Have You Seen Those New Roadside Markers?

Story and photos by Derek Doeffinger

Surely you've seen them by now. The new roadside history markers. They've been appearing all over the Finger Lakes. For a few years actually. But because there are so many now and they're new looking, I've finally started noticing them. Most of the markers give fresh insights to our history—to ourselves. Sometimes that means they're in an empty field where history took place but the present has passed them by. More often, they're close to or in a village or small town.

Although the markers currently number 176 for the Finger Lakes, new markers are constantly being installed. They're made out of enduring aluminum, and don't cost you a dime.

They're courtesy of the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, which began offering limited grants for the markers over ten years ago. Since then the program has steadily expanded. This rather unusual charitable family foundation actually focuses on two diverse subjects: in addition to the roadside markers, it is working to diversify the bone marrow registry. Both areas are passions of its founder, Bill Pomeroy.

Pomeroy's passion for history and desire to help small communities led him to offer grants for historical markers. He wants to drive pride and build tourism in small communities. It seems to be working. Carmen Pagano, treasurer of the Macedon Historical Society, is just one of its many enthusiastic supporters. He praises the process which provides funding for something the community itself could not support. His wife Sandy, who is town supervisor, says, “The program helps build a sense of history and heritage in the community.”

Once everything is approved through the simple grant process, the community ends up with a sturdy attractive sign and post which they install. And bit by bit, we learn about unexpected locations of the underground railroad, historic businesses and local people who made local history that sometimes has led to world history.

For more about the foundations and how to apply for a roadside marker grant, go to wgpfoundation.org.

To read more about the Finger Lakes history markers, subscribe to Life in the Finger Lakes magazine. The article will be appearing the March/April 2019 issue.

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