Village Abuzz with Exciting Changes
By Mary Fox
Businesses have come and gone, but Ellicottville has never seen such a shift of locations in its downtown business district or new businesses sprouting up in its environs.
The venerable old buildings on Washington and Monroe streets have always constituted Ellicottville’s retail business district, and along with the town square and the beautiful restored homes give Ellicottville a link to its past.
Each building is a treasure with its own unique charm and history where taverns to temples, meat markets to millinery shops, insurance agencies to funeral parlors once served their patrons. Some have served as schoolrooms and the post office. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to list all the past occupants of each storefront.
All around town, store interiors and exteriors meld the past with the present. A great deal of love and enthusiasm, to say nothing about money, has been put into research and restoration to make the stores as authentic as possible. High metal ceilings, brick interior walls, not-quite-level wooden floors and ironwork facades are being revealed or spruced up. But it’s not just walls and ceilings that are being preserved, a link to the past is being preserved, a link that enables us, if we allow ourselves, to go back in time and experience a commonality with hundreds of thousands of people that have done business and shopped in the same space, whether it was a hotel, lawyer’s office, doctor’s office, furniture and casket showroom, dancehall, billiard parlor, bowling alley or grocery store, to name a few.
You can sit outside Dina’s or Katy’s having lunch as the semi-trucks roar down Main Street and still be carried away by your imagination to a time of a bustling little farm town, of horse and buggy, of farmers in coveralls leading a prize bull down the rutted dirt road, of Glen Widger’s horse-drawn milk wagon delivering, of folks everywhere catching up on the news, of ladies wearing dresses.
The inevitable march of time has claimed some of Ellicottville’s historic sites. From thriving farming, light industry and mill town, Ellicottville has become a mecca for tourists.
A few old timers remember the site on Jefferson Street, where an Ellicottville native’s rags-to-riches success story played out. As a young man, Jim Signore started a business in his parents’ garage and eventually built a factory in the backyard.
At Holiday Valley, a new clubhouse is being built on the site that was once farmland where Les Fox chased cows as a boy.
Convenience stores soon will occupy the site at the corner of Washington and Mill streets where the Roman Catholic Church of St. Philip Neri was built in 1850 to be the mother church of the entire Southern Tier of the wilderness of Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Allegheny counties.
Although many are still in the rumor stage, other sales and purchases, tearing down and building up will be coming around town.
Change is good but it is also good to remember the past and treasure what it was for each of us in our own favorite time and place. As we live today and tomorrow, we need to preserve and celebrate Ellicottville’s past.