By Jasmine Willis
WAYLAND — The local historical society celebrated over three decades of keeping history alive.
The Wayland Historical Society held a program on April 24 to honor the 30 Year Anniversary of the museum.
John Landino, Wayland Historical Society president talked about being the first president of the organization when it formed in 1992. He has taken on that role once more over the last few years.
“I would like each of you in your own special way to thank God for living in this beautiful community. It is mentioned in the program that I was the first president. I will say in the 30 years I was either president or vice-president for 28 of those years,” he said. “Betty Engel was a director for 30 years. I have to go back and thank Wayland for accepting me into their community 58 years ago. I came here as a young Italian from the small town of Atlanta.”
“The main influence in the start of this museum was the Lowell Club, but it wasn’t them that did the work. They had the idea, but we had strong leadership among Forbes Tenbrook and Guy Bennett. Guy led us in the finances. We had to raise a lot of money. We ended up raising over $200,000. I want to thank Guy for overseeing the project,” Landino continued. “We have added on and on, but you need to have a beginning. Things weren’t good in the first couple years, but we ended up purchasing this building. We thank Guy for all his work and dedication.”
S.V. Drum was a huge contributor to the museum at the start. Bennett spoke highly of the wealthy oil man at the celebration. He contributed thousands of dollars to the museum over several years.
“There seems to be an obsession with people who move out of Wayland and never forget their start in life. We have five major contributors who donated over $10,000,” Landino said .”That is the reason we were able to gather $200,000 in the start. One thing about all those who volunteered over the years they gave their time, talent and treasures to the museum. Several stand out as doing a lot of work for the museum. Marty Kimmel did the entire electric work for the museum. I want to thank everyone who made this happen.”
Landino honored all those who have believed in the museum over the decades. There are over 30 life members who pay $1,000 each. There are at least five of them that have given over $10,000.
“One thing is we are one of the best small town museums in New York State. We have a very large sum of money to maintain this place, and we need really good people to do that,” he said. “I want to thank Marian Crawford for putting this program together. I end with a short poem that I use all the time, because I know my destiny in life is short. ‘When we are dead and in our graves, and all of our bones are rotting. If this museum you see remember us, for we are long forgotten. May future generations follow our lead, and better our work if they can.”
Marian Crawford thanked Belinda Schuler and Brenda Yeoman of the E.J. Cottrell Memorial Library and We Wear History for coming out to greet people in period dress.
“We used to have them come over to show the kids what is in the museum before Covid. These two ladies were always here to explain history and why the bedrooms had a bathroom under the bed. What we have done today is think about everything we haven’t been able to do in the last three years. The real celebration is we are finally able to open again,” she said.
Crawford pointed out the new membership forms and called for anyone who wants to consider joining. She pointed out the many exhibits that were set up to honor this day. The 1883 fire compare what happened in the recent fire on Main Street. The famous Wayland Train Wreck was also on display. The old stagecoaches showing off around the area indicated a rich history of travel and inns.
“I found the article about the first fire in 1883 and showed the similarities between how that was handled and the one we just had. We hope you enjoy all the photos we found of Main Street along the way. They show off all the changes that have happened in Wayland over 100 years or so. We have seen quite a difference in Main Street since 1883,” she said.
Crawford said throughout the museum you can see the commitment and desire from all involved to preserve the local history. She added that over time the museum has expanded its history. There is a large dedication to the history of agriculture in the community. Throughout the whole building you see over 100 years of what happened in Wayland.
The 1883 fire devastated the entire community as they all raced to save their own home or store. Everything in the fire’s wrath was a blaze after it broke out in the old hotel. Thankfully swift action followed and much of the Main Street could be saved. People from all over the surrounding towns came to help with the inferno. They believed the blow was fatal but the community rose like a Phoenix from the ashes.
On the fateful night of Sept. 2, 1883 a fire broke out in the Hess block and took out those adjacent. Those who suffered great loss were the Albert Sauerbier Co., Kimmel and Morris Co., post office, stores, William Clark, and Dr. Biglow. The Wearkley Bakery, Munding’s Shoe Shop, Arnold’s Furniture, and George Nold also suffered. Only two months later a fire broke out once more at the Gothic Hotel and burned the Main Street corner.
The community thought they were safe over the century until another fire broke out on Feb. 22 and took out several apartments and businesses.
Sally Brooks Higgenbotham talked about the Shafer’s Soda Shoppe that used to be the place children would go after school for a cold treat in the 1950s to 60s. The soda shop display is among the favorite in the museum. It has fond memories for all who lived to enjoy it.
“I remember every time after school I would come get a treat before heading to the games. The counter and stools you see here are from the original shop. When it was taken over into a café the owner found a lot of these items and donated it to us. This display shows what the soda shop was like,” she said. “In the 1990s we had an event with the soda shop owner’s son Kenny Shafer who made the famous root beer floats. We had so many people turnout to enjoy that event.”
Higgenbotham explained that there used to be a soda fountain in every pharmacy with ice cream. They used to have them at all the five and dime stores as well with a lunch area.
The Bennett Bros. Buick’s was also on display at the museum and celebrated nearly a century before being shut down. Guy Bennett talked about working with his father and uncle all those years ago. The business stayed family owned until the very end.
Bennett said S.V Drum believed in him and gave him a start many years ago. He has a lot of respect for him. He made his fortune in aviation fuel. Drum always made sure to give back to his hometown.
On May 17 the Wayland-Cohocton Central shop class will be building a gazebo at the museum. It will be an all day project for the students. The museum directors are all very impressed with the work the students have done getting the wood ready.
The upcoming programs include a Civil War Program on May 15, Victorian Tea Party on June 5, and Ben Franklin Store History on July 17 all at 2 p.m.