Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Local History Saved and Savored in Castile

CASTILE: Local history. We create it every day but, come evening, we sweep it out the door like so much cat fur. Luckily, some few dedicated people roll up their sleeves and hold onto that history knowing that we don't really learn without remembering where and what we've been.
            “The history of our town is in those cabinets,” a woman said nodding toward a row of drawers in the Castile Historical House. She and 8 other people were at work in and outside the museum when Rick and I just happened to find it on Tuesday. Rick and I had been on the road when plans changed so we happened down this street in Castile where local history is lives in an old, white house.
            Outside some people planted pachysandra around what was the town fountain – now a geranium planter. Inside clocks ticked and voices conversed sorting through the newest newsletter, an ongoing inventory and the filing of information that chronicles the ongoing life of Castile.
            The house was built in 1865 by Henry Cumming. It was sold only 3 times with the last sale made in 1956 to Annie Eddy. Mrs. Eddy bought it purposefully to donate it to the Castile Historical Society in memory of her husband. Currently the organization is supported by about 90 members with 10 of them active, friendly and dedicated to weekly work sessions. Jim Little guided us through the museum of local history.
            We chanced into the house after turning around in the parking lot of the unusual and interesting public library and saw, when we walked into the house, a portrait of Dr. Cordelia Greene, the library’s benefactress and one of the country’s first female physicians.
            The front door opens to an exhibition room where the collection rotates because much of what the house offers is on the second floor or in the basement and some people aren’t able to manage the stairs. Right now a newly refurbished oak case holds carved hair combs, long gloves, hats - the accoutrements of our grandmothers’ grandmothers who knew how to gussy up from lace collars to shiny buttoned shoes. 
            To the right of the front door is a Victorian parlor with musical instruments and paintings by local artists. The furniture is period correct for the clothing and the games on the small table.
            The dining room holds several more locally painted works by Annie and Jennie Myers, Carolos ‘Stebbins, Lemuel Wiles and Edward McGrath. The Myers sisters traveled the world to paint and gave away sketches to children when they were in Castile. There are also Japanese style wood block prints in gentle colors and shapes created by Jane Barry Judson.
            The kitchen cupboards stand open to show the tools of cooking in the late 1800s and the internet, used in the research room, helps to locate information on many of the things displayed.
            The basement hosts the war room with uniforms from many branches of service, ribbons, weapons and posters. There’s a trophy earned by Castile’s Boy Scout Troop 54. Each scout collected at least 1,000 pounds of newspaper and donated it to the war effort. For their service they were given a cardboard shipping tube created for a 75 MM Howitzer shell. Newspapers were used to make those tubes though the one the Boy Scouts earned was prettied up with a certificate featuring General Eisenhower.
            The second floor has a Victorian bedroom with dresses, a postage stamp quilt with thousands of tiny blocks and furniture suited to the room. Across the hall is the Indian room with beaded work as well as woven baskets and the huge camera once used by the photographer who built the neighboring house.
            There’s a medical room dedicated to Dr. Greene where a mannequin of a woman wrapped in a blanket and seated in a wheelchair sits surrounded by the tools of the medical trade (– tools now much improved in design and function by my thoughts). Dr. Greene ran Greene Sanitarium, established by her father. Alcoholic women lived in the Sanitarium and took the Castile Water Cure. They drank water and sat in the cold, fresh, country air on the porch to kick their addiction. The facility became a nursing home in 1956.
            The Castile Historical Society invites people to stop by. They offer occasional dinner meetings with speakers on various topics and open all such meetings to the public. The work they’ve accomplished in this house on Park Road is an impressive use of Tuesdays over the last 60+ years.

Castile Historical House is open Tuesdays 9-12 and 1-3 and by appointment. 17 Park Road East, Castile,   NY 14427. Phone 585-493-5370

1 comment:

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