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Saving a Civil War Memorial

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CAMP Builds Support to Prevent 1911 Building Demolition

By Colleen Mahoney

At the intersection of 7th and Court streets in Little Valley sits a brick building with a cornerstone that reads 1911. It was dedicated in 1914 to 200 local veterans who had returned from the Civil War.

James Whipple, a Salamanca lawyer and politician at the time, pointed out that the building was not to the scale of other monuments in the country, but it meant something to those in Cattaraugus County.

“It will contain the battle flags which our boys carried and defended, and the relief and mementoes gathered by many hands from hundreds of places, especially those things telling us of the habits, the lives, the implements, the customs of early settlers in this county and Western New York,” Whipple said in his dedication.

“To us in Cattaraugus County it tells of the early days, of our soldiers living and dead, and represents the thought, the patient work of those who conceived and built it. It will become the shrine of soldiers and sailors living, and the registry of those who have died,” Whipple exclaimed.

Known as the Cattaraugus County Memorial and Historical Building, the site has been home to a library, the Cattaraugus County Museum and the board of elections building over the years. It has sat vacant for roughly 10 years, though, and in 2013 the county legislature appropriated funds and voted unanimously to demolish the building.

Cue the “Citizens Advocating Memorial Preservation.”

Known as CAMP, Citizens Advocating Memorial Preservation is a group of 80 members who have thrown their support behind preserving the Cattaraugus County Memorial and Historical Building. Led by Thomas Stetz, members of CAMP have spoken to county legislators and preservation leagues to help them save the building.

“A lot of our [supporters] are descendants of the people it was dedicated to. They’re all over the country – so this effort goes beyond Cattaraugus County.”

The Landmark Society of Western New York, one of America’s oldest and most active preservation organizations, has recently taken an interest in the building, according to Stetz, and has added it to their “Five 2 Revive” list.

Five 2 Revive is an annual list that calls attention to five buildings in the WNY area that the Landmark Society deems are worthy of being preserved. Being on the list means that staff from the Landmark Society will be dedicated to helping the preservation efforts.

To date, the Landmark Society toured the building and dubbed it in “relatively good condition.” And, a grant from the Landmark Foundation was used for a feasibility study on the building, done by Clinton Brown Company Architecture. The study was presented to the county legislature’s Public Works Committee.

“That’s pretty significant,” Stetz said. “This highly regarded [organization] in New York State saw this was a project worth their time. That’s something.”

In addition to the Landmark Society, the Civil War Trust has put its support behind CAMP’s efforts. In April, Gary Adelman, the director of history and education for the Trust, wrote a letter of support for preservation of the building.

“To have support from a national group, for them to feel it was worthy … that really helps,” Stetz said.

CAMP has also gained support from the Cattaraugus County American Legion, which presented its resolution of support to the county legislature.

“CAMP members look at it not as a building but as a memorial to those soldiers,” Stetz said. “It’s a memorial that needs to be preserved … just like the Washington Monument or the Vietnam wall.”

While there haven’t been any formal statements yet, Stetz said there has been talk from county legislators who have agreed to “back off.” Although it’s not official, Stetz said CAMP is considering this a victory. As for the future of the Cattaraugus County Memorial and Historical Building, there are no plans for what it will become, if it is saved.

“The first thing is to make sure it doesn’t come down,” he said. “The Landmark Society has offered to market the building. We’ll see what happens down the road.”

For more information on the Cattaraugus County Memorial and Historical Building, CAMP or the efforts to preserve it, visit www.CattCoMemorial.com.

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