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Lucy Bensley Center officially re-opens to the public

RIBBON CUTTING — Margaret Mayerat (center) cuts a red ribbon, officially re-opening the Bensley Center to the public. Also, from left, Lee Luss, active in the town historical society; Concord Town Supervisor Gary Eppolito and former town clerk Grace Gentner. Photos by Joshua Gordon.
SPRINGVILLE — The Lucy Bensley Center of the town of Concord, which houses the Lucy Bensley Genealogy Library and the Concord Historical Society, as well as space for the Springville Area Chamber of Commerce, officially re-opened to the public on Oct. 9.

The building at 23 North Buffalo St. in Springville had been in use for some weeks since summer renovations finished up in September, though the re-dication and open house on Oct. 9 marked its official re-opening.

The renovations, begun in April of this year, were funded through the town of Concord, according to Derek Otto, librarian and secretary for the historical society. E&M Engineers and Surveyors, of Springville, and Mazur Construction, of Clarence Town Center, took care of the nuts and bolts of inspection and renovation.

FINISHED AT LAST — Indoor renovations to the Lucy Bensley Center building wrapped up in September. The town, supervisor Gary Eppolitto notes, can now focus on the exterior.

But it all started, Otto noted, because of a window.

“The reason [these renovations were] initiated, a lot of [historical society] members remembered the stained glass window,” said Otto, pointing to the particolored circle near the building’s pitched ceiling. “They remembered you couldn’t enjoy the window.”

Always in full view on the exterior of the building, the window was hidden from view indoors by a drop ceiling, installed during the energy crisis of the 1970s, explained Otto.

During his remarks during the ceremony, Town Historian Dave Batterson remembered, “there was one [ceiling] tile gone, it was Plexiglass, and if you got in just the right position, and the spotlight was on, you could see the stained glass window.”

And, according to some of those involved with the project, the renovations may never have come to pass if it weren’t for one persistent town historian.

Margaret Mayerat, 85, was the one who “really got the ball rolling,” said Otto.

CUT THE CAKE — Visitors were treated to a cake with the Bensley Center’s stained glass window depicted in the center of the frosting. Photos by Joshua Gordon.

Town Supervisor Gary Eppolito recalled Mayerat’s persistence: “That window always came to my attention. And we’d say, ‘Margaret, we just don’t have the money right now, but we’ll try.’ Well, it finally got to the point, we really had to do something, because, the building, as David did point out, was looking pretty shabby.”

Batterson elaborated: “The building needed to be insulated; it had mold growing over the basement, there was asbestos wrapped on the pipes, and there were radiators that were always in the way, so it was a great building, but it needed some updating inside. The outside was always attractive, but as you came inside, it was a letdown.”

But, as Batterson noted, “I think we have taken a step way forward.”

High-efficiency heating and air conditioning has replaced the need for a drop ceiling, asbestos insulation and the once-ubiquitous radiators. A dehumidifier hums along in the basement, helping keep storage dry and mold-free.

And, with the removal of the old ceiling, the window is in full view.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Mayerat, smiling at the fixture. “I wanted that window shown for so long.”

Grace Gentner, 97, former town clerk and friend of Mayerat, said of the newly renovated space, “It looks huge. The whole thing looks so different!”

Also during the open house, Jeanne Ellis, a member of the board of directors of the SACC, presented a bookshelf, salvaged from the wood of an old piano, to the chamber.

Batterson recalled that the piano, at one time, played during barn dances in town, and was moved to the historical society, where it was later dismantled and its parts sold.

As Ellis remembered: “All the wood was laying out there. I thought, ‘hmm, let’s see, I’m a picker, I’ll just see...’ So, I found these pieces, and I wanted to present it to the chamber as a bookshelf.”

Otto and Eppolito both noted that more changes are in store for the building. Otto said he foresees the historical society “finishing the cabinetry underneath the stained glass window, to mirror what’s on the other side of the room,” as well as “adding a flat screen [television and], hopefully, another [computer] work station for patrons of the genealogy library.”

Eppolito said that, after finishing major renovations inside the building, the town could now work on the outside.

“We’ve got a few other things we’ve got to do. Now that we’ve pretty much finished the inside, but [we can focus on] the outside now, painting the fascia, and we have to do some work, so hopefully, next year, we can continue on, get it back into shape, because we waited too long to do this project, quite frankly.”

Now, Mayerat is happy with the changes, and with her town as a whole. “I think we have something to be proud of. I think we’re such a loving community.”


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