Saving Hometown History

Newark-Arcadia Historical Society Museum Photo by Mary Smith

When the Erie Canal was constructed, Captain Joseph Miller was contracted to build the canal through the area now known as the town of Arcadia. The War of 1812 veteran then purchased more than 100 acres and laid out what was to become the village of Newark. “Newark is truly a canal town,” wrote Robert L. Hoeltzel in his book, Hometown History, published in 2000 by the Newark-Arcadia Historical Society. While Wayne County had other canal villages which existed prior to the canal construction, only Newark can tie its very existence to the canal.

Today, the Newark-Arcadia Historical Society (N-AHS) and Museum devotes an entire room to the Erie Canal. Old photographs, maps, prints, postcards, contemporary paintings, and even a wooden replica of a mule, revive the canal connections. But that is just part of the story.

More recently, Newark was known as the “Rose Capital of America” when the Jackson & Perkins Company, a horticultural firm famous for its roses, was headquartered there. Among other artifacts, the museum exhibits colorful Jackson & Perkins’ wall charts featuring 36 roses available at mid-20th century. Today, rose plants bloom on the museum’s grounds.

“The best thing about Newark and its history is the number of important companies that existed, some with international ties, making Newark a tourist destination,” reflects Chris Davis, the N-AHS executive director since 2002, and one of its founders in 1992. The museum features displays of the “best of” Newark businesses: Jackson & Perkins, C.H. Stuart/Sarah Coventry (nursery/home products and later jewelry), Bloomer Bros. Company (folding cartons), Reed Manufacturing (tinware and enamelware), and Edgett-Burnham Canning. An area devoted to transportation includes the Mora Car, manufactured in Newark from 1906 to 1912.

In 1998, the N-AHS purchased the former Church of Christ, Scientist building. The church-turned-museum is across from both the Newark Public Library, where the Hoffman Clock Museum is located, and the D.A.R. Chapter house – making the intersection a “culture corner.”

“We love the ‘stage’ – which was the church pulpit from about 1951 to 1995,” says Davis, who is historian for Newark and the town of Arcadia. The raised area currently displays a portion of a Newark Schools and Education exhibit. In 2015, restaurants in Newark will be featured in the adjacent space. Pierre’s Old World Inn, once located across from Jackson & Perkins’ Rose Gardens, was a favorite with locals and visitors alike. Other eateries that operated through 1975 will also be featured: Speck’s, Village Inn Steak Pit, Newark Country Club, Penelope’s, Newark Grill, Home Dairy Cafeteria, and Scofield’s/Newark Diner – which opened in 1939. The diner was moved in 2013 and following restoration, will re-open in Buffalo’s riverfront Larkin Square.

The Thelma Prutzman Library is available for research at the museum. Visitors looking for something more otherworldly can enter a dimly lit room to learn about the Fox sisters, whose séances in nearby Hydesville were part of the 19th century spiritualism movement in the Finger Lakes area.

Pedagogical Expansion
The historic 1876 Marbletown Schoolhouse was gifted by the Marbletown Neighborhood Center to the N-AHS in 1993. Known as Marbletown School District #5, the small brick building, located south of Newark, was one of many rural schools closed due to the formation of the Newark Central School District in the 1950s. The last classes at the schoolhouse were held in 1947. Blackboards, pull-down maps and samples of upper and lowercase letters are among the 1940s-era displays facing student desks, where today’s visitors enjoy being photographed.

In 2015, the public will see examples of early primers and readers, including Dick and Jane books and the Weekly Reader series, thanks to N-AHS volunteer and board member Cynthia Russell. The retired Newark teacher and  administrator admits she “always wanted to own a one-room schoolhouse,” and has  researched the 19 rural district schools once located throughout Arcadia. Russell and other volunteers love the stories that visitors to the schoolhouse share each summer when it is open.

Cherished Chair
Thankfully, some objects arrive at the N-AHS Museum with their origin and ownership already fully identified. Such was the case with a blue upholstered chair donated by parents of society board member Don Combes, a longtime village resident.

The chair, made by the local Hallagan Manufacturing Company, has an interesting back-story. A dated sales receipt for the chair and its matching davenport records its purchase at the Harry W. Parker Furniture and Undertaking business in Newark for $225. A 1956 photo of Don (below), sitting in the chair with his sister Barbara, further confirms the family’s ownership. While the fabric has faded somewhat, the chair remains in near pristine condition.

The chair’s donors, Dick and Helen Combes, were newlyweds at the time of its purchase in September 1945. The couple had the rare opportunity to select the upholstery at the Hallagan factory and the ensemble became one of the first made after World War II ended that month. During the war, Hallagan had turned to manufacturing sleeping bags for American troops and the company’s high-quality furniture was in limited supply. While the Combes’ home was being remodeled, the couple even agreed to loan their new davenport and chair to be displayed for six weeks at a new Parker & McClellan furniture store in Williamson.

“We’re very proud of this Newark company that was founded in 1900 and moved from Canastota into the former Mora Car Co. factory in 1913 (thereby saving the structure), and is still very much in business today,” says Chris Davis, museum executive director.

Hours and Locations

The Newark-Arcadia Historical Museum
120 High Street, Newark, NY
Open: Saturdays, year-round, 1 to 3 p.m.
Summer (July/Aug): Wednesdays, 7 to 9 p.m.
Free admission; donations accepted.

The Marbletown Schoolhouse
6631 Miller Road (from Route 88 south, take Silver Hill Road east to the intersection of Miller and Marbletown Road)
Open: Saturdays in July through September,
1 to 3 p.m. Tours at other times can be arranged.

N-AHS Special Events in 2015
June 12 to 14 • Open House Weekend
Friday 4 to 8 p.m.; Saturday features opening of Newark Restaurants Exhibit, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday includes the Newark Garden Club plant and bake sale fundraiser, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.

June 27  • Old-Fashioned Strawberry Social
12 p.m. to 3 p.m.

October (Date TBA) • Biannual Historic Cemetery Walk
With live actors at gravesites of interesting former Newark residents

February and March • Saturday afternoon Winter Lecture Series (Five weeks)

• 315-331-6409

by Laurel C. Wemett

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