are displayed in the main meeting room of Medina’s City Hall.

The Sandstone Society will accept nominations until July 15. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony is scheduled for Oct. 20, 2016.

People from anywhere can send their choices for induction directly to the Hall of Fame Committee of the Medina Sandstone Society by mailing the nomination to The Medina Sandstone Society, PO Box 25, Medina, N.Y., 14103. Or, a nomination may be sent electronically using the on-line address (click here).

This year’s class will include nominations from previous years not already selected and any new nominations received by July 15.

St. Louis church spire

The top of St. Louis Catholic Church in Buffalo is an open work lattice spire that reaches 245 feet high. It is the tallest open-work spire ever built completely of stone in the United States, and it is also believed to be the only remaining open-work or pierced spire in the U.S. This church was inducted into the 2014 Class of the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame.

The home of the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame has been permanently established in the City Hall of Medina, a structure itself made of the same brownstone quarried in the Medina area for over 100 years.

Jim Hancock, chairman of the Hall of Fame Committee, along with Dave Miller and Don Colquhoun will research all nominations, including a site visit.

Criteria for consideration shall include age, beauty, longevity, whether the structure is still in use and architectural uniqueness.

If possible nomination information should have full background and documentation and, at the very least, should give a name and phone number to be contacted for further information or a web-site.

Sandstone Society recognizes Medina students for historical excellence

Posted 23 May 2016 at 12:00 am

Provided photos – The Medina Sandstone Society has recognized the first group of students to be named to the John Ryan School of Historical Excellence. They include, from left: Zachary Harris, Alyssa Shortridge, Allison Bensley, Amanda Lunden, Caitlyn Davies, Gregory Husung and Tyler Waldriff. 

Press Release, Medina Central School

MEDINA – Seven students from Medina High School are the first class to belong to the John Ryan School of Historical Excellence that was started by the Medina Sandstone Society this year.

Allison Bensley, Caitlyn Davies, Zachary Harris, Gregory Husung, Amanda Lunden, Alyssa Shortridge and Tyler Waldriff are honor level students who are being recognized by Sandstone Society.  The goal of the John Ryan School is to instill in the minds of Medina’s youth a heightened pride in the local community and encourage an understanding of their hometown history and heritage.

John Ryan was a pioneer stonemason who traveled hundreds of miles on foot and spent the rest of his life as a builder and quarry operator, using world-famous Medina sandstone. Ryan opened the first commercial sandstone quarry in Medina. The Sandstone Society started the school to encourage the students to become future leaders of Medina.

At a recent ceremony, students saw their names unveiled on a plaque at the High School.

Allison Bensley also received a $500 scholarship from the Sandstone Society.  She is pictured with Jim Hancock, president of the group and chairman of the selection committee.

Masons give $25K to Sandstone Trust in memory of Bob Waters

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 May 2016 at 12:00 am

Provided photos – Medina Sandstone Society President James Hancock, left, accepts a $25,000 check for the Sandstone Society from the Medina Masonic Lodge. The Masons gave the money of memory of Roberts Waters, a long-time Mason and also the president of the Sandstone Society until his death at age 90 on July 29, 2015. The masons in the photo include, from left: Lodge Master Alan Kozody, Jonathan Incho, Allan Kropf, and Robert Donovan, district deputy grand master.

MEDINA – The Medina Masonic Lodge has given $25,000 in memory of their long-time member Robert Waters to an organization that promotes local history and supports many community causes.

Waters was president of the Medina Sandstone Society until his death at age 90 last July 29. The Masons donated the $25,000 to the Sandstone Society, which will likely use the money to grow the Sandstone Trust, a fund used for community projects.

Waters pushed to create the Sandstone Trust, which has about $100,000 in the endowment fund. In the Trust’s five years it has given about $20,000 worth of grants to local programs, projects and organizations. Most of those grants run from $200 to $600 or even $1,000 in unusual cases.

The Sandstone Society board of directors will decide how to use the $25,000. Hancock said he expects it will go to the Sandstone Trust, which could result in more grants to be given annually for the community.

“It was a wonderful gesture on their part,” Hancock said about the donation from the Masonic Lodge.

The Masons sold their building on West Center Street in January to the World Life Institute. Some of the proceeds from the sale were used to make the donation in memory of Waters.

“Everybody was just overwhelmed,” Hancock said about the gift. “It was such a nice thing for them to do for Bob.”

The Masons continue to be active in Medina. They are meeting at the lodge in Middleport, while working on community service efforts in Medina.

The donation from the Masonic Lodge to the Sandstone Society was announced on Wednesday during an event at City Hall, where there is a Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame. This group pictured includes, front row from left: Sue Holland of the Sandstone Society; Barb Waters, wife of Mr. Waters; and Jim Hancock, current Sandstone Society president. Back row: Medina Masonic Lodge members Robert Donovan, Robert Harrold, Lodge Master Alan Kozody, Jonathan Incho and Allan Kropf; and Sandstone Society members Peggy Schreck, Don Colquhoun and Tim Moriarty.

GCC announces first Heritage Festival in Orleans County

Posted 3 May 2016 at 12:00 am
cannons at Mount Albion Cemetery

File photo by Tom Rivers – The Civil War section at Mount Albion Cemetery is pictured last October when the leaves were changing color. A Heritage Festival planned for Sept. 9-11 will highlight some of the county’s historic assets, including cemeteries.

Press Release, GCC

ALBION – People who live in Orleans County know that it is a special place and they work hard to preserve their precious heritage. They enjoy a wealth of extraordinary assets from historic buildings with magnificent architecture to the Erie Canal that did so much to create the town and villages along its banks.

Even the stone in the ground – Medina sandstone, and the soil sustaining the farms – the muck lands, are appreciated. Beginning in September 2016, a county-wide festival will celebrate these many cherished treasures.

Organizers are proud to announce the first Orleans County Heritage Festival, Sept. 9-11: a weekend dedicated to spotlighting the many historic assets of Orleans County. For this year’s festival, four themes will be highlighted – Agriculture, Transportation, Historic Cemeteries and Historic Gems.

Now in development, a high quality brochure will highlight all the participating museums, places and organizations. A passport system will encourage participants to visit six historic sites over the course of the weekend and prizes will be awarded for those who complete the task.

In addition to the many historic sites in Orleans County, Genesee Community College will participate in the festival as headquarters for the passport system and with special events. The Medina Campus Center will host a timeline festival featuring re-enactors from various American wars – from the French and Indian War down to 20th century wars. Artisans demonstrating period crafts and special music will contribute to the sensation as visitors walk through time.

The Albion Campus Center will host a program on “Death Ways” through the years featuring talks on Victorian mourning art and the famous murders that occurred in Orleans County.

Many other exciting details of the 2016 Orleans County Heritage Festival will be shared in the coming weeks, but planners are asking everyone to mark their calendars now – September 9-11, 2016. Make plans to join the fun and explore the many historic assets Orleans County has to offer!

For more information or to be involved as a volunteer, please contact:

Derek Maxfield, associate professor of History at GCC, 585-343-0055 ext. 6288.

Jim Simon, associate dean at the Medina and Albion Campus Centers,,call 585-589-4936.

State grant shows appreciation for historic Hillside chapel

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 December 2015 at 12:00 am

File photos by Tom Rivers – The chapel at Hillside Cemetery was open for tours on Sept.21, 2014, when the Clarendon Historical Society unveiled a new historical marker for the cemetery.

HOLLEY – The announcement last Thursday that New York State would provide a $126,210 grant for work on the chapel at Hillside Cemetery should show the community that the state values historic sites in Orleans County, including the old cemetery chapels.

“I hope this opens people’s eyes that other buildings are worth saving,” said Erin Anheier, a member of the Clarendon Historical Society. “I hope it inspires people.”

Anheier wrote the grant for the state application. It was a painstaking effort. Most municipalities and organizations will hire a professional grantwriter to put together the application for state funds.

“It’s exciting because it’s such a competitive grant,” she said. “It validates what we’ve said all along that this is a valuable, important building worth preserving.”

Anheier and the Clarendon Historical Society have worked hard the past five years to raise public awareness and support for restoring the site.

The state approved a matching grant for the chapel, and the Historical Society already has about $65,000 towards the local match with $20,000 from the Rochester Community Foundation, $14,500 from the Curtis Foundation, $10,000 from an anonymous donor, and $20,000 in other local contributions.

In-kind work from the Town of Clarendon can also count towards the local share.

“We are very confident we can raise the local match,” Anheier said.

The Historical Society has identified about $250,000 in restoration work for the chapel, a Gothic Revival chapel built of Medina sandstone in 1894. (It might be the only site in Orleans County with a flying buttress.)

Amy Harris plays her flute during a reception on Sept. 21, 2014 inside the chapel at Hillside Cemetery.

The chapel is the focal point of a cemetery owned by the Town of Clarendon. The town and Historical Society want to restore the non-denominational chapel and repurpose it for new public uses. Anticipated use includes concerts, historical and art exhibits, and lectures.

Anheier said the slate roof will be replaced with slate, and some of the stained-glass windows will be repaired. The project includes painting the inside, adding lighting, refinishing the floor and adding a handrail to the outside steps.

Anheier also thinks the chapel would make sense as the eastern end of a Medina Sandstone Trail in Orleans County if municipalities can get on board with that project.

Hillside Cemetery opened in 1866 and was designed in the 19th century “Rural Cemetery Movement.” That is on the eastern side of the cemetery where the gravesides are dug into the side of the hill.

The 20th century “Lawn Style” approach is seen in the western portion. The cemetery has many beautiful gravestones that are works of art, Anheier said.

She also was instrumental in the cemetery being recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.

Anheier said the Historical Society welcomes more donations and support for the chapel and cemetery. Donations can be sent to Clarendon Historical Society, “Chapel Fund” at P.O. Box 124, Clarendon NY 14429.

This picture was taken looking up from the mortuary chambers to the stairs leading to the main chapel room.

Would statues, public art projects help Orleans County celebrate 200th?

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 November 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers
BUFFALO – This sculpture of a bison is displayed in downtown Buffalo. It has been there for 40 years.

It was a gift to Buffalo in 1975 from its sister city, Kanazawa, in Japan as part of the bicentennial celebration for the United States the following year.

“Bison” was created by artist Cecilia Evans Taylor.

Orleans County has a big birthday around the corner. The county will turn 200 in 2024 (or it may be 2025, depending on source). I haven’t heard any rumblings about the county’s bicentennial. I don’t think the officials have given it much thought. It’s still nearly a decade away.

This painted buffalo on Franklin Street was turned into artwork by Gustavo Glorioso as part of the “Herd About Buffalo” project, when 154 buffalo roamed Buffalo streets in 2000. The project was a benefit for the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and the Burchfield-Penney Art Center. This one was sponsored by Buffalo Optical and called “Eye Love Buffalo.”

I think a public art project would generate excitement on the county’s 200th anniversary. I think painting fiber-glass mules would make sense because the mules were iconic animals during the Erie Canal’s heyday when mule-drawn packet boats were a frequent sight.

We could try to have at least one in each town, but hopefully there could be more. Maybe the mule public art project could happen before the 200th, and proceeds from that effort could be used to fund a bigger signature site for the county’s bicentennial.

A statue of George Washington stands in front of Old County Hall, home to Erie County government on 92 Franklin St. in Buffalo.

The statue was paid for by the Erie County Masonic Foundation as a bicentennial gift on the 200th anniversary of the country’s founding. The base of the statue includes the name of the sculptor, J. Turkalj and notes it was built in 1976.

The statue includes an inscription “1776 * 1976” with the words: “Presented to the people of the County of Erie by the free and accepted Masons of forty-nine lodges in the three Erie districts and various affiliated Masonic organizations as our contribution to the bicentennial anniversary of the United States.”

I saw the statue last Saturday while in Buffalo. There are many statues and public works of art in downtown Buffalo. I think these pieces enliven the landscape, help promote the city and build community pride.

I think Orleans County would benefit with similar projects. The George Washington statue was part of a celebration of the U.S. bicentennial.

Orleans County officially formed when we split off from Genesee County. Orleans should celebrate its bicentennial with a signature project.

I’ve been promoting the idea of a statue and heritage site for the quarrymen who worked in the Medina sandstone quarries in Orleans County for nearly a century. They helped unearth and carve the stone for some of the grandest buildings in the region and state.

Their work continues to stand out more than a century later with many of our churches, chapels and finest homes.

Many descendants of the quarrymen continue to live in the county. The quarry workers did dangerous jobs in perhaps the county’s greatest industry ever. So maybe a signature site in their honor would be ideal for the 200th anniversary of the county. Personally, I’d like to see it happen before the 200th birthday in 2024 (or 2025). The site could be a draw for the county. Why wait?

The statue of Washington notes he was the first president of the United States from 1789-1797, and also served as First Master in the Alexandria Lodge No. 22, Alexandria, Virginia, from 1788-1789.

There are other bicentennial sites and statues around Buffalo.

Poland gave this statue of General Kazimerz Pulaski to the people of the United States in honor of the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Pulaski stands outside the Ellicott Square Building in downtown Buffalo.

The statue declares Pulaski as “Hero of Poland and the United States of America.” Pulaski saved the life of George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. Pulaski would serve as a general in the Continental Army. He died of wounds suffered in the Battle of Savannah. He is one of only seven people to be awarded honorary United States citizenship.

Sculptor Kazimierz Danilewicz created the statue of Pulaski, which shows him standing erect with his hands resting on his sword.

In Buffalo, a grand trifecta of churches made from Medina Sandstone

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 November 2015 at 10:00 am

3 sites in Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame within walking distance of each other

Photos by Tom Rivers

BUFFALO – The top of St. Louis Catholic Church in Buffalo is an open work lattice spire that reaches 245 feet high.

It is the tallest open-work spire ever built completely of stone in the United States, and it is also believed to be the only remaining open-work or pierced spire in the U.S.

St. Louis was built from 1886-1889 and is considered the “Mother Church of the Diocese of Buffalo.” It features a Gothic Revival design. The church, one of the largest ecclesiastical buildings in Buffalo, can seat nearly 2,000 people.

I heard about the St. Louis Catholic Church and wanted to see it. The church was inducted into the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame in 2014.

I got my chance to see on Saturday when I was in Buffalo.

St. Louis church entryway

Even the doors and entryway to St. Louis are awesome.

St. Louis is one of three landmark churches (one has been repurposed into an events center) made of Medina sandstone that have been part of the Buffalo skyline for more than a century. The sites are all within walking distance of each other.

I visited the sites on Saturday during some down time in a Lego robotics competition at the Buffalo Academy of Science Charter School. My son is on one of the teams that competed from Orleans County.

The charter school is on Franklin Street near the Convention Center. It’s in the hub of Buffalo, near some spectacular Medina Sandstone sites.

St. Paul’s Cathedral was built by the Episcopal Church from 1849-1851. The church used stone from a quarry in Hulberton. (The 274-foot-high spire was completed in 1870.)

This church was Buffalo’s first major architectural landmark. It was designed by Richard Upjohn after he earned a national reputation for his design of the Trinity Episcopal Church in New York City.

Step inside St. Paul’s and prepare to be wowed. The columns and arches are also made of sandstone.

There are numerous large stained-glass windows, with some made by the famed Tiffany Company.

The cathedral was largely destroyed in fire in 1888. The interior was ruined, but the Medina Sandstone walls remained solid. This disaster bolstered the reputation of Medina Sandstone as a durable and fire resistant building material. Working within these solid sandstone walls the church interior was reopened in 1890.

St. Paul’s is located next to another famous structure, Louis Sullivan’s Prudential (Guaranty) Building, an early skyscraper built in 1896.

Both St. Paul’s and the Sullivan skyscraper have been declared National Historic landmarks. There are only about 30 sites with this designation in Western New York, including the Rochester region. Orleans County has one of those National Historic Landmarks: The Cobblestone Museum.

The former Asbury-Delaware Methodist Church was constructed between 1871 and 1876 and used as a Methodist church until 1980.

Other congregations occupied the building for the next 10 years, but then it sat empty, its structure deteriorating and its interior vandalized. The City of Buffalo took ownership of the building, but by 1995 stones falling from the structure caused adjacent sidewalks to be closed and the church was slated for demolition.

However an outcry from the community led to the formation of the “Citizens to Save the Asbury Church.” Legal action stopped the plans for demolition and the group began to raise funds for emergency repairs.

In 1999 musician Ani DiFranco and manager Scott Fisher negotiated a plan for purchase and restoration which began a five-year reconstruction process to create a center for music and art in Buffalo’s downtown.

The development of “Babeville” saved this beautiful, historic building and contributed to a new appreciation of Buffalo’s heritage which today plays a major role in the revitalization of the city, according to the Medina Sandstone Society.

Fall splendor at Mount Albion

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

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – An annual rite of passage for Orleans County residents should include a visit to Mount Albion Cemetery, especially the Civil War Memorial tower, every fall.

I went to see the tower on Nov. 7. It was a crisp autumn day. I hadn’t been up the 68-foot-high tower in a  couple years.

I was happy to see the spiral staircase is freshly painted. Last time I climbed all of the steps, there was lots of graffiti. This was taken from the top of the tower, which was built in 1876, on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the country.

I’m a little uncomfortable up high, but here is a view looking down from the tower. There are nice sandstone steps leading to the tower.

The tower provides views of scenic Albion, including the Orleans County Courthouse.

These iron gates lead into the tower, which is a memorial to about 500 Orleans County residents who died in the Civil War. Their names are etched in marble slabs inside the tower.

The cemetery on Route 31 is included on the National Register of Historic Places. There are many historic features of Mount Albion, including this hitching post that was used to tie up horses.

The cemetery, with its winding paths, is a popular spot for joggers and walkers.

St. Mary’s gets a new roof in Holley

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 November 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

HOLLEY – Contractors are working on a new roof for St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Holley. The roof hasn’t been replaced in 38 years.

Work started about two weeks ago with Century Architectural Sheet Metal in Buffalo tackling the job. The project is expected to be complete by Dec. 1, said Father Mark Noonan, parish priest.

The former brown shingles will be replaced with a gatehouse slate color. “It’s really going to make the sandstone shine,” Father Noonan said.

The church was built in 1904 and was inducted into the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame last month.

The parish last fall announced a capital campaign with a goal for $300,000. Parishioners at St. Mary’s in Holley and St. Mark’s in Kendall came through with $585,000.

That is allowing the parish to put on new roofs for St. Mary’s and St. Mark’s, and address other facility needs. Air-conditioning was added to St. Mary’s this summer.

The interior of the sanctuary will be updated over the next one to two years. The church will reach out to a consultant on those improvements.

St. Mary’s also plans to redo the driveway to add more handicapped accessible parking spaces, and wants to put in new sidewalks.

St. Marks’ has a new restroom as part of the capital projects and will be getting new steps.

This statue of Mary was recently refurbished inside St. Mary’s. The statue was white, but it was painted with many details added. The statue was originally made in 1880.

Other statues also have been refurbished at St. Mary’s, including ones of St. Rocco and St. Patrick.

The St. Mary’s Parish is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

Hillside Cemetery chapel will host historical lecture

Staff Reports Posted 30 October 2015 at 12:00 am

HOLLEY – Genesee Community College history professor Derek Maxfield will bring to an end the month-long series of events on “Hillside Heritage” with a lecture on Monday at Hillside Cemetery in Holley.

Maxfield will discuss “Victorian Death and the Civil War.” The events at the cemetery, including three public lectures and a very successful ghost walk, are part of an initiative to bring more attention to the plight of the Gothic Revival chapel at the cemetery, which was completed in 1894.

Derek Maxfield

Efforts are underway to raise funds to restore the beautiful Medina sandstone building designed by Rochester architect Addison Forbes. The chapel and cemetery are included on the National Register of Historic Places.

The lecture on Monday will combine two of Maxfield’s research interests in one talk – Victorian culture and the Civil War. By 1861, Victorian culture with its many social rules dominated American society and set the standards of conduct for the ladies and gentlemen of the era.

These same social mores played an important role in bringing about the great war between the states. But the war far exceeded what the Victorians or anyone else expected bringing a cataclysm of suffering and death that would change values and culture profoundly.

The Monday lecture will begin at 7 p.m. in the chapel at Hillside Cemetery. In keeping with the season, the lecture will be delivered without the aid of any technology and the chapel will be lit with only oil lamps and candles – producing an appropriately spooky effect. While the lecture is free, donations to the chapel restoration fund will be gladly accepted.